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The Ten Types of Annoying Passengers, According to a Flight Attendant

August 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM | by | ()

Do you have things in your job that annoy you? Do you notice it's the same things that annoy your co-workers? Yeah me too. As a flight attendant I get asked over and over again what is the most annoying things passengers do? I always tread lightly, because flight attendants get accused of, well, complaining too much. And, believe me we can probably complain better than most.

In fact there's an old joke:
Q. How many flight attendants does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Zero, because we'd rather sit around in the galley and bitch about it.

So, what behaviors annoy flight attendants the most? Well, besides urinating in the aisle, and other super gross activites, here are Ten Types of Annoying Passengers:

1. The Manner-less: Just a "please" and "thank you" goes a long way in our world. We hear “what ya got” and “gimme a coke” far too often. Also, if we offer a meal choice and they don't like it, it's okay to just say no thank you; only five year olds wrinkle up their nose and say "ewww."

2. The Amateur Geographer: Flight attendants don't know our exact location coordinates, especially in the middle of in-flight service. And chances are we don't know what body of water that is below us either.

3. The Pen-forgetter: Passengers that leave home without one are particularly annoying, especially on an international flight with forms to be filled out. And, yes we know you are glaring at the pen on us when we say no we don't have one. Flight attendants are required by the FAA to have a pen on them at all times.

4. The Smartphone Addict: Those who insist they're about to turn off their phones even after we've already asked numerous times usually reply, “I know! I am turning it off!" But they're not—they're texting and it's not like we can't see that. It's just as annoying for us to ask as it for them to have to comply. Just do it!

5. The Thirsties: They need a drink of water as soon as they board the plane and need to use the lav just as urgently. We understand there are close connects and exceptions, but most passengers have been sitting out at the gate area with ample time to use the restroom and get a drink of water.

6. The Headphones Wearer: We ask: “Would you like something to drink?” No response. "Would you like something to drink?" Nothing. Wave in front of face. Nothing. Wave in front of face again. Confused look. “Would you like a drink?” “What?” Motion someone drinking. "Ahh, gimme a coke." Is it possible they didn't see the bar cart coming?

7. The Trash Collector: It's super gross to be handed trash during in-flight service, especially when they blindly put it wherever, like in our ice. And let's not talk about handling dirty diapers or wiping their nose or face and then trying to hand us the tissue.

8. The Free-for-all Parent: Passengers that let their kids run wild on the plane and then expect and ask the flight attendants to watch them are of course expecting too much. This behavior often includes parents telling us to return their children to buckle up their seat belts.

9. The Dare to Barer: Perhaps this type of passenger shouldn't bother us because it's a personal choice thing, but they do. We're talking about those who use the lavatory in their bare feet. Maybe it's because we care so much about the well-being of our passengers?

10. The Coffee Snob: It's a safe bet that passengers probably didn't have breakfast with their flight attendant, so you need to let them know how you take your coffee. If they're picky and don't indicate their preferences, there's no reason to get mad. And to my people in the north east, "regular coffee" does not mean milk and sugar; it just means not decaf to the rest of the country.

Got any stories of bad passenger behavior in the skies? Share in the comments!

About the Author:
Sara Keagle is a Flight Attendant for a major U.S. Airline with over twenty years of experience. On her blog TheFlyingPinto.com she shares advice on making air travel less stressful for all and offers peeks behind the galley curtain. She also co-hosts The Crew Lounge, a weekly podcast that gives insight into the career of a flight attendant.

Questions? Join the conversation with Sara on Twitter @theflyingpinto and on Facebook.

[Photo: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

annoying passengers

#2 is a bit silly, but 4, 6 and 7 are just rude and inconsiderate on the passengers part.


I have to admit I'm mostly #4 on here. Although when an FA tells me to turn it off, it kinda jolts me into actually doing so.

Can I Borrow Your...

The Pen-forgetter -- oops that's me -- but I always give it back!

pen forgetter/ pen chewer

AS an FA myself i hate it when i walk the passenger who has my pen only to find it in their mouth....you can now keep it Sir. Or the passenger who does return it but broke the clip to clip it on your uniform making it useless for me who doesnt have pockets.

Not only the flight attendants

Many of these people are annoying to most of us LOL. Not only inflight or to Flight attendants. One thing is for sure though and we all just need to be a little better mannered and little more patient.

Number 4 sucks

The "no electronic device on takeoff and landing" rule is complete BS. It's a lie that electronic devices can interfere with the airplane's communication systems. The FAA and numerous independent organizations have proven this.

Are we there yet?

I think of myself as a very personable chap, my mum brought me up to say please and thank you, so I always make it a point to smile and say hello when I get on a plane and to be as courteous as possible. I should add that I fly 40 weeks a year. However apparently, I am the worst possible passenger. Soooo excuuuuuse me.

#6, I wear my Bose headphones because the white noise of planes gives me a throbbing headache.I'm sorry I don't always see you when I'm getting proffered a soda and the opportunity to buy a snack. If I look startled...it's because I am. I'm always nice and meek, but apparently I'm irritating...Soooo excuuuuuse me.

#2 if I could take the train everywhere I would but that's not feasible. I hate flying, it agitates me, when your airline is late my mind spins and a simple "We expect to land in about 90 mins" really does calm me down. BTW, your plane is often late

#5 I'm sorry, that glass of water or use of the lav...when you've been at the gate for ever worried the airline might board your delayed plane early...sometimes you need to go. Also, that glass of water is actually calming.

