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The Snorer, the Stinker and the Seat Kicker – 10 worst people to be seated with on a plane

Have you ever had to fly with these supremely annoying types?

The Snorer, the Stinker and the Seat Kicker – 10 worst people to be seated with on a plane

No one likes a seat kicker. (Art: Jasper Loh)

The sky outside was dark, the cabin lights were dim and I had just fallen into a state of merciful slumber. Suddenly, there was a loud and agitated commotion. A guy with a blanket draped over him was stumbling up the aisle.

“He’s sleepwalking!” one of his friends cried. “Quick, follow him!” They then proceeded to troop around the plane, trailing blankets and socks, preventing everyone else from sleeping while the sonambulist himself remained inexplicably dead to the world. True story.

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Then there was the time when a toddler decided to interrupt the gentle engine humming of a tranquil plane by loudly chanting, “Plane is noisy! Plane is noisy! Plane is noisy!” for a good half hour, while his father, understanding the concept of irony but not that of consideration for others, encouraged him by chuckling in amusement.

Being on a plane is usually not the most comfortable of experiences, but if you have the dreaded misfortune of being allocated seatmates such as these – and, let’s face it, there’s always at least one or two in every cabin – you really start to understand what Sartre was getting at when he said, “Hell is other people.”

Here are the 10 worst types to have as your unsolicited flight buddies.

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We know that if you have a baby or are a baby, it is likely not your fault. But if we board the plane to find that our seat is within a four-metre radius of you, we instantly feel our souls plummeting to the depths of dark despair. If the baby somehow makes it through the flight without emitting a single high-pitched peep, then we will be the ones crying in relief. But we all know that’s not going to happen.

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In an enclosed cabin full of recycled air, the civilised thing to do would be to wear deodorant. But the Stinker doesn’t necessarily have to have body odour. The Stinker could also be the person doused in asphyxiating perfume. Or rubbing medicated oil onto her temples. Or unwrapping a pungent packet of nasi lemak with ikan bilis and sambal. Now we wish we’d brought nasi lemak on our flight, too. Ugh.


Sometimes, the person sitting next to you is not a person. He (or she) is one giant elbow. He is not content with having occupied the armrest – he also wants to annex your seat. And, if left unchecked, maybe even the armrest on the other side of you. He’s not going to do it peacefully, either. He’s going to launch a series of violent jabs, jerks and pokes. You could retaliate with death-glares, but rest assured he will be totally oblivious to this tactical manoeuvre. Elbows have very thick skin.


The person next to you is a people person – and you are too polite to tell him you’re not in the mood for small talk. He’s not even interested in having a conversation – he just wants to tell you all about himself. He thinks you are a great listener, notwithstanding the fact that (a) You are a captive audience and (b) He doesn’t seem able to take a hint. You plug your earpods in and bury your nose in a book, but that certainly doesn’t stop him from telling you about how much he loves reading and all his favourite books and the novel he’s currently writing except that he hasn’t technically started writing it yet but he will because he has all these interesting thoughts in his head such as, what would happen if the plane were to crash?

At some point, you’re forced to pretend to fall asleep, knowing that if you slip up on the fake-snoring for even a second, he’s going to smell blood and pounce, and it will be game over.


There is nothing the Drunkard loves more in life than free booze, so when he gets on a plane, the first thing he does is to tell the flight attendant to keep the drinks coming. Of course, this person is never a quiet drunk who keeps to himself. If he’s also a Chatterbox (see above), he might even force you to start drinking with him, in which case, our advice is, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

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The Spiller is similar to the Elbow in terms of not respecting other people’s personal space, but their modus operandi ranges far more widely. Perhaps they have tottered on board with three tiny carry-on suitcases, a duty-free shopping bag, a shoulder bag and a handbag, and are endlessly engaged in the Sisyphean task of trying to fit it all into the overhead bins. Perhaps they sit down and proceed to unpack their iPad, Kindle, hoodie, reading glasses, neck pillow and kitchen sink, and are somehow unable to contain all of these things within their seat. Perhaps they have a lot of personal mass and are unable to contain all of that within their seat. Whatever it is, they spill out into your space like Niagara Falls into Lake Ontario.


Somebody is managing to sleep on the plane. Unfortunately, that somebody is not you. (Art: Jasper Loh)

It’s hard enough trying to fall asleep on a plane, but just as you succeed in nodding off, your slumber is interrupted by a deafening snore. This is the somnolent equivalent of having your face rubbed in dirt, as not only does it prevent you from sleeping, it’s also an irritating reminder that someone else is managing to sleep like a baby (but not the baby in the row in front of you, who is not impressed by his in-flight experience). With your luck, the Snorer will also be the kind of person who falls all over the place when they’re asleep, eventually settling on your shoulder as their favourite pillow.  


They travel en masse and they’ve either neglected to book seats next to one another, or were unable to. But that’s not going to stop them from shouting across the plane to one another, asking you to pass things along to their friend, and getting up and reshuffling their seats every 20 minutes as if it’s a game of musical chairs.

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You know how the ancient Chinese had Chinese water torture, in which water was allowed to drip slowly from a suspended bucket onto the victim’s head, gradually driving them insane? Well, if you wanted to extract information from a captured enemy spy, for instance, a good way would be to strap them into an airplane seat and kick them from behind at random intervals with varying degrees of violence. Wouldn’t be long until they cried for mercy.


At last, you’ve reached your destination and the plane is finally landing. You can’t wait to get off – but there’s that one person who’s more impatient than you, and starts unfastening his seatbelt and standing up before the aircraft has come to a complete stop. This is supremely irritating because (a) It causes the flight attendant to scream in a panicky voice, ‘Please sit down and fasten your seatbelt, sir’ and (b) Where does this guy think he’s going when the doors aren’t even open yet?

Worse still, after you clear Immigration, the Bolter is bound to also be the person who pushes his trolley all the way up against the baggage belt, hogging the space and obstructing you from retrieving your bag.

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Source: CNA/my