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10 Things I Really Wish People Would Stop Doing on Airplanes

annoying people on airplanes

I’m just going to go ahead and make a bold statement. I hate planes. I fucking hate them.

I hate airports. I hate people who work in airports (TSA agents I’m looking at you). I hate the hassle of airports. Why we just can’t apparate from point A to B by now is beyond me.

This probably comes from the fact that I spend so much of my time on planes nowadays. In fact, I’m sure that’s why. I’m also a severe introvert so more than 4 people in a confined space tend to stress me out. Lock me in a tiny moving tin tube for more than an hour with hundreds of other breathers, and I start to have anxiety attacks.

Sounds like I picked the wrong profession, right?

annoying people on airplanes

Granted, I have had many flights go by without a hitch, which makes the bad ones hell in comparison. Combined with the fact that I have a special talent for finding myself in really uncomfortable situations makes me really NOT look forward to long travel days.

It’s been a while since I ranted on here but I needed to do something while traveling for days on end over the past week. After years of reflection, I’ve realized it all boils down to two things: respect and awareness. If only people were more aware of all the people around them on flights AND respected them, 99% of flights would take off without general grumpiness.

Of course there is always someone misbehaving. Always.

Here are my 10 things I wish people would really stop doing on airplanes: 

annoying people on airplanes

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1. Smelling like, well, anything

As a general rule, you should probably shower sometime close to take-off. And if showering is impossible, bring a change of clothes and deodorant in your carry-on. Please. Can I even begin to count the number of times I’ve been on a flight in close proximity to someone who reeked? I don’t get it, how can you not be aware that you smell like a high school locker room? If I don’t shower, I am painfully aware of it, and I would never consider subjecting someone next to me on a flight to that.

Then of course the opposite happened while I was waiting at Dulles Airport last week to catch my flight to San Francisco. Across the aisle in the waiting area before boarding, as I was sipping my coffee I watched in horror as a woman took out a bottle of some kind of hippy essential oil and proceed to douse herself in it. I could literally feel my eyes prickling from 15 feet away. It was like she was anointing herself in holy communion or something.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone should smell neutral on a plane. Good or bad, I don’t want to smell you at all.

annoying people on airplanes

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2. Asking to switch seats

Ok, I’m anal – I like a window seat. I go to great lengths to make sure I have my seat planned, prepped and reserved in advance before I even journey to an airport. Sometimes I even have to pay for it.

Have you ever been on a flight where people are boarding and there’s a family that doesn’t have seats together and they go around asking people to switch seats? It’s happened to me several times, and I feel like a bitch but I always say no. I picked my seat, dammit, and I am not giving it up because someone is too lazy to plan in advance.

Have they heard of the internet? Do they have phones? It’s not that hard to get in contact with an airline in advance and rearrange seats or even when you are checking in, but why wait til you are on the plane to ask is beyond me. The only airline I’ve ever had problems with about seat selection is American Airlines, but that’s a story for a different day.

annoying people on airplanes

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3. Overhead bin violations

Flights are almost always full nowadays, which means the overhead bins can be a hot commodity. If you are traveling with a big backpack or rolling suitcase, you have to use the bin. However, I’ve got little legs, and I always stow my canvas tote and camera satchel under the seat in front of me, except for when I take my backpacking backpack on board. And while I settle in my seat, I watch people over and over again stuff tiny purses, shopping bags, coats and other small foldable crap in the empty overhead bins while the plane still boards.

You see my backpack? It can’t fit under the seat, do you mind if I move your feather down jacket and duty-free booze bags so I can put it in the overhead bin?

I always feel like a dick when I have to move people’s stuff around or ask them to move it if I need to stow a bigger bag up there. Use some common sense and don’t be an idiot. Wait until the plane has boarded THEN put your smaller shit away if you need to.

The lack of common sense in people continues to astonish me.

annoying people on airplanes

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4. Using the headrest in front of you to stand up

This drives me bananas. It takes a lot for me to fall asleep on a plane, especially when I forget to bring my Ambien with me. It makes me want to scream if I’ve finally fallen asleep only to be physically jerked away when the person behind me grabs my seat to sit up.

