10 Airplane Etiquette Rules to Follow: According to a New Study

Airplane etiquette is a touchy subject: Should we take our shoes off? Is it ever okay to fully recline your seat? Should we keep our reading light on for the entire duration of a long-haul flight? Is it acceptable to bring fish or eggs onboard?

These are all questions we’ve asked ourselves before. Nervousness can set in before any journey, leaving travelers wandering what really is okay onboard. We’ve all heard the horror stories on flights, and want to avoid a repeat at all costs.

Instead of wondering if you should kindly tap the back of someone’s chair, KAYAK has made the work a little easier by finding the unspoken rules of air travel. As one of the leading travel search engines in the world, the platform has carried out extensive research to uncover how Americans really feel about airplane etiquette.


Leaving no room for arguments, the search included analyzing online sources and aytm (Ask Your Target Market), to identify popular topics circling around airplane rules.

As airline travel continues to increase, KAYAK is posting these rules on digital displays in major airports throughout summer. They’ll also be accessible to travelers via a modernized seat back manual downloadable at www.kayak.com/rules starting Tuesday, June 27.

It’s Okay to Recline Sometimes

12% of people say it’s NOT okay to recline the seat. Timing is important to some, saying it’s only okay to recline your seat on a long or overnight flight (maybe not during meal service).

Arm Rests Don’t Belong to Anyone

Middle-seaters listen up. 57% say the middle person is NOT entitled to both arm rests.

Please Keep the Socks On

24% of people say it’s okay to take your socks off.. So, maybe leave them on..

Smelly Foods Stay Home

92% of people agree that you should not bring any smelly foods onboard.. Think eggs, fish..

airline rules for passengers

Keep Feet on the Floor

68% say you are NOT allowed to put your feet up against the back of the seat in front of you.

Headphones Stay On.. Please

It’s important to be mindful of airplane etiquette and people around you. 70% say you are not allowed to watch something without headphones.

Don’t Use Sleep as an Excuse

Leaning on a stranger’s shoulder and snoring loudly are not welcome by over 65% of people.

Phone Calls Are a Big NO

Save the calls. 69% agree you are NOT allowed to call someone before getting off.

Now’s Not the Time to Do Your Nails

92% strongly agree it’s not okay to clip or paint nails on board, while 81% say a huge no to filing nails.

Use the Overhead Bin

73% say you are allowed to store small items or jackets in the overhead bin (if there’s room).

Leave the Nail Care at Home

92% say you are NOT allowed to clip or paint your nails at your seat. Filing your nails is also a no no, according to 81% of people.


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