#9 feel sorry for the poor schmuck in bare feet that uses the bath room. He just contacted something because that floor did not get sanitized for approx 6 months. The danger isn't him, it's the toilet floor. Now clipping toe nails I will give you

Sorry, for being a horrible person. But to me these are pet peeves on a small scale. I would have been two thumbs up if you had mentioned the person that stands in the middle of the aisle at row 10 while they decide which over head they should use, the one before their row or after the row. Or will the hinges of the overhead impede their neatly folder jacket. Or howabout the kid who every 10 mins hits the FA button to order another drink and then as the plane taxis on the runway decides that those 8 sodas need to come out so he HAS to get up or he'll explode...then I would have been with you all the way

She forgot one

The people who stand up the second before take off (after we have secured the cabin and we are sitting in our jumpseats) to get something out of their bag. They are also usually the people who stand up the second after we land while the A/C is still on the runway. This is an aeroplane not a bus. If you remain seated you will not miss your stop. On another note i had a passenger try to hand me a dirty nappy that was open and full of S**t during the service i reckon that put pax of their food. And the mums whos babies get sick on them - while we can give you items to clean yourselves it is not our responsibility to physically clean you so please refrain from looking at us horrified and asking 'i have to clean it myself?!'

We can help with #2

Regarding the annoyingly curious geography nerds, we can help. If the flight has wifi, send them to MondoWindow -- http://mondowindow.com. It's a web-based map centered on the location of the plane, layered with points of interest and good things to know about the landscape below. We can send you postcards to hand out. (I know FAs have had issues with in-flight wifi in the past, and I hope your concerns have been mitigated. Look, in-flight wifi is helping to solve problem #2!)

Mia Culpa

Ok. I'm guilty on at least three counts. But how about the annoying things that FAs do? 1. Hip check me in my aisle seat every time they come down the aisle. I can only get so close to the person in the next seat without elicitng a sexual advance complaint. 2. Just before I get to the front (or back) lavatory, zip the privancy curtain closed in my face. It's like the old song "Green Door". What do you people do that's so private behind the curtain and why do you make it seem like it's an invasion of your privacy when I dare proceed to the only available washroom for 160 passengers? 3. Airline unnanmed: apparently row 4 seats A and B (and on some other airlines back rows) are always reserved for the flight attendants to relax. But how many flights have I taken when nobody sits in those seats at all while the rest of us are shoe-horned into seats designed for pre-teens. Altough I ahve seen FA's give them up if they see a passenger tht they think is a professional athlete...looking for comps? 4. Visiting old friends: My goodness, when I am waiting for the cart to pass by or get some shut eye, why do you need to visit with an old friend for 10-15 minutes? Why don't you have a drink after landing if you are so desparte to catch up one each other's latest love life. 5. Playing gate MD: Taking medical histories of passengers in full voice. I really don't need to know if the passenger 4 rows behind me has developed swelling in her hand (or elsewhere on her body) in the last 24 hours and what meds she's on, or if she has had it before, or whatever...... Don't play doctor. Unload the person that is complaining or concerned about their health and lets' get this puppy up in the air so that I get to my destination before 2 AM. 6. The "I know more than you do about iPAD" (or Blackberry) routine. Yes, I know how to turn it off. And, yes it is off already. Trust goes a long way. 7. The overhead bin ninja. "I'm sure we can get one or even two more extra large carry ons in this overhead bin above this gentleman...right over top of his suit jacket and gift he bought his wife. Pound, pound, thrust, thrust, whack, whack, SNAP!!!..."oops, we've just broken the hinge on the overhead bin door and need to call maintenance because FAA won't allow us to fly with a broken overhead bin door." 8. The oblivious carbonation explosion. This is a real joy! Get a real freshener if you're in aisle seat and get a fine (or sometimes not so fine) spray of coke, 7Up, beer or my favorite Dr. Pepper when the FA opens a pressurized beverage. OK...I'll leave 2 (or more) for others....but that's all I can come up with "on the fly".

annoying passengers

I had the most excruciating flight recently from Hong Kong to New Zealand.I was seated on an aisle seat on the window side of the aircraft.Beside me were two young university students.I knew things were not going to be right as soon as i boarded and went to my allocated seat.There the young man was standing on my seat looking for something in the overhead locker.I asked how long he was going to be because i wanted to be seated.All he did was give me a cheeky grin and kept going.After 5 more minutes of standing waiting he finally stood down and told his female partner that he couldn't find the apple which she had supposedly packed.After becoming seated the two of them started a heated conversation about what they wanted to wear during the flight.This carried on even after the plane taxied and took off.Next this annoying guy decided to put his bare feet up against the seat in front and start drinking water,with the inevitable result.Within 15 minutes he wanted to go to the bathroom.I had to unbuckle and get up and let him pass.Upon returning to his seat he again got into a colorful conversation with his girlfriend.I just could not get him to shut up.During the breakfast serve they didn't want cereal,instead they wanted to drink a bottle of beer each .The same result,soon another disruption to go to the bathroom.During the 11 hour flight,this couple went to the bathroom a total of 12 times.At the end i was so frustrated i said in a loud voice"do you two have a bladder problem or something"They looked at me sheepishly,while some of the passengers around me applauded,because they could see the disturbing affect it had on me.If i could have got another seat i would have,but when i approached the attendant she regretted that the plane was fully booked and could only sympathize with me.So passengers,if you are seated next to young and foolish people be prepared for a journey from hell.