The top 10 worst people to fly with

wine glass and airplane

What you’ll need on the flight if any of these people are there…

We’re all familiar with the obvious people we want to avoid when we fly — the seat kicker, the crying baby. But there are the more subtle perpetrators who can make your time in the cabin that bit more pressurized.

Here are my top 10. What are yours?

The Elbow Nudger – For this flyer, the olecranon, radius and ulna are the foot soldiers in the quest to annex the armrest and claim it all. Instead of partaking in the customary unspoken “Mine goes behind and yours goes in front, then we’ll switch” behaviour, he wants it all for himself. The only way to fight is to wait til he goes to the loo, annex the armrest and refuse to budge.

The Leg Splayer – You can also find this variety of boor in the Tube and New York subway as well, where he (and it’s always a “he”) sits with his legs spread wide, forcing you to sit with knees clamped  together, shifted awkwardly to one side. Just what could need so much air down there to necessitate the wide angle, is anyone’s guess. Or rather, a figment of his imagination.

The Coat Layer – It may look like a regular jacket from John Lewis or TM Lewin. But this worthy garment has hallowed powers and a nervous temperament. That’s the only reason It must because it has been carefully folded and laid gently across the overhead compartment

The Queue Hoverer – They’re not in rows 40 and above. They’re not a Gold card member. They’re not travelling with small children. Yet they’re loitering right at the place where everyone else should be boarding. Occasionally the QHs actually join the line in a bid to eke through. When the flight attendant sends them to the back of the line, we silently cheer.

The Socialiser – Hey! They’ve got drinks, they’ve got some friends, they’re on their way someplace exciting where they’ll be meeting up with old school buddies. You know how you know? Because they’re discussing it, in Ministry of Sound decibels while standing in the aisle with their companions. Did they notice everyone else’s darkened overhead lights and eyemasks? How could they, with this party going on?

The Eager TalkerStranger on your left: “…Of course I never thought they’d actually got married but there they are and so I’m flying to Greece, which I’d never thought I would do, because I told you I’ve always been so scared of flying…”

Stranger on your right: “Yes, I manage the whole Southeast sales quadrant, which I can assure you is quite a challenge. I’m a gold member on all the airlines, not to mention the car rental clubs…”

You: “Another Scotch please.”

The Flight Attendant Abuser – Some people aren’t happy unless they’re screaming at someone and turning puce. Something’s gone terribly wrong and the FAA needs us all to know about while he or she treats the trained professionals with our life in their hands like something to be scraped off a shoe. I was once one row away from an FAA who refused to sit in his assigned seat because there was a child behind who might kick it. Eventually the pilot came out to inform him — in a low, calm and forceful voice known to every misbehaving child – that if he didn’t move he would be put off the plane. Uh-oh. Dad’s home and you’re in trouble now.

The Shoulder Massager – Has this only happened to me? Twice fellow passengers (older, male) have noticed me doing shoulder and neck rolls and have offered to provide a shoulder massage. The sad thing is, once they hurt so much I said yes.

The Makeup Applier – The queue for the toilet starts as a clump of people in the area just outside the door. Then it starts to stretch down the aisle. Still, a woman inside continues to primp and primp and primp.

Laissez-faire Parenter – Now that we have children ourselves we know that most parents are as upset when their babies cry on planes – sometimes moreso – because they’re aware it disturbs the other fliers. But occasionally you share a plane with some who don’t know or care that their little darlings are talking in voices that make a jetway seem quiet. They kick the seats, they run through the aisles. We get it. We’re parents ourselves. But please contain them before we hit our ejector seat.

As I can say is: It’s a good thing my family are the perfect flying companions ourselves.

Who or what bothers you most while flying? I’d love to hear.

I’m a journalist and blogger. Previously I was The Times’s online lifestyle editor and Alpha Mummy blogger. Now I’m co-founder of BritMums and BritMums Live! – our annual blogging conference that draws hundreds. Follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Google Profile+


    • July 23, 2015 / 3:04 pm

      Selena, thanks so much. Unfortunately, I know them all well.

  1. Louisa @ My Family & Abruzzo
    October 10, 2013 / 6:14 pm

    This made me laugh. There was a bit of an altercation in Pescara airport last week with queue hoverers. One cheeky Italian girl pushed in front of the whole flight who had been waiting for an hour. Then I was sat next to an elbow nudger who was also a leg splayer. Can you tell I’m still annoyed…. : /

    • July 23, 2015 / 3:04 pm

      The double threat of elbow nudger and a leg splayer. I feel your pain.

  2. October 10, 2013 / 6:27 pm

    The hen nighter. Only to be found on budget flights. Recognised by their pink T shirt printed with bride/sister of the bride/barbie babe/girls on tour. Already tipsy by the time they board. Had two of them next to me on a flight last week who had actually lost the bride. She was still stuck at baggage when the plane took off. How did we know that? Endless negotiations by mobile while plane on the runway.
    *Could also fit in socialiser category

    • July 23, 2015 / 3:05 pm

      Oh no! I’d forgotten about the Hen Nighter. Classic about losing the bride.

  3. October 10, 2013 / 8:26 pm

    you missed out the person who did not read the “what is acceptable as handluggage” notices and drags on board somethign the size of a liferaft that has been packed for density and, as a result, requires someone else to put it up in the overhead locker, and remove it at the end of the journey. You know this person, not because of the suitcase but because of all the bruised ankles and elbows she leaves behind her as she drags the afore-mentioned supercase down the narrow aisles and into the sun. Ahead of everyone else. And without a care in the world.

    • October 11, 2013 / 10:14 am

      Oh yes, I know this lady. I especially like it when her luggage is wrapped in that giant cling film, so it stays fresh!

  4. October 15, 2013 / 8:35 am

    Not being a world traveller I can’t comment on the flight passengers, but on trains it’s the sloucher that gets me. Slumped in their seat so you have to sit bolt upright with your femurs retracted into your pelvis and hold your breath so as not to touch them in any way lest the tut and scowl at you for having committed such a crime!

    • July 23, 2015 / 3:06 pm

      Ha ha. Touching while travelling — always tricky! To be avoided at all costs.

  5. Family affairs
    October 15, 2013 / 11:28 am

    I’m with kirstie. The hen/stag weekender the worst. X

  6. November 12, 2013 / 11:28 pm

    Ha! Great post! But let’s face it – everyone’s annoying on a flight. Give me a private jet, please.

    • November 15, 2013 / 4:35 pm

      Yes, please. Or I’m happy to fly in yours.

  7. November 19, 2013 / 3:51 pm

    This is fantastic – we of course are all perfect travellers!

  8. November 23, 2013 / 1:09 pm

    Brilliant. I must say I loathe the talkers the most – those red-eye flights full of grey suits filled me with dread if I got a talker – your south east sales guy is a great caricature of most folk on those planes 🙂

    • July 23, 2015 / 3:07 pm

      I just got off a flight that was the opposite of this. Everyone seemed to agree we all needed some peace and quiet. The window shades came down, everyone watched movies or read or slept. Bliss.

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