14 of the Worst People on Airplanes (and How to Deal With Them)

Sarah Lempa

Chicago, USA

“For the love of god, Linda, if you don’t sit your butt down until we taxi to the gate I’m going to lose my damn mind.” — me internally, on at least 12 separate occasions.

Trade out Linda for any name you’d like; this type of passenger is notorious for standing when they shouldn’t and trying to rush when it simply isn’t possible. And it doesn’t stop with Stand-Upon-Land Lindas, either. We’ve got Manspreading Michaels, Temper Tantrum Tonis, and Rapid Reclining Rhondas, to name just a few.

Welcome to the grueling hilarity (and downright despair) of air travel. Love it or hate it, you might as well have some laughs in the process. Fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables up: here are 14 of the absolute worst travelers to encounter and how to survive them.

Flirting Franks

Don’t get me wrong, Flirting Franks can be a good time if you’re into it, but when unwanted (and aloof to your turned-off vibe), they can be a real nightmare to spend hours with only centimeters apart. Can someone find the guy from my flight from Cartagena to Miami and tell him that “you have a lot of bug bites” is a terrible pick up line? He proceeded to point out more superfluous details, leading me to put the kibosh on our interactions with my headphones. Adios.

How to deal with them: Let ‘em down easy by redirecting your interest to a book, work, movie, or music. If you have to, use a bathroom break to segue into your independence. In the worst cases, don’t be afraid to stand your ground and tell them no or flag a flight attendant if you need backup.

Stand-Upon-Land Lindas

I don’t know where Linda needs to go or why she thinks standing while the plane is still taxiing is a good idea, but so help anyone who gets in her way. She’s gunning it and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Stand-Upon-Land Lindas are bothersome without a doubt, but generally harmless. Bombs away, Linda! Go get that connecting flight. Please just leave the rest of us out of your line of fire.

How to deal with them: Ignore them and be glad you recognize the insanity in standing before the plane is ready to deboard.

Inattentive Parenting Pats

Toddlers careening down the aisle helter skelter are the tip of the inattentive iceberg when it comes to the horrendous feats I’ve seen parents allow their children to perform during air travel. Add some crunchy snacks or a toy that makes noise and you’re on the fast track to hell on Earth (or like 30,000 miles above it, rather).

How to deal with it: Bad as these tiny tyrants can be, don’t ever take it out on them directly. Pick on someone your own size, like the parents! A gentle reminder, or outright plead for peace, should hopefully take care of it.

Armrest Hogging Hannahs

Sitting smack dab in the middle of two fairly rotund gentlemen from Hong Kong to LAX for 14 hours wasn’t my first armrest hog experience, but is by far the most robust example I can divulge. Many will submit to the unwritten rule that the middle seat, with its glaring disadvantages, should have first dibs when it comes to arm space. Hogging Hannahs, however, don’t give a sh*t about this rule.

How to deal with them: Assert your dominance and don’t be afraid of a little arm-on-arm contact. Usually, it’ll make your armrest opponent back off, sending a message that says not today, Hogging Hannah.

Smelly Food Eating Franks

People bringing stinky, dripping tuna sandwiches onto million-dollar aircrafts is the epitome of the phrase this is why we can’t have nice things. I’ve seen sandwiches spawned from hell all the way to barbeque bonanzas, impractical soups, and deep-fried disasters, none of which should have made it past the gate. When Smelly Food Eating Franks bring their meal onboard, they’re locking fellow passengers into a rancid rollercoaster of garlic and grease with 0 consent.

How to deal with them: Other than faking a deadly allergy and causing a scene (not recommended), there aren’t many ethical ways to escape this one. Keeping some nice scented lotion on hand doesn’t hurt, however. Just hope Frank eats fast.

Chatty Chads

Airplanes are an interesting cross-section of humanity: some will read, others will slam 4 gin and tonics and bombard you with bizarre questions and anecdotes you didn’t ask for. Variety is the spice of life, I suppose. Many Chatty Chads are harmless, but others can be terrifyingly menacing and require some serious backup.

How to deal with them: Sometimes, they truly know no bounds. Pretending you’re asleep might be the best bet. If it’s really bad, don’t be afraid to ask a flight attendant for help — they’re trained for it.

