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Photo: Karl Nordlund
Photo: Karl Nordlund


How to keep things civil at 30,000 feet

Sharing a confined space with hundreds of other passengers for several hours isn’t always easy. Even the jolliest of holiday moods can be brought down by a loud child, someone kicking the back of your seat, or reclining theirs just as the food arrives. Etiquette expert Magdalena Ribbing is here to help.

Magdalena Ribbing is Swedish daily ­Dagens Nyheter’s agony ­ettiquettist.Who is most entitled to the armrest? How should I behave if the person sitting next to me acts like it’s theirs, and theirs alone?

The easiest thing to do is to politely say to the person who has laid claim to the armrest: “You can have the armrest for half of the journey, and then I can have it for the other half, OK?” Speak firmly, but politely. Once their time is up, just as politely say, “I think it’s my turn now.” Should the armrest occupier just look at you blankly, gently push their arm away.

Seat reclining is another hot topic. Whose comfort comes first, the person who wants to recline their seat, or the person who wants room for their legs?

Stirring up trouble over something like this is downright ridiculous. All you have to do is turn and ask the person behind you if you can rest a little while and recline your seat. Say thank you if the person agrees, and proceed to recline. If, however, they ask you to wait 15 minutes while they finish doing something, then do that. Claiming your rights the way recliners do is like fighting over a bucket and spade in a sandbox. It’s unbelievable that adults can behave so shamelessly. By the same token, people who expect everyone to sit bolt upright without moving their backrests are equally immature.

I got the window seat but need to go to the bathroom. The passenger next to me is asleep. How do I get out with the least amount of hassle?

No one has the right to sleep undisturbed during a trip. Tap the person gently and apologize for any inconvenience before making your way past them as discreetly as possible, ideally with your behind toward them.

"No one has the right to sleep undisturbed during a trip"

How do I handle an exceptionally talkative neighbor when all I want to do is sleep or read a book?

My standard trick is to say, “Sorry, but I’m in the middle of a compli-cated thought process and I don’t have the capacity to speak.” Whether the process has to do with -reading or sleeping is your own business. The chatter-box in the seat next to you should not question this.

If I end up near a child who kicks the back of my seat or is loud, what is the best way for me to handle it?

You can start by politely telling the child – provided it’s a child that can communicate – “Listen, you’ve kicked me in the back 10 times now, I hope you’re finished.” If the child keeps on doing it, say to the adults, “Sorry, but I’d be really grateful if you could stop your child from -kicking my seat.” If the child is screaming, remember that the parents are already most likely unhappy too, but you can say to them, “You know, I think I’ve heard you scream long enough now. Let’s see if you can be quiet for just as long. You’re so clever that I’m sure you can do that.” If nothing else works, ask the cabin crew if it’s possible to change seats.

Text: Emma Brink 

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