how to not be that annoying person on a long-haul flight

How To Not Be That Annoying Person on a Long-Haul Flight (or any flight, for that matter)

I was brought up to be considerate of others. It’s something that governs my behaviour every single day, because sparing a thought for others around me is a good thing – so far so obvious, right?

So it always surprises me when other people don’t operate the same way.

One of the worst places I’ve encountered this is on aeroplanes. Whether this is because planes bring out the worst in people, or simply becauses it’s more noticable when everyone’s trapped together inside a big flying metal tube, I’m not sure.

To be honest, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably quite a considerate person anyway. But hopefully it’ll be useful to the person reading this over your shoulder. (Yes, that’s right: I’m talking to you, sneaky reader. Keep reading and learn something.)

how to not be that annoying person on a long-haul flight


8 ways to not be that person on a long-haul (or mid-range, or short-haul) flight:


1) If you want to listen to music on your phone, use headphones.

Surely this is common sense. Surely nobody would be so inconsiderate as to subject an entire Airbus full of tired travellers to their terrible music, played at full volume through their phone’s tinny speakers? Right?


This is something I’ve encountered more frequently on trains (practically every time I take a train somewhere), but it’s also happened in the air – even on a plane where earphones were provided free of charge.

I’m sure you’re very proud of your taste in music and would love to share it with the world, but the middle of a trans-Atlantic flight probably isn’t the best time or place.


2) Don’t make out.

There are plenty of things to do on a flight. Watch the films. Read a book. Have a snooze.

I mean seriously, are you that desperate that you can’t even go the length of a flight without writhing all over your partner like a many-tentacled squid?

If you’re that set on joining the mile high club, then at least have the decency to do it in the bathroom, not at your seat. Aeroplanes are not roomy places, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so claustrophobic as being squashed into a seat next to a very affectionate couple when the seat belt sign was on. (The time I got stuck in a lift for 45 minutes with 7 other people only comes a close second.)

Maybe this experience is worse for single travellers, but I don’t think so. I think it’s just bad manners. Please don’t do it.


3) If you have a layover, use it as an opportunity to wash.

Long stuffy flight = interesting body smells.

I once sat next to a man on the second leg of a London-Melbourne flight, who clearly hadn’t washed during the break at Singapore Airport. For eight hours, every time he moved I was greeted with an unpleasant whiff of body odour.

Not only will that quick wash make your connecting flight a more pleasant experience for you, but it will be a blessing for your fellow passengers as well.


4) Don’t keep bashing backwards into your seat.

This doesn’t really need any extra explanation. Just don’t do it, please.


5) Be considerate about armrests.

Remember: the seat is yours, but the armrests are shared.

This means you’re only entitled to half of each arm rest. Not three quarters. Not the whole armrest. Not even half of the armrest and a chunk of elbow space on your neighbour’s side of the armrest.


This is one of my pet peeves, both on flights and at the theatre. It’s led me to a slighty aggressive strategy. My tip? Establish armrest dominance ass early as possible in the flight. Get your elbows to where they’re comfortable (while following the ‘half’ rule) and keep them there for the the first 5-10 minutes of the flight. Claim your space.

This may be a bit territorial, but you’ll be glad of it several hours in when you just want to get comfy.


6) If your airline gives you a free newspaper, be aware of how big it is.

This is a similar bugbear to the armrest thing, but sometimes even the most considerate of travellers forget that the ‘shared armrest’ space also apples to the space above the armrest – and, more importantly, the space above their neighbour’s seat.

This is not your space!

Please don’t invade it by unfolding your newspaper to its full size, then holding it up and out so you can read the whole thing at once. Fold it back on itself. Keep it small, rather than ending up with the top of the sport section fluttering just in front of your neighbour’s nose.

If it helps, imagine a glass wall between you and your neighbour, going from the armrest up to the ceiling. Try not to cross this barrier.


7) Don’t assume your neighbour wants to talk.

I love meeting people when I travel. I enjoy chatting to people on planes, trains, buses, boats… I’m from the rural north, where greeting a stranger is normal, and avoiding eye contact on public transport is just a weird thing that Londoners do.

But on aeroplanes, there’s no escape. If you chat to your neighbour too early on, they may feel obliged to keep talking to you, and feel hemmed in by the prospect of a 12 hour flight with you chattering away.

Or it could backfire the other way. Your neighbour could turn out to be a real chatterbox, and 5 minutes in, you’ll be wishing you could take back your opening gambit and just sit and watch the films. (Tip: this is where the headphones come in handy.)

I’m not saying to ignore the person next to you – a little comment or two is fine, and you may even hit it off – but nobody wants to engage in several hours of meaningless smalltalk.


8) But mostly: JUST THINK.

Common sense is called ‘common’ for a reason. We all have it, we just need to remember to use it.

Just be conscious of the fact that you’re not alone, and be considerate of those around you.

This is not your own personal chartered plane. You have to share it with others, and they all want to have a pleasant flight, too. (Unless of course you are on your own personal chartered plane – in which case have a ball! And invite me along, too, please.)


What are your aeroplane horror stories? Anyone that you wish (however uncharitably) had missed the flight and let you travel in a bit of peace?

how to not be that annoying person on a long-haul flight

2 thoughts on “How To Not Be That Annoying Person on a Long-Haul Flight (or any flight, for that matter)

    1. Agreed! Another sign I don’t want to talk: I’m reading my book. Especially when I’m clearly about 2 pages from the end… Not the right time or place for a chit-chat!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *