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Travel experts reveal list of etiquette rules for plane passengers traveling on overnight flights – from exactly what outfits are appropriate to the kind of FOOD you should avoid

It is no secret that the debate around plane etiquette has been rumbling on in recent months.

Fierce clashes about seat swapping, reclining and undressing have all taken the internet by storm. 

And now travel experts have been weighing in on the unwritten rules for plane passengers catching overnight flights. 

From taking advantage of spare seats to ignoring snoring neighbors, those in the know have shared how to be a dreamy passenger on a red-eye. 

Travel experts have been weighing in on the unwritten rules for plane passengers catching overnight flights (stock image) Travel experts have been weighing in on the unwritten rules for plane passengers catching overnight flights (stock image)

Travel experts have been weighing in on the unwritten rules for plane passengers catching overnight flights (stock image)

 

1. Take advantage of spare seats respectfully

Many holidaymakers shy away from the prospect of catching an overnight flight which can often mean they are less crowded.

As a result, some lucky passengers might end up bagging a whole row to themselves – but it is important to act respectfully.

Experts have warned that despite the excitement over the free space, passengers should not launch themselves into spreading out right away. 

Not only is it important to remain sitting upright during takeoff for safety reasons, but travel blogger Lee Abbamonte, who is based in New York, told Stuff: ‘After the plane takes off, give it a second and if nobody moves over, then do it. 

‘Otherwise, it’s just kind of obnoxious.’

Even once you are in the air there are some rules that still need to be followed including keeping your feet off the furniture and not propping them up on any part of the seat in front of you.

Similarly, if passengers see a vacant seat elsewhere on board, they should avoid running over and immediately claiming it for themselves.

Instead, it is vital to ask a flight attendant whether it is possible to relocate.

This is because some spaces are left empty for specific reasons including for flight attendants to have quick access during sudden turbulence or for providing extra space during medical emergencies.

 

2. Be mindful of those trying to sleep

Even if you don’t want to sleep on your overnight flight, others might – and it is important for passengers to take their cues from what is happening on board.

Midway through the flight the lights in the cabin will all be dimmed to create a darker environment for those hoping to get some shut eye.

Travel experts urged that at this point, you should act too.

Passengers should lower the light on their laptops or in-built entertainment screens and pull down the window shade.

Even if you don't want to sleep on your overnight flight, others might - and it is important to passengers take their cues from what is happening in the cabin (stock image) Even if you don't want to sleep on your overnight flight, others might - and it is important to passengers take their cues from what is happening in the cabin (stock image)

Even if you don’t want to sleep on your overnight flight, others might – and it is important to passengers take their cues from what is happening in the cabin (stock image)

Where possible they should also turn off their overhead light.

And, instead, those hoping to remain illuminated should purchase a clip-on reading light if required.

Abbie Unger, a former flight attendant and founder of the Flight Attendant Career Connection, also advised investing in earmuff-style headphones instead of ear buds in a bid to limit irritating sound leaks that may disturb neighbors.

Similarly, the experts agreed that you should avoid strolling in the aisles.

It might be tempting to stretch your legs by taking a walk up and down but perhaps you should think again.

Instead, if you do need some respite from sitting down, head to the back galley area and march on the spot or perform stretches until you feel ready to return. 

 

3. Dress appropriately 

Abbie passionately urged passengers to dress appropriately for the flight, adding: ‘It should look like you’re wearing outside clothes, not inside clothes.’

She insisted that pajamas are not acceptable and instead plane attire should fall into the categories of loungewear or athleisure – think leggings and sweatshirts.

Many also encouraged travelers to bring a hoodie which can help block out some of the stimuli on board. 

On a similar note, everyone agrees that going entirely bare foot is a definite no – but removing just your shoes is seemingly a gray area.

Diane Gottsman, owner of the Protocol School of Texas, said passengers should not remove their footwear due to the risk of foot odor. 

But one suitable comprise involves the use of slippers. 

 

4. Avoid eating smelly snacks

One rule that is applicable to plane passengers both day and night is to avoid chowing down on pungent snacks.

If you have brought your own sustenance, it is important to remain respectful of those around you. 

One rule that is applicable to plane passengers both day and night is to avoid chowing down on pungent snacks (stock image) One rule that is applicable to plane passengers both day and night is to avoid chowing down on pungent snacks (stock image)

One rule that is applicable to plane passengers both day and night is to avoid chowing down on pungent snacks (stock image)

Jamie Gibson, who is the founder online community for corporate flight attendants called Flightless, told the outlet: ‘You may really be enjoying your fried pickle sandwich, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is going to enjoy the aroma.’

Popular delicacies to avoid which are notoriously smelly include tuna, sauerkraut and eggs.

 

5. Don’t spend too long in the restroom

Although some passengers will still want to perform their bedtime routine on board before settling down for a sleep – it is important not to overdo it.

Rather than hogging the cubicle while you go through your entire nighttime ritual, consider completing the bulk of it when still at the airport.

If it cannot be avoided, however, there are certain rules to follow.

These include using unscented products, placing your toiletries within easy reach and keeping it brief.

‘You’re not taking 40 minutes in that restroom. You’re taking a few minutes to wash your hands and splash water on your face,’ Gottsman said.

‘Don’t use this as an opportunity to bathe.’ 

 

6. Ignore the snorers

It can be frustrating when those around you drift off and leave you to tune into their droning snores and nasal whistles.

But, sadly, this is often part and parcel of an overnight flight that is tricky to avoid.

The easiest solution is to take advantage of earplugs or noise cancelling headphones in a bid to muffle the sounds.

It can be frustrating when those around you drift off and leave you to tune into their droning snores and nasal whistles (stock image) It can be frustrating when those around you drift off and leave you to tune into their droning snores and nasal whistles (stock image)

It can be frustrating when those around you drift off and leave you to tune into their droning snores and nasal whistles (stock image)

Abbie suggested making slight movements, such as folding your tray table, in a bid to stir your neighbor in the hope they switch positions.

But otherwise it is somewhat unavoidable and should largely be ignored. 

Additionally, if the passenger in the aisle seat is asleep when you need to get out to use the restroom – do not attempt to simply jump over them.

Instead, gently ask them if you can squeeze out – and remember that you shouldn’t feel bad for asking.

New York

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