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Airplane Etiquette for the Single Traveler

Updated on February 22, 2016

You’re taking a flight by yourself, but it’s not like you have a private jet. You’ve got to share this small space with a bunch of other people, which can be challenging when you’re used to having your own space most of the time. But traveling is an adventure and it all starts with the flight. So refresh your etiquette for airplane travel as a single and remind yourself to enjoy the journey.

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Be Helpful

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Sometimes it’s hard to get that overhead luggage in place, or to get to your assigned seat, or untangle or hunt down the seatbelt. You’re all on the plane together so be helpful, especially to those with kids. Yes, the flight attendants assist but the crowded boarding process is always more efficient when the passengers make it a team effort. The more helpful you are the quicker everyone will get settled and the plane can take off on time.

Accept Help

For the most part travelers are helpful. If you’re looking for common decency it is often found on an airplane (despite the news stories of unruly passengers, trust me, those are rare occurrences). Also, be appreciative of help instead of assuming everyone is a crazed stalker hitting on you… not that you’d think that… but too many single travel articles would have you assume as a women traveler that everyone is out to get you. Of course, you can tell when someone is a little too friendly with a seatbelt or take chatting to an uncomfortably personal level. Trust your gut, but don’t be paranoid. Accept help when offered and a simple “Thank You” is all that is expected in return.

You Don’t Own Your Seat

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You are traveling alone and looking forward to your preferred seat. You get all nestled in when a family approaches asking if you would be willing to switch seats so they can be together. It may be tempting to stake your claim, but wouldn’t you rather move than have little Jimmy crying next to you while his mother comforts him from the seat behind, meanwhile giving you nasty looks? Yes, moving looks pretty good now. Also, be willing to give up your seat to couples. You would want the same gesture the next time you are traveling as a pair.

Make a Friend

Feel like chatting? You never know whom you’ll meet on an airplane and you can often pass the time by making a new friend, even if it’s just for the flight. The best way to start a conversation on a flight is to ask, “Why are you going to [insert destination here]?” or “Have you ever been to [insert destination here] before?” Take your cues by starting up a conversation and then seeing if they’re quick to end it. A short answer and diverted attention will hint they want their space. Whereas those that want to chat will go into great detail with their answer and seem eager to expand the dialogue past the original question. Enjoy the flight and get to know someone you would have never met otherwise.

Nap Considerately

Take a nap carefully. Neck pillows help to keep you upright and in your personal space. But if you’re a leaner, try to get the window seat. It’s a waste of the nice view, but it will keep you from falling asleep on your neighbor.

Enjoy the Journey

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The best thing you can do as a single traveler is enjoy the journey. Sure, it’s exhausting to travel and it’s easy to get cranky, but if you just surrender yourself to the journey you can accept your time confined to the plane and make the best of it. When relishing the view, enjoying your reading material, and looking for the good in the people aboard the plane, you will find the flight to be a happy experience.

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