The 10 Airline Passengers You Don't Want To Be

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.


    1. the dude who leans on you while he sleeps.
    2. the guy who gets completely bombed on the flight.
    3 people who don't have their shit together at check in or can't handle the ability to use the self check in for domestic, its not hard.
    4.the idiot who leans their seat back when during the meals so the tray either jams you in the gut or gets bloody close, then gets offended when you reach forward press the button then push his seat forward for him.
    5. in addition to the BO people, the people who take off their shoes and shit while flying but either don't change their socks or haven't worn clean ones so we all get bombarded by foot stick.
    6. complaining about the meals, i've been flying for years the food has gotten better since the mid 90's. you want bad in flight food the RAAF just give you a paper bagged sandwich and a juice box lol.

      "2. the guy who gets completely bombed on the flight."

      I've had this guy on a flight home from Brisbane. Pretty much as soon as the plane was up he ordered a VB; 15 minutes later, orders another. I swear he drank 3 before the meals were brought around. By the end of the flight (BNE to ADL) he would have drank at least a six-pack and was well tanked and annoying everyone around him.

        3 beers.. You can't be seriously complaining about this? Who would be drunk after 3 (crap) beers?

        15 hour flight, 6 double scotches in 1st hour. pass out for the next 14! Only way to go.

      "4.the idiot who leans their seat back when during the meals so the tray either jams you in the gut or gets bloody close, then gets offended when you reach forward press the button then push his seat forward for him."

      Yes, this is crappy behaviour, but did you perhaps think about just telling them this, before reaching into their space, pressing the button and pushing them forward? Just because someone else is a dick doesn't mean you should be one.

    On a flight this weekend three examples of typical behaviour
    1. Learn where you seat is. A lady got on the back stairs and had to come all the way down the isle to seat 1A!!!
    2. Switch off your phone when told to. One guy had to be told 4 times to switch off his phone.
    3. Listen to announcements. Our push back was delayed because the lady whom I recognised sitting opposite me in the terminal seemed to have failed to listen or see that everyone was boarding!!! is an additional list of people you don't want to be stuck with.

    Dad always told the story of a friend of his who traveled interstate with friends of theirs who had never flown before and wasn't really in a hurry to get to the airport "There will be plenty of time!". Long story short, the friends (who had never flown) stopped off to get coffee and have a meal before flying, and they made it to the plane with literally seconds to spare before they took off without them. Needless to say, Dad's friend was incredibly cheesed.

    As a semi regular traveler over the years, and now a parent of a two year old, I both understand comment #9 and also urge people to have as much patience as possible. Sometimes you simply cannot force a kid to be good for an extended period. If the parent is trying to do the right thing, try and be supportive. If the parent is doing nothing, then by all means be annoyed, but if I'm doing my best to control my child and somebody gets unreasonably aggro about it, well then I just lose the incentive to try and do the right thing - you WILL get kicked in the back for the rest of the flight after that point. :-)

      yes and some of the kicks will be from me (the adult kid), especially of the way you went about pointing out the bleeding obvious about my kids behavior was rude or offensive. :)

        Like :-)

        My worst experience with my daughter flying was when she was 7 months old. At the airport asleep for a midnight flight from Melbourne to Darwin, when an announcement louder than any we'd heard from the airport boomed right next to us and woke her up......And she then screamed for the first three hours of the flight.....standing up the front of the jetstar flight trying to rock her to sleep with everyone staring at us like we're evil incarnate: Hey if you think you know how to get her to sleep, we'd ALL appreciate your special magic touch!!!!!!

    The person who argues with the security guard at the scanning point, about the necessity of putting your keys and phone in the box for scanning.

    Whenever I discuss how much I hate flying out of Avalon on a weekend, and mention that person, people nod and make comments about foreigners. old people, or other minority groups. Like they have a monopoly on stupid. The person in question was caucasian, appeared to be in their mid thirties, had a typical aussie accent, and had a fairly reasonable vocabulary without any obvious boganism. Stupidity is everywhere.

