Some people just don’t have manners. These travelers reveal the most disrespectful encounter they’ve witnessed on a flight. Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
Middle Seat Dilemna
“I was on a trip to Istanbul, Turkey, when a man was seated in the center seat. I was in the aisle seat and a colleague of his was in the other aisle seat.
In a patronizing manner, he said he thought I would much prefer to be in the middle seat so he could swap and talk to his friend. I told him I didn’t want to swap because I always book an aisle seat, which of course I had paid for.
He seemed aghast that I wouldn’t move. Then I put my headphones in to listen to music as I always do for take-off when on a plane.
Despite having my headphones in, I could still hear him talking to his friend. He said he thought I was a ‘silly girl’ for not moving and that they really should have been able to sit together. He said he ‘didn’t understand people these days’.
They then continued to lean across me and speak loudly, clearly hoping I would move.
I did move. When I explained why I wanted to move to the stewardess, she went towards the back of the plane and the guy was very rude to her. She promptly returned to my seat and upgraded me to business class.”
“I was young, maybe 19 or 20 years old. It was a time when I had a few extra bucks once or twice a year, and I’d fly from my home state of South Texas to visit some family in Minnesota. It was a way for me to escape and have some time to clear my head.
On one particular flight, I was seated next to a woman, perhaps in her early 40s, and a young boy, maybe 10–11 years old. The young boy was obviously protective of his mother and kept close to her. I smelt Fireball the moment I sat in the aisle with them. It was clear she had been drinking before the flight.
Whatever people do what they need to do to cope—I got it. But what I didn’t understand what was, as I understand now, the horrid emotional abuse she inflicted on her son the entire flight.
It started shortly after her first order of adult beverages.
‘You don’t love me like you love your father’, I heard her jab, out of the blue, to her young son.
‘No, Mommy. I swear I love you,’ the young son replied.
She said, ‘No. No, you don’t. I saw how you preferred spending time with him.’
He said, ‘No, Mommy. I love Dad and I love you.’
Another drink or two was ordered.
A few minutes later, the conversation continued.
She said, ‘You know what? When we get home, I’m just going to ship you off to go live with your dad, since you love him more than me.’
The young boy started sobbing. I leaned over and gently whispered to the lady to take it easy—I can’t remember what exactly I said, but I was still a shy young kid myself. I said something along the lines of, ‘You are really hurting him. Please take it easy.’
She told me to ‘Mind my own freakin business.’ Then she proceeded to mouth off to me about how her son loved his father so much more, and she was so tired of it all, so much that she just wanted to walk away and never see her son again.
The kid was sobbing by this time. He had held his tongue so well—as if he dealt with the emotional abuse before.
I finally got the guts up to convince the kid to switch seats with me, giving him the aisle seat, away from his mother.
I whispered to him, ‘I’m sorry she is saying this. It sounds like things have been rough. I’m so sorry, but I promise she won’t be like this when she feels better tomorrow morning.’
The kid got angry at me first, but then calmed down. He said, ‘No, you don’t understand. It’s like this all of the time. This is how she is.’
And then my young carefree soul was struck with a life-changing realization: Emotional abuse of children is really, really REAL. I had never witnessed it before, but in so many ways, it was very wrong.
This poor kid was so messed up and so confused by his mother’s behavior and words. Her painful, stinging words. Searing nothing but lies and manipulation into this poor kid’s brain.
I purchased a cheap set of headphones for the kid and convinced him to concentrate on the movie they were showing. I tried to make small talk with the mom, but she was relentless in her determination to make sure that her son and everyone else knew that she was not loved.
It took everything in me to not say, ‘Gee. I wonder why?’
But I didn’t. I continued small talk with the woman until she passed out. Thank God, some peace! Or so I thought.
We landed just an hour or so later. At that point, the mother should’ve been far soberer. However, at baggage, she was clearly soberer and STILL chewing out her young son for having the audacity to love his father. I was mad.
