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Passenger Etiquette : Public Display of Affection In Flight

Web: www.stevenfrischling.com — E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

10/09/2008 – Passenger Etiquette : Public Display of Affection In Flight

Last week while flying from San Francisco (SFO) to Charlotte (CLT) on an overnight ‘red-eye’ flight I experienced something I have experienced a few times before, however this time it was more obnoxious that ever before. What did I experience? Sharing my seat-row with a couple very much involved in an ‘extreme’ public display of affection (PDA).

I have no problem with PDA. People hug each other, couples often seem to cuddle during taxi and takeoff, I am not against kissing, and who can have a problem with holding hands? What I am addressing is couples ‘making out.’

Three times this year I have sat down for a transcontinental flight to find myself next to couples who could not keep their hands off of each other. The first occurrence was on a United Airlines flight between Washington-Dulles (IAD) and Seattle (SEA), the second was on an Air Canada flight between Vancouver (YVR) and Toronto (YYZ) and the last was this past week on a US Airways flight between SFO and CLT.

What do these flights have in common? Well if I was grasping at straws I’d say they were all Star Alliance airline flights. If I was grasping for further straws I’d point out that all the flights were on Airbus A320-series aircraft, but really there is nothing tying these flights together.

It is my choice to sit in a window seat when I fly, however when I am seated next to couples making-out as if they were home, in private on their couch, I cannot get up and move. I’d gladly go stand in the back of the plane for the 5 hour transcontinental flight than sit next to a couple going well beyond what should be done in public

I am not a ‘prude,’ I am certainly not against affection, but when you are flying on a commercial flight keep in mind that you are in a tight space. Personal space is at a premium and the people next to you, behind you, in front of you, can hear every sound you make. Your fellow passengers sharing the row with you can feel nearly every body movement you make, especially when you are constantly bumping into their elbow and spilling into their seat… however … this past week’s couple between SFO and CLT went from departure-gate to arrival-gate, then kept going at it in the gate area on C-Concourse at CLT.

The couple last week was getting looks from other rows and flight attendants, while I tried to get as close to the wall as possible to remove myself from their behavioue, there is just no where to go. There are certain sounds, movements and scents (yes the scents, as in smells) that I don’t want strangers sharing with me!

As a general rule, if you should kiss passionately in a confined space surrounded by 100+ strangers keep your hands out from under your partners clothing. Placing your hands down someone pants (or up their shorts) is something best left for someplace other than your airline seat. On a lesser note, keep your hands out of their shirt as well … in fact, if you’re sitting on a commercial flight you shouldn’t let your hands wander freely over your partner’s body.

I think this may go beyond airline travel etiquette and be something that falls under ‘general etiquette’ but I only deal with etiquette while traveling

So, passenger etiquette for PDA is to remember that you are in a confined public space. You need to understand that your actions will make many others extremely uncomfortable and that you cannot ‘do as you please’ as a way to pass the time.

Cuddle and kiss all you want, but remember that your seats on the plane are NOT the same as getting a room in some roadside motel.

If you have a passenger etiquette topic you’d like me to address drop me an e-mail at fish@flyingwithfish.com or follow me on Twitter at @flyingwithfish

Happy Flying!


  1. You should have pulled out your camera and started shouting (in your best Austin Power’s impression) “yeah baby, work it work it. The camera loves you. Come on Come on. That’s it. Oh yeah, baby.” I suspect that would have ended it right then and there. And you would have had some funny pictures on top of it. Thanks for the great postings.

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