21 Types of Air Passengers that make life hell.

I don’t know about you but I hate flying.  I’ve flown 39 times and each one I have hated it.  I’m a long distance train sort of person but sometimes flying is the only practical option and if zooming around the skies miles in the air ina  hollow tube isn’t bad enough, then there are all the special things that you only come across when flying to make things just as annoying as possible.

My 4 year old post Virgin: The best complaint letter in the world still gets tens of thousands of views every year so if you haven’t read it then please do so and then come back to here!


There is a saying that only a mediocre person is always at their best and flying certainly seems to bring out the mediocre in perople.   I don’t think I’m guilty of ever having done any of the below as I like to think I am a bit civilised but the list below are all things that annoy not just myself but many of us who have to put up with these idiots.  Some of them are more understandable than others but all go to make flying more stressful than it needs to be.

1. The herd of queue jumpers

Queue jumping is never clever whatever you are waiting in line for.  Normally done by teenagers or young adults.  One person is near the front of the queue and a gang of friends or family appear at the back of the queue.  Much waving and yelling later and they think they are entitled to miss out on the 20 minutes of waiting and join their friend up front.    The person who got there quite early and was fifth in the queue is now 11th in the queue.

2. The check-in diva

Some people think their time is more valuable than yours and it’s hard not to find them at airports.  No-one likes standing in a queue at the airport, and this queue, of all the queues in an airport is likely the most tedious. You’re dragging your luggage, possibly juggling your children, potentially late, shuffling along, just one figure in a crowd of generally unhappy people when suddenly you realise the shuffling has stopped. Who is to blame? 99% of the time it is the check-in diva: the one who wants the window seat, but can’t get a window seat, or didn’t know there was an extra charge for checked bags, so won’t pay it, or who wants the vegetarian meal but didn’t notify the airline within 24 hours. In short, the stupid prat who wastes everyone else’s time trying to win an unwinnable game that was all entirely avoidable if only they acted like an adult and planned ever so slightly ahead.    They always fail in getting what they want and everything always continues as before except now there are 250 people who are 10 minutes later than they were before.


3. The security scrabbler

The queues at airports are really never ending and being British this is really my natural habitat but it gets painful when people act like stupid idiots.   You spend 10-15 minutes getting ever closer to the security screening process and joined another queue. There are signs everywhere, with helpful illustrations, informing you of the drill: remove your jacket, coins out of pockets, liquids in a plastic bag, laptop out, bulky shoes off. There are also zombie looking official repeating the same instructions over and over, so that by the time it’s your turn to take the tray, you’re ready. Or you really should be. If you wait until the very last moment to dig around in your pockets and separate your belongings, you are a security scrabbler and you’re holding everyone up.

Security faffers

Security faffers

4. The tray fumbler

This is always the worst bit for me as I will explain in a moment but I am not a tray faffer.  The idea is that once your tray, or invariably your triplet of trays, emerges through the other side, and there’s a juggernaut of other trays lodged behind, it’s best to remove yours and take it to the area behind you which is specifically assigned for tray fumbling. Remaining at the belt and blocking everyone else as you methodically reassemble your items and re-lace your shoes is yet another thing you can do to slow the system down. If this is you, you probably don’t even return your tray to its depot, do you?   It always seems worse for me as I have various asthma inhalers and other bits that other people don’t even own, let alone have to carry but the first thing I do is get my trays and go as far out of the way as possible so I can sort things out without impeding anyone.

5. Duty Free Shops

You can’t really blame them, it being their job, but sprightly duty-free reps who lunge at you from behind counters with bottles of gaggish fruity perfume, poised to fire as you’re navigating the maze of gigantic Toblerone pyramids in an attempt to emerge unscathed (and not smelling of a pungent peach), can all be a bit much.  It is often almost impossible to avoid the same generic and bland shops selling perfumes, booze, books.  Why would I want to go shopping just before going on a flight?  They have shops where I live and where I’m going to.  Maybe the check-in diva’s are different but I will just save my money and pay a little more when I actually need the products on offer.

