5 most annoying habits of infrequent flyers

Filthy airplane feet (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Over time, most frequent travelers adopt an unruffled, zen-like attitude when it comes to flying. But at times, especially during the peak season, infrequent flyers exhibit certain behaviors that get under their skin. Here are my top five irritants. What are yours?

1) Seatback tappers- You know,  the ones who repeatedly tap-tap-tap on the seatback entertainment screen to play games, change channels or who knows what. Since they don’t fly much, they don’t realize how irritating it is for the person in front of them to feel that constant knock that hits square on the back of the head. As soon as you think they’ve quit, it starts over again. After about 15 minutes, I’ll turn around and give ’em an arched eyebrow… what about you?

2) Pushy recliners- These folks can do real damage to an open laptop, or knock a drink right out of your hand and into your lap. They apply full backward pressure on the seatback, and then POW! They discover that that funny little button is what makes the seat go back– and right into your personal space. I can’t say this with complete authority, but from what I observe, most frequent travelers no longer recline their seats unless they are on an overnight flight. Do you still recline?

3) Aisle hogs- During boarding, these are the folks who think they can yank their overstuffed wheelie-bag down the aisle, and act surprised when it doesn’t fit and they keep running into seats and knees. Pick the bag up already, and get down the aisle! There are 150 people behind you! And once you’ve stuffed that monster into the bin, don’t go back and block the aisle while you fetch your magazines or iPod. Sit down in your seat and get outta the way. You can go back to your bag after we take off.

4) Boarding line breakers- These are the novices who act like they are deaf or don’t speak English, or can’t read when gate agents are boarding by zone, and wander into the zone 1 group when they are actually in zone 5. What are even more irritating are gate agents who don’t pay attention and let these slouches board anyway. Back off, Jack!

5) Typhoid Marys- Most frequent travelers know that when they are in tiny tubes darting through the stratosphere, they should keep their germs to themselves. Most infrequent travelers haven’t learned that yet, and sneeze or cough without covering, prop their feet (sometimes bare) up on the the bulkheads, tray tables or armrests … even after a trip to the lavatory. These are the same folks who grab their bags in overhead bins by the wheels (which have rolled through all kinds of muck), and then touch your seatback, tray table, armrest, light switch or air vent. If you are seated by the window, these are also the hands passing drinks and food to you. Yuck! Bring on the Handi-Wipes!

Okay, now that I’ve had my Crabby McCraberton moment, it’s time  for me to retreat back into my frequent traveler zen skin and to remember that now’s the time to offer tolerance (and maybe even help) to the infrequent flyers, especially during this peak summer travel season.  All of us were once one ourselves.

But… what about you? What habits of infrequent flyers irritate you most? Please leave your comments below!


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  • Pointsandtravel

    You mentioned the tappers on the seat, but the ones that really annoy me are the ones that grab my seat to stand up. They put so much force using their hand (ie their body weight) that they push my seat back, which is especially annoying when I am sleeping! DON’T TOUCH MY SEAT GRRRR!

  • Jasmine

    People who carry backpacks and don’t realize how much space they take up when walking down the aisle. Tired of getting smacked by them

  • http://about.me/monicaricci Monica Ricci

    OMG I just realized after I hit “POST” how LONG my comment is!! EEK. Bad form. Maybe I should post it on my own blog instead — SO sorry about clogging up the works!

  • http://about.me/monicaricci Monica Ricci

    There have been years I’ve traveled 4 times and other years I’ve traveled 24 times and regardless, I am uber conscious of manners and trying not to inconvenience others. I try to be positive in life in general, but since we’re being candid, I’ma share a few of my air travel peeves. Apologies if I’m obnoxiously re-stating the original post.

    1. Don’t pretend your refrigerator-size “carry on” is really a carry on bag. Puh-leeze. This is not a conference call, Johnson. We all have eyes and we can see you’ve packed half of everything you own. Suck it up and pay the baggage fee or here’s an idea: PACK LIGHTER. :)

    2. Ladies with purses (and guys with shoulder-strap briefcases): Please carry it in your hand and not on your shoulder, as you come down the aisle. Believe it or not, nobody enjoys getting smacked in the face with your “personal item” (ahem) even if it is made of Louis Vuitton leather and is soft as a suckling lamb’s ass.

