Data Driven Flying Etiquette. It's not “plane” sailing.

I spend a lot of time on planes. Splunk’s HQ is in San Francisco and I’m there pretty regularly. As we get closer to the summer vacation season, a lot of you will be thinking about holidays and possibly flights to foreign destinations - I’ve been brave/foolish enough to be taking three children to California (no, not the Splunk office). This leads to some interesting considerations about who sits where, what to do on an eleven hour flight, and how to make sure everyone behaves on the plane. Having seen some less than great behaviour on planes to recently, it made me think about ‘flight etiquette’ and if there was any analysis of it... 

Luckily (and a huge thanks to FIVETHIRTYEIGHT on data.world for the dataset), someone has captured flight etiquette information from around 1,000 people. So of course I had to put this into Splunk and see what comes up. The first and most contentious issue is reclining seats, so I asked a couple of questions in Splunk to find out what percentage of people recline. It looks like “never” is the minority with most people doing it pretty regularly and some people always:

In fact, it turns out that the majority don’t feel it is rude to recline at all, and a significant majority don’t think airlines should ban reclining seats. I thought this was surprising, so wanted to consider what rights the person behind the reclining seat has - results show that more people think the person behind has the right to ask the recliners not to. So feel free to speak up if you want to claim back some personal space!

Perhaps the second biggest cause of tuts, groans and general grumpiness is who gets the armrest. This can lead to much jostling of position and maximum use of knobbly elbows. Most people think there should be compromise and that they are there to be shared - but I was surprised how many people thought ownership went to “whoever gets there first”. Best be quick!

Then we get into those tricky questions that you ask yourself when you’re on a plane - “I wonder how many people have actually tried smoking in the bathroom?”. It turns out less than 1% (looking at the below):

One I *may* have been guilty of in the past is using devices during takeoff and landing - and it looks like I *may* have been in the minority. Okay, I’ll change my ways... Then comes the thorny issue of window shutters, open or closed? I normally sit on the aisle so assume I have no rights - but it looks like a slight majority feel like everyone has a say. 

It’s not long until I take three children on a long haul flight, and the first time we ever went away with the eldest, he was less than a year old. Not the most pleasant of experiences and I always feel for those with a baby on board. However, it turns out people find unruly children a lot more rude than bringing a baby onto a plane. So no sugar for my three then...

I mentioned that I sit on the aisle, and this is mainly because I’m one of those annoying people that need to get up pretty often on a flight, so I wanted to look into how people feel about that. Bathroom visits seem OK, but just going for a walk is seen as more rude. It’s worth noting that on a six-hour flight, getting up two or three times is acceptable - so I think I’ll stick to the aisle.

So, in summary, the official data driven approach to plane etiquette says:

  • Check if people are happy for you to recline your seat
  • Share the arm rests
  • Don’t smoke in the bathroom
  • Don’t use your devices during takeoff and landing (noted)
  • Everyone has a say about the window blind
  • It’s fine to bring a baby, but don’t let your children run riot
  • It’s fine to move seats to sit near family (unless you don’t want to because they are running riot)
  • Don’t wake people up just for a walk
  • Getting up 2-3 times on a six hour flight is about right

If you’re flying somewhere on holiday soon, have a lovely time. If you’re flying from Gatwick or Dubai airport, or even with LATAM airlines - then why dont you kill some flight time reading up on how Splunk is helping ensure you have a positive experience! 

As always, thanks for reading.


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