Forget delays, cramped suits, surly staff and airports that smell like cabbage: the one factor that most consistently ruins the experience of air travel is poorly-behaved passengers. Here are the 10 types that annoy us most. Avoid acting like any of these nightmares.
Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Why am I assembling this list? Because I want to remind my fellow frequent and infrequent fliers that we all make a difference to the in-air experience. I've encountered every one of these horrors on my travels, and all of these problems are completely avoidable. In essence, this list boils down to "don't be a selfish douche", but these issues are now so widespread .
1. The odour offender
We're all trapped in the same cabin, and we're all breathing the same air. Few things get a trip off to a worse start than realising that the person next to you either hasn't remembered to shower, or alternatively has doused themselves in more perfume than you would find in the entrance hall at David Jones. Possibly the only option that's worse is the incessant sleeping farter. In all three cases, you stink, both literally and metaphorically. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
2. The hand luggage hog
There is not infinite space on the plane, so we have pre-reserved a special circle of hell for people who get on board with three bags, all of which are larger than regulation size, and then complain because they can't find space for them, and then crush everyone else's possessions, and then complain again when their luggage is forcibly removed. Indeed, we devoted a whole post to this problem recently. Quite frankly, I wish airlines were tougher on this kind of thing, and I'm quite sympathetic to Tiger, which now weighs everyone's hand luggage. Bring it on!
3. The security queue ignoramus
I don't expect everyone to have my bordering-on-psychotic approach to joining the security queue, where I've cleared everything from my pockets on the train before hitting the airport. But if you're standing in a queue for 20 minutes and surrounded by signs telling you to empty your pockets and get rid of your water bottles, you shouldn't wait until you get to the front of the line to do all of that. Use your time productively. Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images
4. The incessant talker
Sociability is a lovely thing, but international flights out of Australia run for a long time, and very few of us want to talk the entire time. Take the hint: I have put my headphones on for a reason.
5. The toilet queue crasher
Queuing for a toilet on the plane is a fact of life. You don't think everyone in front of you is also keen to use that facility, as unpleasant as it is? Wait your turn. (For similar reasons, we don't recommend the mile-high club.) Photo by Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images
6. The armrest dominator
Yes, this is shared space. If you're on a window or aisle seat, then you have one arm rest you can use in whatever way you like. But that other one, that runs between you and the person next to you? It's not there so you can hang your entire arm over it and elbow your fellow passenger in the kidneys. Show a little consideration and make sure your seatmate also has room to rest their arm. With luck, your good karma will be rewarded and you'll get the occasional luxury of a vacant seat next to you. Picture by Will
7. The incessant luggage checker
There's only one thing more annoying than the person who constantly gets up and down every 10 minutes to retrieve and return items to their luggage in the overhead bin: the same person who also insists on sitting at a window seat. There's plenty of space under the seat in front of you: put what you want there, and then put it all away if you decide to sleep. And schedule your toilet visit at the same time. (Yes, this is less of an issue in the exit row. But still.) Picture by Planes and Places
8. The disease sharer
In an ideal world, you'd avoid getting on the plane altogether if you have a cold or flu. If you have to fly, equip yourself properly: bring plenty of tissues and liquids, cover your mouth, and stock up on medications to minimise your hacking cough. Please. Picture by VirtKitty
9. The feral parents
It's not fair to complain about babies on board: they really have no idea what is happening. But parents travelling with slightly older children should tell them to behave themselves if they get out of line. Yes, it's a long flight and the kids get bored and their ears might pop and we recognise the experience can be frazzling. But if your brat continues to kick me in the back, I will growl at them. And then at you. You're a parent; act like it. Photo by Oli Scarff-WPA Pool/Getty Images
10. The incessant complainer
On my most recent international flight, which was mercifully half-full, a grumpy passenger moved into a seat near me, and then complained about a crying baby nearby, suggesting that it was "ruining his flight". The hostess politely suggested that he could always move back to his original seat, but he refused. Seemed like a clear choice to me, but he whined about it for a full 10 minutes. The hostess kept smiling; I wished she'd spilled a hot drink in his lap instead.
The big lesson? The flight will never be perfect. You don't have to make it worse by being stupidly whiney about it. (And yes, you could say that about this list, but if people didn't do this stuff in the first place, there wouldn't be a list to make.) Picture by Gregg O'Connell
Got your own additions to the list? Share them in the comments
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman is sorry that his knees are sticking into the back of your seat, but he is actually unable to make himself shorter. He does promise not to move too much, though. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.