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Airplane Etiquette: how to avoid being “that person” on a flight

Madelaine Scarf

Posted on August 29 2018

Airplane Etiquette: how to avoid being “that person” on a flight


Here’s a question… would you rather sit next to a screaming baby, or a constantly coughing passenger on a flight?

You have just spent a large sum of money to sit in the same seat for a long period of time, so of course you would want to do everything in your power to make sure your journey is as comfortable as possible.

Now before you decide on your answer, let’s take a look at both scenarios. On the surface, they both have one thing in common: neither can be helped. It’s not the parent’s fault that no matter how hard they try, they can’t soothe their crying baby. And a passenger doesn’t want to be coughing for hours on end either. I mean, do you really think either of them enjoy being ‘that passenger’ on a flight? So, how can we improve each scenario?

Let’s start with the crying baby.  

One word – headphones. Whether it’s the airline-provided headset that literally falls apart in your hands, or your state-of-the-art noise cancelling Bose headphones - you have the right tools to be able to do a pretty decent job of reducing noise around you.

Now to the cougher.

Again, we reach for those headphones to block out that glamorous sound of spluttering, and thoughts of those germs being recycled again and again throughout the cabin.

We may be able block out the noise, but that’s not going to help us avoid inhaling or exhaling any virus’ or bacteria - with a very high chance of you coming down with that very same cough at your end destination.

After all, you have spent thousands of dollars and used up sacred annual leave days to take yourself to your version of paradise, leaving behind the chaos of your everyday life - that mundane job, a boss that seems to enjoy making your life difficult, those hyperactive, energizer-bunny kids (I mean, don’t they ever get tired?!).

Wouldn’t you prefer to arrive at your final destination feeling healthy, leaving you to enjoy your vacation feeling happy and relaxed, rather than fighting off a cold or flu?

We’ve all noticed how crowded flights are getting nowadays, which means the likelihood of catching something on-board is higher than ever… and so is our paranoia. It’s almost as if prepping to stay as healthy as possible whilst flying is becoming mandatory.

Business lady on the airplane wearing a TECMASK medical masks, germ masks, surgical masks, pm2.5 filter

So do you think you have an answer yet? Hold that thought, and let me ask another question… would wearing a flu mask not only help prevent catching an infection from others, but potentially help change the negative perception of a coughing neighbour to a positive one?

Let’s admit it - Aussies are creatures of habit. We may not be used to, nor have even considered wearing a germ mask whilst flying.

But if we think about it, wearing a germ mask makes a lot of sense.

It would be safe to say that either yourself or someone you know has at one point in their life caught that dreadful cabin flu. If I had a dollar for every time I heard ‘I got sick on the plane ride home’, or ‘I always get sick when I fly!’ I’d buy my own private jet and wouldn’t have to deal with this problem again!

Wearing a protective filtered barrier over your nose and mouth would undoubtedly provide you with the peace of mind that you wouldn’t be inhaling those nasty little germ droplets being recycled throughout the cabin.

Now I know what you’re thinking… ‘Why should I be the one to wear a mask? They’re the one that’s sick!’.

So, let’s look at ‘mask wearing’ from another perspective.

No matter where you are - when you need to cough, you need to cough. When you need to sneeze, you need to sneeze (there’s nothing worse than that prolonged nose tickle). And when it comes to flying, you can’t help it if you manage to fall sick just before a long-haul flight, no matter how many Vitamin C’s you chug down before you board. You may have to fly whilst feeling under the weather and feel as though there is not much you can do about it….

Or is there?

Looking back at my very first question I asked you – sitting next to a coughing passenger is not an ideal situation. But what if the shoe was on the other foot? What if it were you that couldn’t help but cough and sneeze on an 18-hour leg?

What steps can you take to ensure you’re not “that person” on your flight, and actually take steps to protect your neighbours and others from your germs so they can reach their end destination happy, healthy and germ free? (And not plotting your demise).

People wear flu masks to prevent the spread of bacteria. So if you yourself a sick, you could even go that extra step and combine medication with a mask to ensure you (and your neighbours) arrive at your destination in good health.

So on that note, let me ask you again… Would you rather sit next to a screaming baby, or a constantly coughing passenger, for your entire flight?



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