Travel Tip: Top 5: how to be a good seat mate

So I had a post about what NOT to do, here’s a more positive list:

  1. It’s a shared space to keep hygiene in mind.  This means do your best to arrive clean.  Showering with perfume instead of taking an actual shower often makes things worse, especially if the person next to you is sensitive to fragrances.  If your feet are stinky think about it before taking off shoes.
  2. look before reclining.  Unless you recline immediately after take off, there is a chance that the person behind you may have a laptop out.  Those sometimes get into the groove of the tray table and if you recline quickly it could damage their laptop.  I would prefer not to damage a laptop.  Also, I know it’s not recommended, but I like to cross my legs.  I make sure my knee isn’t touching the seat back, but if you recline quickly i may not have time to adjust before getting my knee smashed into your back.  Look first, then slow and steady.
  3. Aside from the window and aisle armrest, armrests are shared.  General consensus is that the middle seat person gets the arm rest, but always play it by ear.  I lean towards the window and rarely use the arm rest.  When I’m in the middle I keep my arms crossed.  Just avoid being passive-aggressive and either discuss the arm rest or relinquish it.
  4. Keep sounds to yourself.  If you must make a call before/after a flight please consider your volume.  Also, headphones are the way to go if you will listen to any music.  If I can hear your music through your headphones that’s not good.  Get some passive or active noise canceling headphones so you don’t need to max the volume to hear over the noise of the plane so you can use a lower volume setting.
  5. Save person grooming for somewhere else.  Don’t clip nails, pick the nose, floss teeth, anything like that during the flight.

Really it just comes down to common courtesy.  Just think “would I like it if the person next to me did x”.  Sometimes this works, other times it doesn’t.


  1. I agree with this advice. Travel is bad enough – sometimes all we have left is the courtesy of our fellow travelers.

    I’m not sure I agree with #2. I think reclining slowly is enough notice for people. Looking doesn’t do much unless you’re going to engage in a discussion about your next moves.

  2. Let me add one more here – if you want to have a nice conversation with your seat mate, do not start it with “If you have not accepted Jesus yet you are going to hell” (yes, this really happened to me).

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