The worst things plane passengers can do

Airline travel can bring out the worst in people. It doesn't matter if you're a frequent flyer or whether you travel once a decade, you'd have to be an angel not to find at least one of your fellow passengers completely cringe-worthy.

The list of things that can throw anyone into a rage include the unforgivable act of taking both arm rests, using a phone and being on a phone call, and making a variety of bodily noises like sniffing, snorting and throat clearing. And let's not forget the completely uninhibited people that like to remove their clothing.

"I once sat next to a man who stripped down to his singlet and boxers for a long haul flight. He was not wearing deodorant and I had his stinky armpits up close for 10 hours," said Emily Field, an advertising executive who's a frequent flyer.




Ms Field claims to go "berserk" if people recline their seats, particularly at meal times.

"I once had a lady recline when I had a hot cup of tea on the tray and thankfully, only a small amount was spilt onto my lap, but I was livid and tapped the person on the shoulder to say: 'Look what you just did!' but she barely glanced at me. She didn't give a toss," Ms Field said.

In a bid to reach a stalemate in the so-called 'leg room wars', British Airways recently announced it's banning reclining of seats on short haul flights by creating seats that do not recline. Thirty-five planes will be fitted with special non-reclining seats.

However, business and first class passengers will be allowed a 'gentle' recline.

Your days of reclining might be numbered, much to the delight of the cramped person behind you. Picture: iStock
Your days of reclining might be numbered, much to the delight of the cramped person behind you. Picture: iStock

Each airline has its own official rules on comfort but many have banned parents from giving their kids a variety of sleep assisting gadgets - particularly those that obstruct the aisle or need to be attached to any part of the aircraft.

Lachlan Burnet, from NSW Bunnik Tours, regularly witnesses passengers that feel they have to rush past everybody to be the first off the plane, even if they're at the back of the aircraft.

"And there is no rush to board the aircraft; nobody is going to take your allocated seat! On a long-haul flight you're going to be sitting there for hours anyway, so try and minimise the time you spend in your seat by a few minutes - it all helps!" Mr Burnet said.

Etiquette expert Anna Musson believes there are simple rules for air travel we all should follow.

"If your bag is large, it's better to check it than try to squeeze it in or worse yet, put it above someone else's seat in business on your way through. It's always a nice gesture to offer to help others with their bag and this is particularly helpful during disembarking," Ms Musson said.

"If you're feeling fragile or nursing an injury, a pleasant, 'Sorry to trouble you, would you mind helping with my bag please?' is the best way to ask."

Unless you're seated next to your favourite movie star, having a seat-mate who doesn't shut up can be infuriating. As a constant traveller, Mr Burnet said he is 'over' having to hear about his neighbour's journeys.

"I politely say, 'I hope you don't mind, but I'm travelling for work and I really need to get some work done or relax so I'd actually prefer not to chat.' It might sound harsh, but you can get away saying many things if you smile," Mr Burnet said.

"I also don't think males should wear singlet-tops on aircraft - particularly when travelling from destinations with a hot climate, such as Asia. You mightn't be able to smell your own BO, but the rest of the aircraft certainly can!"

Please keep your feet, and your BO, to yourself ...
Please keep your feet, and your BO, to yourself ...

But when it comes to the politics of seat reclining, Mr Burnet suggests a way to go about it that won't upset anybody.

"I always make sure my seat is upright for meals, and then when the service is completed I turn around and ask the person behind me if they have finished their meal yet as I would like to recline my seat," he said.

"Whatever you do, don't ask them if you can recline your seat - they may say no - and then you're in between a rock and a hard place."

When the plane has landed and, hopefully, tempers have cooled, Ms Musson believes many travellers need lessons in how to disembark.

"It's just like leaving the church after a wedding ceremony. Let the row in front of you disembark completely first. It's helpful to pass others the content of the overhead locker if you're seated in the aisle," she said.

"As you're leaving, a nice, 'Thank you' is all that's required as you pass the flight attendants on the way out. They deserve that, at least."

As for Mr Burnet's worst passenger stories?

"I once saw someone finish their meal, then - before the trays were taken away - take out nail clippers and proceed to cut their finger nails and then their toenails and put the clippings on to their meal tray," he said.

"I also saw a lady change a baby's nappy on the spare seat behind her. It was a 'number two job' as well. I can't begin to describe the aroma that permeated through the cabin. It's a wonder the oxygen masks didn't drop down."

Have you come up with a good solution to deal with other passengers' bad habits? Share your tip and go in the running to win Escape's monthly reader prize. Email

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