Rules of Travel (Unwritten ) for all Passengers

The rules of travel. There are rules and then there are the unwritten rules of travel. We’re most familiar with the written rules such liquid limits at airport security and how many bags are free. But the unwritten rules are the ones that the “Up in the Air” travelers learn by behavior observation and osmosis.  Frequent travelers learn what works and what doesn’t work—you know the ropes, so you speak.

But the infrequent traveler, and let’s be totally honest, we were one of them at one time, they don’t know the unwritten rules and may cause unintended frustration on board any aircraft. Here’s a reminder of the rules we all should fly by.

All Seating Rules Are Not The Same

Some people religiously choose their favorite seat, for example some only sit in window seats and others only aisle seats. Personally, I think some flexibility is required.

On short flights, I enjoy window seats because I like to see outside. I also know it’s unlikely I’ll need to get up to go to the toilet and having to disturb the person next to me. Choose the window if you’re likely to stay put most of the time.

When it comes to long-haul, I almost always sit in an aisle seat. Why? Sleeping on a plane doesn’t come easily to me and I like the option to get up whenever I like without disturbing people. People who can sleep for 10 hours on a flight should really choose a window seat.

Are you someone who needs the toilet frequently or someone who will due to drinking on board? Aisle seat. Perhaps you’re that guy who can’t sit still and needs to get crap out of his bag in the overhead locker every 38 seconds. Aisle seat.

Rules of Travel for the Middle Seat?

Since the middle seat is clearly the worst seat to have if you’re traveling alone, the unwritten seating rules here are as follows. Both arm rests are for the middle seat passenger. No ifs, no buts and no maybes.

Window seat passengers have the cabin wall to lean on if they like, and the aisle people have all that space next to them, not to mention easy access to the rest of the aircraft. Give the middle people a break and let them have both arm rests.

Legs, Bags and Coats

Your legs should remain in the same parallel space as your seat. Nobody likes sitting beside the guy who has a habit of manspreading. I personally don’t appreciate someone’s knee pressing into mine, but I am that guy who will defend his personal space.

Are you that person who brings a bag of Duty Free on board, has a handbag the size of Walmart, and is dragging along a coat and neck pillow in addition to your standard carry on bag? I’ve met you a couple of times.

Watching these people try to stuff all of this under the seat in front is slightly amusing. Until you realize that half of it is going to be in your foot space.

The only thing that can be done here is to be self-aware. Maybe you didn’t need to save a dollar on buying that large bottle of booze to take home with you. Perhaps your coat could have been put into your carry on bag before boarding. There are always solutions.

Overall Thoughts

Planning ahead is the most important thing here when it comes to the seating rules. If you can choose seats before you fly, think about your needs in the air, so that your seat choice is best for you. That way it will also be best for those around you.

While I know it is time consuming to wait for baggage at the carousel on landing, the airport experience without toting a large carry-on bag with you is as freeing as taking off a pair of tight jeans. It’s wonderful! Consider checking a bag if you have lots of stuff. Remember, there are rules of travel and then there are the unwritten rules.

What do you think of these seating rules?

Are these things you have experienced before?

Agree? Disagree?


  1. Daniel Laraway says

    I think it goes beyond unwritten rules and is just common courtesy. Some people when they fly are so stressed out they can’t think of anything or anyone other than themselves. I try to gently remind people that there are other people on this late other than themselves and to ask if they need assistance with something.

    That tends to work out most of the time as long as they don’t come across irritated. The main thing is that people for whatever reason I just not thinking about anyone other than themselves for a variety of reasons.

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