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The Top Ten Gross Things People Do On Airplanes

November 23, 2009 at 9:48 AM | by | ()

We all know about the rare instances of airline passenger misconduct that make it to the headlines, like the case of the naked, angry flyer or the fighting Lohan, but every day little instances of pure gross occur unnoticed or just unreported.

Perhaps you've spotted someone getting a little too frisky beneath their $5 on-board purchase blanket or going about some hygienic business, but chances are you haven't seen all Top Ten Gross Things People Do On Airplanes:

10. Browse dating websites over the in-flight WiFi
We know that having in-flight WiFi is new and great and magical, but it's best to keep your private profile and your preferences for "18/F/Asian" private. Even if it's something as innocuous as passing the time on HotorNot.com, just remember that you're not the only one who can see your computer screen, and we bet everyone else that can is secretly laughing at you.

9. Sleep on you/sleep on the floor
It's a long flight back from Hawaii and your seatmate had two too many Mai Tais. Before you can say "Mauna Loa," he's conked out on your shoulder and speedily producing a lava flow of glistening drool. That is gross; you have permission to push them off. But what do you say when your sitting next to a mom and child, and the sleep child curls up on the floor to sleep? That is pretty bad—already people freak out about breathing airplane air, and yet we've seen children napping, opened-mouthed and sometimes laying on their stomachs, right on the dirty carpets underneath seats.

8. Use the main aisle as a space to do sit-ups, push-ups or change your child's diaper
The aisle is not your gym, nor is it a changing table. No one wants to see your lunging butt centimeters away from them as you attempt calisthenics. Likewise, no one wants to see your baby being changed and smell the reason why. And it's just as important to keep the aisle clear so that flight attendants may do their job.

7. Read Hustler, or other "adult" magazines
We realize that airport bookstores and newspaper kiosks sell adult magazines, but that doesn't mean you should immediately "read" them on the plane; those are for after the flight. It is especially inappropriate and pervy if you are seated next to a stranger.

6. Attempt to join the Mile High Club
Although it seems flirty and adventurous to get in a mood with your partner and try to see things through while in-flight, keep in mind that you're in a public space, and no one likes coming into contact with unknown fluids on surfaces in public spaces. Don't forget that you can also get arrested.

5. Attempt to join the Mile High Club solo
The provided (or purchsed) airline blanket does not mean you have complete privacy and carte blanche to do what you will underneath it. We know the flight might be long, but if others can hold off on smoking for its duration, then yeah. Also, in-flight solo loving is the sure mark of a pervert or someone who desperately wants to end their flight with a trip to jail. Thanks to @BlueNileTravel for reminding of this gross behavior.

4. Eat fried chicken
Don't bring it on a bus, don't bring it on a train, and definitely don't bring it on a plane: smelly, greasy, messy food. Airline meals might suck for the most part, but we're pretty sure that a bucket of chicken isn't the appropriate carry-on option. @stetherado even said that they'd seen someone eat through their greasy take-out meal and then just dump the chicken bones onto the floor. If those aren't cleaned up properly, and say they hang around the plane for a few more flights, then we're looking at suspicious small bones being spotted beneath your seat—yuck.

3. Tend to foot hygiene
There are foot fetishists and then there's everyone else. Feet just aren't the sort of thing that you want spending 8 hours a few inches away from the side of your face, especially if they're not your own feet (doing some yoga there?). Feet can have all sorts of bacteria to rub on your armrest; we're not just talking about passengers removing shoes for the flight. @elizabethdehoff said that she's spotted first class passengers clipping toenails. They may have paid through the nose for their seat, but that doesn't give them the right to gross out everyone else who paid top dollar for first class.

2. Vomit into something that is not the supplied barf bag
Thanks to @eurocheapo, we have a gross image of this in our head: "Saw someone use the plastic wrap from an airline blanket as a barf bag...didn't really work." What happened to the original seatback pocket barf bag? Had they already used it? Being sick in this way on a plane is the worst; but people make it embarrassing by not paying attention to vomit warning signs. Look before you blindly reach into that seatback pocket.

1. Sneeze open-mouthed/neglect to wash hands after using lavatory
This in-flight offense takes the number one spot because it happens most frequently and can affect the most passengers. Letting a big sneeze go without covering your mouth will do more than garner evil looks; your germs could sicken other passengers and coat things in your mucus for the lucky flyers on future flights. And please please please wash your hands after using the lavatory. Already we know that if someone were to put a UV light to an airplane interior, we'd be in big fluorescent trouble, but that is a PSA to think twice about being just as nasty on the plane as you are at home.

