The 15 Most Annoying Things People Do On Planes

In an ideal world there would be no need for airlines and we’d all be flying our own private jets. Alas, the world is far from ideal and so there are two choices – go with an airline or don’t go. The experience is rarely a pleasant one, but would be nicer if everyone showed just a little respect for one another. In such a confined environment it’s very easy to accidentally annoy somebody, but there are passengers who seem to go out of their way to do it. Passengers like these, for example:

Photo courtesy of Passenger Shaming / Rants of a Sassy Stew
Photo courtesy of Passenger Shaming / Rants of a Sassy Stew

If Children Are The Future, We’re Doomed

It isn’t the fault of the parents when an infant screams during take off and landing. What is their fault, however, is bringing the baby on board in the first place. Also on the charge sheet are spoilt toddlers that scream for the duration of the flight, feral children allowed to run riot in the cabin and, our favourite, kids who kick the back of the seat.

The Selfish Seat Recliner

The average economy seat has barely enough space as it is. So to have the one in front suddenly in your face, especially during the meal service, is a major pain in the butt. Such a pain, in fact, that someone has invented the Knee Defender to disable the recline mechanism. An extreme solution to a problem that wouldn’t exist if people had just a little consideration in the first place.

Grabbing The Seat Back

Does the seat in front have a handle attached to it? Of course not. So why do people use it to pull themselves out of their own seat and then hang off it as they drop back in? Nothing is more guaranteed to wake someone up than being catapulted into the next cabin. Except perhaps…

Let There Be Light

On every night flight someone will open a window blind to check if the sun is up, thereby waking anyone nearby who isn’t wearing eyeshades. See that glow around the edge of the blind? That’s a hint that there’s daylight out there. Leave it shut!

Photo courtesy of Passenger Shaming / Rants of a Sassy Stew
Photo courtesy of Passenger Shaming / Rants of a Sassy Stew


The arrogance, laziness and lack of respect required to throw trash into the aisle is astounding, and yet there are passengers who do just that. Apart from the slip and fall risk, there’s the obvious sanitary problem and it looks terrible. The sick bag isn’t just for puke.

The Weak Bladder – Window Seat Combo

Self-explanatory. Not many window seats come with direct access to the toilet, so if you need to use the bathroom every half hour then request an aisle seat. Either that or buy a pair of Tena Pants. And while we’re on the subject of toilet trips…

Light A Match (Metaphorically, of course)

If you need to go to the toilet during a 45 minute hop, you need to be looking at your diet. If you stroll to the front of a 737 with a newspaper under your arm and spend the next 15 minutes in there, you need to be looking at yourself. Either way, a courtesy flush after the first wave limits most of the damage.

Has Something Died?

Even though the pressurisation system continuously renews cabin air, it seems completely unable to shift bad odours. Whilst a bit of B.O. is unavoidable after 36 hours of travel, it is entirely possible to avoid pungent foodstuffs, hours old red wine breath and, most disgusting of all, the anonymous fart.

Photo courtesy of Passenger Shaming / Rants of a Sassy Stew
Photo courtesy of Passenger Shaming / Rants of a Sassy Stew

Personal Space Invaders

Whether it’s hogging both armrests or using someone else’s headrest to hang a jacket, there are those that fill all the available space around them, even if it isn’t theirs. Incredibly, there are even accounts of people stretching their legs between two seats in front. Aside from being just plain rude, chances are those trotters won’t be pine fresh.

Excessive Hand Baggage

Consistency is not a word normally associated with airline hand baggage policy. We’ve all seen someone board with rolling luggage, handbag, laptop, duty free purchases and a heavy overcoat. It has to go somewhere, so in order to guarantee there will be enough space they need to board first. Which means this kind of traveller also tends to suffer from…

Seat Row Amnesia

Airlines don’t board by seat row just to piss people off (they have many other ways to do that), they do it to minimise aisle blockages. Why bother? So many passengers ignore it and board anyway, safe in the knowledge the gate agent won’t say a word. Still, at least if they’re sitting up front, they can’t be guilty of…

Overhead Locker Theft

There is no excuse for throwing luggage into the first available space just in case there isn’t any in the rear. It inconveniences those passengers who are genuinely seated in the first few rows. Not only do their bags end up in the rear, but also there’s no chance of retrieving them on arrival due to…

photo courtesy of David Jackmanson/
photo courtesy of David Jackmanson/

Jetty Jackrabbits

Proof positive that human beings never learn, jackrabbits leap up from their seats as soon as the engines wind down, normally using the seat in front one last time for leverage. They then stand around for the next ten minutes before disembarking at precisely the same time as those who stayed seated.

Noisy Neighbours

Anyone talking to the person in the next seat at a volume that can be heard ten rows away deserves to be thrown off the plane. Ditto snorers, phone users, video game players, and those earphones that let out more noise than they keep in.

