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The 14 People You Don't Want to Sit Next to on a Plane

May 21, 2014

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Let me begin by promising you that I am not an angry person. I would actually vow that I am inherently happy and all-around quite friendly and nice. But one thing that really grinds my gears, is being seated next to a nightmare neighbor on an airplane.

It’s not always easy to spot this impending tornado headed your way. Sure, the wailing baby or pushy storage-bin guy will spark you to mumble to yourself, “Please don’t be in seat 16A, please don’t be in seat 16A.” But what about the businessman with kind eyes, the lady who looks like grandma or the attractive twenty-something? These disasters can come in all shapes and sizes and often times, they don’t touch down until you take off.

So the next time I hop a red-eye from LAX to JFK ready for my cross-country nap, here are the 14 people that I pray won’t be seated next to me.

The Nighttime Cuddler

Here is a question you never want to hear while on a plane: “Are you the big spoon or the little spoon?” Airplane seats are uncomfortable, restricting and not equipped to be shared, so watch out when your unconscious neighbor slowly tilts his or her head in your direction. Depending on how deep the dreamer, you could be in for a game of seesaw as you attempt to politely prop up your sleeping beauty. When all else fails, place an airplane blanket or neck pillow between the two of you because, well, it’s better than sharing your shoulder.

The Guy Watching Porn on His Phone

Think: What would Jack Bauer do? This man may not be a threat to homeland security, but he is certainly terrorizing your rights and his dignity. Committing lewd, indecent or obscene acts in public aboard an aircraft will land this one in handcuffs, so you need to remove the threat. Do your duty and well, be a tattletale. If a person can’t last a flight without his precious porn, no one wants to imagine what he was doing in the bathroom—or even worse, under that over-sized laptop. Eek!

The ADD child

It’s not cute when a stranger’s little chatterbox is looking to make a friend on the plane… at 3 a.m. It might make you the Grinch from 10,000 feet above sea level, but throw on your snooze mask before the kid has a chance to make eye contact.

He’s not so innocent. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The Snorer

As painfully obvious as the snorer is on this list of nightmares, he or she is equally as hard to spot. You will already be strapped in and mid-air before this literal loud mouth assaults the quiet air. The real question in this situation is: to tap, or not to tap? There’s nothing worse than being startled awake, so we suggest gently nudging this person and then quickly pretending it wasn’t you, or blaming it on someone else. “Oh, the snacks were coming around, they wanted to know if you wanted some Pop Chips!” 

The Arm Rest Hog

It’s like an old-fashioned round of the card game, War: there’s a tie and you need the higher card to win. No one likes when his or her personal space is being invaded and the guy or gal who thinks they own the air rights to your armrest does just that. If you find yourself at a standstill and left with only a sliver to rest your elbow, wait for the right moment and then really commit. As soon as he or she grabs for their drink, gets up to go to the bathroom or even reaches up to cover their mouth for a sneeze, swoop right on in there and stand your ground.

The Talker

Earplugs. This Chatty Cathy might be looking to make a friend, find a romance in the air or just wants tell you all about how her daughter just moved to Chicago and is “loving it!” Whatever the motive, this person genuinely wants to make some sort of sky-high connection and is sure to be so taken aback by your rude, uninterested behavior that she will shut down. Arm yourself with something to drown out the sound so you can send a signal that this plane ride is all about sleeping.

The Smelly Food Eater

Ever since airlines raised prices and lowered options for in-flight meals, travelers are boarding with bagged lunches or dinners more and more often. We totally support saving money and being prepared, but we can’t support food that tickles our senses. Be polite and opt for cold or room-temperature bites. Eat early on in the flight and dispose of your trash quickly.

The Diva

Here is one frequent flier you actually can spot from a mile away. She’s toting designer luggage (and needs your help storing it), expects everyone on the plane to work for her and is the last to switch her cell phone into Airplane mode. You have two options: be a good Samaritan and assist her when she asks things of you, like showing her how to buy the rom-com being offered as the in-flight movie; or steer her towards her other neighbor. It won’t drown her out, but it will make her someone else’s problem!

You need to make her someone else’s problem. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The Excessive Drinker

There’s nothing wrong with slurping down a nice, stiff drink, but if you aren’t headed to Vegas, an in-flight over-imbiber isn’t cool. This hazard can escalate quickly: it’s loud, violates your personal space and is likely to leave in its wake a zonked-out and unwelcome cuddler (see above), unaware excretion spewer (see below) or even worse (uh, use your imagination). Make friends with a flight attendant and make sure this wasted rider gets cut off before the fourth drink.

The Frequent Bathroom-Goer

Picture this: after a bumpy take-off, you quell your nerves and rest your eyes before falling away into a deep and comforting sleep (ahh) – and then the person next to you needs to use the bathroom. No one should have to sit in pain with a suffering bladder, but there is a certain etiquette if you need to go more than the average person. Make sure to visit the little boy’s room before takeoff and take advantage of moments when your seatmates are alert, or at least awoken by the flight attendants. When in doubt, find your inner track star and jump on over!

The In-Flight Primper

She seems like your average gal and then an hour before touch-down her in-flight tray looks like her bathroom counter. She’s doing her nails (oh that smell!) and trying to apply mascara through turbulence. And then she drops her lipstick on your jeans and asks you if you think she looks pretty. Just say yes. It’s easier than the truth. 

The Mile-High-Club Couple

But if you frequently fly first class or often find yourself seated next to a bathroom, you’re sure to eventually encounter this simultaneously disappearing twosome. They’re the PDA-lovin’ couple who can’t keep their hands off one another, flirty strangers hitting it off in the front of the plane or bucket-list seekers trolling Virgin airline’s in-flight chat system will absolutely hog the bathroom, create an awkward air in the air for aware passengers – and leave you with one helluva story to tell your friends once you land.

If only you could tell them to get a room. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The Terrified Traveler

Everyone sympathizes with someone who is flat-out terrified, but handling a panic attack was not on this flight agenda. The fearful flier will probably be over-prepared as they chomp five pieces of gum during takeoff, clutch their over-sized water bottle to their chest and scan the aircraft with a look that screams, “Is this normal?!” The kindest thing you can do for this scared soul is to share your sleeping pills, especially if turbulence hits.

It may be time to buy her a drink. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The Plane Farter

You think we don’t know who you are, but we do! We’ve all heard your rationale: you think you are safe because the loud noises of the plane will drown out the loud noises coming from your seat cushion. But we can spot that overly satisfied look on your face as you lean in one direction before getting all comfy and snuggly in your seat. And, oh—that smell! Let us tell you something, mister, or sister: an airplane is a shared space. For the love of flying, mind your manners!