The Dissemination of Thought

Just because it's in print doesn't mean it's intelligent…

Five passengers to avoid in the sky: The idiot’s guide to in-flight sanity

with 23 comments

As I was booking a flight to Brisbane a few weeks ago, I started reminiscing about the hundreds of interesting unique batshit crazy individuals I’ve met during my travels over the years. Some of them have been disturbing, while others were intriguing and almost amusing in depraved way. Lamentably, the majority made life at 35,000 feet unbearable for everyone within nine rows.

In hindsight, these ‘travel terrors’ should have been easy to spot. They fell into five very distinct categories that anyone who has ever spent more than 17 minutes on an airplane could easily identify. Actually, life would be a lot simpler for travellers across the globe if airport security slapped bright identification stickers on the heads of these dipshits before they headed towards the boarding gate.

I sincerely hope this piece helps you pinpoint the people you should avoid at all costs in your travels.

Especially before you sit down beside them in seat 26B for a nine-hour flight.

Just because you’re about to be twelve kilometres above the ground doesn’t mean you won’t be surrounded by painful idiots. Source: biztravelguru.com

1. The Talker

This motor-mouthed traveller won’t shut up. Ever.

From the moment they stand behind you in the queue to board and comment about how slow the process is, to the heartbreaking instant you realise they’ve been allocated the seat beside you for the flight to Perth, this painful flyer won’t stop once to draw breath.

Even when it’s 10:48pm and you are pretending to sleep with the erroneous hope they’ll shut the hell up.

If you encounter a seasoned talker, they will monitor everything to look at in order to start pointless conversations. A glance at the in-flight entertainment guide will undoubtedly start a conversation about “young musicians these days” or why they believe a particular unknown movie didn’t deserve the four stars an unknown critic gave it.

I remember sitting beside a talker we’ll call Barry on a Qantas flight to Sydney about two years ago. Barry watched me flip through the complimentary magazine as the aircraft taxied to the runway. The moment I felt the front wheel lift off the tarmac, Barry launched into a spiel about how he flew every week and had read the magazine I had in my hand “at least a dozen times” that month. After he’d ensured I was painfully aware he was a flying veteran, he offered suggestions about which articles he thought I’d like.  That was the point I handed him the magazine and asked if he’d like to read it – in silence – for the remainder of the flight.

Ah, fun and games before reaching cruising altitude.

Tip to avoid them: Pretend to be asleep. If that doesn’t work, swallow a handful of Valium before take-off and enjoy a peaceful coma nap free from constant interruption.

2. The Screaming Child

This pint-sized traveller is more often than not accompanied by the Oblivious Parent or Ignorant Guardian and are angelic until they don’t get their own way. As soon as they hear the word no, they become possessed, shrieking miniature banshees.

The Screaming Child is easy to spot: they are small, loud and annoying.

Tip to avoid them: I’m told business class is generally free of manic munchkins, but upgrading on every flight you take is a costly solution. While frowned upon by society, the cheapest answer is to coat any Valium you have left over after going head-to-head with the Talker in sugar and tell the bellowing little one it’s a lolly. 

Author’s note: Yes, I’m probably going to hell for this tip, but at least I’ll be making the trip in blissful silence.

3. The Aviation Expert 

There is nothing this flyer doesn’t know about aircraft and avionics. While they have a basic grasp of advanced meteorology, their apparent speciality is what makes the big metal bird itself tick.

Want to know how the landing gears work? They will have the answer. Are you curious about the average cruising speed of a Boeing 737-800? The Aviation Expert has the facts and figures, and will take into account the headwind your aircraft is currently flying into when answering.

No one is certain whether this unique individual actually knows what they are talking about: they just use a hell of a lot of long, technical-sounding words and phrases. The fact the Aviation Expert answers an eleven-word question about flaps with an eight-minute diatribe puts most people off testing how knowledgeable this painful passenger actually is. One thing’s for sure: having one or two Aviation Experts on a flight does wonders for alcohol sales. 

Tip to avoid them: Tell this know-it-all you heard something making a disturbing rattling noise in the toilet. Once they go in to investigate, lock them in there for the duration of the flight with assistance from the relieved cabin crew.

