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The 7 Most Annoying Air Passengers And How To Deal With Them

So you thought that freedom was endless above the clouds? Far wrong! Did you ever fly economy class? Did you ever have a fierce fight about an arm rest with you seat neighbor?  Did you ever involuntarily get in too close body contact with the smelly tennis socks of the passenger seated behind you? Oh yeah, you get it. Yes, it might be beautiful to fly above the clouds. But freedom is the least thing you might expect to get there. Wouldn’t it be much nicer to fly in a plane without misbehaving  passengers?

Let’s face it: There’s always somebody in the cabin who will get on your nerves.
May I present to you: The 7 most annoying air passengers and how to deal with them.


1. Mr. Pinchy Elbow

The pinchy elbow is – in all but a handful of cases – male. He is one of the guys who feel too big for the space that is intended for them. He doesn’t only spread his legs as far into your leg space as he can, he also thinks he has a legal claim to the arm rests. To the arm rests in the row of three, to be precise, the most contested arm rests in the history of aviation.

Bad news: These arm rests belong to no one. There is no paragraph and no aviation law that regulates the right to an arm rest. However, the unwritten law of the cabin crew says that whoever has a middle seat has a right to rest his arm on at least one of the arm rests next to him. Which doesn’t allow him to pinch his elbows into the sides of his neighbors or shove their arms away.

By the way: There’s a solution to the problem. A shared arm rest, made possible by Soarigami. It’s an interesting idea. You can order it online, it fits into any kind of hand luggage and will be available from mid 2015. The question is: Why didn’t anybody think of such a solution before?

It’s small and it fits into your hand luggage: Soarigami, the shared arm rest. Photos: Grace Lee Chang


Talking about arm rests: Arm rests were NOT designed to carry the feet of the passengers in the back seat.


2. The Stinky Foot

Talking about feet… Shoes are pretty effective when it comes to hiding a bad smell. I don’t have a problem with people who remove their shoes on the plane for reasons of comfort. Unless they belong to the species of the Stinky Foot. The worst part about that species: Mr. and Mrs. Stinky Foot often don’t know that they are a Stinky Foot. Or else, they are just very mean human beings that rejoice in torturing others with their smell. Or maybe they believe that the smell won’t spread on the plane, I have no idea.

If you are unsure whether you belong to the species of the Stinky Foot or not: Please just don’t remove your shoes. There isn’t too much fresh air in a plane cabin. And, quite possibly, the passenger sitting in front of you will notice the smell before you do.

Do I need to tell you? KEEP YOUR SOCKS ON!


The 7 worst air passengers - a jet flying above the clouds. Photo: Anna Tillmann

The air is much better on the other side of the window…

3. Mr. Shirtless

Which brings us to the next topic: Getting undressed. Again, this is something you’ll never see a woman do, hence we’re only talking about Mr. Shirtless here. It is bad enough that some people believe they have to wear their oldest and most scruffy clothes on the plane to be comfortable. But getting undressed is a no go. NOBODY wants to get that close to an unknown shirtless person. This is something I saw on a flight from Baden-Baden in Germany to Girona in Spain. Consequence: Bad dreams. Bad, bad dreams. In retrospect, I think I really should have taken a picture to prove my suffering to ensuing ages… Argh.


4. The Touch-Screen Drummer

You probably know the following situation: You want to lean back and relax, watch a movie or just have a nap. Then it starts. The man, woman or child behind you starts hammering against your seat like mad. You turn around with a killing glance and you see: A passenger from the species of the Touch-Screen Drummer – completely unconscious of his guilt.  He looks at you sheepishly: Hey, it must be allowed to work the touchscreen, right? If you are lucky, the hammering stops for a few moments. But you can be sure that peace won’t last forever.

Everybody, please note and memorize this: A touch-screen ist a touch-screen. A touch-screen – telling name – can be controlled with a touch of your fingertip. Even on a plane. It is NOT necessary to hammer on it.


5. The Waterfall

The waterfall believes that he has to become friends with his seat neighbor by hook or by crook. He will either want to know your whole life story or tell you his. He won’t stop talking, ever. Not even when you tell him you’d rather have some privacy for the third time. Not if you want to watch a movie or read your newspaper, not if you plug in your headphones or earplugs. He’ll talk to you even if you pretend to sleep. Depending to his and your endurance, it can be very hard to tell make it clear to the waterfall that he is GETTING ON YOUR NERVES! Face it, you have to be rude. This is something I am not good at. But sometimes it’s just necessary.



6. Mr. Cuddles and Mrs. Cuddles

One of the best things that can happen to you if you are seated next to a waterfall is him or her falling asleep. Sleeping on a plane is totally okay. It’s even okay if you snore because the noise will be drowned by the airplane noise anyway. Unfortunately, some people tend to get on your nerves even when they are asleep. Namely when they slowly but steadily get closer to your shoulder until they finally lean on it and make themselves comfortable. Mr. or Mrs. Cuddles tend to lean onto their seat neighbor and pretend you’re their cuddly toy.

In case you know that you belong to the species of the Cuddlers: Please just book a seat at the window or the aisle where you’ll be able to lean on the plane wall or hang your head into the aisle. Thanks in advance for not drooling on my shoulder.


7. The Clapper

There was a time when I used to get really angry at people clapping at the landing. Is it okay to applaud or not? Well, I still tend to roll my eyes at people who do it, but you know what: I don’t care. Just do whatever you want. There are more important in-flight rules to abide by. If you feel like it, applaud to the pilot – he’s just doing his job, but why not give him some extra appreciation. I have made peace with you, Mr. and Mrs. Clapper. Anyway: Everybody likes some extra appreciation of their work, right?


Talking about appreciation…

My work could also use some extra appreciation, you know… I mean, I am glad that you have read this whole text! You absolutely rock! And I want to know who you are and say thank you for reading this text! Just leave me a comment. You don’t have to write much. Just say “applause” and I will be the happiest person in the world! 


About the Author

Anna loves travel, photography, and writing. All at once, everyday. She collects entrance cards, plane tickets, and old atlases and has been searching for the perfect globe for some years. Follow Anna on Facebook or Twitter!


  1. Ken

    “Applause” He he 🙂 I loved this post, Anna. I think you missed the guy who slams his seat into full recline, depriving you of any chance to eat comfortably. I know some airlines are now onto this and make an appropriate request to keep seats up until after meal service. The other ‘pest’ is the parent who doesn’t control the child that wants to keep bashing the seat back – obviously, those kids grow into touch screen drummers 🙂

  2. Thankfully, I have only run into a few of these, but they are annoying enough without the others. I guess I am lucky, I usually travel with my family, and I sit in the 3 seat with my two girls. The one missing here is that person in front who reclines their seat on take-off and leaves it all the way back the entire flight, even if it’s just an hour flight.

  3. I cracked up with the clapping comments…I’m with you, it’s a little weird, but who cares? I do care when someone is in my space. I might just have to get one of those seat armrest sharers!

Your thoughts are welcome!