This is something that also baffles me. Why can’t people stand up putting their hands on the arm rests, the wall, or heaven forbid their own seat?

In-flight behavior 101 – never touch the seat in front of you unless it’s an emergency. And for some reason if you do need to, apologize or give some heads up first.

5. Not patrolling your kids

Another hot topic in the travel world – traveling with kids. Normally I’ve got no problem with kids on planes, I don’t even mind babies. Kids are kids, babies cry, I get all that, no problem.

My beef starts when parents don’t control their offspring on planes. That drives me nuts. Whether these feral kids are kicking my seat like a soccer ball, running up and down the aisles, or screaming while the parents just sit there, that’s when I get pissy. No one invades my personal space cave on a flight. NO ONE.

This is why I’ve reverted to the Oatmeal school of thought where I believe airplanes should be laid on with special kennels in the back for children. Sigh, one day.

annoying people on airplanes

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I’m not a mom yet; I’ve made the decision I’m not ready to deal with all the baby stuff yet, which means I don’t want to deal with your parent issues either. I’ve had a kid spill a drink on me because mommy was too busy watching the movie in her aisle seat once, but the absolute worst was getting barfed on a transatlantic flight in 2009.

Actually I’ve been puked on twice while traveling, both times because of parental negligence. This time I was minding my own business in a window seat while the mom next to me bottle-fed her baby. She then props him up to burp on her right shoulder and guess who gets vomed on? Yours truly.

They say that when its your kid, it’s different and you can put up with all those bodily fluids. Well it wasn’t my kid and I lost it. Big time. Feed your baby in your seat, but go burp him by the bathrooms.

annoying people on airplanes

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6. No snoring, no drooling

This goes hand in hand with number 1. I’m guessing that most people who snore are aware of it and know they snore. Am I right? So when you are on a plane with a bazillion other people, try not to snore. If that means drinking a coffee, drink a coffee. If that means not reclining your seat, don’t recline your seat.

On my San Fran flight, my seatmate was a massive snorer. Like I could hear him over my headphones with the volume on max. Now that’s just impressive. Even the flight attendants were astonished. As they were serving drinks, one took a look at him, and said out loud, “Sweet Jesus.”

It was a 6 hour flight during the day. Stay awake.

annoying people on airplanes

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I should probably add in here one of the grossest things that happened to me on a plane, right up there with the baby barf. I was seated next to this little old lady, I mean very nice and sweet, but she kept dozing off, like old ladies do. The thing was that she couldn’t stay upright and would inch by inch lean over until she was basically napping on my shoulder in which I would wiggle around to sort of wake her up.

But the third time she slid on my shoulder, she drooled all over my arm. Like a fucking faucet. Oh my gawd. I was horrified, horrified but I couldn’t say anything because she was so old and sweet and we had chatted while boarding creating a mini-connection. All I could think was thank god I wore long sleeves that day! So I kinda poked her and she propped back up while trying to discreetly wipe her slobber off. Then I basically spent the next hour trying to keep her from falling over on me. It’s kinda like the baby issue, not my grandma, I’m not ok with being drooled on.

If you can’t sleep like a normal person and not bother those around you, you lose your in-flight sleeping privileges. End of story.

annoying people on airplanes

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7. Bringing smelly food on board

Just like I don’t like smelling people, I also don’t like smelling food. Have you ever been on a flight where people bring on McDonalds? That odor lingers, people. Greasy fast food smell is not something I like having to deal with in an enclosed space for hours, I don’t know about you.

If you’re going to need to eat some hot food, eat it in the terminal please. My only other pet peeve about this is unique to me, in that I am deathly allergic to peanuts. This means the smell makes me want to die a little.

As most aware people have probably noticed, peanuts haven’t been served on planes in the US in years because of allergy peeps like me, except for Southwest, which I can never fly because even if my flight doesn’t serve peanuts, it doesn’t mean the plane is clean from peanut dust from previous flights – imagine having to live like that!