Do you know what every button and switch in this cockpit does? If you ask the Aviation Expert, they do. Source: airbus.com

4. The Over-Packer

The fourth type of traveller to avoid has no concept of baggage limits. If an airlines allows passengers to have cabin bag that weighs no more than seven kilograms, you can bet your last dollar the Over-Packer will have one that tips the scales at ten or eleven kilos.

Dimensions are also not the forte of this notorious flyer. Allowed hand luggage no bigger than 48 centimetres x 34 centimetres x 23 centimetres on your flight? The Over-Packer will try to convince cabin crew their bag – which is the same size as a bar fridge – is “much smaller than it looks”.

If you board after this moron, expect to spend five minutes in the aisle with 73 other fuming passengers while the arrogant one with the capacity issues attempts to wedge their cabin bag, two laptop bags and handbag into the overhead locker.

“Yes, sir, I’m pretty sure they won’t all fit in the overhead locker.” Source: zaysmallman.blogspot.com

My most memorable encounter with an Over-Packer was on a Virgin Australia flight from Sydney to Townsville.

After taking my seat in 13A nice and early, I watched my fellow passengers move awkwardly down the aisle until a woman juggling what seemed like a hundred bags stopped at my row. Putting several of the bags on the vacant seats beside me so she could stuff them one by one into the overhead bin, I watched in amazement as she packed the biggest cabin bag I’ve ever seen, an oversized handbag, what I assume was a camera bag and enough shopping bags to start her own boutique into the previously vacant space above my head. Not surprisingly, the 18 or 19 passengers waiting behind her were less amazed than I was.

Tip to avoid them: Unfortunately, avoiding this person is nigh on impossible. The best you can hope for is that their taxi gets stuck in traffic and they don’t get to the airport until you are twelve kilometres above the ground and eating your in-flight meal. If they do manage to get on the airplane, there’s always the chance they will drop one of their five bags on their head as they try to stuff them into the overhead bins

5. The Drinker

For our last pest, the airplane is nothing more than an oddly-shaped bar that operates across time zones at 35,000 feet.

There’s a fair chance they will have spent two hours before the flight at the bar getting a buzz on, and their hand will whip upwards to summon a cabin crew member as soon as the fasten seatbelt sign goes off.

The airline drinks trolley: enough to make the Drinker put their tray table up and their seat in the upright position. Source: airliners.net

On a flight from Brisbane to Hobart in 2006, I encountered the Queen of the Drinkers. About an hour into the flight, I watched as a cabin crew member confiscated an empty bottle of Scotch from the paralytic passenger. A 700mL bottle. It’s amazing what a big handbag can hide. 20 minutes later, the same – although now furious – Virgin Australia employee grabbed another, albeit full, bottle of single malt out of the passenger’s drunken mitts while loudly advising that she wouldn’t be getting it back when we landed.

While I love a good single malt, it never struck me to carry two bottles of it on a relatively short flight in case I got thirsty.

Tip to avoid them: Like the Over-Packer, the Drinker is difficult to avoid once you are in the air. If they have been drinking for long enough, there’s a good chance they’ll pass out fall asleep after they scoll their second miniature bottle of red wine. If that doesn’t happen, my best advice is to concede defeat and drink with them until their drunken antics become tolerable.

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23 Responses

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  1. And people wonder why if my destination is fewer than 8 hours away, I prefer to drive. Now when they don’t get it, I’ll just direct them to this blog post.

    crubin

    June 5, 2012 at 02:02

    • Do you think the airlines will ever print it and put laminated copies in the seat pockets of their aircraft? Knowing how to avoid an in-flight know-it-all is more important than knowing what to do in the event of a crash.

      disseminatedthought

      June 5, 2012 at 07:19

      • Maybe you’ll have to get the ball rolling by leaving a few well-placed copies on various aircrafts.

        crubin

        June 5, 2012 at 07:25

      • That could the the pinnacle of self-publishing and shameless self-promotion. I like it.

        disseminatedthought

        June 5, 2012 at 07:56

  2. This is brilliant! (And this is not spam, nomatter how insincere it may sound!) *awkward*

    A Cynical Me

    June 5, 2012 at 03:06

    • Thanks for the succinct blog love and welcome to The Dissemination of Thought. Do you need me to hold a few of your cabin bags while you take a swig from that bourbon bottle?

      disseminatedthought

      June 5, 2012 at 07:09

  3. In perfect form as always.
    Welcome back my friend! It’s about time. xo

    Cakes McCain

    June 5, 2012 at 05:31

    • It wasn’t quite two months, but in hindsight, a TDoT comeback was well and truly overdue.