    " #1 The Odor Offender"
    One of the worst as it doesn't really end until the flight is over and unlike the others, isn't a temporary issue.

    My greatest annoyance is the person who is always late to board because they like to hear (or more importantly, need everybody else to hear) their name called over the intercom. And then they get to make a grand entrance, and walk up the aisle so everybody notices them.
    Typically, I notice that offenders are over represented by entertainers, sportspeople, politicians. So, you want me to know that you are flying somewhere? Guess what? SO AM I!

    On the flip-side of babies not knowing what they're doing - parents do, and I'd like to make a public request for all parents of young children and babies to consider whether their kids /really/ need to fly. For them it's just another day of parenthood, but for all the other passengers, especially on international, it's a special kind of hell.

      Are you for real? How can a parent consider whether the kids really need to fly? what should they do, leave them at home? My wife is from another country and we've flown there and back since my daughter was 10 months old and luckily, she's pretty chilled out but some kids are just restless.

      I hate how adults get all worked up over annoying kids, children have short attention spans, deal with it. This insistent demand that kids need to shut up, be quite and comply as to not annoy other people is pathetic. Just look at this article, would you ask any of these people to reconsider flying because they smell bad?

      Yes, because parents fly with kids for the fun of it!!

      It's bloody hard work travelling with kids, you don;t do it if you don't need to, it doesn't help that Australian airports don't let you check stollers at the gate, and give the baby bassinets to passengers who don't have kids as "they'd like some more leg room".

      We travelled with Qantas last year on an early evening flight from BNE to PER, there were 3 babies on the plane, and 3 bassinets. Speaking to the other parents we had all requested a bassinet, and guess what, none of us was given one. Some grumpy old bastard got most upset when I asked if he'd mind changing seats so our baby could sleep, and the hosties weren't interested in trying to help.

    You forgot this one:

    The person who board the flight, find sthier seat, then proceeds to block EVERYONE ELSES PROGRESS while they stand in the aisle organising themselves and all their gadgets, books, magazines, knitting etc before putting their bag into the overhead locker... while we all stand there and WAIT for two minutes... !!!

    This is how it's designed to work. You find your seat. You put your bag IMMEDIATELY into the overhead locker... you take your seat. GET OUT OF THE AILSE !!! Then when everyone else is boarded and seated.. please feel free to get up and organise your stuff THEN. I will even help you at this stage. But NOT when the other 150+ passengers are impeded from their ingress into the cabin because YOU are more important than everyone else and YOU have to be organised JUST RIGHT while we stand there waiting...

    (can you tell this REALLY annoys me.... ;-)

    As for kids and babies on flights... it's luck of the draw and it's part of life. You just deal with it and move on. It's only a thing if you chose to make it a thing. I say this as a single childless, mostly solo traveler. One who also invested in a pair of Bose QC-15's :-)

    A lot of baby/toddler crying on takeoff and landing is due to sinus pain. Parents, please stop torturing your children (and paranasal sinus collapse *is* torture, I've had it) and bring a saline spray with you.

    I travel a lot for work and while I've encountered all of these people, the guy who slams his seat all the way back without warning or care for the person behind them is by far the worst. I've had my laptop screen casing crushed, my knees crushed, drinks knocked over and in one case when I was bending down to get something out of my bag, was almost jammed head-low in my seat.

    There is a special circle of hell reserved for those people. Look behind you and go slow; or better yet, do what the experienced travelers do and simply don't recline all the way. It's an unwritten rule at the front of economy.

    Theres an amazing lot of whiners here. Nothing is perfect and it's only for a few short hours get over it. I've never had a person recline there seat on me as I'm too tall and have my knees pushed so hard into their backrest, they can't move. And before you whine at me, let me tell you it's much worse for me. You can't always get an exit row seat. And after putting up with the leg pain for so long, I get oblivious to all these other complaints, they're a non issue. Also I'm definitely old enough to remember when it was way too expensive to fly between Melbourne and Sydney and had to always drive, and
    That was single lane each way. That was WAY worse than one hour next to the smelly person from hell.

