I went home to Sydney last week for a few days, which meant a big chunk of flying in a small amount of time. It gave me the chance to experience some pretty awful behaviour on the part of some travellers. And since I’m nothing if not polite and accommodating, I let it all go, until I could hide behind my blog and write a list of the things to avoid on a plane or in an airport.

Some of these are so self-explanatory that you’ll shake your head and wonder how anyone would think they were acceptable. Others might be a little murkier and probably just annoy me. Either way, I’m getting this stuff off my chest in the hopes of making us all better travellers and more atuned to the fact that we’re not the only ones on that super-long flight, waiting forever in a line at Customs, or trying to repack our bags to magically make them lighter.


Buckle your seatbelt, unwrap your blanket, open the window shade and get ready for take-off because we’re diving in the deep end of things to avoid on a plane or in an airport.

1. Closing Other People’s Window Shades

I get that you’re tired, it’s 1pm local time in Sydney and the winter sun is streaming in your window. We’ve just taken off and enjoyed the gorgeous views of Sydney harbour with its boats dotted all along the coastline. It’s beautiful to look at, but now the sun is starting to annoy you and you’re a little tired as well so you close your window shade. But there’s also a window behind you, or at least slightly behind you. Maybe some sunlight is still filtering into your periphery vision.

Woman looking out of a plane window

The dreaded window between two seats.

Resist the urge to just turn around, reach your hand between the seat and the window, and close someone else’s shade. Especially if they’re leaning forward and looking out of it at the time. Honestly, it’s rude. If the window’s annoying you, it takes a second to turn around and ask the person sitting directly behind you if it’s OK to close it.

2. Reaching Over the Seat Behind You

Say you’ve just finished closing that window shade and you’re getting ready for a nap, but you need to stretch. I get it, stretching is a critical part of getting ready to go beddy-byes. Your limbs need to feel properly tired and ready for sleep. There are a few ways that you can stretch your arms – reach them straight up to the sky, use your other arm as leverage, reach over your back as if you were trying to scratch an itch.

What you definitely shouldn’t do, is stretch your arm over your seat and block the entertainment screen of the person sitting behind you. Firstly, how are you even that flexible when you’re pretty short (seriously, this woman was tiny), and secondly, when you feel that screen under the palm of your hand, don’t you just automatically recoil? This is not cool. I was happily watching AP Bio before your hand wandered onto my screen.

3. Stealing Blankets or Pillows

What is wrong with you? You are the worst of the worst and I am supremely unhappy with you. In my case, I was sitting in a row of three where there was an empty seat in the middle. We were crusing for a little while before I fell asleep, with three blankets sitting in No Man’s Land – the middle seat. Only to wake up an hour later, shivering.

Sleeping on a plane

I may have slept under my coat on a plane before, as evidenced by this photo taken by Third Brother on the way to Tasmania.

I reach for my blanket,but it was missing, so I look under the seats, and under me. Before I realised that my lovely seat buddy had commandeered all three blankets and was wearing them as layers over her singlet top. I spent the rest of the flight huddled under my jacket. Like a peasant.

4. Standing in the Aisle

You know all of that time that you spent sitting at the terminal gate, whiling away the minutes waiting to board? Why not use that time to get out all the stuff you’re going to need while on the plane? It seems so simple, and yet, when 100 people are trying to shuffle along and find their seats, we’re always held up by those who need to take half their bag apart before stowing it. I’ve got no problem with you if you’re sitting or standing in your seat while doing this. But when you’re blocking the entire aisle and no one else can get through, you’re being annoying. Stop being annoying.

Best San Francisco Christmas activities

5. Nail Polish Remover

To be fair, I don’t know that it was nail polish remover, but it definitely smelled the same to me. About 10 hours into the 15 hour flight, I started smelling that pungent chemical odour. It wasn’t nice at all and there wasn’t any escape from it either.

nail polish remover on a plane

Maybe I’m being over-the-top and it was a normal airplane smell (that I’ve never noticed in my 27 years of flying). But if you’re even considering removing your nail polish on a plane, you’re making the wrong life choice.

6. Sprtizing Everyone

As we started to approach our destination, the woman sitting next to me (this was the return flight, not the blanket-stealing one) decided it was time to freshen up. So she went about spritzing her face (and unintentionally mine) with some kind of refresher spray. I should be grateful for the free sample, but by then I was well and truly fed up with the whole thing. Next it was time to deoderise, and I coped a nose-full of that as well. That’s what the toilets on planes are for people. Go brush your teeth and apply spray deoderant in there. It’s not that difficult. Unless you’re…

7. Piggy in the Middle

Sitting in the window seat has heaps of great advantages – you get the view, you don’t have to worry about falling asleep and your seat mate being too timid to wake you so they can pop off to the loo, and you can lean your head against the plane wall. All great attributes. The one downside in my eyes, is that you have to ask your two seat mates to move if you want to stretch your legs or freshen up.

Interior of a plane

So when I tapped my seat mate on the shoulder and asked to go to the bathroom, I was already apologetic for making two people dislodge themselves from their seats. But then the guy on the aisle got out and moved to the right up the aisle. And the woman next to me got up and moved to the left on the aisle. Leaving me in the middle, with nowhere to go. A tiny, petty annoyance, sure. But some commonsense wouldn’t go astray either.

8. Flight Attendant Treatment

Flight attendants get to do their jobs in crazy-long shifts, thousands of feet above the ground where it’s hard to hear anything and people generally have a heightened sense of entitlement. Sound like fun to you? Me neither. So why not be courteous to them, at the very least? Sure, they might have forgotten to bring you the drink they promised, or couldn’t relocate you to a seat that wasn’t next to a crying baby. But in an everyday situation, on the ground, would that be so bad? If your host forgot to bring you a drink, would you immediately be rude to them? Be nice!

9. Close Queuing 

I get that the Customs queue is where the last vestages of civilisation go to die. No one wants to be there, the line snakes so far that you’re not sure if it’d be quicker just to hop on the next plane back out of the country. Everyone feels a little nervous, because with all this heightened security and screenings, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. None of these are reasons to stand so close to me in line that your breath tickles the little hairs on the back of my neck. And I definitely don’t need you to bump into me each time I stop shuffling a few steps forward in the queue. That’s a sure sign that you’re way too close. It won’t get you to the front of the line any faster.

10. Baggage Carousel Etiquette 

When the first few people start getting out to the baggage carousel, it’s all nice and civilised. People stand back from the conveyer belt and at distance from each other so as not to get in the way.

Baggage Carousel at Heathrow Airport

But once the carousel starts its merry trip round, people get antsy. Kids get in the way, people inch closer and closer to the conveyer and each other, meaning that no one can see their bag until it’s right on top of them. Then there’s the mad scramble to get it off the merry-go-round before it’s too late. I doubt this one will ever change, but I figured I’d take this opportunity to complain anyway.


That’s the list of my petty (and not-so-small) annoyances gathered over 29 hours of flying in six days. Now I need to know what yours are? What behaviour can you just not fathom while you’re travelling? Extra points for people who avoid complaining about children or babies. Have you ever try to shut one of them up? It’s nigh impossible unless they’re eating. And even then…

10 things to avoid on a plane or in an airport


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