What’s The Rudest Thing You’ve Seen Or Experienced When Flying?

What’s The Rudest Thing You’ve Seen Or Experienced When Flying?

Being stuck for hours in a cramped aeroplane seat can really bring out the worst in people. You might have a few examples of strangers discarding common courtesy on a plane, from playing loud videos to letting kids run wild to your seatmate falling asleep on you. What’s the rudest thing you’ve seen?


Steven Frischling (aka flyingfish in the travel hacker world) laments the end of travel etiquette and common courtesy, describing a flight in which his seatmate whacked him with her bag (twice), took her shoes and socks off her smelly feet, woke him for the drinks service (when the cart was already past their row), and tucked her pillow behind his shoulder to fall asleep on him. What a nightmare — one that isn’t hard to imagine.

He also points out an incredible situation where parents let their kids slap stickers all over the wall of the aircraft (photo at right), in addition to leaving rubbish all over the seating area.

Do you have a similar story or can you top this? Let’s hear it!

Travel Etiquette and Common Courtesy … Get Some! [Boarding Area]


  • PanAm stewardess ramming her cart repeatedly into my knee to get down the aisle. A great way to be woken on your first international flight.

  • This is pretty bland but a “lady” behind me constantly complained about everything but threw a fit when I was served my meal early (nut free meal) because she was hungry too. In the end I turned around and gave her my bread roll and asked her to be a little more patient. She pouted for the rest of the flight. Afterwards the attendant thanked me.

  • Is taking shoes and socks off that bad? I do it pretty frequently (I make sure my feet don’t stink of course) and no one has ever shot me a dirty look.
    Maybe it is strange and I’ve only ever sat next to polite people…

  • I was sitting towards the back of the plane, one row in from the rear bulkhead on an overnight Malaysian Airlines flight from KL to Sydney. After the meals had been tidied away and the movies started I reclined my seat, only to have someone push hard from behind. I figured it was someone just getting comfortable, but not, it happened again. I looked around and there was a German dude. I eyeballed him and sat back round. 30 seconds later, he’s punching the seat again. So I turn around angrily and ask him what his problem is and he complains that my seat’s reclined. I point out that his seat is reclined too, but fortunately for him there’s no-one behind him to punch his seat. He tells me to put my seat forward, I tell him to fuck off, he punches the seat again. At this point I get the cabin-crew involved – tell ’em what’s been happening and they speak to the German. He complains for bloody ages, but stops being a prick from then on. I kept that motherfucking chair reclined until we are asked to raise them for landing in Sydney by the cabin crew.

        • when u fly enough, i would get this with in 1 in 4 flights i took. Some make it look like an accident, some just keep doing it til you question them. most of the *icks you see fly dont fly enough to learn to be polite on flights.

        • My knees hit the back of the seat in front of me when it’s upright. Generally speaking, the person in front can’t recline, and if they try to then they end up with my knees in their back quite hard. I’m not being impolite, I’ve got long legs.

          • My general rule with reclining is that if the person behind me is reclining or they’re asleep, then I go for it, otherwise I just politely ask them if it’s okay for me to recline.

          • I’m 6’4″ (mostly in the legs) and I’m a big fan of the knees forced into the back of the seat method, whether it’s voluntarily or embellished.
            Chairs reclined all the way back also has the flow on effect of reducing upper torso space, so that when a meal is served the only way to wield the cutlery is to go full on T-rex arms.

          • What? I’m 6’2″ and have never found the NEED to jam my knees not someone’s back. You can sit them spread wide to give you a bit more room…go straight under the seat in front..I generally go for an aisle so I can get a bit of extra leg room out the side. It’s not hard….if you really do have that much of a problem then pay the extra for more legroom (emergency exit seats can often be bought these days). There’s always business and first class if you are so precious.

            No one should ever have their seat back during meal times, takeoff and landing but other than that they should be allowed to recline their seat and douchebags who try exceedingly hard not to let them are the ones in the wrong.

          • I think that we need to separate the issues.

