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The 10 Worst People You’ll Encounter While Flying

If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’ve likely encountered your fair share of rude or downright disrespectful flyers. Unfortunately, in a plane full of a hundred (or more!) people, there are bound to be a few bad apples. By knowing how to deal with some of the worst types of people you’ll encounter while flying, you can avoid letting one of these travelers ruin your flight.

1. The Loud Listener

Headphones exist for a reason, yet there always seems to be that person on any flight who thinks everyone else wants to listen to their music or hear every line of the movie they’re watching on their tablet. This is where having your own pair of noise-canceling headphones can be super useful. If you’re feeling really generous, you might even pick up a few pairs of cheap earbuds from your local dollar store and keep them in your carry-on so you can hand them out to oblivious travelers.

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2. The Sick Sight-Seer

Few things are worse than being stuck on a plane next to somebody who’s sneezing, coughing, or otherwise obviously ill (make sure they have an airsickness bag readily available). Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do in this scenario aside from doing your best to keep your distance and turning away when they cough or sneeze. If you spot an empty seat elsewhere on the plane, you might also consider asking your flight attendant in private if you can switch seats.

3. The Jerk Jet-Setter

Some people think they’re “too good” to be flying coach and will thus treat other passengers and flight attendants disrespectfully. It can be infuriating to be in contact with these kinds of people, but all you can really do is go out of your way to be extra polite to your flight crew and try to ignore their ignorance. It’s not worth getting into a confrontation over.

4. The Pungent Passenger

Whether it’s a passenger who clearly didn’t shower before boarding the flight or someone who decided to board the plane with some stinky food, being seated near an odorous traveler is never fun. While it may not be appropriate to start spraying air freshener up and down the aisle, you can somewhat mask the smell by bringing your own scented lotion. Applying some to your hands, arms, and neck will help you cover up the smell without making it obvious.

5. The Rude Recliner

Yes, airplane seats are designed to recline for your comfort—but if you’ve ever had the person sitting in front of you fully recline their seat, you know just what a downer this can be. You’ve suddenly lost inches of personal space, and it’s not like you had much to begin with. If you’re really uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to politely ask the person in front of you to move their seat back up—even just a little bit. If they refuse, consider asking a flight attendant if you can switch seats, especially if you’re taller in stature.

6. The Seat Snatcher

If you’re flying on an airline with assigned seating, there will almost always be at least one passenger who sits in the wrong seat or wrong row altogether. Sometimes, this is an honest mistake, but not always. Regardless, the best way to address this is to simply call a flight attendant over.

7. The Rule Refuser

Some travelers think they’re above the rules; these are the people who refuse to put their phones in airplane mode or who sit wherever they want, regardless of assigned seating. Sometimes, a polite reminder of the rules is all that’s needed—but in some cases, it may be necessary to get the flight crew involved.

8. The Yelling Youngsters

Being stuck on a plane with screaming babies or toddlers is its own special kind of hell. Unfortunately, it’s an inherent part of traveling. Most of the time, the parents of these children are just as miserable as you and are doing everything in their power to calm their kids down. Cut them some slack and don your noise-canceling headphones; they’ll likely settle down soon enough.

9. The Talkative Tourist

This type of traveler means well, but they just don’t get the hint that not everyone wants to socialize on their flight. If you end up being seated next to a talkative tourist, there’s nothing wrong with politely making an excuse to not chat; perhaps you’re not feeling well or need to rest before a big meeting. Putting on a set of headphones as soon as you sit down for your flight is another great way to avoid these people.

10. The Stow-Away Stealer

In a perfect world, passengers would only stow their luggage directly in the bins above their seats—but this never happens as most flyers don’t follow the carry-on luggage size requirements. If someone is taking up your stow-away space with their baggage, simply speak with a flight attendant so he or she can resolve it and find space for your items. They deal with this issue all the time and will find a way to accommodate you.

This is just a sampling of some of the most frustrating people you’ll encounter while flying. By knowing how to deal with these travelers, though, you can get through your flight with your sanity intact.

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