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[Photos: tripu, andyshaun, emtboy9, The Shifted Librarian, Ye Olde Wig Shoppe]

Archived Comments:

pick nose and then...

eat it. ive seen a grown man do this on my flight to oakland the other weekend. yuck. also, i would add eating any pungent foods like blue cheese or tuna fish. ew.

What's that smell?

It seems like every flight I'm on I end up sitting near someone passing gas the entire time. I know everyone likes to be comfy on a flight but some people seem to take it a little far. I'm all for comfort but please try to save the farting for the car ride home, when you're alone.


I've had fellow passengers fall asleep on me on more than one occasion. Usually I give them a "friendly" shove away, which tends to do the trick, especially if they're wakened. Plus they're usually embarrassed, which is a surefire way to get them to nap in the other direction.

Sleepyheads plus

Had one woman sleep slumped against me and then start dribbling and drooling over me. I jumped up to go to the bathroom then, and I think she got the message ... yuck.

Use the lavatory barefoot

I've seen this WAY too much. Even first class passengers. Yuck.


pretty sure using the lavatory barefoot encompasses several items on this list. Let's just hope they then did not put their feet up on the back of your armrest, like in the pic.

Rules to fly by

These are all good ones. And I've practically wretched at the barefoot-bathroom scenario. I have a variation on the sneeze open-mouthed item; I once had a lady pick her teeth--I'm talking some real digging--and then put her plaque-picking hand on the armrest we shared. Nasty.

Barefoot Bathroom...Really?

That's beyond gross and is just weird.

Anyway, the food thing is probably my biggest one. People just love eating--all the time. No matter your flight time someone has some grease bomb like two seats away. Just eat some pretzels please.

Hot cloths to wash self with

I once witnessed a man use the hot cloths passed around to refresh hands & faces as an underarm rag. The poor poor flight attendant who had to come collect it afterwards!

Gum chewing

I cant stand anyone who chews their gum with their mouths open making snapping and crackling noises. It is so nasty to see the gum fall out and land in your lap.

Most unsavory passengers

The foot hygiene one tops my list. It's amazing what people will do on a plane, despite being surround by several hundred strangers and in extremely tight quarters. We just wrote a similar post over on the NileGuide blog, the Top 10 Worst Airplane Passengers: http://blog.nileguide.com/2009/11/24/top-10-worst-airplane-passengers/

Oh come on

Those aren't THAT gross... I mean, I've done most of these things on flights, some simultaneously! Specifically, #7, #5, and #2.

Gross Things!

Wash your ass! I hate people who get on a plane and inevitably sit next to me and stink to high heaven! Another thing are fat people! That's just gross! Your cheap ass only buys one damn seat and I'm pushed up against the wall because you're taking up half my seat too! Sleeping on me? That's a sure fire way to get the snot slapped out of you! Don't do it, that's all I have to say! Noisy eaters! YUK! Children, that's just plain gross! Leave your kids at home!

True Story

I was on a plane next to a sweet looking elderly woman, who asked me if I had a pin. I was young, it was the 90's, I had some flair on my purse, so I took off a button and gave it to her, wondering why she needed it. WELL. She said that her colostomy bag was filling with gas and she needed to release the pressure before the bag burst. She released it allright, and the most horrific stench filled the plane. Everyone thought it was coming from me...

This one's a DOOzy.

Add this to the list: some "parents" (I prefer the term "breeder" in this case) who don't like using diapers think's it's hunky-dory to have their child eliminate into a Tupperware or child potty-seat RIGHT THERE IN THE AIRPLANE SEAT!! I wish I was joking.

Colostomy Bag

OMG this is soooo gross. The only thing I can think that would have been worse is if the bag DID break and the feces literally went flying all around and all over you. She couldn't have gone to the restroom to prick the bag? Unbelievable.

dirty diapers

seen many people change their babies dirty (poopy) diapers on the tray table and then not wipe it. use the changing tables in the bathrooms! also i have seen people their dirty feet on the bulkhead in front of them or on the head part of the seat in front of them. it is especially gross when it happens to be a women with her legs spread wide open and you see a camel toe!

Fried Chicken

In El Salvador there is a very popular chicken restaurant called Pollo Campero. They even have one at San Salvador airport. Picture the site of the PAX carrying bagloads of this stuff (it is pretty good) to homesick Salvadarenos in the US. It is on laps, under seats, overhead, eaten onboard, you name it !

Some people are just disgusting...

Aww come on, I was expecting some major awful things some people do, changing diapers and clipping toe nails are indeed on that list, but of the 3 million miles I've flown over the years, there are far worse.


