9 tips to make flying as pleasant as possible

I love flying. You can really centre yourself during a long flight. You don’t have to (read: can’t) do anything but relax. Things weren’t that easy during my last 10-hour flight. The man next to me made lots of noise when eating and then snored his head off. Nothing a good pair of ear plugs couldn’t dampen, but it did get me thinking. The safety rules are familiar to everyone, but what about the rules of acceptable inflight behaviour?

So, once I got home, I asked my friends and colleagues what they thought. The outcome? Nine tips to make flying as pleasant as possible – for you and for your fellow passengers.

Mind other people’s hand luggage

Everyone takes hand luggage along when travelling. For some, it’s a sports bag and, for others, a modest handbag. And there are those who take both on board. It’s therefore not inconceivable that there isn’t enough space in the overhead compartment above your seat. Don’t try to squeeze your luggage in yourself. The other bags may contain valuables or breakables, so wait until everyone is seated and then ask the cabin crew for help.

Behaviour on board

Just say hello!

Greet the person next to you when taking your seat or when he or she sits down. You’ll be sitting relatively close to one another in a confined space for the duration of the flight and there’s a good chance you’ll need to interact at some point. Either to pass on food or drinks, or because you’d like to stretch your legs a bit. A friendly greeting and brief exchange is often sufficient for a pleasant, polite flight next to one another.

Lean on me

When leaning back your chair, do so with care. Of course it’s more comfortable to lean back a bit, but remember that the person behind you will have less legroom. Don’t just push it back abruptly, but turn around to alert the person behind you of your plans. Want to bet he or she will say it’s fine? Definitely if you straighten up your back support again during mealtimes.

Spray with care

Put a few hundred people in a sealed area for ten hours and you can be sure the surroundings won’t smell like roses half way into the flight. Smelling fresh when you board is one thing, but de-boarding fresh is another. Using deodorant or a splash of perfume to freshen up is fine, but do so in moderation. You may have become immune to the smell of your own perfume, but an overdose of “flower bomb” may be too much for your neighbour.

Never, I repeat, never pull on the headrest

Just imagine: you’re about to take a sip of coffee poured for you by the cabin attendant when the person behind you stands up and pulls on your headrest. The hot coffee spills down your face and neck onto your clothes, and you’re stuck smelling like coffee for the next few hours. Moral of the story: whatever you do, never pull on the headrest in front of you! 

My space, your space

Remain in your own seat as much as possible. If you stretch out your arms or legs and offend the person next to you, things could get awkward. You have a limited amount of space, but this also applies to your fellow passengers. For this reason, take one another into account when sharing the space available to you.

Behaviour on board

Be mindful of your happy sounds

During my last flight I sat next to a gentleman who made lots of noise when eating and he snored. This didn’t matter much once I’d put my earplugs in, but it’s generally much nicer if you’re aware of your own happy sounds during a flight. But what if you aren’t aware of these sounds and your neighbour diplomatically points them out to you? Take it like the lady or gentleman that you are. Excuse yourself, crack a joke about it and continue the journey smoothly.

Only drink alcohol in moderation

Having a drink on board can be very pleasant, certainly if you’re ringing in the holidays. But if you notice you’re getting a bit too boisterous after two glasses of wine, switch to water. There are few things worse than a drunken – and sometimes unmanageable – passenger on board.

Behaviour on board


It is possible that you abide perfectly by the “code of conduct”, but that the same cannot be said of the person next to or behind you. Don’t be afraid to say something about this in a calm and friendly manner. People are often unaware of their own behaviour and it’s always the tone that makes the music.

To be continued…

The cabin crew members are there to make your flight as safe and pleasant as possible. Always follow their instructions and treat them with respect. And you may expect the same level of respect in return. In my next blog, I’m going to take a closer look at the world of inflight etiquette. Did you, for example, know that our cabin crew members follow etiquette training? I do! And soon, you will too. To be continued…

Posted by:   Madelon van der Hof  | 
Join the conversation Show comments


Please research or comment on parents bringing in noisy / crying/ rumbangious children. What should we do when confronted with such situations.

Adam Ferguson

Get on with it. Can’t expect kids to be silent and act like an adult. Kids are kids and make noise. Don’t fly if you can’t cope with a child crying.


goed mekup ?


No problems when a child is crying, generally parents can’t help that.

i DO have a problem with kids sitting behind me kicking at the back of my seat continuously for a long period of time. Or the kid sitting next to me while mommy was sitting at the aisle. Kid kept trying to crawl over me without being corrected. I could go on listing examples I experienced. Children are children, and most of us understand that. But where adults are expected to behave, I’d expect the same of children. Parents have a responsibility there too. Telling people not to fly to avoid children is a bit too simple.


