Flying Etiquette and what not to do at the airport

I found this post hidden amongst the chaos of my documents folder. I wrote it months ago after a particularly long flight delay. I was tired and naggy and was pissed off about everything and everyone around me.

Paul Theroux once said: ‘Travelling is only glamorous in retrospect,” and I couldn’t agree more.

I usually love flying and the excitement of the airport but on this particular day I didn’t. Please excuse the grumpiness of this post, we all need a good rant from time to time, right?

Here are a few of my do’s and don’ts when flying.

Please add your own in the comments below and let me know what annoys you when you’re flying!

Check how many bags you can take onboard

On virtually every Ryanair flight I ever get there’s always someone arguing with the cabin crew about their luggage. Someone always has a bag that is too big or too heavy or they try to sneak five bags on at once. And then the funniest part is that they try to argue with the staff about it!

With most flights you’re allowed one small case and a small handbag or laptop bag. THAT. IS. IT.

They will not let you take the kitchen sink onboard with you so check it in. They’re also pretty good at spotting overweight bags so leave the bricks at home too.

Only take well-behaved children in airport lounges

We all know how much I love a good airport lounge but if there’s one thing that can spoil the serenity it’s a screaming child. I’m not anti-children at all, I’m just anti-children screaming in a lounge I’ve paid to use.

Why are you queuing?

This is a personal one but I never understand why people stand up and queue to get on the plane as soon as the gate opens. It take at least 20 minutes for everyone to board the flight so sit down or stretch your legs for as long as you can.

I’m usually the last person to board because the less time I can spend on the plane the better. (I realise that not everyone could do this!)

Be nice to the cabin crew

They have a really tough job to do. On one of my recent flights they were short staffed because two members had been so badly injured during turbulence that they couldn’t fly.


Use the toilets before you get off the plane

You know that massive queue outside the toilet when you’ve just stepped of the plane and got into the airport? Yep, the one that seems to go even slower because you’re busting for a pee and you’ve just held it in for the past 8 hours? You could avoid that queue by using the toilet on the plane just before you land. You can then by-pass all those people and get through immigration and get out the airport as fast as possible. You’re then first in the taxi queue and therefore first to start enjoying your holiday.

The passport scanners aren’t that difficult to use

I have no idea what some people do when they’re trying to use their ePassport. All you do is place it in the scanner and then look directly into the spot where it tells you to look. That’s it. Don’t look at your feet. Don’t look at the ceiling. Look at the arrow and the doors will open.

Don’t crowd around the baggage carousel

Did you know that your bag won’t come out any faster if you stand as close to the baggage carousel as you possibly can. Yes, really!

It drives me insane when everyone gathers so closely around the carousel. If everyone took one step back, everyone would be able to fit around it without standing on their tip toes to see over your shoulder. It would also mean that you wouldn’t get smacked in the shins or elbowed in the face when someone hauls their case off the belt.

OK, rant over!



Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a full time blogger and has travelled around the world in search of affordable luxury travel experiences.Monica lives in Wales with her growing family and now also blogs about travelling with young children!

SHOWHIDE Comments (62)
  1. Ha totally agree with you about the baggage carousel, that always makes me laugh. And then people don’t move for you when you’re trying to haul yours off? Because they might loose their spot for 10 seconds. We should use the spray that they have int he World Cup, and draw a line nobody is allowed to cross until their bag arrives.

  2. I absolutely agree about queuing when the gate opens! We all have assigned seats, they’ve only sold the number of seats avaliable, it’s not like getting on faster means you get a better seat or access to the free mini bar (unless there is a free minibar at the start and no one’s ever told me?) I’ve been on flights where they stagger access to the plane so rows 1-7 can get on, then the next set of rows and that’s always seemed stupid as well, the rows are all together, if they want to make it easier it should be window seats get on first, then people stuck in the middle, then anyone with an aisle seat. The number of times I’ve had a window seat and had to ask two people to move when they’ve already sat down and pulled out all their in-flight paraphenalia and look at me like I’m the worst thing in the world for not getting to my seat sooner.

    1. Maybe there is a free minibar that no one has told us about! I’d be the first on the plane if that were the case 😉
      That’s a good idea about boarding by seat position. Why has no one picked up on that!

      1. They are all rushing to get on so they can stow their carry on luggage in an overhead bin near their seat. If you board late, chances are they are going to check your bag at the gate because the bins are full. I read an article (somewhere—Vox?) that the fastest way to have a plane boarded is the random –no assigned seats method. Second is boarding from the rear first and then, boarding window seats first. I’m with you. I don’t usually have a carry on and I’d just as soon spend as little time in the metal tube as possible. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t share this point of view and gets anxious if I don’t board with him. (Like maybe I’ll get on another plane instead?)