    And the worst one of the lot.... drum roll please... the phantom farter !! Please, I really don't want to know what your next crap is going to smell like.

    The people sitting behind me who put their feet on my armrest. They are my only annoyance. I react by thrusting my elbow at their feet.

    Worst for me was an international flight out of Dubai filled with men.

    1. The queue was slightly confusing, so passengers thought it best to queue jump to the front of the queue - to stop other people from queue jumping, the guy behind me thought it best to stick so close that he was constantly hitting my leg with his trolley.

    2. Guys who orders 2-3 drinks at once. So that when the steward gets to me they haven't got any drinks left except for juice and water.

    3. When the pilot announces that the plane is descending to land, passengers who grab all their carry-on bags and have them on their lap. Why? There are no prizes for being the first ones out of the plane.

    I think everyone has forgot the people that shoot up as soon as we've reached the aerobridges. You aren't going anywhere until the doors are open - chillax!

    I can handle almost anything except arm rest hogs, sure I could act civil but usually I just hijack the armrest and won't move for the rest of the flight.

    1. Belt off, laptop out and everything from my pockets moved into my bags when going through security
    2. Go to the bathroom before I get on the flight
    3. Everything I need from my bag in my hands before I get on the plane.

    You've forgotten the snorer!! I once had the luxury of flying first class many years ago but the snorer across the aisle still kept me awake the whole flight. The guy sitting next to him even moved to business class to avoid him!!

    On a recent flight in the US they boarded the flight by rows, and were strict about it. Made boarding quite good and flowed until I got on about 4 rows back from First Class and all the overhead storage was full. A number of passengers who were sitting down the back had dumped their luggage up the front, now everyone up the front was trying to get down the back of the plane to find spots for their luggage.

    In the US hardly anyone checks their luggage (due to extra charges). I have seen people dump luggage not near seat too often. Very annoying.

    11: The guy with the iPod up too high

    I saw an interesting show on TV the other day where some professor of a univeristy in Australia developed a "new" boarding system.. basically, his idea is to have people board by your seat location. I.e. everyone with a window seat boards first, followed by everyone with a middle seat, then everyone with an aisle seat. They timed it in a controlled environment and then re-did the test with most airlines standard boarding where they call you in chunks or rows. Was alot faster his way. Would be interesting to see it in real time and if any airlines take notice.

    It's always baffled me why people want/need to get on the plane first (aside from making sure you get space for your carry ons). I'd rather chill out at the gate with my legs stretched out and be the last person on the plane if i knew id get bag space.

      They had an article about this either on here or on gizmodo and one of the reasons they don't do it that way is that it splits up families and people travelling together. I still believe the best alternative is to not have overhead storage because that's what makes people take forever, stuffing their crap in their bins.

        They don't do it because they don't wantb to split up families or people travelling together? What a laugh! Most flight board times no longer than about 15mins and if you can't be apart from someone for that length of time then you need to get a life (or tell air staff that you need to board with your under AOC child)

    On a flight from LAX to Sydney there was an over weight women in the seat next to me. A few hours into the flight I got up to walk around. Then I noticed the side of my jeans were damp. She had sweat into my jeans. I told a flight attendant but there were no empty seats to move to. Worst flight ever. I never flew United again.

      Oh my god funniest thing ive read in ages hahahahaha

    Don't be the dickhead who thinks it's a travesty that someone dares to recline their seat. We all like the seat back (not at mealtimes), put yours back, and get on with it. For the plonker above that likes to jam his legs into the seat on front, you're exactly the sort of person that should be on this list.

    People who make a mess in the lavatory/bathroom. I.e piss ON the seat or leave tissues everywhere. Sigh, there is no plane trip for me where I don't have to cleanup after somebody else's mess so I can use the toilet and also, so people after me don't think I made the mess. Sad panda.

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