Intrusive Foot Fionas

Nothing makes you recoil in horror quite like the cold, creeping touch of someone else’s limp toe peeking through your row from behind. Intrusive Foot Fionas act out of sleep-masked desire or calculated design, with no regard for the clammy horror they impart on others.

How to deal with them: This 4-year old boy had his round with an Intrusive Foot Fiona and his response sums it up far better than I can.

Temper Tantrum Tonis

One of the most repugnant behaviors that I see regularly in air travel is blatant disrespect for airline employees. Temper Tantrum Tonis will contort things like weather and maintenance into a personal attack, bringing down any innocent employee that has to deliver the message. They are the grown up versions of screaming babies, echoing their cries into immature huffing and puffing that astonishes everyone within a 3-gate radius.

How to deal with them: I’m a big fan of staring at them in disbelief to express my disgust with their immaturity, or even speaking up if the opportunity is right. Additionally, offering some support to the employee that was on the receiving end has always been massively appreciated in my experience.

Crowding Cathys

Listen to me when I say this slowly, Crowding Cathy: You will make it on the plane. For reasons that I cannot fathom, people are obsessed with waiting in boarding lanes and crowding close to get their pass scanned only to wait more on the jet bridge most of the time. Crowding Cathys have some embedded fear of being left behind, so much so that they’ll bump and budge their way to the front of the line.

How to deal with them: Let them scramble. Take a seat, chill out, and board the plane when the heat of the hoard has made it on already. I’m a massive proponent of boarding last and I see no reason to beat everyone else into a pre-assigned seat.

Hair Everywhere Hollies

Good luck watching that new flick when Hair Everywhere Hollie is sitting in front of you. Before you can even press play, you’ll be hit with a barrage of long hair that tumbles down your seat back screen.

How to deal with them: Most of the time this is unintentional, coming from a lack of self-awareness. A gentle reminder by a tap on the shoulder should be more than enough to fix the problem. P.S. — You should probably check your food before you eat it.

Man Spreading Michaels

Dear Man Spreading Michael, no thighs need that much space, nor do the liberties of mine need to be encroached upon. Period. Should you encounter a Michael who believes he deserves far more space in the row than he paid for, fear not. With proper assertion and some obviously articulated discomfort, you can send him back to the darkness from whence he came. Okay, perhaps a little overboard with the semantics there, but this entitled behavior needs to be squashed.

How to deal with them: I’ve straight up asked in the past, but you could also feign an intensive item search in your bag while conveniently allowing it to rest on your neighbor’s leg (because its totally in your space). It usually sends a clear message.

Body Odor Bobs

When the foul odor of your neighbor hits you like a punch from Floyd Mayweather, it’s safe to say you’ve got a Body Odor Bob on your hands. Pressing your face so deeply into your jacket nearly to the point of suffocation is one way to go about avoiding the nostril-paining perils, and sometimes it’s the best you can do. Some B.O.B.’s have even been kicked off of flights for it. Talk about making a stink over some stench, eh?

How to deal with them: Unless you feel like being daringly rude, you’re going to have to deal with it. At the very least, I keep lavender oil on me because I like the scent and it can be supremely handy in the event of a smelly seatmate.

Rapid Reclining Rhondas

Just when you’ve peeled back the tin foil to dig into that mystery pasta casserole — WHAP — Reclining Rhonda leans back full force with an intensity that sends your dinner roll sailing off the tray. Whether it’s dinner or your laptop, a seat back snapping towards you is enough to piss anyone off, even more so when using the tray table.

How to deal with them: Polite communication is key. Don’t make it overt — they might feel attacked and respond poorly. It’s a reasonable request if eating or working, but unfortunately, there isn’t much of a case otherwise.

Care to share a real life version of one of these passengers?

Years of air travel and astonished onlooking has allowed me to drum up these personas, and you can find a plethora of supporting evidence on the Passenger Shaming Instagram account. Seriously, you’ll be blown away by the myriad of Intrusive Foot Fionas that have been sent in by air travelers. It’s truly mind (nose?) boggling. Laugh, cry, whatever you do, just make sure to keep your damn feet off the bulkhead.