Travel etiquette survey pinpoints the proper way to sleep with 200 strangers

Just who should get the armrest on the airplane anyways? In a new survey, British Airways asked some of the most common travel etiquette questions to create an unofficial rulebook on behaving while squished together with a few hundred passengers at 35,000 feet.

The survey asked 1,500 travelers in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy how to respond to some of the most typical travel dilemmas, from waking up the passenger in the aisle seat to go to the bathroom to whether or not to take off those shoes. The group also conducted video interviews in New York and London to capture the reactions to those etiquette questions.

First, the Great Armrest Debate — who gets to use the armrest? About 67 percent of travelers surveyed said that the proper thing to do is to take one armrest and leave the other for your neighbor. Nearly half of the British and American travelers will claim both armrests when sitting in that middle seat, while travelers in Germany and France said to just give the armrest to whoever asks for them.

Removing socks midflight is a no-no, 87 percent of passengers say, though most passengers say taking off shoes is fine. While 59 percent said shoes off is fine, 79 percent of travelers in Italy said shoes-free was a no-go.

What about that awkward moment when you need to use the bathroom, but the passenger in the aisle seat is sleeping? Eighty percent said to wake the other passenger up to get by, but 40 percent suggested limiting the climb over to no more than once per flight. Oh, and respondents suggest sliding out face to face with the other passenger, as opposed to the alternative — though that was by a narrow 54 percent margin.

When the next passenger is snoring, 66 percent said they wouldn’t nudge them but would turn up their headphones. In the U.K. though, 20 percent said they’d do the nudge but pretend it was an accident. And if you’d rather be the one snoring, experienced travelers say they sleep better with a pillow, while 45 percent suggest bringing along noise-canceling headphones.

The questionnaire results are available through the British Airways YouTube series.

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