            Issue 1 Reclining seats.

            Apart from obvious rudeness (e.g.. slamming back your seat so the drink on the poor person’s table behind you gets flung in their face), reclining the seat is your right just as it is anyone elses.

            Issue 2 Lack of room for tall people.

            Well this is no one else’s fault other than the airline. Saying people should not recline their seats because of no fault of their own is a bit selfish in my opinion. Editted to add that i’m in no way saying that Cheshire is saying that, i’m just trying to make a point.

            Although a bit of thoughtfulness and kindness doesn’t go stray from both sides.

      • No Johnd blame the airlines not the passengers, on a long international flight you need to be able to recline the seat so you can sleep. If you have long legs then check out what the seat pitch of said airline and aircraft is and choose another airline or pay extra for an exit row where you have enough room for your legs. Other passengers are not at fault, the airline seat pitch is and I simply refuse to fly any cattle class airline ever again because of such restrictive spaces.

        • Cathay Pacific aircraft seats recline in. When you recline your seat, your seat moves forward, giving you less leg room, but the person behind is not affected in anyway. The seat sits inside a shell. The shell does not move.

      • I would have thought the German was the “prime example of why air travel is so unpleasant today”. Accordingly, Johnd’s reaction is just about right – if he happened to be that German in the story…

        Other Lifehacker contributors might form the view that Johnd is a first world troll, but I couldn’t possibly say, based on this single thoughtless comment.

      • For short flights (generally less than 3 hours), there’s no need to recline. On international flights, I’ll make concession. Bur from Syd to Mel, there’s no reason to recline, but a lot of people do because ‘they can’

  • My worst experience was on a flight from Honolulu to Sydney. This Tongan family had a young fat kid maybe 8-11 years old. He comes and suddenly hijacks the seat next to mine and puts headphones on full blast. I’d been stuck in Honolulu airport for over 24 hours without sleep so was relishing that I had a couple of spare seats next to me to sleep. So this kid is there and all I hear is dsssshh dsssshhh dissssh bmmm bmmm bmmm etc from his headphones keeping me awake. Not to mention this kids constant moving in his seat.

    At one point a flight attendant walked past to which this kid pinched her on the butt hard. I was about ready to deck this kid by this point (I’d been flying my whole life as my father was flight crew for a major airline). I almost said something to the flight attendant to bring attention to what this kid did.

    Then just as we were getting ready to land in Fiji (for a brief stopover) the flight attendants bring around a bowl of mint candies and other candies for passengers to freshen up. Well this kid dives into the bowl with both hands and scoops out a ton of the candy into his lap.

    That was one time I will never forget and wished I could have publicly humiliated someone’s kid.

    In general though the incessant loud talker behind is always rude, the person who’s got an obvious contagious disease who should have been quarantined, the parents who let their kids kick the seat in front for hours on end, the person who shoves all of their belongings into the seat pocket causing your seat to stick painfully into your back (instead of stowing items under the seat or in the overhead compartment) are all offenders at the top of my list.

  • @shanby @kanthan @Mahray
    Not sure what the point is here? I’ve flown cattle class and it’s not fun but imo the German dude was being a dick by kicking and punching the seat, he could have asked. As for the dude reclining, unless this was a cattle class flight (not mentioned) the seat should have had enough room to recline, that’s what the recline is for. If there’s no room to recline then the seats should not be able to do so, if they do recline in cattle class then the stewards should at least tell people not to. They are actually considering putting in seats where you more or less stand but sort of lean back into the seat for short flights to get more bodies on board!

  • I’ve had my fair share of rude people when flying (being kicked in the back over 15 hours by a kid, slept on, coughed over, slept on, snored at, spew splashed, annoyed by kids, listened to screaming babies, panic grabbed, etc). While annoying at the time, these have become fun dinner party stories where I entertain by taking the mickey. Unfortunately, while in that confined space you have little choice but to do what you can to make the best of it. Lest face it, its not like you can ask to be let off!