  3. I literally experienced every one of these yesterday during my flight back from Dubai! Especially the one about the passport gate – irritating!

  4. I used to be he same with the queuing at the gate opening… Until I found out a few too many times that apparently you’re out of luggage space if you’re last on the plane… Meaning your stuck with your bag taking the space where your feet are supposed to be, making it all a bit uncomfortable… 🙂 And I agree on all of the rest!

  5. I hate airports with 30 mins of free wi-fi. It’s like teasing! Go on, load the video, email, facebook, start reading that one cool post and get plugged out! So unfair!

    And I don’t understand people buying half of the liquoire section in Duty Free. Are you sure booze won’t be cheaper at your destination point? Or do you expect to drink that all up during the flight? Hope I won’t be sitting next to you.

  6. I feel like sometimes people get into line-ups sometimes by instinct…they see a line forming, and they must join it. Recently at the airport, a whole bunch of people were lined up off to the side for absolutely no reason. We asked some people in line “are you in line for baggage check?” and they were like “we don’t know if this is the right line-up, we just got behind all of these other people.” We ended up walking up to the front with our bags where the airline staff was behind the counter, and the airport staff weighed our luggage and sent us on our way to customs – they didn’t know that people were lining up off to the side for this very reason! After that, everyone followed suit and lined up behind us.

  7. Interesting post. You covered almost everything. 🙂 I have only one suggestion – please don’t force your air-hostess turn into a teacher. Please switch off your electronics (especially mobile phones) on your own!

    1. Yes, this one can be annoying but it’s also annoying that some airlines have admitted that having electronics switched on (but in flight mode) makes no difference while others still make you switch them off. How can my Kindle possibly interfere?

  8. Interesting post. You covered almost everything. 🙂 I have only one suggestion – please don’t force your air-hostess to turn into a teacher. Please switch off your electronics (especially mobile phones) on your own!

  9. I absolutely hate it when people don’t get ready to go through security and then hold everyone up. It’s pretty simple, get out your laptop and liquids, have the liquids already in the bag, and then put everything quickly into a box, load it onto the carousel and away you go! I hate it when people spend ages taking all of their laptop and electrical stuff out when they get to the front of security, holding everyone else up!

    C x
    Lux Life

  10. Haha let me tell you the worst nightmare is queuing with Italians – and I can tell it because I AM Italian 😀 – we tend to ignore both the concept of ‘queuing’ and the concept of ‘you still get a seat even if you don’t enter first’, so what we do (what I used to do before living in London and learn how to queue…) is to create a massive ‘ball’ of people all trying to get beyond the gate to the plane. I can’t even describe you the sense of disappointment you get when you discover there’s no finger to the cabin and despite your struggle to be first you have to wait all other passengers on the bus.

  11. What’s funny is that I can actually imagine you ranting in real life about this Mon! Haha. Completely agree with everything you’ve said here. When I was at Stansted airport yesterday security was so busy that people were queue jumping. QUEUE JUMPING. This is England, we do not queue jump! And when I got to departures it genuinely felt like nobody had been in an airport before. Ever. Another thing that annoys me is, when you’re waiting for either your gate to be announced or opened, people using seats for their bags, or not wanting you to sit down.

    ALSO (oh Jesus I’m on a roll now) on my flight yesterday I near-on had an argument with a guy who wouldn’t move his laptop bag so that I could store my carry-on in the overhead bins, insisting that it be laid flat and not at an angle so that I could fit my bag in. Luckily one of the Easyjet ladies sided with me 🙂

  12. As a traveling family we like to let the kids walk about the airport as long as possible before boarding, (no sense in lining up, we have allocated seats right?) but then often we get on the plane as one of the last, to find other peoples carry on luggage in our overhead compartment because THEY HAVE TOO MUCH. One bag folks, not everything you own and a box of donuts! So, double edged whine here, being forced to stand in silly pointless lines just to be able to use our own overhead locker… grrrr! Rant over 😉

    1. Oh yes, that’s another annoying one. And people with too much luggage make this silly queuing cycle continue!
      Maybe all annoying things in the airport just stem from people having too much luggage?

  13. Great rant…airports do seem to make people behave in strange ways.
    I get annoyed when people take a carry-on and then put every 200ml beauty product in their case and get stopped by security, making everyone else late.

