Having been spending a considerable amount of time on airplanes over the last few years, I’ve developed an eye for determining exactly the type of passengers I’m surrounded by on each flight. It’s important to make these distinctions as early in the travel process as possible so as to prepare yourself, especially during long flights.
I’ve compiled a list of the most common passenger types I have found myself next to on an airplane:
This passenger is one to be particularly wary of. While coming across as friendly at first, the Chatterbox tends to want to turn your hour-long proximity to one another into a life-long friendship. This can be troublesome if you prefer to work or sleep while in the air.
The ‘Bow Thrower:
This passenger is easy to spot: immediately upon sitting next to you, your right to use the shared armrest between you will be revoked. If s/he is a violent offender, be prepared to be constantly nudged for the duration of your flight. Also important to note: if your shared armrest contains either a folding tray for use during meal times or the controls for a video screen in front of you, you may lose those privileges as well.
The Pungent Passenger:
Whether this is a passenger that has refrained from using deodorant, showering, or using proper facilities to relieve themselves, you will know them from a mile away. Additionally, there are also Pungent Passengers who do bathe themselves very regularly… in perfume or cologne. I was once so overwhelmed by the perfume of the woman sitting next to me that I could nearly taste what she was wearing during a quick trip from Boston to Washington D.C.
The Practical Parent:
These parents are a joy to be on board with. They have brought toys, games, snacks or movies for their kids, and make every effort to keep them entertained and out of your hair. And if their kiddo has a meltdown, they make attempts to soothe their child and try to minimize the effect said meltdown might have on those nearby. I can say confidently that I am un-phased by a kid having a screaming fit (they do happen, afterall) if the parent is being considerate. This isn’t always the case…
The Impractical Parent:
These parents are some of hardest to fly with. You’ll be able to spot one as they set their toddler up in their seat, and then promptly switch on a movie for themselves, open their computer or put on their headphones. They will pay no notice to their kids crawling over or yanking on nearby passengers, and only at the moment of meltdown will they act like they are, in fact, the child’s parent. If you are lucky enough to sit next to one of the youngsters associated with these Impractical Parents, be prepared for a restless and noisy flight. I have downloaded an app for my iPhone called DoodleBuddy for just such occasions. Keeps kids quiet and entertained (though usually requires intense cleaning of my phone afterward to remove the tiny smears and smudges left behind). No thanks to Mom or Dad.
The Sleep Leaner:
These passengers have what I like to call “Airborne Narcolepsy” and are usually sleeping before the safety demonstration has ended (good thing they paid attention), or at the very least, immediately upon completion of the in-flight meal or snack. You will notice that a seat next to one of them automatically deems you the mayor of Pillow-ville, so be prepared to support your sleepy neighbor – literally. Though many sleeping passengers manage to remain in their own tiny spaces, The Sleep Leaner never fails to take advantage (whether willingly or by accident) of a decent shoulder.
This passenger is so far “in the zone” that they are ignorant to the universal signs for someone needing to get by them to go to the restroom (such as the unbuckling of the seat belt, turning towards the aisle, or standing). When they do finally notice that you would like to get by, they often huff or groan at the fact that they have to move their laptop and temporarily stop working on that awesome slide they were about to finish (which, they will realize once they are no longer on a plane and have had some rest, wasn’t actually that awesome).
The Seat Kicker:
Unfortunately, you won’t notice this passenger until you want to kill them. The first few kicks often go unnoticed as people are settling into their seats. But by the 30th rhythmic kick to the back of your seat, you will probably be trying not to turn around and glare. Or in my case, you will turn around and glare.
The Oh-No-You-Don’t Passenger:
These passengers are far more rare, and because of this, more shocking. You will spot one of these dangerous passengers on long flights when you most need to recline your seat and sleep. Tell-tale signs include shaking of your reclined seat and/or tapping on your shoulder, and then asking you not to recline your seat. Yes, people, this really does happen. And if it sounds absolutely infuriating, that’s because it is.
The Loud Talker:
Another easy passenger to spot on a plane. Typically traveling with a partner or group, you will be able to hear every word of this person’s conversation no matter how far away from them you are seated. In fact, you may end up learning things about this person you wish you didn’t know. Noise-cancelling headphones are extremely valuable when on a flight with one of these passengers.
The Perfect Passenger:
Fortunately, I fly with these travelers all the time. They are friendly and may exchange a few words with you, yet only engage in conversation before takeoff and after landing (though occasionally you end up talking more with them, since they’re pretty awesome). They share armrests, apologize for any excessive, accidental elbowing, and are always happy to allow you to get to the restroom.
I strive to be a Perfect Passenger on every flight, though I’m certain I don’t always succeed. I have been guilty of being a Sleep Leaner and a Chatterbox before, but hopefully those days are behind me
For all the other Perpetual Passengers out there… are there other kinds of flying companions you’ve been introduced to? And what kind of passenger are you?!