10 Things I Really Wish People Would Stop Doing on Airplanes

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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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?

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615 Comments on “10 Things I Really Wish People Would Stop Doing on Airplanes

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  1. I share just about all of your plane peeves!

    I also really hate what I call the “Gate Hoverers.” Basically the people who are all antsy to get on the plane and stand around the boarding area blocking access to all the people whose seats HAVE actually been called to board the plane. These are also often the people who will try to steal all the overhead space with their 4 pieces of carry-on luggage. Bastards.

    I ALSO sometimes hate overly chatty people on a place. Yes, sure, sometimes I like to have a conversation with the person sitting next to me. But other times I just want to stick my headphones in and doze off, or perhaps get a little writing done. But some people can’t take a hint and will just babble on and on and on. Ugh.

    1. OMG hate that too. I’m like what’s the rush?? And then they steal all the space. Ive gotten to the point now where I always check a bag, so much easier and like $25 isn’t that much.

      1. The rush is getting to board the plane before all the overhead bin space has been taken up by coats and purses. If I have nothing to put in the overhead bin I’d just as soon be the last one on but if I have a bag to store I want to be near the front of the line.

  2. This was such a fun post to read. (For your safety I’ll just mention that peanuts were served on a Delta flight I was on last week.) One of the worst flight experiences I’ve had was being sat on during an entire 4 hour flight. The man next to me was sitting in his chair and 2/3 of mine. His arm and thigh WERE ON TOP OF ME… and no one bothered to ask if I might be more comfortable sitting elsewhere. I didn’t want to ask and embarrass the man who promptly fell asleep. I couldn’t even put my tray table fully down because his thigh was in the way… so awful. I really feel that he should have purchased two seats, or I should have been compensated. SriLankan Airways is not my favorite.

    1. I forgot Delta serves peanuts. I hate them so I never fly them.

      It puts you in such an awk position when you have to sit next to someone like that. I would have discreetly talked to the flight attendants or something. Such a horrible situation

  3. While I partially agree with point #2 I would like to mention that if somebody is flying on standby than they are not given the choice to select a seat. I flew not too long ago with my wife and two kids on standby. They had us all in separate seats, which I was totally fine with. However, because I respect my fellow passengers and I didn’t think anyone would want to babysit my four year olds, I politely inquired about switching seats. At first I met resistance, but when I told them “that’s fine, I’ll be three rows back if they start to throw a tantrum” my proposition seemed much more palatable.

    1. Yeah but I also don’t have too much pity for people flying standby – did you pay full price for those seats? Totally bitchy but again if you are flying with that many people, probs should pay for a proper seat in advance, I’m not gonna move for it. I’ve flown standby on a buddy pass and I paid like $100 for a $1000+ fare, personally I don’t think it’s fair that people who paid for a full ticket should move for someone who didn’t, kids included

  4. 8. Walking down the aisle and grabbing seats. Sorry, I do this! I don’t know what happens once we are up in the air, but I have a horrible sense of balance once I’m in the plane and it’s up in the air. Not to mention I have a violent fear of turbulence and I always think I’m going to go flying forward as I stand up. I think it’s because I have small eustachian tubes in my ears which affect balance and sense of orientation. Whenever the plane goes into descent, my ears hurt like hell and I’m 95% sure it’s because of eustachian tubes. I always end up making faces/grimaces to relieve the pressure in my ears as we land, I’m sure fellow passengers think I’m schizophrenic. So I will continue grabbing people’s seats as I make my way down the aisle, otherwise I will end up dizzy and confused once I get to the bathroom.

    4. Using headrest to stand up. Guilty. Goes with the whole sense of balance for bullet 8. Not to mention, it’s almost impossible to stand up in coach without grabbing something because the space is so small. If someone has bad knees/trouble pulling themselves up, they are going to grab the headrests. We can’t all be physically fit on a flight (only in a perfect world alas).

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