    What I would really like to comment on is the very crap and annoying attitudes of certain of my fellow travellers.

    Air travel used to be for the well off and has always had that hint of exotic exclusivity about it. Fortunately these days it is enormously more affordable. But this exclusivity myth seems to bring out the worst in people.

    The snotty “would be if they could be’s” who are flying cattle class (because thats all they can afford), suddenly see themselves become part of the superior rich jetset as they sit in seat 138J. They think this gives them the right to become obsessively demanding and picky when they expect Moet but get Jacobs Creek, want roasted nuts but get Nobby’s and want silver service but get a plastic spoon. They treat the cabin crew as servants in some form of modern Downton Abbey.

    Many “business travellers” (generally alpha males) think and behave as if they are more important than all others on the plane. Regardless of their seat number they want to get on first, get off last and won’t turn off their laptops, phones or other devices unless asked 6 times. I’ve seen some pull others bags out of the overheads and put their bag in place then put that removed bag down on an empty seat. They turn on their mobiles while we are still braking down the runway, and are pulling down their luggage when there is still a mile to travel to get to the terminal. They always push you aside to get their things out of the lockers. Listen guys, you are just pricks dressed in a suit!

    Now “Bogans”! Bogans drink until they are stupid, they open their duty free Bundy or Jack Daniels to drink on the flight after they have been refused service for being drunk. They see it as their rite of passage to re-live their favourite sports teams’ mythical alcoholic antics while on the flight. This in-flight social celebration with their mates, more befitting of a sawdust floor pub where there is room to fight and vomit, is more important to them than the safety of the flight. Unfortunately you need to take pity on them because when they were born, they missed out on a portion of the brain that most of rest of us have as standard.

    Watching the crew go through those “not again” moments as they deal with these types (and others) always presents me with an opportunity to comment and empathise. This works well because I get an extra drink for later or some sort of other small special attention or service. This often (but not always) makes up for whatever problem has occurrred affecting me. Besides, if I can ensure they get back in a good frame of mind, everyone else on the flight also wins!

  • I didn’t regard it as rude, but a couple of people told off this chick who changed her clothes in the aisle – from Hong Kong to London. She had PJs on, when we got about 15 minutes from London, she took of her PJ pants & top (she had underwear on) and put on her jeans and T-Shirt

  • Got shafted by Malaysia Airlines recently. Paid extra for an exit row seat but got a regular window seat instead. None of the cabin crew seemed to care when I explained it to them even though I told them I suffer from claustrophobia. Goes without saying… it was the worst 8 hours of my life trying to manage the panic attacks.

    It’s been 2 months since I made a complaint and still no word. Clearly will not fly with them again.

  • On a flight from Cairns to Melbourne last year with my partner and 1 year old daughter (who did not cry the whole trip) the gentleman in front reclined his seat fully first chance he got, which on domestic jetstar then does not give a great deal of room, left it there the whole trip, pulled out his laptop and proceeded to watch pretty hardcore pornography for most of the trip which was fully viewable through the gap his reclined seat made.

    • And he didn’t share? Shame on him!

      (But seriously, how ‘strange’ do you have to be to watch porn on a laptop in an area with others? Watching it with your partner is A-OK, watching it with friends is OK, depending on who your friends are) but on a plane? Riiiighhhtt…)

  • Recently on a flight from Melb to Sydney the woman across the isle spent the entire flight painting her nails! I should have asked her to open her window. WTF is wrong with people.

  • Not so much rude, more irritating and a case of.. OH GOD WHYY did you have to sit next to me??
    An empty flight with Japan Airlines from Tokyo to Amsterdam. Empty as in 20 people on
    board a 747 including myself. I got to sit in the bubble! Which was AWESOME!!

    The awesomeness was soon shattered when Mr and Mrs weirdo came up the stairs and decided
    to sit next to me to have a chat about how evil DragonAir is, and they read a book called the Matrix which tells you how the moon is made of cheese and when you hit it it sounds hollow like a bell. (Seriously, no joke, this went on for about 10 mins).

