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The 7 Types of People You’ll Sit Next to on Flights

Jan. 05, 2018
4 min read
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You’ve seen them.

Whether you’ve flown three times in your life or 30 legs in the past year alone, you’ve likely come across seat mates of all stripes. Something about flying can bring out the best (or sometimes worst) in people. When you’re strapped to a seat 30,000 feet in the air, quirky habits are bound to surface. How many of these fellow passengers do you recognize?

1. The Honeymooners

You don’t have to be flying to Hawaii to spot lovebirds. These are the couples who barely notice there’s a third wheel sitting next to them. But sometimes this can work out in the extra seat mate’s favor: Because neither person needs personal space, they’ll cozy up next to each other, granting plenty of extra room in the row. As long as they don’t engage in heavy PDA, you’re in the clear. Plus, everything’s amazing! The little baby booze bottles? Amazing! Puffy clouds? Amazing! You can’t help but admire their enthusiasm for life before you shove in your earplugs.

2. The Prolific Reader

These typically older folks tap that overhead light while the plane’s still taxiing. They’ve got four dog-eared hardcovers in their carry-on. They barely look up during beverage service. Diehard bookworms love using every second of their inflight time to soak up the latest bestseller or impressive opus (or speed-read fashion magazines). Sure, a Kindle might make an appearance, but usually these avid bibliophiles prefer paperback. You know, for the smell.

3. The Tech Tyke

Mom’s got her house white, Junior’s got his iPad and everyone’s happy. While parents usually monitor their kids’ entertainment consumption on the ground, everything goes out the window on a flight longer than two hours. Video games, TV marathons, the billionth rewatch of Frozen? Go for it, sweetheart! These tech-obsessed youngsters might amaze you with their digital savviness — peek over their tiny shoulders and you’ll discover the most addictive games popular right now. Just don’t ask to play yourself. They’re not into sharing.

Types of People You’ll Sit Next to on Flights

4. The Don’t-You-Dare-Mess-With-Me Pro

Say hi to the dude who drinks his whiskey and puts on an eye mask before takeoff. Or, actually, don’t. He’s not here to make friends. But he is on a first-name basis with the flight attendants, who know not to wake him for any reason. Ever. His lie-flat business-class seat is more familiar than his own bed at home and despite falling asleep instantly and snoring across the ocean, he somehow rouses himself three minutes before landing. This guy’s all business, baby.

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5. The Chatterbox

If someone makes direct eye contact and smiles as you squeeze into your aisle seat, congratulations! You found a chatterbox who is here to make friends. They want to know all about your final destination, where you’re coming from, how long you’ve lived wherever you’ve lived, are you dating anyone right now and hey, did you want to split the cheese plate? Maligned by most people who prefer flying to be a hermetic experience, the jibber-jabberers don’t mean any harm. They’re just very, very friendly.

6. The Worker Bee

Miraculously, her tray table manages to hold a laptop, two cups of black coffee, two cell phones and a hundred-page spreadsheet. Often fixed with a glassy stare, she’s determined to maximize every minute of in-flight productivity while maniacally counting down the seconds until she can turn off Airplane Mode. Who needs a WeWork space when you can treat an airplane cabin like your own personal corner office? (Warning: She will not appreciate sitting next to The Chatterbox.)

7. The Flight Virgin

How to spot this rare creature in the wild: They fumble with the seatbelt (Which end goes into where?). They make liberal use of the service button (When will lunch be served?). They even look up and down the aisle for the bathroom (How does the door lock?!). When the plane hits a patch of turbulence, they grip the seat rests and yelp, “Oh my god, we’re gonna die!” Resist rolling your eyes and be kind to the newbies. They’re just nervous — and remember, you were a virgin once too.

Illustrations by Getty Images

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