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Ugochi V. Ukah: Airplane Etiquette 101



dreamstime_l_37166100I love to travel, especially by air, and so I always look forward to my trips whenever I get the opportunity. I usually book my trips early and reserve a window seat so that I can look out when we are just taking off or landing (since I fall asleep once the plane begins to move). I am still trying to learn how to travel light but I have not yet mastered the art. So my last trip was no different – as usual, I had bought my ticket a couple of months before online and even called the airline to confirm my seat reservation. Yes, I really had a thing for window seat because besides the view, that was the only seat where no one could ask you to stand up for them to go to the bathroom and no one walking down the aisle could mistakenly bump into you. Basically, you are in control of the movement around you.

On the day of my flight, I was surprised when I tried to check in online and saw that I had been given a middle seat. I tried to change the seat but to no avail. When I got to the airport, I spoke to one of the airline staff about my seating issues.

“Oh, we must have changed airplanes and so the seating arrangements changed too.” She said casually, like it was a norm.
I was pissed off, as I had never experienced anything like that before. Not only had my seat been moved from a window to a middle seat, my new seat number was now close to the back of the plane; yes, you guessed right – close to the toilet! I could not imagine being in that position for a 5 hour long flight. My mum, who had followed me to the airport, told me to let go and just travel in the assigned seat but I was not having that. After all, I had bought my ticket way in advance and I felt like it was their duty to notify customers of any change if it was going to affect a customer in any way. I insisted that the staff did something about it and so she managed to put me on another middle seat but farther from the toilet. She promised to change it to a window seat if any space came up but that did not happen as we boarded shortly.

I got on the plane, dragging my small suitcase, laptop bag and big handbag grudgingly; Ehen! All na hand luggage. There was no space in the overhead compartment above my seat but I managed to find some free spaces around and dumped my suitcase and laptop bag. I walked back to my seat; there were already 2 men seated – one by the window and the other by the aisle. And no, they did not look attractive enough to compensate my annoyance at that point.
“Excuse me, please” I said to the one by the aisle so that I could go in to sit.
“Jump over” he said with a straight face, without moving.

I was surprised but as I raised one of my legs to cross over, he started laughing and stood up, saying that it was a joke. I laughed even though I was not amused. As I sat, I said hi to both men and barely spoke to either again. I tried to get comfortable on my seat but both men had their legs spread so widely that I felt squashed. I could not wait for the plane to take off so that I could fall sleep.

The flight began and soon after, the flight attendants started serving some food. The guy by the window ordered for an egg sandwich, some other snacks and drinks. I did not want to judge but given the way he kept ordering for food, I could not help but notice his large waist-to-hip ratio. I fell asleep but the flight was so turbulent that it was hard to sleep smoothly. There were continuous announcements from the pilot about the bad weather, but he promised that we would still arrive in time. So I just decided to keep my headrest upright and seatbelt fastened throughout and fall back asleep.

I had drifted off back to sleep but woke up again some moments later. This time around, it was not the flight turbulence that had woken me. It was a smell, a poisonous one, oozing from my left side. The guy by the window had farted! It was so bad that it made me nauseous. I covered my nose with a scarf, hoping that it would not happen again but my hopes were dashed away as the guy by my right took off his shoes and the scent from his feet almost made me choke. I tried to sleep back in vain but I found myself awakened every 15 minutes with new surges of venomous smells oozing from my left and the consistent feet smell from my right. I could not go back to sleep anymore and we still had a couple more hours to go.

The situation was not getting any better; I guess the egg sandwich was working against the left guy’s stomach and against my respiratory system. I wondered why he could not just go to the toilet but maybe he did not want to bother himself to stand and ask me and the other guy to move out of the way and then, walk all the way down to one of the toilets. Regardless of whatever his reason was, it was definitely to no advantage of mine. I wanted to say something to both of them but I did not have proof since all the smells were being released without any sound. Besides, I thought it would be an awkward conversation to have with strangers.

