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The holiday traveller’s guide to airplane etiquette – “just be lekker

Anyone who has travelled by plane in their lifetime will likely have at least a few interesting stories to share from past inflight experiences. From window shade wars and selfish seat recliners to fellow passengers getting a little too ‘merry’ with their alcohol intake, there are many dos and don’ts when it comes to air travel that every traveller should be wary of ahead of their next flight.

“Everyone is excited and looking forward to a much-deserved holiday this December. And amid all this festive cheer, we should also remember to be mindful of our fellow travellers to keep the in-flight mood as lekker as us South Africans!” says Shanna Docherty, Regional Head of Trade Sales for Cathay – Middle East and Africa (MEA).

With packed flights expected this festive season, here are a few great etiquette reminders to keep in mind when travelling.

  1. Mind your manners

Take mum and dad’s advice and be sure to mind your manners when travelling this December. Be sure to greet flight attendants with a friendly smile when boarding, as well as fellow passengers seated next to or around you. This sets the mood for a pleasant flight ahead for everyone.

  1. Kids on a plane

While a screaming infant or bored and energetic child may become a bit much for other passengers, try to spare a thought for their stressed-out parents. Instead of getting upset and complaining, rather pop some headphones in; to drown out the noise, or – better yet – ask if you can help with distracting or playing with the little one to ease some of the strain for travelling parents.

  1. To recline or not to recline

The age-old question every air traveller must navigate at some point – should you recline your seat, or not? Some say why not, it’s what the seat is designed to do. Others are adamant that this is most egregious act anyone can commit.

“I would say, save full reclining for nighttime when most passengers will be resting, and return to the full upright position during mealtimes,” says Docherty. “Better yet, if leg room and comfort are a must, rather look into upgrading to a Premium Economy or Business class seat to avoid the tussle.”

  1. The armrest debacle

The argument over who should have access to an armrest during a flight is another longstanding dispute among airplane etiquette experts. There are a few options to address this issue – have a conversation with the person next to you and agree on taking turns or be kind and relinquish any armrest rights you feel you may have to the other person, especially if they’re in the middle seat.

  1. Personal grooming

A quick lipstick touch up or hand moisturiser application is perfectly fine – clipping your finger and toenails is not. Avoid doing your nails too as the smell of nail polish and acetone can be pungent, especially in the tight quarters of a plane. Rather leave extensive personal grooming, such as nailcare, facials, shaving (it’s happened before), and clouds of deodorant spray for after the flight. 

  1. The tipsy traveller

With travellers excited and enjoying the holiday spirit, it can be easy to get a little too carried away with inflight alcohol consumption. Avoid over-indulging and losing inhibitions, as this can be unpleasant for passengers around you, as well as flight attendants.

  1. Twinkle toes

Keeping your shoes and socks on throughout a flight is recommended to avoid potentially offensive odours from wafting through the cabin. Do not rest your feet – barefoot or not – on the armrests of the seats in front of you either, for the same reason.

Excitement and festive cheer are definitely in the air as holidaymakers prepare to take to the skies this December, and with that comes the responsibility to be kind and courteoustowards fellow flyers. These points are just a few basic etiquette points to keep in mind, but if you’re ever unsure of the dos and don’ts of air travel, simply ask yourself, “Am I being lekker?”

It’s never too late – book your festive travel to anywhere in the world, today, at

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