    3. Here’s a concept: On a full flight, assume everyone gets ONE SPOT in the overheads. If you have two bags, put your smaller item under the seat in front of you, so the REST OF US who have also followed the rules don’t have to be inconvenienced by gate-checking. It ain’t rocket science.

    4. Your seat back does recline a full 2.56 inches but for GOD’S SAKE the person behind you might have a drink or an open laptop on the tray table (which is connected to your seat by the way) so how ’bout you EASE that seat into the recline position instead of slamming it backward, eh Cowboy?

    5. Don’t hog the arm rest. Seriously rude, dude. I know I’m a petite woman and I’m smaller than you but if you insist on taking the entire armrest, we’re gonna have the “Armrest 101″ conversation and I’ll be forced to explain to you in a voice loud enough for those around you to hear, that you get EITHER the front half OR the back half and not both halves. Yes I have done this. Don’t make me do it again. Also not rocket science. Just common courtesy.

    6. Be ready when the flight attendant asks you what you want to drink. Don’t blink in blank stare surprise as if you just now noticed that giant rolling mini-bar coming down the aisle. FFS, do you REALLY NOT KNOW what sodas, juices and cocktails are available on a plane? Hint: You ain’t gettin’ an Old Fashioned or a Grasshopper on the rocks. Here’s another hint: When the FA comes on the PA and says “Check the back of your in-flight magazine for a complete listing of of soft drinks, juices and cocktails” it’s a good idea to do that. In advance.

    7. Finally… about this deplaning thing… Am I the only Crabby McCrabberson who is annoyed when the people from row 27 are suddenly appear beside my seat IN ROW 12 before row 2 is even standing up? Listen champ, we all want to rush off the plane and hit the nearest airport Orange Julius, but chill out.* Once — just ONCE — I’d like to experience a plane emptying in an orderly fashion from the front to the back just like you file out of the church at a wedding. Is that really too much to ask?

    *In the event of a tight connection, of COURSE you can run out from the last row like your hair was on fire. I’m MORE than happy to stay seated so you make your connection. I get it. We’ve all had connections to make. But those of you who fake that you’re connecting and aren’t? That’s just wrong. You know who you are.

  • islandwebfoot

    My biggest complaints about flying involve those folks who totally lack respect and demonstrate an unwillingness to conform to acceptable behavior.

    Bin hogs are at the top of my list. These rudy passengers think their posessions are so importants, that they deserve an entire bin to themselves. They routinely over stuff the bin to accomodate their belongs, squishing anything that happens to be in their way. This type of passenger will even remove other peoples belongings and move them to another bin, just to make room for their own stuff.

    Runners are another annoying fact of life that one encounters all too often when flying. These are the last minute passengers who sprint through the cabin door, a mere second or two before it closes. Then they rush down the aisle, bumping and slapping all the aisle passengers with their bag(s), before finally reaching their assigned seat (usually at the rear of the cabin).

    Oh, my day would not be complete without mentioning those fools who tear off their seat belt and make a dash for the lavatory, despite the fact that they have been told during the briefing to remain seated while the seatbelt sign is illuminated.

    These folks should not be allowed in an airport, let alone on a plane. Why do they all have a smug sense of superiority and think they are exempt for rules and regulations, and all forms of common sense?

  • judy serie nagy

    Oh, Nedra, I thought I was just being overly sensitive about the guy behind me grabbing the back of MY seat with all his weight! I want to scream when that happens, and if I’ve been napping I frequently do scream. Are people able to think outside of themselves at all? Not on an airplane apparently.

  • Tim

    Thank god for first class.

  • Travis

    I agree with Julie 110%…those people are in my list too!

  • Julia

    Travelers who carry on more than their allotment, and monopolize the overhead bins while leaving the space under the seat in front of them empty.
    They are probably the same ones who hog the overhead bins with their winter coats. Inconsiderate.

    I’ve had to check my bag more than once for both of these reasons, which defeats the purpose of only taking a carry-on since I then have to wait for my bag at the carousel. GRRR.
    I will now start calling them out on it.

  • Will

    People who refuse to actually get up and move out to the aisle to let you get to the window seat. Like really? You want my crotch in your face?

  • Sue

    When their giant, over-stuffed “personal item” carry on, swinging from their shoulder hits the heads of those who have already boarded and are siting in their seats. Smack, smack, smack – HEY! Those are people’s HEADS that your giant bag is slamming into. I have been hit in the head so many times by clueless travelers’ bags and nearly lost a pair of glasses this way!