Yes children are children. But parenting involves teaching children how to behave. Parents should be responsible they should just point out “how would they feel if etc” cabin crew are quite well trained in thus. They know how to approach parents and they should if they see you feeling uncomfortable. I worked for KLM for over 10 years. Cabin crew although perhaps would prefer you to tackle problem yourself really don’t mind stepping in. Most are very observant and know exactly what’s going on in their cabin. If not just excuse yourself and have a word with the Number one (senior cabin staff member) she will probably deal with it on your behalf and not involve you. They are very discrete. They want you to enjoy your flight and travel again with them. I was an in flight trainer believe me it’s true. Don’t sit and suffer. Enjoy your flight.

Bea Landsbergen

We love flying KLM, especially on long haul and cannot wait for our flight to Tokyo within short.

Anne Lise Gaardvik

Hi, Thank you! This was good to know ! I am soon having a. Long flight from Oslo , Norway to Los !Angles , USA, so now I will have a good fligt !

David Smith

To make as pleasant as possible fly with someone else rather than KLM, all you’ll do is worry about whether your baggage is there and the subsequent complaints for redress, In my experience.


I fly KLM on a regular basis. Never lost any luggage. Never lost my luggage with any airline btw.
I do always make sure that I pack enough stuff in my carry-on bag for at least one or two days just in case.
Baggage btw is handled mostly by the airport, not the airline.


A good Front Page for every in-flight magazine, I’d say.

Hans Moolhuijzen

Usefull tips for our next flight Thanks

Patricia Strandberg

To me I touched that they put a person with a baby and the mother falls asleep and I practically take care of the little one since I worry that something happens to him, I do not like to sit with people with children

Dirk Franssens

Perhaps it is an idea to create seperate sections for parents with (little) childeren?


What drives me crazy, are the people who bring suitcases onto the aircraft as hand luggage and the fact that the airlines allow them too, they should be made to check them into the hold.

Jesse Alan

Absolutely because they take so much space and then there is no space for you it happen to me on my last flight with Delta I had to carry my stuff in between my legs on the floor which was not comfortable at all


Forgot to ad to my last post: I absolutely love to travel with KLM! Always my first choice if possible! Thank you!!!

Jesse Alan

Using the toilet before a flight to avoid standing multiple times during the flight, it is awkward for the person on the aisle seat having to stand up or move because the persons next to him have to use the toilet


The one I always hear about is keeping one’s shoes on. That should be common knowledge, but it doesn’t apper to be, with all the stories I’ve seen floating around. One that I will never forget was on a flight from Chicago to Seoul on Korean Air. I was sitting at the window next to two pre-teen girls. Their seats turned into a miniature dorm room, with all if their stuff spread out on the floor. I had to step overall of their stuff to use the restroom. I don’t know why they thoight they could do that.

Bobby Smith

What? Many airlines give you slippers, that suggests.. take your shoes off…


Hey! It’s amazing to travel with your Company and I hade done it many times and every time I get my destination comfortable, and from my said you have nothing bad to complain about, but sometimes it’s kind of expensive to get flight from You. .
Wish you the best
Nour Al khabbaz


Hey! It’s amazing to travel with your Company and I hade done it many times and every time I get my destination comfortable, and from my said you have nothing bad to complain about, but sometimes it’s kind of expensive to get flight from You. .
Wish you the best


This is an actual joke of an article. When I flew KLM to New York last april, a middle aged (YES MIDDLE AGED!) man decided it would be funny to start kicking my seat, despite my *calm* words with him, he continued to do so for the next 5 hours. It really wasn’t funny and the crew declined to do anything about it. Absolutely no respect from KLM or the crew on this flight to do anything about the situation. Sort yourselves out first before lecturing others, KLM.


Thanks for sharing the nice tips, totally I agree.


Very Useful and Important article. Best Wishes to Author

Janel B. Galvanek

Why does no one seem to understand ‘never pull on the headrest’?!? This seems to be basic flying etiquette to me, and I am thrilled that you pointed it out. But no one else seems to get it! I wonder why KLM and more airlines don’t include this in their flight instructions before a flight??


I dont like sitting next to kids , I sent suggestion to KLM to allocate separate section for parents with kids in the back but KLM ignored this suggestion


I agree with the comments about kids and I think it would be a great idea to place them all at the back so they can all annoy each other! I am sick and tired of kids kicking the back of my seat (I have a prolapsed disc so this really hurts), or screaming and climbing over you. Most parents are great and I have no real issue with the ones who clearly try to keep their child quiet but others seem to think that, as they can’t actually lose them, let them run amok throughout the plane! Pulling on headrests should be announced over the tannoy at the start of the flight – it is no good by any other means ie adding it to the in-flight magazine. Perhaps I should also include those dummies who really think they are going to get off the plane quicker if they stand as soon as the plane has landed (on my last US flight, one woman ignored 3 requests from crew and 1 from the co-pilot!!). Perhaps she is the same breed as the ‘lets cram as much as possible into the hand luggage and force it into the overhead locker’ brigade??

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