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Who gets the armrest? Airline etiquette revealed

Turbulence and delays can make flying a nuisance, but oftentimes, the worst part about being on a plane is the other passengers. Indeed, few things are worse than getting stuck on a cross-country flight next to a smelly or chatty seatmate. The question is, what is the best way to handle these uncomfortable circumstances?

Just in time for holiday travel, British Airways has polled travelers across the U.S., UK, Germany, France and Italy to address the biggest flying etiquette questions. Here are some of the highlights:

Elbow wars

One of the hottest flying debates centers around armrests and who deserves to use them. Overall, 67% of respondents agree that you should take one armrest and leave the other for your neighbor. Still, 47% of British respondents and 42% of American flyers are more likely to claim both if they are in the middle seat. For the sake of all travelers, let’s all agree to abide by the take one, share one rule.

No socks, no service

It’s not uncommon for travelers to take off their shoes during long flights, and the majority of respondents reveal that they don’t find this offensive. However, most people put their foot down when it comes to exposing bare feet. According to the poll, 87% of travelers say that it is totally unacceptable to remove socks during a flight, and well, we can’t blame them. Toe jam is real, people. And smelly.

To wake or not to wake?

Imagine this. You’re sitting in the window seat when nature calls. You can’t hold it in any longer, but the person sitting in the aisle is asleep, and you don’t want to disturb them. What do you do? According to 80% of travelers, it’s totally OK to wake a sleeping neighbor, but 40% say that you can do it once per flight.

But let’s say you see a sliver of space and try to slip past your sleeping seat mate undetected. Do you cross face-to-face? Or risk giving them a face full of your backside? In America, respondents were split almost down the middle, but in the end, 54% agreed that a face-to-face exit was the least offensive.

If the passenger sitting next to you is snoring, most travelers are less likely to intervene, with 66% saying that they would turn up their entertainment to drown out the sound. Still, 20% of UK travelers said they would shove their neighbor, wake them up and pretend it was an accident. How rude!

Mum’s the word

And finally, the question that has plagued travelers for decades: Do you have to talk to the person sitting next to you? Clearly you don’t want to be rude and ignore them, but are you obligated to listen to a stranger talk about his cat’s Halloween costume? The answer is, no … at least in America. While 83% of respondents say that a quick hello and smile is polite, 42% of U.S. travelers say it’s impolite to share personal stories.

What if your seatmate doesn’t take the hint? In America, that same 42% believe that it is totally acceptable to thank your seatmate and put on headphones. In the U.K., travelers recommend taking a toilet break in hopes that Chatty Cathy gets a clue.

Unfortunately, these rules probably won’t apply if you’re traveling with French or Italian flyers. About 80% of Italians think that small talk is appropriate on planes, and 80.5% of French respondents viewed a flight as a potential way to meet a new friend.

Brittany Jones-Cooper is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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