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8 Ways to Avoid Being 'That Annoying Passenger' on a Flight

February 10, 2014 at 11:05 AM | by | ()

Ah, airline travel. Could there be a more perfect example of a love/hate relationship? We feel fortunate for the opportunity to travel anywhere around the globe in a day; however, we'd be lying if we said the experience was always a relaxing one.

Airline travel is no longer comfortable in economy class, and it’s up to us to do our part to stop the bleeding. Some of these recommendations may seem small and trivial, but a little goes a long way at 30,000 feet!

Here are a few ways for you to help make someone else’s flight more enjoyable, and to avoid being “that guy” at the center of happy hour horror stories:

· Don’t use the seats for balance as you walk down the aisle. Instead, use the overhead compartments. If you reach up and slide your hand along it, you’ll be able to catch yourself if there’s a sudden bout of turbulence. Every time you grab the corner of a seat, you create an earthquake, and if you’ve ever had someone do it to you while you’re nodding off, you know how annoying it is.

· Along those same lines, don’t use the seat in front of you to pull yourself up when going to the rest room. Use the arm rests to push yourself up, as grabbing and pulling on the back of the seat is on par with kicking it.

· Turn your bags back to front in the overhead. Time and time again we watch people put their bag sideways and take up the space of two. Don’t do that! It simply delays takeoff when the last people can’t find space and the flight attendants have to go around and turn the bags themselves.

· Look behind you before reclining. We know you have the right to do it, and most times it’s all right, but sometimes, especially in smaller planes, we’ve wanted to knife the person sitting in front of us. We're on the tall side – six foot two – and we’ve had situations where one minute we're working on our computer, and the next the laptop is under our chin and we couldn’t type a word comfortably even if we had Tyrannosaurus arms. Take a peek behind you and just make sure you’re not making someone more uncomfortable than the comfort those extra few inches will provide you. That’s not too much to ask, right? By the way, if someone does it to you, all bets are off and everything is fair game. That particular time, we felt no hesitation or guilt for having to push on the seat to access the bag at our feet. We hate to say fight fire with fire, but sometimes it’s the only way.

· Don’t eat aromatic food. Notice how we didn’t say bad smelling food, as that leaves too much up for interpretation. You might love the smell of tuna, but the other hundred people on the plane most likely do not. We had a man next to us eat canned octopus in garlic sauce once, and we spent the next three hours keeping the woman on our right from shoving the can down his throat.

· Introduce yourself to your seatmate. You have to walk a fine line with this one as we’ve all heard people complain about the person next to them who “wouldn’t shut up,” but at least say hi to the person next to you. We find most people are up for some conversation, and sometimes it turns into a pleasant back and forth. That said, feel it out and pick up on people’s signals. If they’re fiddling with their earphones, casually give them a chance to end the conversation. But, at the very least, make an effort during takeoff and landing. To us, it’s weirder to sit next to someone for three hours and not say a word than it is to introduce yourself.

· Wait until the row in front of you deplanes before deplaning yourself. We're not sure why there is so much confusion about this (cough, Europe!). It seems like it should be common sense and common courtesy, yet inevitably there always seems to be someone who thinks they shouldn’t have to wait and who tries to push past us as we're trying to exit our row. We were once in the second to last row of the plane and had the man in the last row almost knock us over as we stood up from our aisle seat and stepped out. Needless to say, words were exchanged – it’s just plain rude. If you happen to have a tight connection, be nice and quietly ask permission to go ahead (there’s nothing worse than a panicking person screaming about their connection… it’s a rookie traveler mistake and no one takes you any more seriously whether you ask nicely or act like a knucklehead. In fact, it’s the people who are pushy that we want to help the least).

· Don’t stand in the aisle when waiting for the bathroom. We know you have to go, but we really would rather you not stand over us while you wait. It’s already tight quarters, and hovering over someone sitting in an aisle seat doesn’t make it any better, not to mention that certain body parts tend to line up with our face when they’re standing next to us (this is also a common time when people tend to rest their hands on the back of seats). Stay in your seat until there’s no line, or wait in the food galley until the person in front of you comes out. Thankfully, airlines have started to police this themselves and it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

Deep breath, rant over. Happy flying!

[Photo: news.com.au]

Archived Comments:

Don't do these things in addition, Please!

Don't bring children under 16 on the flight! Don't forget to shower! Don't wear a tank top or open toe sandals like "river shoes"! Don't wake the person up next to you if they are sleeping! Don't put your bags in my bin! Use the overhead bin for your row in the back. I'll take yours out and set it in the aisle if you do this. Don't slow down the boarding process by blocking the aisle to take off your coat or re-arrange your bag! Don't try to change seats while we're boarding! Geez! Don't ask for emergency row or bulkhead seating if you are not over 6 feet tall! I am 6-3 and I need those extra inches of legroom! Don't be selfish! It's not all about you or your kids!

Not about me, just you?

@salmon: Sorry, but your height is not going to make me change my seating preference. To paraphrase: Lack of planning on your part does not constitute a sacrifice on my part. For non-status passengers, you have the same chances of getting those seats as us "short" people do.

Rhetorical question: In other situations, do you extend the same courtesy you are asking of me? I'm assuming that when you buy theatre or concert tickets, you always buy seats in the last row, right? After all, shorter people need those seats more than you because it's not about you.

"Short people got no reason . . ."

Look, if you're short why would you insist on taking a seat for people that can really benefit from the seat? The problem with many travelers today is they are trying to get as much as they can for the sake of it. Just relax, enjoy the ride! The idea of altruism has vanished from popular culture. People seem more selfish now than in the past . . .Just because you can get something, doesn't mean you should demand it.


@salmon, the word "altruism" is rich coming from you! The flyer who doesn't want any kids under 16 to be on a plane!!


@salmon, the word "altruism" is rich coming from you! The flyer who doesn't want any kids under 16 to be on a plane!!


@salmon, the word "altruism" is rich coming from you! The flyer who doesn't want any kids under 16 to be on a plane!!

About those kids

My husband flew many times growing up. He said goodbye to schools, friends and pets everytime the family moved, all so that his dad could serve in the US Armed Forces and protect Americans...like you. You have no idea why kids are flying. Show some compassion.

Yes, Altruism!

Imagine thinking about others and how a child's poor behavior affects the comfort of other travelers. The reason somebody is travelling is not important, however their behavior is . . .

Examples of Your Altruism

It's my fault; I did write that it was a rhetorical question. But, based on your response, I'll ask outright: Do you always get tickets in the back row of the theatre?

Or, if you're not a theatre-goer, perhaps you can list the situations when you the welfare of other people before your own comfort.

The theatre has a sloping grade

Why would a tall(er) person have to sit in the back of the theatre? Travelling in an altruistic manner means reducing one's impact on others. That means not using space of others, boarding and sitting quickly, not monopolizing bins, chatting discretely, and otherwise minimizing disturbance/inconvenience to others. Its basic consideration and respect for others by not putting your extra and unnecessary needs before others. Its being unselfish. Americans, who have the highest standard of living in the world, have become obsessed with personal comfort and personal expression. If people thought more collectively---- more about the common good---- society and travelling would be better! Hope this helps clarify the point of "altruistic travelling."

Seat Backs

I've flown hundreds of times over the past 45+ years. I would guess over 90% of the people seated behind me grab my seat when standing. I have NEVER done so when I get up. I also never recline my seat. It is funny though to hit my seat recline when those people are grabbing the back of it. Often it puts them right back down in their seat & I turn around & ask "What did you do?"