Airplanes should be sacred spaces. Everything is shared: air, armrests, windows, and storage. There’s literally no room for bad behavior. But, as I look out at my fellow passengers—on yet another flight—good manners and common sense have once again been misplaced.
And so, unless you’re one of the few flyers sequestered in a personal first class pod and sheltered from the masses, here are some tips to keep you from being an asshole in the air.
In other words, don’t be any of these people.
The stealthy stripper
What happened to your shoes? Really, WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES? You were wearing them when you got on the plane, weren’t you? And no socks? GET YOUR FOOT OFF THE SEAT IN FRONT OF YOU! I implore you. No one wants to be near your foot, touched by your bare leg, or pressed up against your naked arm. Keep your clothes on. Just because it’s summer outside or warm in the plane, there’s no excuse for you to be sitting onboard half-dressed.
And while we’re at it, take a shower before boarding.
The nothing’s personal person
People do the nastiest things—nail-clipping, nose-picking, teeth-flossing—while on an airplane. What makes you think I can’t see, hear, or be bothered by your cringe-worthy activity when I am mere inches from you?
Here’s a good rule of thumb: if it happens in your bathroom at home, it probably shouldn’t happen in your seat on the airplane. (Or in a hotel lobby, or in line at the supermarket, or at the desk next to me…)
The fast food fiend
It’s true, airport food leaves a lot to be desired. And onboard food choices are often worse. But consider this: no one else wants to experience your sloppy happy meal for the next four hours. There are french fries on the floor, ketchup on the tray, and greasy fingerprints on that tiny shared space between us. You managed to order everything on the menu, yet neglected to snag a napkin. My tiny bottle of hand sanitizer is no match for your feeding frenzy.
Next time, get your fast food fix on before you get on the plane.
My tiny bottle of hand sanitizer is no match for your feeding frenzy.
The “you can’t take it you, but you will try” diehard
Bravo to your mad skills. You managed to sneak your second personal item past the gate agent. Your carry-on is stuffed to the gills and would warrant an overweight surcharge if checked. You bought out the sundry store and none of the overpriced tchotchkes fit in your bags. After fumbling down the aisle, you arrive dumbfounded at your seat. Where will all these things go? Ten minutes later: you’ve held up boarding, you’ve enlisted two burly humans, and you’ve taken up an entire overhead bin. At least the space under your seat is free and clear.
If you can’t lift it, you can’t bring it. If you can’t stuff it, you don’t need it.
The odiferous offender
You get that other people have to sit really close to you, don’t you? You know that we’re in a shared space with shared air for the duration of this journey, right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that you showered this morning, but what’s that I’m smelling? Did you bathe in your cologne? Did you puff every cigarette in the pack during your layover? How do I know that you prefer patchouli over perfume? My eyes are watering and my head hurts.
Unless you smell like soap, the time to share your favorite scent is not today, people.
The “you don’t mind, do you?” abuser
I’m an aisle girl. And I know that comes with some serious responsibility. If you get up, I get up. If you want more pretzels, water or coffee, I’m likely going to notice you leaning in front of me. I understand my role in allowing you access to the bathroom, the overhead bin or your best friend three rows back. It’s fine to tap me on the shoulder once or twice, but don’t take advantage of my perceived goodwill. I do actually mind you interrupting me.
It’s fine to tap me on the shoulder once or twice, but don’t take advantage of my perceived goodwill. I do actually mind you interrupting me.
If you know you’re feeling needy, have a chat with your aisle-mate and set expectations early. Perhaps we can find a compromise.
The non-parental parent
I purposely did not have children because I’m pretty sure I would lose them. That’s not true. I didn’t have children because I don’t like them. But I’m sure you do, because you had them. You chose to fly with them. And now the surrounding rows of passengers are subjected to wayward goldfish crackers, kicked seats, and random bouts of screaming. One of your offspring is running down the aisle hitting people with some animal-like object. Another is crawling under seats.
I won’t even begin to provide parenting advice, but I think your kids might need better activities.
The mightiest of mileage runners
We get it, you didn’t get upgraded. The entire plane now knows you fly this route every week and you’re a super, fabulous, should-be-famous frequent flyer. Yes, it’s a travesty that you have to fly in the back of the plane with all the commoners instead of sipping champagne with the first class elite. Trust me, we dislike you as much as you dislike us.
And just to be clear, I belong up front, too.
The asshole of all assholes
You’re rude. You’re mean to flight attendants, you yell about delays and tight connections, you take over the entire armrest, and your body and belongings spill into your seatmate’s space. Being rude makes you the asshole of all assholes.
Before you board your next flight, picture this: being publicly scolded by a well-dressed, slightly stressed, tall blonde woman. That's me, attempting to keep you in check. So, keep your hygiene kit in your carry-on, your kids under control, and your patience packed. We’re all in this metal bird together—let’s be kind to one another and get to where we’re going with some respect.
In a time when we're all inundated with self-improvement advice on how to go from good to better, maybe what we need is some help being… less annoying. For more where this came from, read our tips for how not to be an asshole in the office kitchen, at a conference, while commuting on public transit, in a meeting, while taking a selfie, or when you've got a flexible schedule and your colleagues are trudging in for the 9-to-5.