Anyways, it’s a very violent allergy compared with others and it’s the one food that really reeks; I don’t have a dairy, gluten, shellfish allergy, but from what I understand, the smell is not as potent as peanuts. Smelling peanuts in an enclosed space makes me nauseous, dizzy and prone to getting sick and I risk going into anaphylactic shock and DYING, which nobody wants, right?

And yet, people still feel the need to eat peanuts on planes. It makes me feel like a massive douche to either have to ask you to stop or complain to a stewardess, so please do us all a favor and just don’t eat anything with peanuts in the first place on a flight. Or better yet, think about what food you’re going to eat on a plane beforehand.

annoying people on airplanes

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8. Walking down the aisle and grabbing everyone’s seat

Normally I never sit in aisle seats; I have this weird habit where I like to feel cocooned and snug and can lean my head against the window to nap on flights. However, somehow in spite of my talent for fighting for the perfect window seat, I ended up in an aisle seat this summer on one of my long-haul redeye flights, in which my abhorrence for this seat along with passenger in-flight behavior was firmly reaffirmed.

For some reason, certain passengers on flights feel the need to touch the headrest of every aisle seat on their way to and from the toilet; I lost count at 25 on this flight alone. It’s safe to say I got zero sleep on that flight thanks to people lurking in the aisles and playing headrest war.

IT’S NOT A GAME PEOPLE! You can keep your hands to yourself. If you can walk down normal hallways without grabbing the wall, I’m guessing you can also walk down the aisle of the plane without annoying every passenger in seat C, D, G or H.

annoying people on airplanes

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9. Seat reclining do’s and don’ts

On long-haul flights, you’re gonna definitely want to recline your seats. I’m a premature grandma and have a bad back, so if I sit too long straight up without changing positions, it really starts to bother me. But with most people who have common sense, you easily realize how and when do recline your seats.

Personally, I never recline my seat on short flights; I can deal. I also do not recline my seat until after the first meal is served and I usually warn people behind me. Do you know what happens when you recline or upright your seat when someone has their tray table down behind you? Shit goes flying. FLYING.

Don’t even get me started if I have my laptop out. If you break my laptop screen or even come CLOSE to breaking my laptop screen, shit.will.hit.the.fan.

annoying people on airplanes

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To the lovely man who reclined his seat 100% on my 13 hour flight to Auckland before the seatbelt sign even came on, you’re dead to me; though thanks for inspiring this article. Snoozing through the meal and the numerous announcements asking passengers to put their seats up for supper, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted her to wake him up when she was serving dinner. Ok, of course I want you to wake him up – I can’t even put anything on my tray with his seat down, but can you not put it on me so I feel like a dick for not being more accommodating in front of my row peeps? Thanks.

Also, I take it to the next level and always look behind me and occasionally ask the person behind me if they’re cool with me reclining. Oh you’re six feet tall? I’ll just go ahead and keep my seat up.

Just a few simple, polite words make all the difference. Just like relationships, flight communication is key.

annoying people on airplanes

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10. You tell me

What’s the most annoying thing people do on planes? Have any horror stories? What’s the most obnoxious thing you’ve witnessed on a plane? Do you have any in-flight pet peeves?

575 Responses to 10 Things I Really Wish People Would Stop Doing on Airplanes

  1. Bignasty October 28, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

    Also just lock your knees against the seat in front of you so shit stain can’t recline. Problem solved.

    • Patrick November 13, 2016 at 11:51 am #

      When someone reclines, time turn the air con vent on high and point it st there head.. this works 7 out of 10 times..

    • 8E December 6, 2016 at 4:48 am #

      @Bignasty – I did exactly this on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Tokyo, and my 6’2 self got stuck. The seat reclined despite my legs and I was left with two bruised knees. Fkn painful.

    • Cindy January 1, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

      I do that too. There is so little space to begin with and then some rude person reclines. It does not even really help them either, just an extra inch or so, my pet peeve!

      Also, one time a couple next to brought gyros on board with them. They were dripping grease every where. Thankfully, the flight was not full so I could move.

  2. Jodi November 1, 2016 at 9:16 pm #

    I have to leave a comment on this one. I am a fearful flyer, a VERY fearful flyer. I happened to marry someone whose family literally lives on the opposite side of the planet. Cue annual trips overseas. LONG flights (super long haul). Every. Single. Year.