    I stood up to go to the toilet and to get something to drink and seen as hostesses said ‘yeah just sit anywhere’ I moved more towards the front of the plane. Not 20 mins later, there were Mr and Mrs Crackerjacks-Crazy yet again. O hi, we thought we come sit next to you!!!!

    Mr weirdo proceeded in showing me his notes on alien life and modern architecture, while
    Mrs Bonkers decided to do some DVT excersises right in front of me for 2 hours long!!!
    It looked like she was doing a duck waddle for 2 hours. I tried to ignore them by watching tv
    but Mr Loopoid interrupted me every 5 mins to show me something he invented with his magic.

    I was also sitting next to the emergency exits. I was guarding it like a hawk after I met those two,
    but after 5 hours of their bullshit I was thinking of opening that door myself o__O

  • I don’t have any horror stories (except for the guy with bad breath sitting next to me on a 14 hour flight from Sydney to LA), but what I can’t stand (either from stories I’ve heard from friends, tail ends of incidents at airports, or on those TV shows) is people who think they’re different from everyone else. That they shouldn’t have to open their luggage for inspection, or that get huffy when they’ve clearly broken the rules and won’t admit to them (especially when it comes to overweight luggage or banned items like food, wood products etc.)

    I get that flights get delayed and they’re probably pissed off at someone or something that caused the delay, but don’t make this everyone else’s problem.

    On my second trip to the US I missed my connecting flight from Chicago to the regional airport in Indiana because the plane was delayed in getting in. I was pissed because I had to wait 6 hours and missed out on IHOP with my (soon to be) wife and in-laws, but I was still very polite to the lady at the service desk — it wasn’t her fault I missed my flight.

  • I’ve had an incontinent person with the window seat who kept getting up and down during a very long flight. I offered to swap with my aisle seat but he insisted that he wanted to look out the window (when he wasn’t disturbing the two people between him and the aisle).

  • Nothing beats the Chinese. On a SQ flight from Singapore to Melbourne, a Chinese lady and her son sat next to me. They were quiet and well behaved half way through the flight. Then the son says “I need to pee” in mandarin. Then the lady takes out a bottle and gets her son to pee in it at the seats… and there was SPILLAGE. which the mum just wipes on her seat. I promptly got up told the air stewardess and ended up spending the rest of the flight with her at the back chatting and relaxing away from the smell.

  • On one international flight i had a bulkhead seat in the center section, we had douchbags continually using that space to cross over to the other side of the plan in the middle of the flight, i always use the gally as a crossover if i need to.

    On my most recent flight to USA, we had a stupid group of bogans by us, through out the flight they were talking loudly to each other (the 3 center seats and the 3 on the right). Throwing bags of chips at/to each other from the self serve gally. the boganist and most obnoxious of them all decides to take photos of her sleeping friends in front of me on her iPhone at 2 in the morning, with that god awful flash going off in my face. When i asked her to stop she went ballistic, she aparently continued yelling at me after i resumed my movie, cause she said something about ignoring her.

  • On my EK fight from Guangzhou a happy upgrade into Business Class besides me on receiving his hot towel stripped off to the waist and bathed his smelly torso. He kindly deposited the used towel on my armrest. I had an embittered and pungent flight to DXB. I think there should be a proper screening of upgrades ! Am I being unreasonable ? No.

  • Melbourne to Hobart, really short flight. I had gone to Hobart for a job interview that morning and was sitting next to these two elderly Chinese people.

    Towards the end of the flight they announce that bringing fruit into the state is an offender and that it can be disposed of at the terminal or on the plane before entry into the state.

    They pull out two shopping bags of fruit, peaches, oranges and bananas and start slurping, chomping and gulping their way through it all… Placing skins on my lap despite my protests.

    I got so sick of it all I dumped the skins on them (and a juice laden bag) and complained… Cabin crew questioned how they got so much fruit on board; ‘we know the security man at Melbourne his name is…’ Needless to say a security guy lost his job…

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