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Flight of etiquette: 10 offensive things people do on airplanes

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What is it about air travel that seems to send manners on the fly? Public decorum seems to vanish with some folks, while they sit buckled into airplane seats.

What’s the most repulsive thing fellow passenger have done aboard airplanes?

Obvious guesses might include obnoxious unplanned bodily functions or X-rated behavior. More common practices may include simply distasteful actions by those seated nearby.

Consider these 10 offensive, but frequently witnessed, offensive behaviors I’ve personally seen in flight. Maybe you’ve seen such demeaning demeanor as well.

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1. Shoulder snoring

Jet engines easily lure passengers to sleep, but it’s creepy to find a total stranger’s head resting on your shoulder in an airplane seat. Once, on a flight from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, I discovered drool (not mine, of course) on my jacket shoulder.

C’mon, folks. If you want to snooze in the seat, spring for a $10 travel neck pillow, and save yourself some embarrassment.

2. Tooth-picking, with or without a toothpick.

Who wants to gain a close-up look of dental hygiene on a plane? If I wanted a private peek at endodontic care, I would have skipped journalism school and studied dentistry.

Not long ago, a plus-sized businessman on a New York flight spent 15 minutes mining for leftovers among his molars. Then he accidentally flipped his toothpick into the pages of my open magazine. At least, I think it was an accident.

3. Personal grooming in-flight

Manicures, ear cleaning and other hygiene practices belong in the bathroom, not a crowded row of airplane seats. I cringed, during a red-eye from Dallas to Chicago, when my seatmate pulled out a roll-on deodorant and stuck it under his shirt.

I prayed he wouldn’t tend to his toenails next, sticking out of his sandals.

4. Picking a wedge.

Seriously, folks? A bell-bottomed blonde plunked down next to me on a Rocky Mountain puddle-jumper and immediately went to work on her stuck-up underwear.

5. Sticking chewing gum under the seat.

She was quitting smoking, as she explained non-stop during takeoff, but a well-dressed Boise woman repulsed me when she pulled gum from her mouth and placed it under her seat cushion.

Perhaps I offended her when I pretended not to notice, as she tried to shake my hand afterwards. I was pretty sure my recent flu shot didn’t cover disgusting.

6. Placing used tissues in the seat pocket.

Can’t we all agree that it’s snotty to blow one’s honker and then stick the tissue in an airplane seat pocket?

A clean-cut teen, seated on the aisle from Boston to Detroit, actually stuck his sticky tissue in my empty soda cup before handing it to the flight attendant.

7. Nose-picking.

Like many travels, I carry a tiny pack of tissues. And I’m quick to offer these to those who begin using their bare hands. I also freely share antibacterial gel.

Who knows what these nose miners might touch in our shared airplane space? Tray tables? Armrests? Overhead compartment latches? Yikes.

8. Coughing and sneezing without covering the face.

Didn’t we learn this in kindergarten? Obviously, a flu-ridden fellow traveler from Toledo had not. I wanted to shower and change my clothes after deboarding.

9. Changing a child’s diaper in the seat

As a parent, I sympathize with those who juggle infants on board airplanes. That’s rough duty. Still, a Milwaukee mom crossed the line, wiping her baby’s bottom on her tray table. Then she rolled up the soiled diaper and placed it in her lap until the flight attendant gathered the trash.

10. Surfing pornographic websites midflight.

Flipping through dirty magazines on an airplane is bad enough, but scanning sexy sites on a computer screen must be worse. It’s nearly impossible for fellow passengers to avoid the images. I wish I hadn’t glanced at a seatmate’s laptop screen on an overnight cross-country jaunt. Once I saw what he was seeing, I didn’t catch a wink of sleep on that flight.

Additional frequent, thoughtless airplane etiquette breaches include audible belching, close-talking, gum-smacking, hair spraying, knuckle-cracking, luggage clunking, nail clipping, overuse of perfume, seat kicking, gas passing, loud talking, nose honking, open-mouthed chewing, shoe removal, singing, snot snuffing, sudden seat tipping, and armrest raising without mutual agreement.

Maybe manners really have vanished into thin air, at least when it comes to traveling.

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