    And then there are the airlines, who even with check in, refused to seat me next to my husband. Even though, on a good day, holding his hand, I get a panic attack during every flight. Twice I was refused seating next to my husband, even though we checked in in advance! TWICE! Wtf, right?

    So, please have empathy next time someone asks to switch seats. Often, it’s the airlines’ fault.

    Doesn’t mean you have to give up your seat, but there are reasons why families aren’t seated together, and the reason isn’t always laziness or lack of planning on the part of the person who is asking. It just may be panic attack and hyperventilation time for them. Or, you might get stuck with their toddler barfing on you rather than momma.

    I think the airlines could do a better job of caring about passengers, and passengers could do a better job of caring about each other.

  3. Tired of people November 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    I loath people who take window seats, close the window and turn on the overhead light. If it’s so dark, open the window a lot of us like to see out!

    Also use your own overhead bin. If I’m in 2b and your in 26c, expect a note in your bag from me. I’m actually considering bringing little locks to put on your bag…..Just to show you what it’s like to not be able to use what you paid for.

    • Phil January 1, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

      For something as mundane as a bus ride, even prefer watching outside on a window seat than allowing someone to sit there who will stare at their phone the whole time.

      Taking that into account, I would be pissed if someone took a window seat just to close the window. It’s been 20 years I haven’t taken a plane.

      • Holly Roberts January 14, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

        I so agree!!

      • Aitch January 14, 2017 at 11:01 pm #

        I so agree!!

  4. hgquiroz November 2, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

    I disagree, read:
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/15/blood-simpler

    Best regards, Hsiu

  5. Penny November 8, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

    I wish fellow flyers would remember that headphones are for the purpose of confining the sound of music to your OWN ears. I can’t even count how many times a person nearby has maxed out the volume on their MP3 player so that several rows can hear whatever horrible repetitive bass-thrumming taste in music he or she has. It’s bad enough when this comes from other cars, but at least then I can speed up and get away from it. On a plane, I’m stuck. I have always enjoyed air travel and considered a flight day a special day. Nothing like obnoxious music blasting through headphones to mess up my serenity.

  6. Natalia November 11, 2016 at 12:36 am #

    I liked your other posts, but not this one.
    o-lala, it looks like you are young and ignorant to other’s people issues. Most probably, other passengers have just same complains about you 🙂

    And in 10 years, you will become the tired (“ignorant”) mom, who is so exosted after a long trip, that can not care less about her kids. You can sleep in your cosy place at the window, she – not. Ever. the entire flight of 12 hours she will have to take care of her kids. And then she will change to another flight of another 12 hours. Any compassion?

    And in 70 years, you will become that old lady, who, despite the age, will still want to travel.

    – can you imagine, that for me is a complete shock that I may not eat peanuts, because one in millions might have an allergy to the smell? 🙂 really, I’m in shock. Didn’ know. Your alleriges – are your problems, just as my kids – mine, or not?

    – can you imagine, that people walking on the plane sometimes need to support themselves, and touch the seats. Planes shake, move, there is turbulance, my legs might be “sleepy” after sitting for too long…

    – being young and travelling a lot, you probably can not imagine, that there might be an indian family that saved for 10 years for their trip from india to Dubai, and with no access to internet and not extra money – they couldn’t book the seats. And at the check-in they discovered, that all seats have been already pre-boocked by “not lazy and well planned people”. and then they board – with 6 kids between 0-5 years old. Sitting all in different corners of the plane. Whose fault is this?

    I absolutely agree that people have to respect each other, and in difficult conditions, help each other. This applies to you just as much as to the rest of us. People, be patient to each other!

    • Abigail November 18, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

      That mother made the decision to have children. She knew the sacrifices she was going to have to make and by having those kids she committed herself to 18 years of that kind of life. No one forced her to take her children on a 12 hour flight. Her kids are her responsibility only (well, the father’s responsibility too but that’s not the point here). Same with the Indian family you speak of – it was their decision to have six children. When you book a flight while at the airport, you can’t seriously expect that no one else will have bought seats already. You can’t seriously expect that there will be eight open seats all magically beside each other. Why do these 0-5 year old children need to go to Dubai anyway, when they won’t even remember the trip when they are older. The family already can’t afford it. With some issues it is true that reciprocal patience from both parties could prevent a lot of issues, but having children is a decision that puts all of the responsibility on the parents, not on others.