      If people were normal, what the hell would we blog about?

      disseminatedthought

      June 5, 2012 at 07:15

      • Ourselves (of course we’d be in denial)
        btw this question is on a psychological test here in Italy (a student of mine took it)…
        People are strange, they just don’t admit it.
        agree or don’t agree
        enough said.

        Cakes McCain

        June 5, 2012 at 07:46

  4. I think you have defined them all very, very nicely. The cabin baggage pest also amazes me. Living in South Africa and flying back to the Europe, I have often encountered tourists with man size wooden giraffes in their grasp as said cabin luggage. How they consider this massive creature to be bag size is beyond me.

    Ruth2Day

    June 5, 2012 at 17:43

    • Where the hell did they find giant wooden giraffes?

      When Krispy Kreme launched a store in the Sydney airport domestic terminal, I distinctly remember watching people try to stuff seven or eight boxes – with a dozen donuts in each box – into the overhead bin.

      In what universe does trying to fly with more than 80 donuts seem like a good idea?

      disseminatedthought

      June 8, 2012 at 21:02

      • A snack for the flight? I’d probably do the same – in case I get hungry. hahahaha

        Nadja

        June 14, 2012 at 09:33

      • I think 80 donuts pushes the boundaries of an ‘in-flight snack’, don’t you?

        disseminatedthought

        June 19, 2012 at 12:22

  5. Brilliant, as always! You have missed a few of my personal favourites – the cougher and hacker, the travel bug (I’ve been everywhere man!) and the cacophonous snorer!

    Trish Mitchell

    June 5, 2012 at 21:32

  6. Fantastic list! I always travel with headphones and/or ear plugs whether it’s a plane or public transit. I don’t need to be a “people person” when I’m on the move. It drowns out screaming babies and it’s cheaper than paying for business class. I would also add the woman who’s afraid to fly – nothing like waking up to a death grip on your arm after a little turbulence.

  7. I once sat next to a guy who was chewing tobacco and spitting it into an empty coke bottle through the entire flight. I was seven months pregnant at the time and constantly queasy anyway, so the odor of the tobacco combined with that nearly pushed me over the edge. I had to ask him to put it away so as not to barf all over him.

    The Waiting

    June 7, 2012 at 00:07

    • Who chews tobacco anymore, let alone 35,000 feet above the ground?

      Did he look as though he thought he was in an airborne version of the wild west?

      disseminatedthought

      June 8, 2012 at 21:13

  8. When I flew to Ireland last year, I had The Talker, The Screaming Child, AND The Aviation Expert surrounding me.

    I’m flying there again in 2 weeks and I’m hoping for The Over Packer and The Drinker – if I need a pen, a magazine, or a sandwich, I know the Over Packer will have it, and if I’m beside a Drinker, he’ll just pass out in about an hour = perfect flight.

    The most annoying person I’ve ever sat beside on a flight was a guy who did nothing. As in, just sat there, staring straight ahead the ENTIRE time…didn’t read a magazine, watch a movie, talk, or even sleep. It was unnerving.

    PCC Advantage

    June 16, 2012 at 00:12

    • What if the drinker passes out and puts his head on your shoulder while he drools?

      disseminatedthought

      June 19, 2012 at 12:24

      • Since you’re not allowed to be drunk on a flight, I’ll tattle on him. The staff will remove him and place in another empty seat somewhere else. I’ll wipe up his drool with a set of handtowels that the Over Packer will, no doubt, have on hand, and then I’ll put my feet up on the now empty seat, and laugh triumphantly.

        Problem solved.

        PCC Advantage

        June 20, 2012 at 00:47


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