Dealing with Annoying Plane Passengers

Employees who travel for business often travel alone. These men and women know all too well that the person that may get the nearby seat is left to chance. It can be challenging to know how to deal with annoying passengers. When flights are full, it may be impossible to ask to switch seats simply.

Here are some points to guide you.


While you may not get a talkative seatmate to quiet down, you can:

  • Cover your ears: Insert earplugs or put on headphones. This will signal that you are not listening.
  • Sit quietly: Remember that you have no obligation to reply to a chatty person. Smile, nod, or reply with simple one-word answers. Closing your eyes signals you are disengaging from the conversation.
  • Get to work: Even if you do not have something to work on, opening your laptop and turning it on signals that you are preoccupied.
  • Read something: Turn your attention to a book or magazine. It also helps put a bit of a physical barrier between you and the other passenger.
  • Be honest: If all else fails, politely but firmly express that you do not wish to talk during the flight and turn your attention to something else.

Poor Hygiene

Most airlines have a clause in their “Conditions of Carriage” policies that provide them the right to deny boarding to someone who has an offensive odor or poor hygiene. The passenger also can be refused transport.

When seated next to someone who has a bad smell, alert a flight attendant to the problem. It is best to confront the issue before boarding is complete, and the airplane pushes away from the gate.

If the attendant does not remove the passenger, see if it is possible to get your seat changed.


If you become aware that the passenger next to you is intoxicated, alert the attendant. Airlines have a strict policy against allowing intoxicated passengers to board. Even though crews often look at the eyes of passengers to assess if they may be under the influence of any substances, an airline employee may have missed this passenger. It’s essential to discreetly bring it to their attention because they are trained to deal with intoxicated or unruly passengers.

Additionally, if there is an aggressive or disruptive passenger, the safest way to handle the situation is to avoid further agitation and discreetly notify the crew. While you may have a natural instinct to intervene, it is best to leave it to flight crews to calm the passenger and handle the situation.

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