Make excess noise
If you choose not to sleep, be considerate to the 95 per cent of the passengers who are trying to get some shut-eye. On a recent flight to London, I swear someone had wrapped a snack in five sheets of crinkly cellophane; in the process of unpacking it, he annoyed everyone in a 10-row radius. Prep what you’ll need before the cabin lights dim, and keep conversations to a whispered minimum.
Speaking of lighting … if you know you’ll be awake and reading and don’t own an e-book, pack a small book lamp to illuminate your pages. While technically the overhead lights are aimed at specific seats, the glow often spills over into others’ space. It’s hard enough to sleep in an upright position without excess wattage shining down.
Turbulence happens, and some people have mobility issues – but in most cases, there should be no need to grip the headrests of sleeping passengers as you make your way down the aisle. On some planes you’ll find a groove running along the bottom of the overhead bins (where the seat numbers are shown). It was designed to be a handrail so go ahead and use it as such.
Choose the wrong seat
Another risk of the aisle seat: Having to get up so the person beside you can use the bathroom. If you’re planning to sleep through the night, you might be better off with a window so you don’t inadvertently shoot death glares at your small-bladdered seatmate. Conversely, if you know you’ll need to get up repeatedly, go for an aisle seat. Seat selection is typically free come check-in, so log in 24 hours before takeoff and you should be able to get what you want.
Hog the space
In a group of three seats? If the middle one is empty, don’t assume it’s yours alone to use. Be nice and suggest to your row mate you both put small items there instead of under your seats. You’ll both score extra leg room. And don’t, under any circumstances, try to lie on the floor, draping part of your body over the feet of a stranger. That’s as gross as it is rude. (And, yes, it’s happened.)