- person seated in front of you picking a scab or pimple
- those who "overflow" into your seat
- flatulence
- body ordor
- ethic food brought on board that smells up the cabin
- nail polish/hair spray
- propping smelly foot on back of (your) arm rest
- picking nose
- FLOSSING and seeing the food flick out of their mouths
- TREATING the lav as if no one else is going to use it (on long haul, stepping in a urine-soaked carpet with your socks...this has happened once, never again)

The list is ENDLESS, and it amazes me how some people are just disgusting, truly disgusting.  And yes, I have come across someone getting a hand job under a blanket -


Wait a minute, waaaait just a minute> when talking about the grossness of other people, add yourself to the list, buddy. Did you just say you went into the bathroom with your socks on? Pot, kettle.

It saddnes me...

...but I have to agree. Airline staff claim that your comfort and safety are of paramount importance so they really should intervene when these passengers are spoiling the flight. I guess double charging fat flyers for a second seat might deter some outsize passengers.

#2 Vomit into something that is not the supplied b

I would agree with most of these, and while vomit is gross on it's own regardless of which bag it's thrown into, I wouldn't put blame on someone using the wrong bag. If it just happens and you have 3 seconds to react I'd be happy they used any bag and not the back of my chair.

Paint Nails

I've seen people use varnish remover then repaint their nails, i sent the flight attendant over to remind them how flammable (dangerous) and completely offensive the smell is i also never flow southwest again after that ;)

Clean Socks

i will not wear my shoes on the plane for 10 hours, i will however be SURE to wear clean socks on the day of the flight. When flying from a beach location (Bali comes to mind) i will pack my socks and shoes in my carry on and switch once i'm in the lounge pre flight, flying in sandals or flipflops is barefoot and not acceptable. i think the bottom line is its common sense

picking your nose

is ok when? i think this is not just a plane thing but anytime anywhere!

chewing tobacco

On a recent flight from Dallas to Las Vegas my seatmate seemed to think it was acceptable to spit tobacco into an empty water bottle. I tried not to look, but he started doing it in the middle of our conversation! My joy at scoring an aisle seat quickly faded.


All of us learn from trial and error. You learn once and never again. Don't tell me you've never burnt your finger in the fire once and learned never to do it again. And besides, I was 18 years old, that was um, 20 some years and millions of miles ago... :)

Mostly good points

Most of these probably seem fairly obvious, but sometimes obvious is just what people need. I once sat next to a "lady" who proceeded to ask me if the no smoking sign meant she was not allowed to smoke on the plane. Wow, where do these people come from?

Just don't mind them

I usually don't mind others when I'm on a plane. I don't care if they're browsing on dating websites or reading adult magazines. It's their right. But eating greasy food, or invading my private space, now that's unforgivable, and he or she will earn my ire for it. Dee - <a href="http://woodworkingplansdiy.org">Woodworking Plans</a>


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I laughed til I dropped

Haha..disgusting...been there done that..lol

Puppies do things too

I was on Aeroflot once and the part of the flight from Moscow to Tashkent included local passengers. Apart from boozed up Polish dockers arguing in English with the air hostess about not putting out their cigarettes whilst re-fuelling what really troubled me was the puppy with loose stools walking down the isle. After passengers had stepped in it the air hostess looked at me and said "Not my problem". It put my off my sauerkraut.

Simon Wright

Brillinat... may favorite is the guys feets on the passenger in fronts chair!!! Id go mad! would have been cool to see some smoking a smoker in the bunch on airplane hooligans!!!

thats gross

Oh my that is disgusting! I bet you'd have wanted to get right away from him after that! That's so weird...perhaps he was a little mentally affected or something? ...Or perhaps, was the plane food just really bad? http://www.fussible.com

makes a flight even more interesting

I remember when I was once on a flight, some dude in front of me was actually watching porn. I wasn't looking at the screen or something, but his volume on his headphones was just way too loud. Zack - SingingHow.com http://singinghow.com/how-to-sing-high-notes/ Get those notes easily!

My son's off color humor

My son has a twisted sense of humor. We were in CVS one day, and he yells out, "Dad, Astroglide is on sale." I could have killed him.

I don't really mind

I don't really care much if other people are eating inside the plane or if my seatmates have some unpleasant odors, some noisy music or something that is not really disturbing me. I'm much concern of having a safe flight that I could reach my destination safe and sound. http://www.organicbeddingboutique.com

The biggest surprise in first class

Before I retired I used to travel multiple times every week so upgrades to first class were almost automatic. On one trip prior to take off in first class, I open the seatback pocket to find a dirty diaper. The flight attendant was very apologetic and offered a free ticket.

Toe nails..

I witnessed an old lady cutting her yellow rotten toenails while on a domestic flight from Adelaide to Melbourne...

People have great manners

Most of the things listed in this blog have happened to me. I have done a few long flights to Australia and its unbelievable what people do. I can't stand the changing your baby in the isle way or putting your feet up on another persons seat especially when you wake up with it in your face *yuck*