When it comes to travel etiquette, people are the worst. My biggest pet peeve when traveling? Fellow passengers. There, I said it. I have a very low tolerance for bad behavior on public transportation.
Travel etiquette is so fundamentally necessary for a pleasant transit experience. What are the modern etiquette rules for travel? How should we handle a fellow passenger’s rude behavior? Here are 6 travel etiquette questions and answers you’ve been yearning to know but are afraid to ask!
Travel Etiquette Question #1: To whom does the armrest belong?
Answer: If it’s a two-seater (think Greyhound bus), each passenger is entitled to their outermost armrest. The inner, or middle, armrest is shared territory and both passengers are entitled to “half” of the armrest. This unspoken arrangement usually works best with one passenger’s elbow on the portion of the armrest towards the front of the seat, and the other passenger’s elbow on the portion towards the back. If it’s a three-seater (think commercial airplane) the poor soul – I mean passenger! – occupying the middle seat is entitled to both middle arms rests. Consider it a consolation prize.
Travel Etiquette Question #2: Is it acceptable to hold a conversation over someone in a middle seat?
Answer: Yes and no. Yes, but only if it’s brief. If the two passengers who are talking over the middle seat plan to have any type of conversation longer than a quick exchange, the polite thing to do is for one of those passengers to offer to trade seats with the passenger in the middle seat. Even better if you ask the middle-seater if they prefer the window or the aisle and then abdicate accordingly.
Travel Etiquette Question #3: Should you ask before you lean back your seat?
Answer: For short trips, just don’t do it. For the overnight flight to Paris? Well, you don’t need to request permission to lean your seat back per se; however, the humane thing to do is to take a quick peek behind you to see if the passenger is using the seat back table. The last thing you want is to jerk your seat back, spilling a drink or crushing a laptop in the process. Be courteous – if the seat back table is in use, wait until it’s not. If you absolutely must lean your seat back, always check first and use your best judgement.
Travel Etiquette Question #4: What is seat sprawl, and how much is acceptable?
Answer: Seat sprawl is when your body or belongings spill over into your neighboring passenger’s space. Each seat has a virtual box around it and thou shall not cross that line.
Travel Etiquette Question #5: Shoes on or off?
Answer: For short trips, always on. Do you really need to get that “comfortable” for anything less than an hour? For long haul trips, off is acceptable as long as you: 1.) Are wearing socks or stockings (no bare feet – others may find the site of your bare feet gross or offensive), 2.) Are 100% certain that you have a universally socially acceptable level of hygiene, and 3.) Keep your shoes within your space (no seat sprawl).
Travel Etiquette Question #6: Awaken a snoring seat mate?
Yes, but do it inconspicuously! Your own bodily adjustment in your own seat that produces a gentle “accidental” nudge is entirely appropriate and fellow passengers will be relieved. However, you don’t want to do anything obvious – this include shaking the person, hitting the person, or reaching across the aisle or over any other passenger to give a nudge.
For more modern etiquette tips, check out my other blog posts here!