Nervous Etihad
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Was This Passenger Inconsiderate and Rude — Or…

 just endured a flight where the passenger who was sitting next to me spent most of the seven hours and forty minutes of the duration of the flight — not including the time the aircraft was on the ground — fidgeting; tapping his hand on the window; shaking his legs to the point where the row of seats were consistently vibrating where it felt like non-stop turbulence; bumping his elbow into me while attempting to straighten himself out; and slapping his hand on one leg every time he tapped on the screen of the in-flight entertainment system, which he tapped so hard that the person seated in front of him would turn around and glare at him.

At the conclusion of the flight, I was minding my own business standing in the aisle when suddenly whomp! His bag had fallen on my head because it was a row ahead of him and he could barely reach it; so he apparently decided to try to get it anyway.

I think he murmured “Sorry”; but I could be mistaken.

The whole experience was rather irritating; and I was unable to sleep for much of the flight as a result. The person seated in front of me did not help matters by reclining his seat as fast as possible just before the meal service — only to walk away from his seat afterwards. Fortunately, the flight attendant who served my meal to me adjusted the seat so that it was not reclining anymore. He then returned later and played loud music out of his earphones which he apparently was not wearing; and when he would recline again, his hands would reach out behind the seat and block my view of the screen in front of me.

I suppose that with all of the pleasant flights I have had seated in the economy class cabin of an airplane, I was bound to have a bad experience on what could have otherwise been a decent flight…

…and as much as I wanted to tell the person seated next to me that there must be something wrong with him — or tie his hands and legs so that he would stop vibrating my seat — I then realized that perhaps there really was something wrong. Maybe he was a nervous passenger who was afraid of flying aboard an aircraft. He never did use the lavatory, which I thought was strange for greater than eight hours.

He could have been in a hurry to get off the airplane as soon as possible when his bag fell on me. Fortunately, it was soft — but it was still annoying.

I decided not to exacerbate the situation, as it would have not done me or him any good.

Still, what would you have done if you were in my situation? Changing seats might have been an option; but the airplane was fairly close to full — and many of the open seats were either in the middle section or in the back of the aircraft. I was seated in an aisle seat. Would you have said anything?

Was this passenger inconsiderate and rude; or do you believe that perhaps he was experiencing a phobia or a form of anxiety?

My seat is the empty seat, with the passenger in question seated on the left. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I have to agree with your handling of it. I would have first wanted to give him the stink eye so he realized he was really annoying me. Then it would have occurred to me that maybe he had some sort of medical condition that was causing it. I think you did the right thing. You scoped out the plane for another seat but being you had the aisle and chose that seat probably well before the flight you deserve that seat. As far as the knucklehead in front of you reclining his seat and then walking away for an extended period of time, that IS inconsiderate. Overall I would have been annoyed probably even more than you were. I am curious what airline you were flying.

    1. Etihad Airways, Captain.

      I will post a trip report on it in a future article, as this time it was on a Jet Airways aircraft…

  2. Sounds like he was just completely oblivious. I would have said something about his hands on your screen and his seat reclining during meal service. At least he wasn’t picking his nose and flicking his findings around like the guy sitting next to me on a FRA-MIA flight a couple of weeks ago. Nice guy, but clueless to the fact that doing that is sort of frowned upon in many cultures outside his own. Kind of the way blowing your nose in public is largely perfectly acceptable in our society, but in Japan it’s rude and disgusting. This guy also just threw his trash on the floor. And he took the armrest between us even though I was in a middle seat. I was quickly getting irritated at some of his behaviors, but realized after talking to him that he was a really nice guy, but completely unaware about certain things.

    1. I had the feeling that both passengers were completely oblivious, d.sue

      …and wow — I am not sure how I would have handled the missives flung from the result of a treasure hunt up the nasal passages…

  3. Silence is acquiescence. If YOU don’t like something, it’s up to you to say something – or shutup. Whining about now is pointless and actually makes things worse as you should have politely told your seatmates that what they were doing was inconsiderate. Whether they agreed to do something about it is something we’ll never know as you were too timid to say anything…

    1. I agree up to a point, Rene

      …I felt I was too irritated and annoyed to say something, concerned that it might come out rude and actually exacerbate the situation rather than alleviate it.

      1. While Rene has a point, at 30000 feet its best not to initiate an issue that turns into an argument then turns into an emergency landing due to a “flight”. You made the right call.

  4. Write a note and pass it to an FA and ask them to pass it to your row mate. You have to write the note in front of them so they see the paper. Be polite but firm in the note. Try “STOP IT” in all caps. Perhaps underline it. Twice. Use “NOW” too. End it with a polite “thank you”. You have to look at them when they are reading it. Smile a little. Wink once when they are done.

    I am guessing I would have done what you did unless I was drinking before I boarded, then it might have gotten a bike awkward for me.

    1. Interesting that you wrote that, Graydon.

      At one point, I took a walk to the rear of the aircraft and got some orange juice. I did tell the flight attendant who gave it to me that the passenger seated next to me cannot sit still. She sympathized with me; but what could she do?

      1. There’s nothing we really can do Brian. To me the cost of nearly free world travel is sitting beside twitchers, tappers, armrest stealers and the like.

  5. Maybe the tapper had a physiological reasons or maybe tapping was his coping mechanism. I know it was annoying but sometimes there is a true reason for a person’s behavior. I have become much more aware of this especially with children now I have a nephew who is autistic.

    As to the screen blocker/head phone guy. That appears to just be annoying or clueless.

  6. Hi Brian…I think you handled it in the most compassionate way possible. Your seatmate could have any of a number of physical or psychological issues, which are embarrassing enough for those who suffer without being reminded of such by a stranger on a plane.

    However, you were too kind to the pax in front of you. I probably would have let loose with a rather wet fake sneeze the moment that those hands invaded my viewing experience. Followed by an “excuse me.” Then I would have used a napkin dipped in a sugar drink and fussed with those hands if they didn’t immediately withdraw.

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