Travel Tips

Plane Etiquette: Useful Tips for Dealing with Annoying Passengers

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plane etiquetteUnless you’re happily in first class, enjoying your free drinks and real food, no one thinks of an airplane seat as their happy place. Even if you can make yourself comfortable, what about that stranger who you didn’t know existed a few minutes ago and are now harboring deeply murderous thoughts about. It’s time for some lessons in plane etiquette.

Here are is a summary of some tips on how to handle annoying airline passengers from the etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore followed by my usual course of action.


The Chatterbox: 

If your neighbor strikes up a conversation, be polite and exchange a few pleasantries. Then say something like, “It was nice speaking with you, but if you don’t mind, I have to get some work done (or some much-needed rest).” Closing your eyes generally does the trick. Note: Always travel with earphones and eyeshades.

Sometimes I think about this and wonder if I’m missing out on some fascinating conversation or making a new friend. Then I remember the odds of that happening and go back to watching TV on my iPad.

The Space Invader:

If this person invades your personal space with his newspaper or carry-on bag, say something like, “It seems that these planes are getting smaller and smaller. Would you mind moving your arm (or bag) over just a touch?”

I probably wouldn’t say anything. But if my half-melted mint happened to get caught in his arm hair, well, let that be a lesson.

The Seat Recliner:

If someone reclines too far while you’re trying to eat, work on your laptop, or watch a movie, you have two options. 1. You can recline your seat for more space or 2. Say something like, “Would you mind pulling your seat forward a little bit.” The person in front of you most likely doesn’t know she’s inconveniencing you. Note: When you recline your seat, always glance back and make sure the person behind you isn’t using his tray table to eat or work.

The person in front of me reclines 95% of the time.  I would never say anything, as I know it is their right. But I still find it annoying and never recline mine. I guess that makes me a better person.

The Snorer:

It’s best to always travel with a good pair of noise-cancelling earphones. Otherwise, you can ask the flight attendant if you can relocate to another seat.

Ha ha – when is the last time you flew on a plane with an empty seat? It’s been years for me.

The Sleeper:

If you need to use the lavatory but your aisle seatmate is sleeping, gently tap him on his shoulder and say, “Excuse me.” No other explanation is necessary. Never attempt to crawl over him.

I always try to get an aisle seat. But if I can’t, I really try to limit liquids.

The Unruly Child:

Never discipline someone else’s child. Your best bet is to move to another seat, if available, or alert a flight attendant. Never try to intervene yourself.

Again, another seat? Ha ha! Unless they are kicking me or spilling stuff on me, I don’t believe it would bother me.

The Seat Kicker:

If a child is kicking the back of your seat, simply turn around and glance at the child and the parent. The parent will oftentimes get the hint and ask the child to stop. If this doesn’t work, kindly speak up and ask the child to stop kicking your seat.

I did have this situation, but it was a baby and I did nothing. Are you noticing a theme here?

The Surly Flight Attendant: It’s best not to challenge a flight attendant unless you want to be thrown off the plane. If you encounter a rude flight attendant, jot down his name, your flight number, and email a letter to the company as soon as possible. Better yet, share your grievance on Twitter for faster results.

I haven’t encountered many rude flight attendants. I do think they have a really hard job, so unless they are really rude, I wouldn’t do anything.

But here’s one of my biggest problems, and I’d love solution. What do you do about The Stinkers? I mean the people who smell so bad you can barely breathe? This is primarily an issue when traveling overseas and I haven’t seen a solution for it yet. Unless you can ask the flight attendant to drop the oxygen mask?


1 Comment

  1. This is all so recognisable! I really hate the seat kickers. They are always seated right behind me. Giving them a long stare has never changed anything! Great share!

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