I ignored my baggage and approached the woman and, in front of her son, told her something along the lines of ‘Your son loves you, and he has come home with you. And you’ve done nothing but berate him the entire time. You should thank God that this boy is still standing by your side after the awful, awful things you have said to him. Perhaps he needs to go spend some time with his father alone, instead of with you, if this is what you do to him.’
The woman suddenly sobered up a bit and apologized to me for what I had witnessed. I told her that it was insulting that she apologized to ME, a bystander, but still hadn’t apologized to her son. She snarled at me and called me offensive names and dragged her son out of the airport doors.
That happened when I was 19–20ish. I’m now 36 and have children of my own. I honestly hope that young boy was able to grow and escape his obviously toxic relationship with his mother.”
“Exit The Plane Or Air Marshals Would Be Called”
“I suffer from vertigo and when I check-in at the ticket counter, I always tell them I need a wheelchair to get to the gate and at the ending destination, no questions asked.
The reason is because of my vertigo, I have to take half of Xanax a half hour before the flight, which makes me extremely groggy.
My husband and I were going to visit a friend of his in California for Christmas and New Year’s and I was in the wheelchair. We went through the TSA line very quickly as I passed a bunch of people, I heard them say I didn’t look disabled and just used the wheelchair to get through the line faster. I do get claustrophobic in crowds, but that’s not the reason.
I told the guy who was pushing me to stop for a second.
I look directly at them and said, ‘I am disabled and just because you can’t see that I am, doesn’t mean that I am not.’
I also said to one lady, ‘You are the one with a bigger disability than I have. You misjudged me, a complete stranger who you don’t their story. So get off your high horse and think before you speak.’
We were on the same flight, and the flight was overbooked. They asked for volunteers and her companion volunteered and as she did I heard the lady say, ‘Why doesn’t the person who was in the wheelchair get off?’
The flight attendant told the woman and her friend to exit the plane or air marshals would be called.
As they walked by, the lady said to me, ‘I hope you’re happy!’
In my mind, it was sweet justice.”
The Two Minute Silence
“It was Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom. It’s well accepted that at 11 am, you take a two-minute silence to remember all those who had lost their lives in a war.
I was taking a flight from Manchester to Miami and once everyone had boarded which was only about 14 people, the captain announced that we would be doing the silence and explained the reason why.
There were two women sitting two seats behind me, who were quite obviously British as they were having a conversation quite loudly about something. So they would have known what to do during the silence.
It came to 11 am and the Captain turned the engine off, and everyone was silent. Except, throughout the whole two minutes, these two women continued their conversation. They were essentially complaining about another woman. They were being quite vain and degrading. It was vile and everyone could hear it throughout the whole two mins.
Several times I made eye contact with the stewards who looked very angry and disgusted by the situation. Needless to say, not much attention was given to those two women throughout the flight.”
“I was thirteen years old, heading down to Florida with my grandma to stay in her amazing rental house. I was super excited, but there were some downsides. Aren’t there always?
I couldn’t wait to ride the plane. My plan was to sit by the window, be quiet, sleep, draw, watch movies, and eat. That way, the two to three-hour plane ride would be less stressful and I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. Although, I’d have to talk every now and then.
I guess I tend to be sat by obnoxious people who don’t know how to act. Even though I don’t express my emotions in public, I always have a facial expression that looks I’m angry. It seems to really set people off, even though it’s literately just my face.
Anyways, back to the story. My grandma was passed out and had her head inside of her neck pillow. I was doodling, and looking out the window now and then. Suddenly, I heard a girl complain to her mother about her meal.
She said, ‘But Mommy, can’t I get dessert too?’
My initial thought was, ‘Oh wow, here we go again. Kid starts screaming, throws a tantrum, Mom finally gives in to what the kid wants.’
It didn’t end up that way, and it even kind of shocked me. Before she spoke, the mom took one glance at me. Instead of telling her kid an actual reason to why she couldn’t get dessert, she used me as her terrible example.