  14. Currently 6 hours early for a flight as had too come with my friends who were flying on earlier flights…considering doing a post on how to waste time at an airport. It currently consists of NOTHING. But atleast i have time to read through your whole blog, and NOT waste time queing when the gate opens… in 5 hours and 59 mins

    1. I would definitely like to read a post about how to spend 6 hours in an airport! I had a 4 hour layover in Zurich 2 weeks ago and ended up shopping and spending a fortune!

  15. We get in line for boarding so as to make sure we get overhead storage. My husband and I each carry a backpack with our photography equipment and it is absolutely not an option to check it.
    Also, I’m going to be sitting for the next 8-10 hours so standing is preferable. I would wait longer to board if storage space wasn’t an issue.
    Line cutting is a huge issue for me too but I think only Americans and Brits understand the concept of waiting in line.

  16. Ugh…having to put your carryon behind where you’re sitting because everyone in the back of the plane has already put their luggage in the overheads in front of them.

    Also, I think the airlines have it backwards. They could load and unload a plane MUCH faster if they charged people to carry on instead of check. I’m a carry-on’er, so this would hurt me in the wallet, but it sure would lower my bloodpressure!

    1. That’s so annoying! And then you have to wait for half the plane to get off before you can get your case.

      I think they often charge for checked luggage because it costs so much more to employ people to put it on and off the plane. Some airlines allow you to carry your own luggage all the way down to the plane and then put it in the hold on the runway – This makes more sense!

  17. Oh, this is a good selection indeed. But the one that made me smile was the last one – have you noticed how at Heathrow they now have different coloured floor to indicate (somehow), that that area should not be occupied by people, so others can see their bags? It does drive me mad!

  18. This is funny, but not funny. Travel etiquette is learned by people who travel frequently. I have friends who don’t travel much and I think to myself, would i want to go somewhere with them or would I just be apologizing for them the whole time? YIKES.

  19. I totally agree with you about waiting until the last minute to board the plane. There is no reason at all to stand in line. But I have to admit that I wait until I get off to use the bathroom. I hate asking people to get up when I’m in a window seat, so if I can help it, I won’t. A piece of advice for entering New Zealand – if you have walking boots, pack them at the top of your bag. I had to empty everything all over the floor and it delayed me by about 15 minutes!

    1. That’s true. I don’t mind if people ask to get up a few times but if they know they have a pea-sized bladder they should ask for an aisle seat!
      Good tip for New Zealand 🙂

  20. Great point about queuing up. Your seat numbers are already assigned…so why stand up and wait in line forever to get on the plane early? It’s not leaving any time soon. I think a lot of people do it so they can grab an overhead compartment luggage space, but that brings me to my next point…limit the number of things you are carrying so you don’t have to start queuing up!

  21. Just to add on to the ‘be nice to the flight staff’, don’t be the flight idiot and get ridiculously drunk within the first hour (since you drank a ridiculous amount in the airport already) and annoy everyone else on the flight because you’re obnoxious whe the flight staff refuse to serve you anymore alcohol. Everyone hates you, just don’t do it!
    My pet hate about travelling is the people who stand up the minute the plane touches the ground, despite repeated requests from pilots and flight staff to stay seated until the seatbelt sign goes off, it doesn’t get us off any faster, slows everyone down if anything! We all want to get off the plane, but just wait until you’re told!! Rant over! 🙂

    1. I forgot about that one, so annoying! You should see what it’s like in India. Virtually every single person on the plane stands up and they all squish together towards the door – where they inevitably have to wait for half an hour the plane to park and the doors to open. Just sit down and chill out!

  22. I don’t get why people rush to get in line to board the plane!!! You’re not going to miss it!!! Like you I’m usually one of the last people to board. I’m not a fan of standing in line when I could be semi relaxing instead!

  23. omgggg, amen. the line (or more often, crowds of impatient people) to get on the plane. DO NOT GET THIS. one of my biggest travel pet peeves. wouldn’t you rather have the extra couple minutes to stretch your legs rather than cram yourself in the tiny seats for longer. xo, the wino

  24. 1. Those people who dither when trying to put their case in the overhead locker, usually with a complete lack of spatial awareness too as 50 passengers patiently wait to get past.

    2. And that chap who tries to get past on landing while everybody else is trying to get their bags out of the overhead lockers! Mate – stay where you are and stand waiting like everyone else!

    1. Yes! The people who spend ages putting their bags away. And the ones who unpack everything from their bag while there’s a queue of 100 people waiting to sit down! Just sit down and organise your stuff once everyone is in their seat!

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