When it comes to flying, there’s plenty to be annoyed about. Long lines, irritating fees, mysterious delays, and other petty grievances irk both frequent flyers and occasional travelers alike. And then there are the people, too. When you’re already tired and cranky, an inconsiderate or clueless fellow flyer has the potential to push you over the edge.
But what if the problematic passenger is you? Given the tight quarters on most planes these days, chances are you’ve done something on a flight to annoy the person sitting next to you. Unfortunately, we can’t always agree on the precise rules of airplane behavior. Is it OK to take off your shoes? Should babies be banned from flights? Though not everyone can agree on those issues, certain in-flight behaviors are almost guaranteed to earn you a few dirty looks. Do any of the following six things on an airplane, and you risk being labeled a rude, inconsiderate jerk by both the cabin crew and your fellow passengers.
1. Recline your seat all the way without asking
Of all the many airplane etiquette issues, perhaps none is more contentious than the question of whether or not it’s acceptable to recline your seat. Pro-recliners say they have a right to recline. Anti-recliners see red when someone’s seat back infringes on their space. Fistfights have broken out over the issue.
The best way to address the recline-or-not question? According to experts, you should ask the person sitting behind you before you adjust your seat. “When you want to recline, turn around and tell the person behind that you’re going to recline,” travel expert Scott McCartney writes in an article for The Wall Street Journal. “Then do it slowly. It’s a simple courtesy, and can prevent someone from getting bonked on the head.”
2. Be rude to the flight attendants
Flying is no picnic, but don’t take out your frustration on the flight attendants. They’re not the reason your flight is delayed, the plane is overcrowded, or your seatmate smells weird. “I agree it sucks that the flight got canceled and you’ll miss something important,” a flight attendant told Business Insider. “I was supposed to go home and see a concert. Now I’m stuck in this small metal tube with you yelling at me.”
Basic respect and politeness goes a long way when you’re interacting with the cabin crew. Smile and say “hello” when you board, and avoid tacky, boorish moves like poking the flight attendants or snapping your fingers to get their attention. Chances are, they’ll match your politeness with kindness of their own.
3. Get wasted
If you fly with any frequency, you’ve probably been on an airplane with someone who’s had a few too many. At best, the sloppy antics of drunk passengers are annoying. At worst, their misbehavior might cause the flight to be delayed or diverted if they assault a crew member or their seatmate. When flight attendants shared stories of the worst passengers they’d ever encountered on this Reddit thread, a disproportionate number involved alcohol. One-quarter of unruly passenger incidents worldwide are due to alcohol or drugs, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Not only does overindulging in wine or whiskey put you on track for the worst passenger of the year award, you may also end up with a pretty nasty hangover afterward. Chances are you’re tired and dehydrated from flying, which will only make the morning after that much worse, Mental Floss reports.
4. Misuse overhead bins
After leg room, overhead bin space may be the most precious commodity on an airplane. Ever since most major carriers started charging to check luggage, more people have been bringing their bags with them into the cabin. Inevitably, bin space fills up before the last passengers board. While airline rules created the problem, people who don’t use common sense when stowing their luggage only make matters worse.
“Put the suitcases in the overhead and put your small bags underneath the seat in front so we don’t have to run out of space and have to check bags,” a flight attendant told Business Insider. Don’t waste precious bin space by stashing a suitcase, coat, purse, or shopping bag overhead if the smaller items can reasonably fit at your feet. When you do put items in the overhead, try to stow them as efficiently as possible so you’re not taking up more space than you really need.
5. Get too friendly
Chatty Cathys are a major annoyance for 43% of airline passengers Expedia surveyed in 2015. While you might be eager to strike up a conversation with your seatmate, not everyone wants to make friends in-flight. If the person sitting next to you is responding to your friendly questions with one-word answers, puts on their headphones, or keeps glancing at their book, they’re probably not up for a chat.
Aggressively hitting on your attractive seatmate is another in-flight no-no. Just over a quarter of people Expedia surveyed said passengers who were overly affectionate were most annoying, and another 13% singled out people who treated a plane ride as an excuse to pick up dates as incredibly aggravating. You don’t want to be the sexual harasser in seat 10D.
6. Kick the seat
Rear seat kickers were voted the most annoying passengers in the Expedia survey. Out of the people polled, 61% of them said feeling a kick from the person sitting behind them was the most irritating thing that could happen on a plane.
Seat kickers are usually kids, which can make this a tricky problem to handle. If you’re flying with children, it’s your job to rein in your squirmy little ones. While you might not be able to get them to sit completely still, you can take steps to minimize the annoyance for your fellow passengers, says Wendy Perrin at Condé Nast Traveler. Taking off your kid’s shoes or placing a beloved stuffed animal in the back pocket of the seat in front of them may make them kick less, or lat least not as hard, she says. If all else fails, you can try to appease the person who’s getting an unwanted back massage courtesy of your toddler by offering to buy them a drink.