I have recently been on an Air China trip with my family, I think on an A330 aircraft. We had a baby bassinet and thus were seated in the front row of a cabin, and got seats in the middle of the aircraft - like row 48 D/E/F/G in this seat map.

As usual, the bassinet was mounted to the wall in front of us, as were the poaches with magazines. Our tables and displays would fold out of our armrests.

To our annoyment, during the flight, we noticed a constant flow of fellow passengers who seemed to consider the space in front of our seats as a public passageway to travel between the starboard and port aisle - even when the bassinet was mounted and our tables and/or monitors were extended. (The unfolded table/monitor would extend forward far enough to be slightly underneath the bassinet. Visually, this arrangement unambiguously communicates to us "no way through here" and we perceived trying to squeeze through there as quite a bit rude, but plenty of other passengers seemed to think differently.)

At some point, we were fed up with the situation and started kindly telling people that this is not a public passage and they need to cross over somewhere else, which they all gladly complied with.

Cabin crew (some of whom were seated right next to us on the crew seats) did not intervene or comment in either situation, making me think they were okay either way as long as passengers could come to an agreement among themselves.

My question is about whether there is an "officially intended" guideline. Is the described space supposed to serve as a public passage when someone is seated there, or is it supposed to be more or less exclusive to the people actually seated on those four seats, or is it intentionally left open and subject to negotiation between passengers?

  • In my experience it’s the latter. Typically I’ve heard cabin crew include a request not to cross via the front row in their boarding announcement but I’m not aware that there’s any enforceable rule when faced with inconsiderate fellow passengers.
    – Traveller
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 7:54
  • It probably depends a lot on the amount of space that is actually available. I feel the seat map you linked to exaggerates the available space quite a bit, doesn’t it? Depending on the exact plane layout it might or might not be intended as a passageway. If it were as described on the map, I would think it as an intended passageway. He fact the tables could reach the bassinet make me think the opposite. But then I wonder how people could have even tried to squeeze through in that situation? Do you have any pictures showing the available space?
    – jcaron
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 8:06
  • @jcaron: "I feel the seat map you linked to exaggerates the available space quite a bit, doesn’t it?" - indeed, there wasn't as much space as it seems on the seat map. I think that map focuses on the seats and is a bit inaccurate on other aspects; e.g. the space occupied by (rear-facing) crew seats is not indicated there. Without tables/displays unfolded, some people would climb over our legs while sliding along the bassinet with their backs. With tables/displays unfolded, some people just waited there, standing more or less right in our legroom, as if a door were to open any moment. Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 11:13

2 Answers 2


enter image description here

Do you mean like this image?

I can't find anything that describes this as a passageway. However I also can't find any rule that say someone can't walk through this space. I think if they were bothering you, then you did the right thing telling them as much.

However on a number of seating plans this space is marked clearly with a 'pram' symbol. Which does suggest that it is not intended to be used as a shortcut. I would think it would be unlikely they would allow prams to block a passage however as this could cause problems during an evacuation.


As others have noted it depends on the space involved. In many aircraft it is used as a cross passage if there is space beyond extended legs. In your circumstances where there was obviously a tight squeeze after the bassinet was mounted the logical solution was to advise flight stewards of your concern. You said cabin crew did not intervene. If you did not ask them to act they were probably either unaware or unconcerned. On my visit to China I found the locals have a very different concept of personal space; not surprising in a crowded population of 1.4 billion.

I have never heard or read an official announcement on the subject.

If you are in that situation in the future make your concern very clear to the cabin crew.

  • I have upvoted your answer and accepted the other one, as I could not really decide between the two. I'd like to second your observations and also add that long-haul flights to and from China tend to be quite special compared to many other locations in my experience. Especially on those flights, I notice lots of people walking around during the flight, serving themselves water from the galley, or showing signs of being generally unfamiliar with flying (e.g. passengers standing up right after touch-down; passengers almost destroying the bathroom door due to pulling the wrong way, etc.). ... Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 0:33
  • ... That may mean at least some of the people who tried to squeeze through in front of our legs simply were unaware of other ways to get over to the other aisle (and, of course, we did not complain to any of them, we just told them politely that this is not a public passage). Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 0:35

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