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How to Handle Annoying Airline Passengers

airplane boeing 777Airline travel is more frustrating than ever. With airlines cutting back on the number of flights, charging for checked bags (and just about everything else) and passenger space on planes shrinking, it’s no wonder there are more conflicts than ever between passengers. How do you handle passengers who are especially annoying?

Former flight attendant Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert, author of Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin’s Press, 2005), and Poised for Success (St. Martin’s Press, November 2011) and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, offers these tips:

The Armrest Hogger: If the person next to you commandeers your armrest, simply inch your way in by placing just your elbow next to theirs. This should leave plenty of space for your greedy neighbor’s elbow. Armrest rules: When you have three seats next to each other, the person in the middle seat gets to claim the armrests.

The Chatterbox: If your neighbor strikes up a conversation, be polite and exchange a few pleasantries. Then say something like, “It was nice speaking with you, but if you don’t mind, I have to get some work done (or some much-needed rest).” Closing your eyes generally does the trick. Note: Always travel with earphones and eyeshades.

The Space Invader: If this person invades your personal space with his newspaper or carry-on bag, say something like, “It seems that these planes are getting smaller and smaller. Would you mind moving your arm (or bag) over just a touch?”

The Seat Recliner: If someone reclines too far while you’re trying to eat, work on your laptop, or watch a movie, you have two options. 1. You can recline your seat for more space or 2. Say something like, “Would you mind pulling your seat forward a little bit.” The person in front of you most likely doesn’t know she’s inconveniencing you. Note: When you recline your seat, always glance back and make sure the person behind you isn’t using his tray table to eat or work.

Taking along eyeshades and noise-cancelling headphones or foam earplugs can make your fight more pleasant.

Taking along eyeshades and noise-cancelling headphones or foam earplugs can make your fight more pleasant.

The Snorer: It’s best to always travel with a good pair of noise-cancelling earphones (or foam earplugs). Otherwise, you can ask the flight attendant if you can relocate to another seat.

The Sleeper: If you need to use the lavatory but your aisle seatmate is sleeping, gently tap him on his shoulder and say, “Excuse me.” No other explanation is necessary. Never attempt to crawl over him.

– The Unruly Child: Never discipline someone else’s child. Your best bet is to move to another seat, if available, or alert a flight attendant. Never try to intervene yourself.

The Seat Kicker: If a child is kicking the back of your seat, simply turn around and glance at the child and the parent. The parent will oftentimes get the hint and ask the child to stop. If this doesn’t work, kindly speak up and ask the child to stop kicking your seat.

The Surly Flight Attendant: It’s best not to challenge a flight attendant unless you want to be thrown off the plane. If you encounter a rude flight attendant, jot down his name, your flight number, and email a letter to the company as soon as possible. Better yet, share your grievance on Twitter for faster results.

Happy flying!



Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at realfoodtraveler.com.