Whether we’re flying to meet potential clients or check in with a satellite office, frequent business travel often means that our companies are doing well. However, traveling often asks us to step well out of our comfort zones.
It’s no wonder it can cause tension, especially when it brings together unique personalities from varied backgrounds. Naturally, there will be differing views and expectations about what’s appropriate when it comes to in-flight behavior.
Recently, British Airways teamed up with market research firm ProdegeMR to poll 1,500 domestic and international travelers. Representing five major aviation markets (USA, UK, France, Italy, and Germany), it’s a very revealing look at common issues—highlighting prevailing opinions about proper airplane etiquette.
> Armrest Rights: With the majority of flights running full, in-flight space is at a premium—especially when it comes to our personal space. Who gets the armrest? The majority tends toward fairness—with 67% saying the right thing is for everybody to take one and leave the other for your neighbor.
> Making Conversation: Most folks see flying as their chance to catch up—whether on emails, reading, movies, or sleep. Others seem to think it’s an opportune time to forge new friendships. They’re in the minority, however; 83% think a polite “hello” and smile is enough neighborly interaction.
> Sleeping Seatmates: We’ve all been there. Just as our closer-to-the-aisle seatmate nods off for a little shut-eye, nature calls. Do we grin and bear it—or wake them up? While 80% think it’s okay to interrupt their nap, nearly half added you should do it only once per flight.
> Snore No More: It’s one thing to bear with a partner’s nighttime noisemaking. It’s quite another when it’s a complete stranger seated right next to you. Surprisingly, 66% said they’d simply ignore it—turning up the volume on their in-flight entertainment to drown out the disruption.
> Switching Seats: Now and then it happens: a half-full flight. It only makes sense to switch seats and spread out—especially when your row is full. Slightly over half (53%) think it’s okay as long as you ask permission—with Americans surprisingly compliant here (62%).
> Screen Brightness: With smartphones and tablets doubling as in-flight entertainment systems, what’s proper etiquette for screen brightness levels? Given the level of control these personal devices offer, almost all (92%) said screens must be dimmed when cabin lights are off.
> Shoes...and Socks?: You’ve seen them—the people who think the airplane is their living room. Making themselves comfortable, they kick off their shoes as soon as the aircraft door is secured. 59% thought this was just fine. Socks are another story. An overwhelming majority (87%) say that’s going too far.