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When it comes to plane etiquette, there’s a lot of debate around things like whether or not you should take off your shoes, and whether reclining your seat makes you a horrible human being (personally I’m on team recline).

Also whether you should sneak off to the bathrooms for … well … you know what I mean.

But beyond what might be faux pas and bad social etiquette, there are a number of things which can actually land you jail, and risk your health and safety. 

Far more serious than walking barefoot to the bathrooms (seriously – ew), the following things fall into the camp of landing you in serious trouble on a plane.

Things That Will Land You in Serious Trouble on a Plane

#1 Try New Medication

Plane woman drink water RF

Think sleeping pills are going to work a wonder to knock you out through a long haul flight? Or that a relaxant is going to help with anxiety when you’re in the air?

Many people have allergic or adverse reactions to new medications, and when you’re at home on the ground, you can easily drive yourself to the hospital, or call an ambulance to see to you.

But when you’re mid air, and the flight attendant is yelling at you to stay in your seat? Never take any medication for the first time, even if it’s been prescribed by your doctor, if you haven’t already tried it at home.

#2 Interfere With Flight Crew Performing Their Duties

Interfering with the ability of the flight crew to perform their duties is causing disturbance on an airplane, which is a crime.

This includes intimidating or assaulting a flight crew member or flight attendant in a way that they can’t continue with their normal duties, like if you’re being so loud that they can’t give the safety briefing, or if you’re obstructing their movement to reach other passengers.

It also includes thinking you’re Casanova and relentlessly hitting on the crew. Sexual harassment of airline cabin crew is rife, with reports including passengers who expose themselves to crew, workers being touched inappropriately, and dealing with highly sexualised and degrading comments.

Flight attendants describe the verbal sexual harassment as comments that are “nasty, unwanted, lewd, crude, inappropriate, uncomfortable, sexual, suggestive, and dirty.”

When you harass flight attendants, you’re not just being a creep, you’re actually being a criminal.

#3 Smoke

Smoking airport cigarette RF

While everyone wants to look this attractive, lighting up on the plane is banned, and you’re not allowed to smoke e-cigarettes either. But now in most airports around the world you also can’t smoke in the terminal.

Beyond the fact that smoking in an enclosed space is forcing second-hand smoke on every other passenger in the plane (and no non-smoker wants to get off the plane scraping off layers of ick), there’s also the fire hazard.

Cigarettes are made from a highly flammable canvas, and in 1973, Varig Flight 820 had a fire in the lavatory caused by a lit cigarette thrown into a bin, which caused smoke in the cabin and the eventual death of 123 people.

Smoke detectors are fitted throughout the plane, so don’t even try it. If you need to manage your cravings on the flight, keep your hands busy, stock up on snacks, and have nicotine pouches ready.

#4 Don’t Joke About Bombs

Self explanatory, and also applies to weapons, or any type of threat against the plane, a passenger, or your final destination.

You’ll be hauled off the plane (or denied boarding), and depending on the severity of your joke / threats, might be spending the night in lock up rather than contorting your body to get comfortable in an economy seat of the plane (I know, I don’t know which is more appealing either).

In a world where we’re now just as worried about deadly virus’, it’s also not advisable to joke about things like COVID-19 or the pandemic.

#5 Get Blind Drunk

Gin drink on a plane RF

It’s hard to decline those sweet free bottles of spirits and free pouring wine, and even harder not to throw back a few in the airline lounge before boarding.

But if you’re so blind drunk that you’re incapacitated, can’t walk, or causing a disturbance, you’ll be denied boarding, or kicked off the flight.

Over-indulging in alcohol risks dehydration, which you’re already more susceptible to being on a plane. But if you become disorderly, start throwing up in the aisle, or become too handsy with the crew, you’re in real trouble.

Plus, no one wants to sit next to the guy who reeks of alcohol.

We also advise against getting high before boarding.

#6 Carry Anything on the List of Hazardous Materials

Before you check in you’re presented with a list of hazardous materials you can’t take on a plane. And there’s no excuse for this, since the list is plastered all over airports, and you’re forced to tick the box acknowledging it even for online checkin.

Hazardous materials are obvious things like explosives, radioactive materials, flammable liquids, dangerous or volatile chemicals, strong acids, compressed gases, poisons and aerosols.

But you’ll probably also find everyday items that can cause problems include toiletries, aerosols, tools and lithium batteries. Failing to declare dangerous goods can result in fines or imprisonment.

Here are some real life case studies of passengers who have taken dangerous good onto a plane (like the guy who tried to carry Mercury – which corrodes aluminium – yay).

While social etiquette dictates a number of things you should never do on a plane, like kicking your neighbors seat, or watching adult content, the above list are specifically things you won’t be able to charm your way out of. 

For your health, safety, financial security, and freedom, never do any of the above things on a plane. 

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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