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How to survive an annoying seatmate

The Chatterbox? The Space Invader? Tips for being seated near troubling passengers

Is it an air flight or a flying asylum? With the busy spring travel season, etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, author and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, says there are ways to cope. The former flight attendant offers these tips on how to deal with some of the most annoying airline passengers:

  • The Armrest Hogger: If the person next to you commandeers your armrest, simply inch your way in by placing just your elbow next to theirs. This should leave plenty of space for your greedy neighbor’s elbow. Armrest rules: When you have three seats next to one another, the person in the middle seat gets to claim the armrests.


  • The Chatterbox: If your neighbor strikes up a conversation, be polite and exchange a few pleasantries. Then say something like, “It was nice speaking with you, but if you don’t mind, I have to get some work done (or some much-needed rest).” Closing your eyes generally does the trick. Note: Always travel with earphones and eyeshades.


  • The Space Invader: If this person invades your personal space with his newspaper or carry-on bag, say something like, “It seems that these planes are getting smaller and smaller. Would you mind moving your arm (or bag) over just a touch?”


  • The Seat Recliner: If someone reclines too far while you’re trying to eat, work on your laptop or watch a movie, you have two options: 1. You can recline your seat for more space, or 2. Say something like, “Would you mind pulling your seat forward a little bit.” The person in front of you most likely doesn’t know she’s inconveniencing you. Note: When you recline your seat, always glance back and make sure the person behind you isn’t using his tray table to eat or work.


  • The Snorer: It’s best to always travel with a good pair of noise-canceling earphones. Otherwise, you can ask the flight attendant if you can relocate to another seat.


  • The Sleeper: If you need to use the lavatory but your aisle seatmate is sleeping, gently tap him on his shoulder and say, “Excuse me.” No other explanation is necessary. Never attempt to crawl over him.


  • The Unruly Child: Never discipline someone else’s child. Your best bet is to move to another seat, if available, or alert a flight attendant. Never try to intervene yourself.


  • The Seat Kicker: If a child is kicking the back of your seat, simply turn around and glance at the child and the parent. The parent will oftentimes get the hint and ask the child to stop. If this doesn’t work, kindly speak up and ask the child to stop kicking your seat.


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