How to Deal With an Annoying Seatmate in a Plane

Australian comedian, Jim Jefferies places one of his brilliant sketches in an airplane and describes plane etiquette: “Window gets an armrest and a wall. Middle gets two armrests. Aisle gets an armrest and a little bit of extra leg. We’re not animals! We live in a society!”

He actually says it all, these are the rules and we live in a civilized society, but more often than not people seem to get too greedy and too comfortable in a plane. They grab your armrest, take your leg space, and even intrude your personal space. Or, which can be even worse, they are looking for a senseless conversation with the first person next to them, which would be you. For them you are a disposable buddy to pass the time with – well not everybody is jumping on the opportunity to have conversations with complete strangers.

Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, will give you a couple of tips on how to deal with annoying seatmates.

THE SPACE SNATCHER If the guy sitting next to you doesn’t respect your personal space, and intrudes it with a large bag, or just by spreading around, you can say something like, “Boy, are these airplanes getting smaller or what? Could you please move your arm just a little bit?”

THE GUY WHO SNORES – When travelling always bring a pair of noise canceling earphones. Or, if you like listening to music while traveling you can always listen to some tunes and cancel-out the snoring sound. If none of this is a possibility for you, you can request to be relocated.

THE GUY WHO IS SLEEPING THE ENTIRE TRIP – If you have to stand up and stretch, or go to the toilet, but you can’t because your seatmate is sound asleep, don’t hesitate to wake him up (by politely tapping him on the shoulder). Excuse yourself and no further explanation is needed. Don’t try to go over him – that can only lead to an awkward situation.

THE SPAWN OF HELL CHILD You know when a kid is yelling the entire trip, looking at you awkward, making pranks – I call that ‘the spawn of hell child’. Jacqueline Whitmore advises you to try to reason with him, but don’t discipline him, you are not his parent. The best thing to do here is to ask to be relocated to another seat, if that is a possibility.

Also, sometimes the child sitting behind you will be the cause of your problems. You know when a child starts kicking the seat in front of him – not nice when you are sitting in that seat. Your best bet here is to turn around, make a glance at the parent and the child, and hope that the parent will take that as a hint to tell the child to stop. If that doesn’t work politely tell the child to stop kicking your seat.

THE ARMREST SNATCHER – You know the rules, but what to do when somebody snatches your armrest? Try to force your way in by placing your elbow next to theirs on the armrest. Your greedy seatmate should still have enough space and won’t bother you. And remember the rules: if there are three seats next to one another, the person in the middle seat gets the armrests.

THE GUY LOOKING FOR A DISPOSABLE FRIEND – If your seatmate is eager to start a conversation with you, exchange a few words, be polite, and if you wish to end the conversation say something like, “I would really love to carry on this conversation but, if you don’t mind, I have to take a nap, the jet lag is killing me”. He’s probably not going to bother you after you close your eyes.

THE GUY WHO RECLINES HIS SEAT TOO FAR – If someone in front of you reclines his seat too far while you are trying to eat, or watch a movie, there are two things you can do. First, you can look behind you, and if the passenger sitting there isn’t using the tray, or a laptop, you can recline your seat for extra room. Or second, you can politely ask the person in front to move forward a little bit. Often people don’t realize that they are inconveniencing you.