As I sat there sad and confused, I remembered a popular psalm about looking up to the heavens for help. So I lifted my head to the ceiling and began to think about my life. I remember how my mum had advised me not to change my seat but I had been strong-headed. Maybe if I had remained in the earlier seat assigned to me, I would have had better neighbours or they would have used the bathroom since we would have been close to it.

I also thought about how I would not have had to suffer any of these if I had bought a first class ticket but then again, I was still a student with big dreams that had not yet matured into big money. I thought about how it was important to be prayerful so that every journey would be smooth and not just accident-free but also air-pollution free. Then, I thought about general plane etiquettes that everybody should have such as:
• Do not make jokes with strangers

• Always travel light and that includes your stomach

• Be aware of your personal hygiene; if you have sweaty feet, please do not take off your shoes during a flight

• Finally, do not spread your legs as if you own the plane

And as I thought about all of these, I managed to survive until we landed. For the first time in my life, I understood the true meaning of ‘journey mercies’ and I was grateful to have survived a flight.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Ugochi V Ukah is a student and loves writing in her spare time; using sarcasm, humour and wit to relay her thoughts. Visit her blog for more stories at: and follow her on twitter @vivio_gogo and IG: @ugochiukah


  1. Nkechi

    April 12, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    You got me really laughing. At this juncture, I will consider buying a first class ticket necessity and not luxury. I must acknowledge the fact that you are a wise and mature person, even though you did not really find the faces of both men attractive, you chose to keep your personal idiosyncrasy to yourself and said hello. Another girl wouldn’t have been able to exercise such self control so well done for that. Also, people are becoming more selfish and inconsiderate these days. How do you fart and smell so comfortably in public transportation. It is not your private jet.

  2. Aliz

    April 12, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Hehe. ..interesting read. I feel your pain cos I get really uncomfortable in similar situations. least yours was in a plane. Imagine all these on a rainy day sitting in between an aboki that hasn’t had a bath in days and a total stranger who is wet from the rain in a typical lagos bus… mehn the etiquette thing isn’t just for planes, it cuts across other means of transportation.

    • Ayoka

      April 12, 2016 at 11:53 pm

      You know you could have just said “between a man that hasn’t had a bath in days”
      These little things matter for a better Nigeria


    April 12, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    lolz, so funny

  4. Spunky

    April 12, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    I laughed hard. I appreciate how you narrate your experience with good humor. Truth?! You really can’t avoid all these as Long as you continue to fly commercial…person must mess, person with offensive mouth odour must talk in your face. It goes on! Wanna really avoid experiencing these? Charter or travel private (jet things). A lot of people will endure much worse and enjoy it if they have to…just to get out for good.

  5. Lauryn

    April 12, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Such an interesting read. I have experienced the exact same thing. This guy just kept farting non-stop so i know how you must have felt. You sure handled it with grace cos my quick tongue wont allow me keep kwayeet.

  6. Wanderlust _Trekeffect

    April 12, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Lol I second every point, farting on flights is no joke. I would take an aisle or window seat any day over middle especially when I’m not going be sitting between family or friends, besides I enjoy stretching occasionally and being able to pick stuff from the over head locker. I’m not big so I rarely have to stand up for anyone to go through. Used to love window seat during my early flight days but I got tired of the view, besides it’s easier to surf for hunks while sitting at the aisle ?lol.(surf only o that’s all I said).?

    My latest bad experience was with some random shit face who came after me, took out my precious ukulele case and put in his excess luggage, telling me that I couldn’t put in there, imagine the nonsense talk, when it had specifically being placed there by the flight attendant. I didn’t raise dust though, simply called the flight attendant to fix it, and she moved his stuff elsewhere?? and put mine back in cause I’m cool like that lol.

    • Wanderlust _Trekeffect

      April 12, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Oh and a little trick of mine is to scent up a really comfy face mask usually used for travel (if you can’t get any a sleeping eye mask could work but not as well) , works like a charm against unwanted olfactory assaults without suffocating you in the process.

