The 15 Worst People to sit next to on a Plane


We all know who they are, and we’ve all sat next to one of them at some time. We’ve divided up typical airplane travellers into 15 categories of bad. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to experience more than one of these neighbours on a flight, share your pain here! Go through the list and tick off the terrible travellers you’ve shared a row with, and then see where you come in on the Pity Scale …

The one who cuddles

Having strangers cuddle up to you or drop their head onto your chest or shoulder in sleep is only nice when that stranger is Chad le Clos or Mini Dlamini. We don’t know about you, but we’ve never been that lucky! Nudge those pesky cuddlers away and tuck a pillow in between you to force the divide…

The sick one who coughs and splutters

It’s just desperate when this happens. You’re already sleep-deprived if it’s a long-haul flight, so your immunity is low, and you’re trapped in a steel tube of recycled air. You don’t want the added booby prize of having a germ harvester sit next to you, especially since the two of you are essentially sharing personal space (and bacteria) for the next several hours. Gas mask anyone?

The one who needed two seats

It’s a sensitive issue, but truthfully nobody wants to deal with ‘muffin top’ overflow when they’re overly cramped already and can’t afford to be sharing a seat with the person who should’ve booked two…

The one who chews really loudly

This can push anyone over the edge, which is always something to be avoided with airlines being so tense about people losing the plot… The person who chews with their mouth open, makes juicy or smacking noises, sucks on their spoon, picks at their teeth – it’s hard to even talk about these things without needing a time out! Our suggestion: earphones and music; loud music.

The one who complains… loudly

This person presses the overhead air steward button relentlessly. Often they direct their complaints to you, assuming you’ll agree with their pettiness when in reality you’re wondering what you did with those airline socks and how best to wedge them into the annoying orifice that’s the source of yours and everyone else’s misery.

The one with BO or halitosis

What can we actually say about this? If you’re sitting next to this person, you’re basically at their mercy unless you can somehow sweet-talk them into deodorizing or a mint. Sometimes you just have to ask yourself: was I rude to the airline employee when checking in?

The one with verbal diarrhoea

If you’ve never encountered someone with this ailment, then chances are you’re it! The main problems with Chatty Cathy are that (a) there’s no escaping her, unless there are empty seats and you have no qualms about hurting her feelings when you move, and (b) sitting for hours with your neck twisted at 90 degrees to engage in conversation with her is tiresome; stressful, even. Well that and the fact that you probably got on the flight to get somewhere, not to make friends.

 The one who refuses to acknowledge your presence 

Don’t you love the person who refuses to make eye contact with you, not even when you’re about to squeeze past them to get to your window seat? They then stoically refuse to acknowledge your presence the whole trip. It makes bathroom breaks particularly awkward…

The one with the small bladder

Tiny Bladder Boy may well be a very nice person, but if you’re between him and the toilet, you’re not going to have a happy trip. Especially if you were planning on sleeping and keeping to yourself, without someone incessantly climbing over you to relieve themselves…

The obnoxious and offensive one

Really vocal people are often extremely opinionated, with extreme opinions. Sitting next to them for hours on end can be a nightmare. It’s that or you let them have it and then chances are you’re the one who ends up handcuffed at the back of the plane. Come to think of it – maybe there’s your escape plan!

The little one who stares

Isn’t it precious how little kids are so ‘real’ and just say and do whatever they want? No, not when that involves them staring at you for the entire trip, including while you eat your dinner or try to sleep, nevermind watch a movie that’s R18…

The one with the baby

Yes, yes, we all feel for the harassed mother trying to calm her screaming infant whose ears won’t pop, but that doesn’t mean we want to sit next to her and the loud-hailer. Having your earrings tugged at, half-eaten food litter your clothes, and unexpected siren-like wails go off in your ear – these are all things that test one’s ‘joie de vivre’. Rather let the elderly man with the adjustable hearing aid sit next to them!

The one who snorts and picks their nose

Some people’s bad habits are just too bad to inflict on society. Nobody wants to sit next to the one whose honking, phlegmy inhalations can be heard across the plane, or next to the compulsive nail biter, whose gnawing habits mean you get elbow-jabbed every time they contort themselves all the better to attack that hangnail. And the nose-picker…well they provide tissues in the loo for a reason!

The one embalmed in liquor

Most air travellers know not to drink like there’s no tomorrow…because there is, and tomorrow you’ll still be surrounded by other travellers who don’t appreciate the stench of beer on your breath, or the red wine you spilled everywhere when making the drunk dash for the loo!

The one who upchucks

Suffering from motion sickness is a heavy burden to carry through life, but having someone else puke near (or, worse, on!) you is just bleak, bleak, bleak. The smell, the confinement…it’s possibly the worst of most travel tortures.

The Pity Scale

1 – 3: You’re lucky! Don’t travel much?

4 – 6: You still see the novelty in cross-atlantic flights…

7 – 9: You’re allowed to stare off into the distance, haunted, when sharing your tales of air travel torture.

10 – 12: We would hug you if we didn’t think the personal space infringement would just be the tipping point.

13 – 14: Going for counselling would be totally justified.

15: You must be an airline attendant!

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