      • Ashley January 23, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

        I agree wholeheartedly! Your kids are YOUR problem and the patents shouldnt be ignoring them, they should be PARENTS which means controlling them and teaxhing them manners so they behave- no matter their age!

  7. Jesh November 22, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    Stop being a liberal whiney shit who thinks the world revolves around you. You know what my list consists of? 1) some pos who thinks because when”traveled the world” for 10 years thinks the world should listen to her. Fucking American lib

  8. Shelley November 29, 2016 at 5:38 am #

    On a recent flight to Florida a “businessman” directly across the isle was watching a very risky episode of Game of Thrones. I am not bashing the show, but feel that people need to use common sense about these things. I have a 5 year old who is a seasoned traveler who ended up having to sit in the middle seat next to a stranger, because I did not want her to see his video content. The part that made me almost as mad was that they (the other businessmen) were teasing the guy who had to sit next to my daughter about having a “GOOD” flight being seated next to a child.

  9. annoyedflyer December 5, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

    totally agree about the annoying families that expect you to change seats with them. the worst is when they feel privileged to sit together. do some planning! why should i have an awful flight just cuz you didn’t plan yours well.

  10. Bouchrou abdelaziz December 19, 2016 at 3:15 am #

    Then why don’t you buy a personal plane for your self?

  11. Amandaw January 8, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

    Dude, Non-stop flight from SFO to HKG overnight and I’m in the window seat, great except i’m seated next to non-english speaker and a dead body (he was asleep for the entire flight) who has man-spead completely. I was in that seat, no bathroom, no stretching for 12 hrs. Maybe, i’m too nice and I also was too proud to give in and try waking him, but that was a test of will that i’ve yet to come across again. And to add insult to injury I was meeting my new manager and co-workers at the airport when I landed.

  12. KC Chew January 25, 2017 at 7:05 am #

    On the contrary, I do enjoy flying especially on long haul flights. I probably started flying as early as an infant in the 1960s but I obviously have no recollection of this. My first memory of flying was as a 5 year old. My dad works for an airline for 27 years and the whole family enjoys concession air tickets at just 10% of the price which means a short haul domestic flight ticket is cheaper than a bus ticket to the same destination. In those days, flying is a luxury enjoyed by few people. There were no sophisticated security checks and the passenger service charge is less than the equivalent of USD1 for domestic flights and about USD2 for international. People put on their best clothes when flying. Nobody wear flip-flops, sandals or singlet then. Pre-flight drinks and wet towels are served even in economy class. Cigarettes are offered to those in smoking section. Once I reach the age of 21, my entitlement to the cheap staff tickets ended. Then I did not fly very often, maybe only once every few years.

    Fast forward to about 7 years ago, I started to fly very frequently for my work. Most of my flights are medium to long haul and my employer have a policy of allowing staff to fly in business class for flights of more than 4 hrs in duration. I had an enjoyable time jetting all over Asia & Australia in biz class and accumulating frequent flyer mileage quickly. I make good use of the airmiles, redeeming them for free flights for my personal trips with my parents. Once I also use the airmiles to upgrade from business to first class. Since I fly in biz class, I am spared from the woes of crowded space, passengers in front reclining, fighting for overhead cabin space, queing for toilets, etc. I did experienced passenges sitting beside me farting but that does not happen very often. I normally just bear with it. My only worst encounter was when I was flying economy class on a short regional flight. I was boarding the aircraft walking to my designated seat and I saw a woman stuffing her luggage into the overhead cabin above my seat. I waited until she finished so that I can take my turn to put in my bag after she settled down. But to my surprised and annoyance she just walked away and settle down in her seat several rows in front of mine. Then when I looked into the overhead cabin and found it full to the brim. I did not want to make an issue out of this and simply placed my bag into another overhead cabin further away.

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