‘Look at that boy over there. Don’t be like him. He doesn’t look like he eats much. That’s why you should be thankful that I got the healthier meal.’
At first, I didn’t know she was talking about me. I kept my mouth shut, expecting it was a mistake and she wasn’t referring to me. Well, that was until that crusty finger waved in my direction.
She continued, ‘See, he’s way too skinny. He looks sick.’
Let me get one thing straight: My weight is out of my control. My doctor said I was a normal weight for my age, but I was really tall and it made me look more slender and thin. From what I knew (and know) it was (and is) perfectly fine to be my body shape.
I decided to wait in my seat until the plane had landed and when my grandmother was awake before I said anything. When my grandmother gathered the bags, I stood up before the lady had the availability to get out. I didn’t want to be completely rude and block her path, so I only stood around for around a minute.
‘Hey,’ I began. ‘Talking to your kiddo about body image that way could destroy their confidence, and maybe others. I didn’t like how you were talking to me.’
I walked away, and I didn’t feel ‘good’. I didn’t feel empowered, strong, beautiful, or bold. I felt like I said what I said and I can’t take it back. Comments like that towards anyone make me ashamed to be human.”
“I was sitting next to a couple on a flight that was going to take a few hours. I had booked the window seat and was enjoying the view as we climbed up above 10,000 feet heading toward 30,000 ft. The flight attendants started to hand out beverages and snacks. It seemed like a pretty calm flight this far except for one thing, the couple next to me were trashed.
They must have tried every possible beverage from the airline VIP lounge that they could get their hands on. It was a mystery as to how they stumbled to get to the lavatory on time.
So while his girl had taken one of those extended trips to the restroom, he really showed his true color. This young flight attendant came with yet another drink for him. He raised his loud voice, fully explaining how he really desired to take this young flight attendant to the mile-high club and back. It was obscene, dirty, and very appalling to hear. The response from this young flight attendant was priceless.
As he was now standing next to her in the aisle, she reached for his pants with one hand. We all gasped like they were going to do something right then and there. In the end, all he got was a pant full of ice and a bruised head from the ice bucket as he fell back into his seat totally passed out. His girl returned from the bathroom to nothing but snickers and giggles from everyone up and down the aisle.
Both were arrested upon arrival for being that wasted in public and unusual disturbance on an aircraft. It was one of the worst conversations that I wish I had never heard to start with.”
They Were Blamed For The Flight Delay
“We were a military family PCS’ing (short for ‘Permanent Change of Station’) to Japan and had been held up by the airline that erroneously believed we had to have visas in our passports. This was not the case under the Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Japan.
Unfortunately, no amount of trying to convince the airline, whose own manual stated that only a passport and a copy of our orders was required would convince them to let us on board. Finally, a call to the State Department was able to convince them of their error.
Because of this, the flight was delayed until the mess was straightened out. As we boarded the airplane, one of the passengers said, loud enough for us to hear, ‘It figures it would be the military holding us up!’
I said, ‘Well, no Madam, it wasn’t the military, it was the airline. And perhaps you shouldn’t have made that assumption. Or at least asked, or even just had the courtesy to keep your mouth shut!'”
A Total Snob
“A very obnoxious person was seated next to me, and when the airline hostess came by, he told her although he was sitting in second class, there was nothing second class about him and for her to bring him a complimentary drink.
She said she would bring him a drink, but it was not free and he would have to pay for it.
He got very loud stating he was supposed to be sitting in first class, but because of a mix up he was having to sit in the main cabin, and the least she could do was furnish him free drinks. She reiterated that she would bring him a drink, but he still would have to pay.
He then went totally ballistic, yelled, and cursed at her. He said he would make sure she got fired, and he knew important people and she would regret this.
I was surprised at how unaffected the hostess was by his threats and verbal abuse. I got up and told her if she would like a statement from me I would be glad to furnish it in her defense. She just smiled and said she would be fine and to not let this bother me.