  • HA

    #1: travelers who jump out of their seat as soon as the plane stops to grab their bag from the overhead just to stand in the aisle for about 15 minutes. you’re not gonna be able to GO anywhere!

    #2: wheels in first!

  • einsf

    or rather, “other’s” personal space :)

  • einsf

    While I completely agree with all of the travel grievances mentioned in this article, I’m going to play devil’s advocate on both sides. I don’t know what we’re defining as “frequent” traveling (and btw, how the heck do you know who is a frequent vs non-frequent traveler? did you ask them? people wearing signs now?), but in my opinion, these obnoxious behaviors have less to do with the frequency of travel and more to do with people in general having manners and being self-aware. I only travel a few times per year, but I always make a point to not disrupt others’ personal space & comfort and to obey the airline employees. It’s called being polite… you either get it or you don’t.

  • Dave

    Agreeing with Travis. So many people never seem to understand that the rows are in some sort of numerical order. They stop at each one, checking the number, on both sides of the aisle, then move a couple of paces to check the next ones. Eventually, they find their seat, by some miracle.

    Then there are the back-of-the-line people who complain loudly about the airline and how incompetent it is, just because the boarding process is slow. The cause for delay is almost always the other passengers; the employees try to move people along.

    A few months ago, on a UA flight from YVR to SFO, it took so long to board I started to think I was on a 747 by mistake, not a 737. When everyone finally got settled, we heard the pilot’s voice … “we are a bit late because it took so long to get everyone on board, and I am really not sure why.”

  • TW

    I’m still dumbfounded by the high percentage of people in security lines who are evidently taking a flight for the first time in 10 years. You mean I have to take out my computer? I can’t take this 32oz bottle of hand lotion?

  • Louis

    People who expect you to give up your seat so they can sit with the friend, husband, wife or child……

    The reason i got the aisle and bulkhead seat is because I have 300,000 miles and no I do not want to sit in the center seat in the back.

  • Travis

    “…Oh and I should add that seat grabbers tend to be people with mobility problems–I think you should be grateful they’re grabbing your seat instead of falling into your lap…”

    They’re talking about the ones that grab the back of your headrest/seat…if you need to grab something, push against the overhead, don’t grab and shake the back of the seat in front of you–very annoying.

    “…Boy, you frequent travelers are an entitled bunch…”

    In what way? Asking for lost people to just get out of the aisle so the 140+ people behind them can board? Asking people to be responsible for their own carry-on bags? Asking people to just do what the TSA asks and quit arguing with them?

    Those things are “entitlement”? Really?

    Most who travel frequently do not push the seat back unless it’s a longer flight (3+ hours).

  • Mike Lee

    GATE LICE!!!!!!!!!!!

    Please get out of the way, if you are boarding group 5. It’s normal that Group 1-4 will board before you. Standing in the way does not make the process faster.

    I’m sure people will hate this, but airlines need to start charging for carry on bags. There’s a reason that lines at security is so long. It’s not because of the full body scanners, it’s because everyone is trying to avoid paying the baggage check-in fees, so they bring their entire closet to the gate. Spirit is on to something and making money!

  • bbinsf

    Oh and I should add that seat grabbers tend to be people with mobility problems–I think you should be grateful they’re grabbing your seat instead of falling into your lap.

  • bbinsf

    Boy, you frequent travelers are an entitled bunch. I’m one of the hoi polloi who doesn’t travel much, and I find that it’s the FREQUENT travelers wo are the most obnoxious about reclining their head into my lap.

  • Nedra

    the seat grabbers… the people who can’t get up from their seat without fully grabbing the seat in front of them and pulling it all the way back, then letting go so that you’re almost catapulted straight up. They usually follow this by walking down the aisle and touching every single seat they pass.

  • Travis

    Here’s a few of my personal favorites of infrequent fliers:

    1) “What?!?! Since when do I have to take off my shoes before going through that scanner-thingy…”

    2) Apparently most never played bingo: match the ROW number and the SEAT letter with the ones on the little piece of paper with your name on it. No joke, five wasted minutes of my life LAST WEEK with an annual traveler trying to figure out that row 19 is AFTER row 6…

    3) Let me kick the back of your seat all flight and then ask for your help to get my 9,000lb so-called “carry-on” bag out of the overhead…it makes sense since you virtually demanded that I do it during loading….