18 annoying things that people do on planes

By Simon Busch

17 October 20185 min read

Child sitting by aircraft window and looking outside

What’s the most annoying thing someone can do on a flight? According to our study, 47% agree passengers who push their seat all the way back are the devil incarnate, while 38% of travellers just can’t stand boozed-up behaviour.

If only they were the worst of it. Starting with the mildly teeth-gritting, through the blood-pressure pumping and ending with the positively rage-inducing, we surveyed a bunch of frequent fliers to find the most fantastically irritating things you – sorry, other people – do on planes, drunk or otherwise.

18. ‘Squatting’ in the overhead bin

No, not actually squatting in the overhead bin; that would be very odd.

Instead we’re talking about those types who think shoving their swanky Samsonite carry-on in the measly luggage allocation above your noggin is equivalent to owning it, when they are clearly sitting 12 rows away – I mean, they’re virtually on another plane!

17. Unstoppable leg-shaking

This relatively rare behaviour is nonetheless worth flagging for its ability to irritate at altitude.

We’re speaking here of the passenger in the seat next door who simply cannot stop one or both legs from jiggling. And yes (you know it’s true) these airborne dancers are always – always – men.

16. Babies being babies

If you’ve ever wondered whether the human race was worth perpetuating, it might well have been while plugging your ears against incessant in-flight screaming and bawling.

No wonder kid-free zones top many aeroplane wish-lists. I mean, how dare these kids just do what kids do naturally?!

15. Tutting when a neighbour leaves their seat

“Why choose the window seat when you obviously have the waterworks restraint of Niagara Falls,” these smug aisle fans ask themselves silently, while faking a smile as they haul themselves into the gangway.

Later they’ll fall asleep and snore on the incontinent one’s shoulder in an unconscious act of revenge.

14. Mobile six-shooters

You know the ones – they reach for their smartphones like Billy the Kid the moment they feel the shudder of the descending undercarriage. And don’t they have fascinating information to impart the moment they’re allowed to light up their devices!

“Hey, we just landed. … can you hear me? … we just landed … I’m on the runway … can you hear me now? … Yeah, we just landed … ”

13. Pongy picnics

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, dinner or nuked hot breakfast on most airlines nowadays. We get that – and it does sometimes make sense to bring your own snacks and meals onboard.

But please consider that some will find your tuna, cream cheese and pickle sandwich more of an olfactory offence than a thrillingly original combination.

12. Yakking

OK, guy (or girl) down the aisle – you’ve got between now and Majorca to woo that comely stranger sharing your armrest.

But is describing your Irish dancing hobby AT FULL VOLUME really going to help? It’s certainly not helping the rest of us…

11. Annexing the armrest

Speaking of armrests, wars were fought over less. If humans can fly to the moon, surely our ingenuity means we could devise a platform on which two elbows could simultaneously rest?

Instead those elbows face off against each other over an aerial no man’s land, sometimes tentatively touching like two wrestlers seconds before a fight.

10. Poaching the empty middle seat

In the closed environment of an aircraft, any spare space – such as an empty middle seat – becomes infinitely precious.

But no sooner have you concluded that all your in-flight Christmases have come at once, than the slob one seat over claims this virgin territory with a book, coat or semi-inflated neck support.

9. Germ-sharing

Boundaries: also precious on a plane.

And in few ways are boundaries more dangerously violated than when someone shares their spit globules or spends 20 minutes hawking up the carrier agents of a virulent new illness picked up on holiday.

8. Game on

Your kids might call it a “game.”

The rest of us would probably call enforced listening to “bleep, bloop, blorp” for two hours something like “torture”.

7. Suitcase ‘bulldozers’

We’re not just talking about that one person with a bag way too big to be carry-on, who’s trying to prove it’s not – there’s also the duty-free glutton hauling an offie’s worth of bargain booze and fags down to seat 42B.

They’re responsible for an unexpected extra effect of excessive drinking and smoking – by their furious co-passengers.

6. The disembarking dash

Physicists speculate that if only a plane flew fast enough, you could, theoretically, travel back in time. But who says you need anything more rapid than cruising speed? That seems zippy enough to return some people to a primitive state before the invention of the queue.

How else to explain the barbarians shoving past you to be first off the flight?

5. The pits

Aircrew carry deodorant on board for a reason. You just better hope that reason isn’t sitting next to you on the plane.

And carrying out personal hygiene routines while aloft – cutting your fingernails, say – is almost as bad as neglecting personal hygiene in the first place.

4. Toe much

“Feet nudism” was a common complaint in our unofficial survey.

An appalling extension: people who actually go to the aeroplane bathroom in their bare feet.

3. Hogging the toilet

What can people possible be doing in there, you wonder as you jiggle cross-legged by the door.

Actually, you’re probably best off not knowing.

2. Reclining the seat

It’s curious how a sanctioned behavior – pressing the seat recline button, thus pinioning the person behind with their own tray table – should raise so many people’s ire.

Maybe it’s time to take a leaf from British Airways, who recently made the bold move to ditch reclining chairs on its short-haul services.

1. Kicking/bumping/shoving the seat in front of you

Here’s the most inflammatory irritant by a country mile. Designed to save on fuel, aeroplane seats are incredibly light – meaning they transmit the slightest touch.

Or amplify it: to the poor schmuck in front, your constant fidgeting with your tray table and seat pocket feels like a kung fu world champion working out.

Are we there yet?!

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