I Demand To See The Captain…

Every family has a professional complainer and, boy, do they seem to fly a lot. It’s a never-ending rant against the seat, the legroom, the food, the temperature, the movie, and so on. It doesn’t matter if they’re after discount vouchers, attention, or that the service is genuinely crap, everyone else suffers.

So there’s our list of annoying behaviour on airplanes, in no particular order. Do you agree or disagree? Got another airline horror story that beats these hands down? Tell us all by leaving a comment below.

We would like to thank Passenger Shaming for letting us use a few of their photos.  If you really want to see some passengers behaving badly, you need to follow their Facebook page.

Jack Leonard

Jack Leonard is a 747 captain with over 20 years of airline experience. Living in France, based in the UK and operating around the world, he has seen his fair share of airports as both flight crew and passenger. He's not sure which is worse.


  • On a few flights I’ve taken, I get out of my seat into the aisle after The Ding sounded for people to get up after arriving at the gate. A person in one of the nack rows, tried to squeeze by and push people out of their way so they could get off the plane first. I saw this coming and stood in the aisle and did not move. The person, of Asian decent, told me they had to get off the plane early. I said, “so do I.” Tough.

  • PICK UP YOU PANTS! Yoga pants should be worn for yoga. cover the muffin top. Please dress like you are an adult and stop trying to be a star in a rap song. Do not wear all that jewelry the TSA will make you take it off. You are not privileged! I don’t care what your mother told you. You are not special no matter what the commercial on TV said. Yes they know why you fly it’s not because it’s fun it’s because you need to get to grandmas house. The boogie man is under your seat.

    • your type made flying miserable, now I will go out of my way to make it just as miserable to you. Noise, Cell phones, reclining my seat, smelly food, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I love ticking people like you off.

  • I once had a flight that I sat in the last row where the seats don’t lean back. That was strike 1. They were up against the toilets (wonderful smell) and my seat was the bump seat for everybody coming in and out. That was strike 2. And to make the 3 1/2 hour flight perfect? The person in front of me had turrets syndrome. She broke the seat and was physically lying in her chair as well as mine. Not one person reconized, apologized or acknowledged my flight horror. The next time I just may sit beside the guy who looks like Jon Lithgow!!!!!

    • I once had a flight that I sat in the second last row where a grumpy lady sat behind me. That was strike 1. They were very close to the toilets (wonderful smell) and everyone waiting wanted to chat to me as well. That was strike 2. And to make the 3 1/2 hour flight perfect? I have Tourettes syndrome. The stress caused me to have multiple attacks, it was awful. I actually broke the seat. The lady behind however was extremely rude, commenting on me and my disability, I felt terrible. Not one person recognized, apologized or acknowledged the lady behind me’s discriminatory comments. I cannot help it if I have a ‘tic’. What would be good is if others people try to help me when it happens. Helping would involve telling the Attendants that I need help. That lady behind did not try to help me at all. Instead she just complained about me. The next time I just may sit in front of the guy who looks like Jon Lithgow (whoever he is)!!!!! Try to see things from another persons perspective.

  • I took a long flight once. There was an attractive young lady in dressy clothes behind me. She looked like a salesperson. I took a nap and woke up to find she had put her legs through the space in the seats besides me. I looked back and she was sound asleep so I didn’t bother he. When she woke, she asked me if it was ok. It didn’t bother me so I said it was cool. When the plane stopped I asked her if she was interested in getting a drink. She said since I let her put her legs there she would have one drink with me.. We did pretty well and we dated for almost 6 months.

  • When the person in front of me has fully reclined their seat and I need to use the restroom, I find I often have no choice but to grab the back of their seat to assist myself in squeezing by. Speaking of reclining seats, the courteous thing to do is turn around and notify the person behind you that you are going to recline your seat. I have seen drinks end up in peoples’ laps and tablets/ipads knocked almost to the floor when someone abruptly reclined their seat.

  • The one about the window seat- weak bladder combo…. Sometimes when you buy tickets there are NO aisle seats left and you do everything you can to switch seats. But you end up in the window anyways. I personally always book my tickets early… And there are still no aisle seat left! I have a weak bladder also. But can’t help where I sit sometimes or how often I have to pee! Something else that should be added to this list is the middle/aisle seat passengers that refuse to let the window seat passenger go to the restroom!

  • I sat next to a personal space invader yesterday, it was the worst. She had her stuff under and in the middle seat and her seat, took her shoes off, leaned back and put her feet up on the seat in front of her, and was eating some odorous food. She kept fidgeting and it would wake me up; and she was on her computer the entire flight, but would stand up in the aisle and balance the computer on her headrest every half hour or so. I think that behavior is rather rude.