  7. LEM

    April 12, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    I totally feel your pain because I have experienced both farting and evil stink feet from fellow passengers on two different flights. The first one (farting neighbor) I spent most of the time parading the aisle ‘stretching my feet’ lol. That experience taught me to begin carrying face masks for any subsequent journeys, which helped when I had another encounter with a passenger that had stinky feet. Simply put on my mask, plugged my earphones and watched a movie.

    • Where can I buy face masks?

      April 12, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      Please where can I buy face masks?
      I need to buy them by the dozen.

      Stinky feet and bad breath to take over on flights.

  8. Moyo

    April 12, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Finally, don’t spread your legs as if you own the plane. This had me in stitches. Lol, very good advice.

  9. Mimz

    April 12, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    LOL!!! I feel your pain completely. Flight etiquette amongst other forms of etiquette is definitely a case of nurture over nature, they’ll learn eventually, we just have to show them the way…lol

  10. Oga o

    April 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Aisle seat lomo. Everytime aisle. You can always get up and walk away if some unpleasant odour starts to waft. You don’t have to disturb anyone to go to the bathroom. Yes people disturb you but I take it as leg stretching time. I’m hypertensive and have to drink lots of water when I fly else swollen legs be that which means I would pee a lot. So aisle seats all day everyday.
    I find the lack of bathroom etiquette more annoying. Instructions say close the toilet lid before flushing. Nigerians never seem to do that. Until the day they flush and shit splashes up. And wiping the sink, would it cost your hand? Why do people wet the floors? Probably guys who don’t aim well.

  11. Chi!

    April 12, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Simply hilarious!

  12. ACE

    April 12, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Lmao! Omg! So true I love the window seat, Abeg I can’t deal with smells, it’s horrible. Mine was in church tho and I prayed and for some reason they stood up and left. Can people just try and shower at least twice a day and use body spray! Lol

  13. o

    April 12, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    For me it’s always aisle seat o. I am HbSS plus I have DVT so I need to be well hydrated hence I go to d loo frequently. I don’t want to disturb hence aisle or nothing. So my first time going to yankee, I was on Delta. Long flight to ATL. I was tired n hoping I could nap on the connecting flight to BWI. But hmmm. I sat near one mama na so she start story. To cut the long story short, by d time we got to BWI, I knew the names of all her kids, cousins n even their pets. I didn’t sleep a wink. Ni se ni mama fi ejo de mi mole….lol.

  14. TA

    April 12, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    My darling let me give you a piece of advice. That back seat close to the toilet is not a bad spot. Lots of people avoid it so you can have like a room and parlour space to yourself. I’m sort of a loner so I long for personal space. On intl flights, seats close to the toilet are not bad at all esp window seats. Of course, the prized spots remain that area around the wings close to the emergency exit. The leg room men…

  15. Enny Heart Heart

    April 12, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    Girl tell em. It really pisses me off seeing people walk around with no shoes around the plane. Like why?! And those that snore. Lawd! Just kill me. And annoying babies! Hmm, I’m dead.

    • Me

      April 13, 2016 at 2:24 am

      Well do you have issues?Annoying babies? Woah. So their parents should throw them away or not travel with them so as not to disturb your peace?

    • yomi

      April 13, 2016 at 8:01 am

      I understand your issues but crying/annoying babies shouldnt be a concern..They are babies/kids for a reason so you should expect that. When you have your own, you will understand

    • I just waka come..

      April 13, 2016 at 10:58 am

      There’s a private jet calling your name.
      Don’t hesitate to purchase it please.
      Saves us all the headache of zero tolerant people like you.

  16. NG

    April 13, 2016 at 7:02 am

    Lmao! So funy

  17. audiee

    April 13, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Your story is hilarious but I can relate. I sat in between 2 fat people yesterday both stinking and sweaty. The bus was smelling of several things; crayfish,fish, soup and I thought I was gonna die before I got to my destination all I thought of was hepatitis. This country can be tirey

  18. Moore05

    April 13, 2016 at 9:56 am

    I like what I learned from this… especially the broad meaning of “journey mercies”…. tnx gal

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