6. Abrupt stoppers

This vexatious habit is found everywhere, all around the world, in every walking situation and certainly in airports where more folk than usual seem to act as stupid idiots. People waddling along in front of you who stop suddenly to gawp at something – their phone, a shop window, a screen, whatever. The more rushed or late you happen to be, the more vexing this is. Extra points if the abrupt stopper happens to be wheeling a suitcase behind them, which crushes your toes upon their jarring halt.  Congratulations, you made the list.  And quite a big part of me wants you to die.


7. Charging station hoggers

This doesn’t effect me, I plan ahead and actually charge things at home or the hotel or wherever but it’s ok if you have an emergency and just want to charge up a phone or iPad.  What isn’t ok is the fact that there are more people than charging sockets and it’s just not acceptable to plonk yourself down, spread out your array of electronic items and conquer several of them at once if there are other people hovering around waiting for their turn.

8. Seat spreaders

Similarly, when seats are sparse in waiting areas and exhausted passengers are left standing in plentiful supply, it’s staggering to think that some people nonchalantly assign their neighbouring seat to their bags. Bags don’t need chairs, people do.  Also and maybe this is just an olf-fashioned English thing but if someone is old or has a disability and you’re younger than they are then stand up…. you’re going to be sitting down on your flight anyway.  This goes doubly if you are a child.

9. Travelator blockers

I always think the term Travelators are stupid, they are just moving walkways and their  primary purpose is to get you to your gate double the speed.   A rare part of the airport that is actually trying to make life easier.  A succession of travelators remain your only hope when you’re screaming late to catch a flight. They’re also useful for people who have mobility issues and non-late people like myself who would simply rather stand for a bit than walk. Much like escalators, though, there are two unmarked but widely-acknowledged lanes: the fast one (left) and the stationary one (right). It only takes one right-lane traveller – or worse, an entire group of them – to step into the fast lane and just stand there. This forms a human barrier that ruins the entire system, leaving a trail of rage-ridden left-laners blocked behind them.  Going through airports is one of the best examples of how tenuous civilisation is and how one thoughtless and selfish idiot can ruin it for everyone.

10. Backpack bashers

Considering how backpackers spend half their life with a big case on their back, it never fails to amaze me how they forget the very simple fact that the mass they have attached to their backs renders them double the girth. You don’t want to be anywhere near one of these, particularly not in a queue, for fear of being bashed in the face everytime they swivel from one direction to the next.   At least they don’t run over your feet with those stupid wheeled-trolleys.


11. Boarding rioters

The reason most airlines board economy passengers by zone or row numbers, usually from the back to the front, is to get everyone seated as efficiently as possible, and to limit the caterpillar queue at the gate. Usually, this doesn’t work terribly well. You’ll always get the maniacs who spring to their feet as soon as the first announcement is made, regardless of seat number, in a mad dash to get onto the plane fastest. Their motive can only be to secure themselves the best overhead storage spot, but sometimes they don’t even have anything to store, it’s just their personality type: to always be first. Although why you’d want to spend any more time strapped into an aircraft seat than is necessary beats me, it’s not like they are going to take-off any sooner.

12. Departure delayers

These are the passengers who keep the whole plane waiting because they are late to the gate.  There are plenty of perfectly valid reasons, of course, to be late to the airport – standstill traffic jams en-route being the most common. But if you’ve already checked in and cleared security with time to spare, your only excuse to be late boarding is that you got carried away shopping at duty free or throwing back drinks in a pub and lost track of time. Unlike most other airport etiquette crimes, at least this once comes with a penance: the humiliation of all the tutting and death stares as you wade frantically down the aisle to find your seat, the aircraft door bolted behind you and your fate sealed as being officially the most unpopular person on the flight.  Really though, if you’re a grown up then you should know that airports are surrounded by a clogged up network of traffic.  People are always late at Heathrow and blame traffic but hello… it’s London.  You’ve just spent a week or two in heavy traffic, it doesn’t just disappear when you’re flying out.  I’ve never been to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Tokyo but you know what, almost the first thing I’d do when I land there is to find out how long it takes to get back to the airport from the hotel or office.


