The Rules of Polite Behavior in the Air: Private Jet Etiquette

Jul, 26, 2010

First came etiquette, then netiquette (e-mail etiquette), and now jetiquette, or private jet etiquette. For optimum airborne pleasure—both yours and that of others—here are some suggestions for flying in a private plane, whether for business or pleasure. If you’re lucky enough to catch a ride in a Gulfstream, it helps to know the rules.

Anxiety. Leave your anxiety on the ground. Remarks like “I never feel safe in small planes,” or attempts at humor, such as “Are you sure the pilot has a license?” won’t be welcomed. If you’re that nervous, fly commercial.

Arrival Time. You already have the luxury of no security lines and no crowds, so forget about showing up “fashionably late.” Private planes are scheduled just like commercial planes, so your early, cheerful arrival will be appreciated for wheels up. Late arrivals do nothing but accrue unnecessary costs for your host and delays for your flight or appointments on the other end.

Attire. Business or country casual is the way to go for both sexes in-flight. Because the quarters will be small, leave your perfume packed, and avoid jingling jewelry or bulky carry-on items that take up room. Remember the three B’s: Be Comfortable, Behave, and Be Seated!

Baggage. If you’re told one bag only, bring only one bag. There are weight restrictions on private aircraft. Less is more.

Bathroom. Don’t leave a mess in the bathroom or steal the linens.

Crew. The correct terminology is pilot, not captain. As at sea, the kitchen is the galley, and the bathroom is the lavatory. The flight crew (pilot and copilot) fly in the flight deck and the passengers sit in the cabin.

Drinking. Just because you’re not piloting the plane is no excuse to arrive tipsy or to overindulge on board, especially as a guest. If you drink and fly, do so in moderation.

Health. If you have a cold or flu, think twice about making the trip and possibly infecting your fellow passengers. Travel only if know that you’re not contagious, and bring extra medication just in case. Keep your mouth and nose covered when sneezing or coughing, and blow your nose quietly, away from other passengers.

Hostess Gifts. If you’re traveling as the guest of a private host, bring a gift for him and/or her. “The polite traveler will show appreciation with more than a bar of soap or a bottle of wine,” says Marybeth La Motte, founder and director of She recently flew on a private jet to Aspen, Colorado, and brought her hostess a pair of designer sunglasses (perfect for the sun or slopes) and her host a deck of playing cards in a leather holder. If you are traveling with or meeting other guests, it’s also nice to bring something that everyone can enjoy, such as pâté, a selection of cheeses, a tin of mixed nuts, or a box of chocolates.

Keep Busy. Don’t rely on your host to entertain you during the flight. Bring reading material and magazines you can share. Whatever your activity, perform it quietly without disturbing others.

Kids. If you are accompanied by small children, take along plenty of toys, books, and games to occupy them. Control your children; don’t let them be a nuisance or kick the seat in front of them.

Pets. Never bring a pet unless you ask permission, says Stephanie von Stein, Director of the Dallas/Ft. Worth office for Blue Star Jets (

Seats. “The person paying for the flight gets the best seats. Never ask how much a flight costs, and for heaven sakes, “Don’t act like this is your first rodeo,” adds von Stein.

Good manners and thoughtful behavior in close quarters are crucial to a comfortable flight. The Golden Rule of jetiquette is that the same rules of courteous behavior apply up in the air as on the ground.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on and

Follow Lisa Mirza Grotts on Twitter.[/author_info] [/author]

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