Air travel is rarely fun for anyone. But are you making things worse than they need to be?
Forget uncomfortable seats, bad food, and tiny bathrooms. The real challenge for flyers these days is how to deal with seatmates who have forgotten they’re not flying in a bubble. Think you’re innocent? Even frequent flyers may be guilty of some of these breaches of acceptable conduct.
You’re Making Them Gag with Your Double-Onion Burger
There’s a reason Queen Elizabeth banned garlic and raw onions from the Buckingham Palace kitchen: it not only perfumes the environment, but the breath of the eater as well.
What to do about it: Since the only thing that travels faster than gossip is stinky food odor, do everyone a favor and grab that burger before you get to the airport; even better, tone down the aromatics with a “hold the onions” order—or go for turkey on wheat.
INSIDER TIPYou can take food from home through security. Just be sure your water bottle is empty (refill at a water fountain or refill station.)
Your Perfume Has Created a Cloud of Misery for Everyone Around You
It’s not just your cologne. That vanilla cinnamon bun hand lotion you adore (and slather on every 10 minutes) does not remind us of anything we’d actually like to consume.
What to Do About It: Go easy on the aftershave and fill that quart bag with unscented lotions. If you’re into aromatherapy, a dab of essential oil on your pulse points will keep you from oversharing.
You Have Bare Feet
No one wants to look at someone else’s feet, no matter how perfectly pedicured they happen to be. Also, your sandals are stinky.
What to Do About It: Instead of forcing us to look at your bare feet, keep your shoes on or slip into a pair of socks. Please. Especially if you’re going to use the back of our armrest as a footrest.
INSIDER TIPCompression socks will not only hide your toes, they’ll help you avoid spending the first day of your trip with dealing with swollen feet and cankles.
You’re Using the Armrest in Front of You As a Footrest
It’s easy to inch into someone else’s personal space when you’re tired and cramped, but this one goes beyond polite comfort-seeking. Not only can the person whose space you’re invading not escape your foot, but—overshare alert—if you’re wearing shorts and sitting in an aisle seat, everyone who walks down the aisle can check out your choice of underwear for the day.
What to Do About It: Pack enough soft clothes in your carryon so it can double as a footrest. And put on some underwear.
You Haven’t Closed Your Window Screen (And Yours Is the Only One Open)
There are two reasons to close your window screen as soon as the plane takes off. One is so your seatmate and everyone around you can watch their movie or play their game without glare. The second is so that all the other passengers can sleep. This is especially important if you’re flying east, when the sun will rise into your open window long before the flight lands.
You’re Videochatting or Playing Games Without Headphones
So. Aunt Martha is sick. And your dog misses you. And your spouse can’t find the leftovers you put in the fridge. Guess what? We don’t care about … anything you’re saying. And the slap of the cards during your solitaire game? We can hear that too.
What to Do About It: There’s a reason your phone probably came with headphones. Use them.
You’re Poking the Person in Front of You
Fact: every time you tap your screen, close your tray table or cram your giant water bottle into the seatback pocket, the person in front of you can feel it.
What to do about it: Yes, you were smart to bring your own water. No one expects you to keep all your junk in your lap either. Just be aware and try not to jam something into the seat pocket every 22 seconds.
INSIDER TIPThat screen hasn’t been cleaned in, well, probably ever. Give it a quick once-over with an antibacterial wipe.
You’re Hogging the Arm Rest
You’re big. Or you’re reading a full-sized newspaper. Or you’re just oblivious. But here’s the golden rule: whoever’s in the middle seat gets first dibs on the armrest and the air rights to the space over it.
What to Do About It: Be nice and share with others. You’re going to be sitting together for a long time. And you might need to borrow their charger.
You Went to Sleep the Moment You Claimed Your Aisle Seat
This can be awkward for just about everyone. The flight attendant has to reach over you. Your seatmate is trapped and can’t get out to go to the bathroom. Plus, you’re drooling.
What to Do About It: We want to show up at our destination as well rested, too, but if you plan on snoozing through the entire flight, be thoughtful and give your seatmate a chance to use the facilities before you pop that Ambien.
Your Seatmate Politely Said “Hello”… But You’re Still Talking to Them
Most people like to be pleasant, which, in most cases, means saying hello to the person with whom they’ll be sharing a very confined space for the next few hours. But that doesn’t mean they really want to know what’s going on in your life.
What to Do About It: Unless your next word is gesundheit … Stop. Talking. Now.
You’re Grabbing the Seat in Front of You for Support
You probably don’t realize it, but that convenient padded vinyl rectangle in front of you is someone else’s seat. They can feel it when you hang on it to sit or stand.
What to Do About it: Use your own arm rests to haul yourself up and your own seatback to guide yourself back into your seat. If you have to grab, at least apologize.
You Finally Found Time to Clip Your Nails
Your seat may feel like a pod of privacy, but it is not. Everyone can see what you’re doing and are hoping they don’t get hit by flying nail trimmings.
What to do about it: This isn’t just annoying, it’s gross. Don’t do it.
Your Shoulder Bag Keeps Hitting People in the Face
Good job packing everything into one carryon and one “personal item!” But guess what? You and your saddlebags are now wider than the aisle and your wake is strewn with angry—and possibly concussed—fellow passengers.
What to Do About It: We don’t like to check bags either. Avoid the issue by swinging whatever is hanging from your shoulder around to the front of your body. Or lighten your load.
Besides being irritated by the noise, we’re actually jealous that you can sleep so soundly on a plane.
We get it. You can’t help it … unless you’d brought the Breathe Right strips that have been sitting unopened in your medicine cabinet.
What to Do About It: Just don’t be a grump when we gently poke you awake.
INSIDER TIPPractice good defense with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a pair of backup earplugs.
You’re Using Seats as a Handhold as You Walk Down the Aisle
As a general rule of thumb, the only time you should touch another seat is to place something in the seatback in front of you. Otherwise, you’re just an irritating space invader who jostled us awake.
What to Do About It: This isn’t duck, duck, goose. Keep your hands to yourself.