10 things more annoying than babies on planes

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

The fact that Jacinda Ardern mouthed "sorry" to fellow passengers as she and baby Neve boarded their long-haul flight to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly automatically precludes her from the offensive passenger category.

Yes, a wailing baby on a plane can be an acute form of aural torture but it's hardly the poor bub's fault. Babies can't help crying any more than most of us can help passing gas in a decompressing cabin (more on that later).

It's hardly mum's fault either. What do you expect her to do when baby decides to make her displeasure known the only way she knows how? Gag her? If so, god help any passenger who's ever seated by you. The best she can do is follow the Prime Minister's example and apologise for any disruption caused.

Here are 10 types of passenger far worse to be seated next to than wee Neve.

1. The chatterbox

Everyone loves friendly folk with good banter but not when they're trying to work or get some rest. For many, flights afford a rare opportunity to switch off completely without having to justify it. Do not intrude on that. Say hello and introduce yourself but shut your trap if your seatmate's eyes glaze over or shut.

If you're the victim of incessant chatter, you don't have to be rude to get a bit of peace. Saying something along the lines of "It was nice speaking with you, but I have to get some work done (or get some much-needed rest)" should do the trick. Close your eyes and use eyeshades and earplugs as not-so-subtle signs you don't want to be disturbed if necessary.

2. The smelly seatmate

A 2015 survey found that nearly a quarter of Kiwi travellers rated offensive body odour (on others of course) as their biggest bugbear while flying. It should, I hope, go without saying that you should wash or at least apply deodorant before boarding. Go easy on the cologne or perfume though; in such close quarters it's bound to smell intense.

And keep your shoes on. Foot fetishism is less common than you might think and there are plenty who find feet in general kind of gross. Even regularly pedicured feet get a bit stinky after being stuffed inside shoes and socks, so keeps yours on until you're in a less confined space.

3. The smelly food eater

With airlines overcharging for meals that are average at best, no one's going to blame you for bringing your own food on board. Just make sure it doesn't have a pungent aroma.


Even if we share your fondness for tuna sammies, curry and boiled eggs, we don't want the smell recirculating around the cabin. Even if your food smells good, it's a bad thing. It's just going to make us hangry. And jealous.

4. The boozehound

By all means have a beer or glass of vino to ease the stress of flying or get into the holiday spirit. Don't attempt to down your entire bottle of duty free before the plane touches down and end up inadvertently sharing your life story with half the cabin or, as passengers have made headlines for doing in recent years, groping a crew member's buttocks, peeing on another passenger or trying to enter the cockpit to charge your phone.  It's embarrassing for everyone. And potentially dangerous.

5. The armrest hog

No one wants to endure an entire flight with their arms pinned to their sides, but there's an unwritten rule of air travel that says anyone who hogs the armrests on a flight must have the same done to them a hundred fold.

Or at the very least until they learn that the middle seat passenger has first dibs on both armrests as compensation for being the middle seat passenger. If you're only seated next to one other person, share the shared armrest. It's common sense really.

6. The finger clicker

There's really no excuse for this unless you're fine with being thought of as an obnoxious prima donna who expects to be waited on hand and foot. Pronto.

7. The farter

Dropping cabin pressure may make you fart more but that's no excuse to let rip willy nilly. While the old adage "better out than in" may be applied to farting - science says it can be dangerous to hold one in for too long - it's polite to ensure you're not seated beside someone who can't escape when you let your intestinal pressure drop. That's to say, get up and go to the bathroom.

If your fellow passengers are annoying you or your sense of humour is on the childish side, you could do as flight attendants do and indulge in a spot of "crop dusting". The term is used to describe the apparently common practice among stewards of farting while walking down the aisles pretending to check on passengers.

Preventative measures can include avoiding high-fibre foods before and during a flight and wearing charcoal undies.

8. The ignoramus who gets up before the seatbelt signs are off

Safety aside (not that I'm advocating setting safety aside), it's just plain rude to get up to grab your bag from the overhead locker or march down the aisle when the plane has landed but the seatbelt signs are still on. Doing so is essentially equivalent to declaring yourself a narcissist who believes their time is more important than anyone else's.

9. Inconsiderate seat recliners

With airline seats seemingly getting smaller by the second, we understand the need to maximise space but there's a time and place for it. Don't do it during meals. Try not to do it if you know the person behind you is working on a laptop. Otherwise, go for it.

I realise this is controversial, but I'm a firm believer in the right to recline. And reckon the $664 fine a Kiwi passenger received for kicking and kneeing the reclining seat of the passenger in front of him on a flight from Wellington to Brisbane was well deserved.

10. The seat kicker

Kids are the most common culprits here but fidgety adults can also be to blame. While it's never a good idea to try to discipline someone else's child, a quick glance (or glare) over the back of the seat can do wonders. More often than not the offender, or parent of the offender, will get the hint and oblige (we're pretty sure Jacinda would). Failing that, alert a flight attendant and tell tales.   

- Stuff