He spent most of the flight talking loudly about how important he was. Turns out he was just a salesman.”
“They Decided To Pick On Me For No Reason”
“Back in 2006, I was flying back to Hong Kong via London Heathrow on a flight that I had looked forward to traveling on as it was the run-up to Christmas. I was really looking forward to seeing friends and family again.
Anyway, my flight was made a complete misery by a couple of strangers that were two rows back from me who decided to pick on me for no reason at all and call me stupid and other offensive words.
I asked them twice nicely to shut up but they only intensified that they didn’t like me. I ended up in tears so I then went back two rows and decided to confront them. Big mistake. They just kept laughing at me and calling me names.
So at this stage, I had had enough, I finally got the nerve to push the call button and complain about the people behind me. And that’s when they started making up lies about me and caused a scene. So then I confronted them again. By this point, I almost felt like punching them so the flight attendant got the senior pursuer involved.
I explained my side of the story and even said I wanted no trouble. Finally, I got an upgrade and an apology from the airline for the other people’s behavior. I got upgraded to business class whilst the monsters in the back stayed in their seats.
As I only had my carry-on hand luggage in the form of a coat and a rucksack that wasn’t a problem. Turns out the passengers in the back were trying to bully me out of my seat so they could do their own stupid things.
I came so close to making an official complaint to the police on that flight.”
He Was Job-Shaming Her
“This happened eleven years ago while I was on a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was among the last to board the aircraft and passengers were starting to settle down.
I bought an aisle seat, so I had the misfortune of overhearing the conversation between a man and his young daughter, who were apparently heading back home from a holiday. The man, his wife, and daughter occupied the opposite row from mine and the daughter was telling him that she didn’t want to go back because ‘It’s school again.’
At that point, one of the flight attendants was by our row and she was closing the overhead bins.
The man told his daughter, ‘You should study well if you don’t want to end up like this lady here,’ and nodded his head towards the flight attendant. ‘Just waitressing in an airplane. Only school can make you a professional like Mommy and Daddy someday.’
I’m pretty sure the flight attendant heard him because I sure did. What a prick!
It certainly escaped his notice that flight attendants are trained professionals whose priority is the passengers’ safety.”
“I’m disabled and I clearly look like I do, but for some reason, my name always comes up red-flagged when going through TSA. I always hear, ‘Check him completely’.
One time I asked why, and a customs agent told me, ‘It’s due to your military career and past knowledge.’
I replied, ‘What the heck does that mean? I’m in a wheelchair and have metal in my leg, shoulder, and back. You need two hips to stand, so I can’t stand. So there’s no chance I am taking over the plane. Did the Navy/CIA service make me an enemy of the state or something?’
I don’t ever get an answer, but I think it’s nonsense. However, my wife disagrees with me. They are just doing their job.
Not only do I have to deal with that, but I also have to deal with people whispering when we get on first. ‘Bet they fake it to board first.’
I tore into a woman I heard say that. I yelled so loud the airport got quiet.
I yelled, ‘Does it look like I’m faking it?’
I tried to get out of my wheelchair and fell. I was in pain, but I felt better knowing I spoke up. Maybe she’ll understand someday.
My wife wasn’t happy about my antics but I’m so tired of it. And she knows. On the plane, though I overheard a mom telling their kid there is no difference between disabled people and us. Except for a part of their body just doesn’t work like ours. She had me in tears. The best explanation of a disabled person I have ever heard explained. And plainly so a child could understand it. The kid kept asking me if I needed any help?
Hooray for that mom. She made my day.”
“I was seated in business along with a woman who was about 40 years old and her 10-year-old daughter. When her daughter received a glass of juice that she requested of the stewardess, the girl politely said, ‘Thank you.’
That’s when the mother turned to her daughter and said ‘You don’t have to say thank you to her, that’s her job.’
I was speechless.”