13. Carousel bullies

You’ve made it through the flight and to your destination airport. There’s not much scope for inherently-annoying people as you all pass through immigration because they tend to be on their best behaviour at this point. Queue jumping is far less likely, as is general rowdiness and diva flipouts. As a result – surprise, surpise – these queues tend to move fastest. But that all changes on the other side when you reach baggage reclaim, and the carousel bullies come into play. These are the people who don’t stand aside (or God forbid help) when you’re clearly struggling to haul your suitcase off the moving belt, creating a domino effect of chaos. It’s the final insult in a voyage that has been littered with insults of varying severity.  It’s normally about this time that many of vow never to fly again and mentally attack the passenger who has been annoying every step of the flight with poisonous daggers.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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13 Responses to 21 Types of Air Passengers that make life hell.

  1. Ankur Mithal says:

    Strangely, I am relieved. I had convinced myself that all these were uniquely Indian afflictions. Great to know that the wider humanity shares these traits too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • If it means anything, I hadn’t noticed people from India standing out in a bad way in these regards! I think there are definitely some countries where I’m less surprised that people behave selfishly but I largely I think I would rather have a plane full of civilised people from anywhere than selfish ones closer to home. I imagine other countries must think the same of British people “Why shouldn’t I block the aisle just because 25 people are behind me”. “If these people are stupid enough to stand in a line for 2 hours that is there problem” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosemarie says:

    How about seat back kickers?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should have given them more prominence instead of healf-heartedly throwing them in with the children. The worst of all worlds is when the seat infront reclines and seat kickers behind let loose!


  3. runsewread says:

    I’m that one person who doesn’t mind reclining seats. I use them, and I don’t mind sitting behind someone who has reclined his/her seat. The airports do need to put more room between seat rows, reclining seats or not. Sitting in an airplane seat is an unacceptably miserable experience, period.

    You have done a great job of reminding me why I try to never have to fly anywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do agree that is a miserable experience. On my last flight I managed to go Business Class due to a series of luck events and seat-sales. 2.5 years later, I haven’t flown since and even less able to face cattle-class. Give me a sleeper-train anyday.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Marilyn Liddell Hall (maiden name) Allan says:

    Was frustrated a while back when flying from Atlanta to DC…..a few rows in front of us…..a group of friends who weren’t sitting together decided to go stand in the aisle near those friends in front of us…they were talking and laughing so loud to each other for a long time!! Really made me mad!! I don’t like flying as it is, and it was quite annoying! They should have stayed in their seats and visited when they got off the plane!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would drive me mad too. Can’t they wait 2 hours and give their vocal chords a rest. I’m surprised the air-stewards didn’t send them back to their seats. People don’t pay good money to have a bunch of loud-mouths standing over them on a flight.


  5. The passenger who has just developed flu and sneezes over everybody for the entire journey and spreads a pandemic the no one sealed in the metal tube of germs can possibly avoid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, those people are our best friends. Nothing like spending a few hours knowing you are going to be sick because of one individual. I’ve had Bronchitis and Pneumonia for 10 weeks and yesterday went out for the first time on a bus ride. I hadn’t been before partially because I was too ill and secondly didn’t want to be coughing and spluttering over everyone. I couldn’t believe it when the 4 people seated nearest to me were coughing and sneezing. It was because of someone like that at a table next to me in a restaurant that I got ill in January in the first place!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You haven’t mentioned the legroom space in the economy class (coach) in the cabin. It is ever diminshing and with a recliner in the front seat, the unfortunate situation is complete.


    • That is very true. The amount of legroom space is terrible, even more so with the general trend of people around the world getting taller every generation. Personally I would prefer to pay slightly more and go back to the standards of the 1970’s and 80’s.


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