How to Handle Annoying Seatmates

Do you break the rules of travel etiquette?

Richie Frieman,
May 1, 2011
Episode #155

Page 1 of 2

Last week I received an email about a display of bad manners that left me in tears. Here’s the gist of what went down:  On a flight from Pennsylvania to Seattle, Tom (I’ve used another name to protect him) and his wife sat next to Bob, who kept talking about every inappropriate topic under the sun. Without taking notice of any of Tom’s obvious social cues indicating he and his wife were uncomfortable, Bob continued entertaining them with his bizarre rants--for a whopping five and a half hours!

How to Handle Annoying Seatmates

Now, to play devil’s advocate, Bob was just trying to be friendly. Okay, done—that’s out of my system. Now I’m back to being Modern Manners Guy. And here are my top three tips on how to deal with a rude and annoying seatmate.

Tip #1:  Tune Them Out

God bless headphones; and I don’t just mean for all the times when my daughter makes me watch the Wiggles. Headphones on a plane are about as essential as, well, alcohol on a plane. Both will soothe the heart and mind, especially when you are stuck next to the reigning Heavyweight Champion of Obnoxiousness.

I recommend always packing headphones in your carry-on. Skimp on that extra bag of chips and make sure you always bring your headphones instead. Chances are you will be stuck next to someone you would never want to talk to for five seconds, let alone be best friends with for five hours. And like any good soldier will tell you, you need to make sure you are locked and loaded at all times. In this case, ammo comes in the form of headphones.

When Joe Talks-For-Hours starts chatting you up the second you sit down, you’ll be prepared. Yes, Joe may be the nicest guy on earth who rescues puppies on the weekends, but still, chatting your ear off is a violation of personal space. So, when Joe starts talking without taking a breath, simply smile, nod, and begin to take out your headphones. Put them on (he will still be talking) and again continue to smile until you finally turn away and rest your head back, shutting your eyes and listening to some tunes.  Even throw in a yawn for good measure. It’s like ripping off a band-aid, don’t do it gradually; do it FAST!


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