Sticking out your elbows, reclining the backrest as far as it will go and spreading out a newspaper – we provide tips on how and how not to behave in the air.
Albert Camus was right: “L’enfer, c’est les autres” – hell is the others. Anyone who has traveled by airplane and has had to share the tight space with hundreds of strangers will know just what he meant. A classical situation in a cramped aircraft cabin is the fight for armrests. Some passengers are prepared to voluntarily forego reading or even eating their lunch to avoid having to give up one of their armrests … although there is a recommendation for their use: In a row of three, both armrests belong to the middle seat, which is disadvantaged in all other respects.
Weaponizing the backrest
Once the fight for the armrests has been lost, there are other ways to extend your personal territory: for example by reclining the backrest. However, we would advise against doing this too energetically at all costs, as this is bound to cause trouble. It was a backrest springing back like this that encouraged an American to invent the Knee Defender, a small plastic wedge that blocks the seat of the passenger in front of you. Which is another way to pick a fight. In 2016, a fight over backrests even resulted in a plane from Newark to Denver having to stop over in Chicago after two passengers got into a brawl over the Knee Defender.
The list of behavioral tics that can drive your fellow travelers mad is long – from spreading newspapers out wide to playing dice at night with your colleague on the other side of the aisle. Even extremely friendly people can be annoying when they use a ten-hour flight to tell you their life’s story. According to a 2016 survey by British Airways, 83 percent of participants said that a “hello” and a smile were conversation enough. If need be, a friendly hint that you would prefer to sleep or watch the film you always wanted to see in the in-flight program can help. Demonstratively putting on earplugs can be an extreme solution. The last resort is a heartfelt request to the flight attendant for a change of seat. But one thing everyone should be aware of is that nobody has a right to an undisturbed flight. However, some airlines have recognized that people want to be left alone. Etihad, for example, offers the possibility of spending extra to have a free seat next to you: For some people, it may be worth paying through the nose to avoid conflict.