I’ve only traveled by air a handful of times, and between being captivated by the experience of cruising the skies in a winged metal tube and having delightful seatmates to enjoy the ride with, I have absolutely zero complaints. Unfortunately for the following frequent fliers, not everyone has experiences as rosy as mine. Even if you’ve had to sit next to some jerk for a few hours, or the plane ran out of complimentary peanuts, it’ll be hard to top these horror stories:
Some seatmates are a BIG problem…
“This happened during boarding,” Bob Rush recalled. “I was running late, and was one of the last people to board. I go to my assigned seat to find the guy in the middle seat is huge- like 400 pounds huge. I’m looking at my seat and trying to figure out how I am going to get my 250-pound body into what is in essence one-third of a seat. While I am looking, the guy says ‘Too bad you’re so fat, I don’t think you’re going to fit here. Maybe you should take the next flight.”
“Now I am normally the funny guy, but this hit me wrong — before I could offer a smartass remark, the flight attendant came and she knew immediately what was going on. She told the guy that since he was really taking up two seats he should pay for two seats, but she would help out this situation and let him slide. He gave me a sickening smile and she said ‘I’ll get you another seat, let’s get you settled.’”
“She promptly took me to business class and gave me the only open seat there,” he said. “I did open the curtain during the flight to make sure my former seatmate saw me, and when we made eye contact I gave him the biggest wave.”
There is a time (and place) for everything. This is not that time.
Tyler Duzan recounted a particularly nasty in-flight experience: “Definitely not as disturbing as some of the stories I’ve read, especially since I’ve never been harassed on a flight, but more disgusting. The person next to me on one transatlantic flight took off their shoes and socks, and started clipping their toenails, and putting the clippings on the edge of my tray table. I asked them to stop, and they got huffy with me.”
“Seriously, wait till you arrive at your hotel to do that. Relax, but don’t relax that much. An airplane is still a shared space.”
The Drinking Dead.
On a flight from New York to Hong Kong, financial executive Deborah Gold was seated next to a “nice businessman,” and she shared her own story about the man whose name was “—Dave, I think. Business class, so drinks were flowing before takeoff. He was a tall man, 50-ish, sitting in the window seat next to me. He has several Scotches. ‘Several’ in this case means too many….”
“Shortly after takeoff, said seatmate excuses himself to walk past me. He then lies down in the aisle between the rows of seats and is completely still. The flight attendants all step over him and go about their business,” she said.
“I think he might be dead.” Deborah ended up pointing this out to a flight attendant, who said that “This happens in business class all the time. She thought he was doing sit-ups.”
“Eventually he came to, sat down, had more Scotch, and started asking VERY personal questions about me and my husband’s sex life. It was a 13-hour flight from Hell!”
YOU SHALL NOT P*SS!
Kamya Chandrasekhar, a nuclear engineer, told the tale of what I would consider to be the worst kind of seatmate. “It was to be a long and miserable 17-hour non-stop flight. I settled down into my window seat, and to my relief, while the aisle seat was occupied by a seemingly sweet old lady, the middle seat was unoccupied. I settled down for a quick nap.”
“After a while, I woke up to use the restroom, and requested the lady to move aside and let me pass. She didn’t. In a serious tone, she said, ‘If you wanted to use the bathroom, why did you book a window seat? That’s not my problem.’ I thought she was joking. Chuckled. Look back at her face and realized, smile fading, with horror, she was serious.”
“She went on. ‘If somebody wants to use the restroom, they should book an aisle seat. You can’t expect to use the restroom if you choose a window seat.’”
Negotiations with her seatmate kept deteriorating for poor Kamya. “I tried to reason with her. She didn’t budge. Finally I had to call a flight attendant and make her reason with the lady. She reluctantly and angrily had to finally acquiesce, and every time I went to the restroom after that, she made her displeasure known by glowering at me, and ‘accidentally-on-purpose’ kneeing me when I passed her.”
Competitive eaters have to fly too!
Evie Miller wrote about how she had to deal with a particularly trashy seatmate. “One guy across the aisle from me produced a suitcase of food, and when he left, a suitcase worth of wrappers that filled the entire footwell, below the seats in front of him and spilling out into the aisle.”
“I guess the disturbing part was how he just got up and left (he was one of the first to disembark) without even a thought for the flight attendants.” Evie continued: “To make it worse for them, we boarded at 6 a.m. and landed around midday so they’d probably been up since 4 a.m. at least, and had been standing for several hours.”
That’s snot someone you’d want to share a plane with!
Tasha Juli Korman, a fashion blogger, noted the time she flew alongside a particularly nauseating seatmate: “I once sat next to a man who brought an aggressive garlic pizza as his onboard snack. You know the kind, white sauce and slivers of garlic as a topping. Which also smells awful if you’re not eating it! He gulped it down while slurping and licking his fingers.”
She continued: “As if this wasn’t enough to make him a bad seatmate, he also had a cold. He blew his nose nonstop for the majority of the flight. Not just a slight sniffle, but a wet sounding, snot flowing blow! I finally got so disgusted that I got up out of my aisle seat and gestured that he get up.”
“He looked at me in confusion, as he was not trying to leave his seat. I said, ‘You can go to the restroom.’” “Oh, that’s ok, I don’t need to,” the unwell man replied.
“I know it was impolite, but I said, ‘Really, you do. The nose blowing is starting to become an issue.’ Luckily he went to the restroom, finally stopped blowing his nose once he returned, and sat down, but of course he gave me the cold shoulder for the rest of the flight!”
Yikes! I may have lucked out over the years with polite seatmates during my own uneventful flights, but it seems like unapologetically bad-mannered people aren’t any better at 30,000 feet in the air, than they are at sea level. What about you? Do you have any dreadful stories of shocking seatmates that you’d want to share?