Should plane passengers talk to seatmates during the flight?

Taking a flight typcially means sitting next to strangers, and it can be tough to know what the etiquette is for travelers when it comes to chatting with (or ignoring) your neighbor. British Airways asked 1,500 travelers from the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Italy about whether you should — or should not — chat with your seatmate on a flight.

Overall, 83 percent of travelers agreed that saying hello and giving a smile to your neighbor is acceptable and appropriate when taking a flight.

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Among respondents in the U.S., what should be discussed was a big concern, and 42 percent said it’s unacceptable to share personal stories. Anyone confronted with an oversharer on their flight could politely thank the person, then excuse themselves by putting on headphones, respondents said. Another way to get out of an awkward conservation mid-flight, according to travelers from the U.K., is to step out to use the lavatory.

A majority of travelers from Europe were open to engaging with their seatmates: Eighty percent of Italian respondents said small talk is appropriate during a flight, and half of the French respondents said that flights are a great place to make new friends.

headphones flight istock

More than half of those surveyed suggested putting on headphones to quell chatter from a talkative flyer.  (iStock)

When it came to German travelers, 85 percent said they would just acknowledge their seatmate with a “hello” and leave it at that.

As for what to do if your seatmate's conversation is making you uncomfortable, 53 percent said it’s appropriate to switch seats (but you should check with cabin crew before doing that).