Was Pilot Justified for Demanding Conversing Passengers to Shut Up?

Imagine you and your colleague are seated in the premium class cabin on a flight which departed at approximately 10:30 in the evening — but was not a “red-eye” flight — and you are both engaged in a conversation with each other when a uniformed pilot sitting in a seat adjacent to you repeatedly tells you to shut up.

Was Pilot Justified for Demanding Conversing Passengers to Shut Up?

At the conclusion of the boarding process, a pilot in full uniform sat in one of the multiple empty seats adjacent to FlyerTalk member brewdog11 — who recalled the incident — and a colleague. “As we were both awake and still had a journey ahead of us upon arrival, my colleague and I opted to stay up and politely converse. As the service began shortly after takeoff, my colleague noted a quiet ‘shut up’ muttered several times. It was quiet enough, but we could make out what it was. This quiet muttering escalated and eventually became profane, with F-bombs and the like thrown in. It got gradually louder too, although it never reached the volume of typical conversational speech. Refusing to be intimidated by another passenger (let alone an employee traveling in uniform), we continued our conversation. The muttering continued as a near-constant barrage: ‘shut up, shut up, SHUT UP, mother****ers, shut the F*** up…’ It was very clear what he was saying and that this was directed toward us. We were both in shock that someone would display this sort of behavior — flights have been diverted for much less. Additionally, I honestly do not believe that we were being unreasonably loud. Alcohol was not involved, and no one else in the cabin seemed to be bothered by us at all.”


I rarely get annoyed when fellow passengers decide to have a conversation, as I believe that they have the right to do so if they choose. Of course, discretion may be exercised when other passengers are attempting to sleep in a dark cabin.

Because only one side of the story is being told, we really do not know whether brewdog11 and the colleague were actually engaged in a quiet and polite conversation — which can be rather subjective. We do not know if anything offensive was said during that conversation. We do not know what type of day the pilot had experienced — but does that really justify the alleged outburst?

At this time, not enough information may have been revealed — but this experience does bring up some interesting questions: when is a good time to have a conversation with a passenger in a neighboring seat; and when should passengers remain silent? What rights does a person have in shutting down a conversation between two other fellow passengers in order to get some rest — or at least be less annoyed and angry? Did the pilot have a right to confront the passengers as he allegedly did? Is he even fit to be a commercial airline pilot if he is that quick to get annoyed and angered at something which can arguably be considered minor at best? Other passengers would be advised to involve a flight attendant to resolve the issue — so why not the pilot? Should the pilot have know better before escalating this incident?

Should a veteran traveler — such as a commercial airline pilot as one of many examples — be better prepared with eyeshades, earplugs and other items in order to better ensure something remotely close to proper rest aboard an airplane?

Photograph ©2008 by Brian Cohen.

13 thoughts on “Was Pilot Justified for Demanding Conversing Passengers to Shut Up?”

  1. WR says:

    I’m not sure I would believe someone who calls themselves “Brewdog” when they say that alcohol was not involved.

  2. Danny says:

    I concur with WR.

    Besides that I was on a red eye in First class last week. Two passengers behind me talked nonstop together the whole six hour flight. It was so annoying and rude. I feel the pilot’s pain.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I am sorry to learn of your ordeal, Danny; but I am curious: have you tried turning around and politely asking the fellow passengers to speak more quietly so that you can get your rest?

      Unless they are truly inconsiderate or clueless, fellow passengers will usually comply with a polite request.

  3. Ron says:

    Absolutely. Most people prefer to sleep or nap, even during day flights. An occasional word is find but there is really no need for an ongoing conversation in a plane.

    Besides that, ‘normal conversation volume’ for Americans is considered loud by most non americans.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I really cannot recall the last time a conversation between two passengers aboard an airplane disturbed me, Ron.

      I do agree that many Americans do seem to speak louder than other people…

  4. Raymond says:

    Unfortunately, we all have been on flights were we wished the annoying loud conversing passengers across the row would just shut up. I don’t really want to have to listen to loud small talk that even my earplugs can’t filter out. There have been many occacsions I would have liked to tell them to “shut up”!
    You are not alone on the plane!

  5. PeterM says:

    I recently did Yvr-Ord in UAL F on a red eye and , with a full day ahead, wanted the little sleep you can get on a 4ish hour redeye.. The two guys in row 2 were in full conversational flight from start to finish. Many Americans, like the Chinese, rarely have an indoor voice. Murder would have been too polite!
    Bottom line, you are in a communal space, so it is not your living room and you have an obligation to respect your fellow travelers, be they paying or not.

  6. Miles says:

    It sounds as if a uniformed crew member(?) was giving instructions that were not followed.

    1. KathyW says:

      No, the pilot was not on duty on the flight. He was a passenger and apparently wanted to sleep. (I read the thread.)

  7. James says:

    These articles really need to include the route being flown. No reason not to mention the airline either.

  8. Christian says:

    I’m with @Ron regarding volume. If other people are trying to sleep, which seems likely, given the hour, any talk should be at an absolute minimum volume. Also, were the two travelers speaking across an aisle? If the cabin was that empty, why didn’t the pilot take the obvious course and move to another empty seat?

  9. CWG says:

    Wow, an article based on a he-said from an online forum. Thankfully this is only a blog and not a real news site.

  10. Fester says:

    I agree with the “pilot” here. Shut the f up!!! Approaching the offending couple usually makes it worse; as most take this as giving them the license to talk louder and longer. Earplugs and noise canceling headsets do not help. Since I can’t help but listen to their conversation, I pick out something juicy they just talked about and add my two cents to the conversation which catches them off guard. Once they realize how loud they are they have a tendency to quiet down.

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