    • I think you’re being so ridiculous, some people have work to do, she paid for the flight aswell so she has the right to use her computer

    • If I reclined my seat and someone asked me to put it back up because it was in their space I wouldn’t, I paid for my seat the same as everyone else so I’m allowed to use it. Half of these things are ridiculous and half of these people commenting are being so petty

      • I NEVER recline my seat, because the person in back of me doesn’t deserve to be miserable, no matter how “entitled” I feel. But for you, I’d make an exception.

      • The only airline with non-reclining seats I know is Ryanair. And that is one of the reasons why their fares are the lowest making Ryanair my first choice most of the time. Uncomfortable but cheap. A reclining seat is, among other things, what I pay a premium for when I choose NOT to fly by Ryanair. And you are suggesting that I pay for something and not use it? Of course one should be careful and recline his seat very slowly (I always do) in order not to hurt the person behind and give him time to react. One should also keep the seat upright when meals are being served. if someone in front of me reclines his seat it makes me a bit less comfortable, true, but definitely not miserable. The only thing it prevents me from doing is to hold a newspaper in my stretched hands.

      • wow, Aimee. What makes you so entitled and privileged. If we sit next to each other, my 400 pounds paid for the seat and my girth smashes into you: I paid for the seat. If my bowels are gaseous, and “oops”: well, I paid for the space.

        • Yup, just recline the seat into the person behind during meals at full speed, cos i paid for the recline too! Oh i haven’t washed in a month and just finished a smoke in the airport toilets, never mind i paid for the space! (Aimee must be AWFUL to fly within 5 seats of) (correction: within the same aircraft)

  • I agree I have been behind all these people. When you ask the flight attendent for help with the problem of having someone having their seat in a position where they are taking over half your space during your supper they basically ignore your. Kids have a right to be on an airplane and have voices that irate adults even when they are talking quietly. They can’t help being kids. Teenagers on planes are just as bad. When everyone else is trying to sleep on an overnight flight they are talking out loud and laughing. They should know better. The airline personnel should see that the carry on exceeds the size allowed and forced the larger items to be checked in. It isn’t fair that I have to stow my carry on under the seat in front of me because some jerk took all the space up above.

  • People who aren’t ready to get off the plane. The plane has landed, everybody puts their coat on & locates their baggage but then there are always those that just sit there until it’s there turn to get up………………. Then start wondering where they put their case!!! Those of us that have a life to live & have to go somewhere will just sit on this plane even longer while these inconsiderate people kick start their brains

  • I can relate to all of these, especially “The Selfish Seat Recliner” – on my way to London, I noticed this woman who kept on reclining her seat to the discomfort of the passenger behind her, even when she was notified of the fact, she just couldn’t care less. It made me realise why people (who can afford to) prefer to fly Business or even first class….just avoid dealing with these unruly people.

    • I’m not sure if wanting to recline your seat in between meals on a 25 hr + flight makes him/her “unruly”??? Prsonally I don’t ask, however I look around to see in the person behind me is doing something, and if not, recline slowly. Bring it on if any whinger wants to whine about that. If you want extra space, go by Business / First Class instead. If you want to save money, put up with the space thing. EVERYONE is in exactly the same boat… or plane in this case.

  • I also seriously think a small leaflet could be distributed outlining courtesies each passenger could extend. Most modern day people have no idea they are being rude & need it pointed out to them. ( See item #1 feral children become rude adults) More suggestions: Please BAN sunflower seeds and chewing gum! How irritating!

    • ban chewing gum? really?? when i don’t chew gum during landing, i wind up in unimaginable pain for about the next 6 hours, give or take.

    • It’s easy, I did it on a flight yesterday. Girl in front of me reclined her seat abruptly whilst I was eating, pure luck that I caught my cola as it flew through the are towards me. Anyway, did you know you can push the seat back up and it stays up!!!! Solution, order another mini can, crush both cans like a puck, wedge one in each side!!!! And kick the back of the seat to wake her at every given moment!!!!!

  • I genuinely think this should be handed out as a leaflet at every airport worldwide. In all my years of using airlines for work and pleasure, I can relate to every one of these annoyances. Well done.

    • My annoyance is when folks exit the plane abruptly, cutting in front of those in rows ahead of them. When seated next to the window, you simply are trapped by those in the aisle and middle seats. I have encountered this inconsiderate behavior and it is becoming more prevalent in recent years. It is even more disturbing when I see this aggressive behaviour displayed with a lack of respect for the elderly. I have verbally indicated my disapproval to folks like this and they have always played it off by ignoring me. Makes me angry as it is selfish, aggressive, and Inconsiderate. It is still probably only about 10% or less of the populace that behaves this way and there is no way to stop rudness. If you someone engages in this type of behaviour they don’t posess the faculties to receive the feedback.