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Illustrations by Lee Woodgate
Illustrations by Lee Woodgate

How to become a successful seatmate

Airplane etiquette is not always easy to navigate. From the age-old debate on who gets the armrest, to knowing whether your neighbor is ripe for conversation, getting it right can make your flight all that more pleasurable.

Simply smile

As you take your seat, it’s always good to smile or nod and say a friendly hello to the person or persons sitting next to you. It creates a nice vibe and could be the conversation icebreaker. 

Take it easy

If you want to recline your seat, keep the person behind you in mind. Lean back slowly and avoid doing it during a meal, as it can sometimes make eating awkward.

Pass on peeking

These days we all load our devices with books, movies and TV shows, but while your seatmate may be watching that film you’ve been dying to see, don’t give in to temptation by watching along with them.

Forget funky food

If you really have to bring food, keep it simple – much better though, would be to enjoy an onboard meal.

Read the cues

Some people will say hello before immediately opening their book or putting on their headphones. When your seatmate does that you can be sure she or he is entering their personal cone of silence, so let them get on with it.

Mute music

Losing yourself in your favorite album is a great way to pass time on the flight, but often the sound bleeds from your headphones and “treats” those around you to an unexpected show. Make sure your volume is not too loud and check with your seatmates if you’re unsure.

Elbows in

An elbow in your ribs while you’re trying to sleep or watch a film is never fun, so follow the unspoken rules when it comes to armrests – window and aisle seats have their own armrests and the person in the middle gets both of the interior ones.

Bathroom breaks

If you’re in the aisle seat, be prepared to gracefully get up every so often when those in the middle or window seats need to use the restroom. If you’re in the middle or window seat, be polite and thank your seatmates for jumping up whenever you need to go.

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