How To Deal With Annoying Airline Seatmates

No one wants to be that person. You know the one. The person that complains to the flight attendant or just has to tap another passenger on the shoulder to air out a grievance. Well ... truth be told, some complaints are valid! It's as though something strange happens when people board an airplane. All social norms get thrown out the window, and people act like their seat is their personal piece of property to do with as they would at home.

Not to call anyone out but if this is you, you may want to do some self-reflection on your next flight because you might just be sending your seatmates into a tizzy when most people are just too polite to say anything. And if you've ever been on the receiving end of a seatmate's bad behavior, this might just be your sign — it's time to speak up.


No one suffers a crying baby on an airplane more than the parents themselves. So, trust us when we say this is one you may have to suffer in silence. If you're sitting next to a little one with a healthy set of lungs on them, it's not a bad idea to offer to try and distract them. But always ask, as parents may not appreciate a stranger interacting with their baby.

While babies can be forgiven, there are times when it's absolutely appropriate to have a conversation with parents about their child's behavior. This Reddit user had quite the story to share, "Lady behind me brought her kid who screamed the entire 4-hour flight. Kicked my seat. Screamed some more. Had a tantrum and was climbing over the back of my seat and shaking it furiously. Meanwhile, the mom is just sitting there smiling, not even apologizing or trying to correct the behavior at all."

This is not something you are expected to sit through silently. If you're unfortunate enough to be at the mercy of a live-and-let-live parenting approach like this, inquire with the flight attendant if they can address the behavior with the parent or ask if there's an available seat where you can be moved. While kids running in the aisles and throwing crackers at your feet are also kind of bothersome, some things you're better off tolerating and just being thankful that they aren't yours!

Space Invaders

Unfortunately, we're not talking about the video game but rather people who lack spacial self-awareness. These are your seat recliners, armrest hoggers, and people with my-legs-are-too-long-itis ... At one point or another, travelers will come into contact with these types. So, what are you to do?

For people who insist on fully reclining their seats for the entire flight, there's almost nothing worse. Most people will begrudgingly un-recline their seat if you ask and explain that there's not enough space for you to work on your computer or eat your meal. But if someone refuses, be sure to ask the flight attendant if you can be moved or for them to speak with the space-invading offender on your behalf. However, be prepared for the argument that they paid for the seat and, therefore, can use it as intended. They're not wrong ... but it doesn't make it any less rude.

Secondly, you have the slightly less offensive armrest hoggers and long-legged people. The unspoken rule is that middle seat gets the armrests. That's just how it is. Politely ask to share the armrests if a window or aisle seat is taking them up. They'll get the idea. For long-legged people, it's not their fault that they can't comfortably cram themselves into an airplane seat, but they could have paid for an aisle seat if it's a known issue. If their knees are encroaching on your seat space, ask them to keep their limbs in their personal space.

Plain old bad etiquette

If you've ever known the horror of a stranger's bare feet touching your elbow you'll understand what we mean when we say people on planes just have bad social etiquette sometimes. Do not ... we repeat ... do not take your shoes off, put your feet up on the back of the armrests, or walk around the airplane, regardless if you have socks on. It's gross. The floor is gross. The bathroom floor is really gross. If someone touches you with their bare feet — or any other appendage for that matter — without your consent, shove their little piggies away! Or, if you're not that bold, ask them to please keep their hands and feet to themselves.

Secondly, and we can't believe we have to say this, don't practice any personal hygiene in your seat. If someone starts flossing their gums or clipping their toenails next to you, it's well within your prerogative to ask if they need to use the bathroom and if they'd like you to let them out so they can get up. If they say no, maybe just be straightforward and tell them you'd rather they do that in the bathroom.

Noisy people

Being annoyed by noise on an airplane seems like an oxymoron. It's kind of loud anyways, so what's a little more noise, right? Well, it's not really that loud once you reach altitude, and lots of things can be heard from your immediately neighboring seatmates. Noise from phones, tablets, and laptops is a no-no, and asking someone to put in headphones is not rude. It's airplane law ... We're kidding. It's not really a law, but it should be! Really, no one wants to hear a stranger's SoundCloud playlist, the same Cocomelon episode on repeat, or hear spoilers for the latest season of "Grey's Anatomy."

This next one is touchy, but if your seatmate directly next to you really likes to hear themselves talk or you have "friendly face" and have been sucked into an unwanted conversation, there may be a way out for you without making things too awkward. If you can get a word in edgewise, the best way is just to pull out your book or reading device and gently let them know you're actually trying to catch up on some personal reading. Or get your computer out and mention you've got some work to do. But sometimes, people just can't take a hint, and you may have to be slightly rude ... put in headphones or stop replying to their questions, close your eyes, and pretend you've fallen asleep.