People can get irritable when they travel. We're all guilty of it. But even being confined in a small space is no excuse for treating others poorly. These Quora users took to the Internet to share the rudest thing they've ever heard on a plane. Content has been edited for clarity.
Sometimes You Need To Step In
“I was young—maybe 19 or 20. When I had a few extra bucks once or twice a year, I’d fly from my home state of South Texas and visit some family in Minnesota. It was a way for me to escape and have some time to clear my head.
One particular flight, I was seated next to a woman, perhaps 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 it the moment I sat in the aisle with them—she had been drinking before the flight.
Whatever, people do what they need to do to cope—I got it.
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 a spiked soda something or other.
‘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.’
‘No. No you don’t. I saw how you preferred spending time with him.’
‘No, Mommy. I love Dad and I love you.’
Another drink or two was ordered…. A few minutes later:
‘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 business’.
Then she proceeded to mouth off to me about how her son loved his father sooooooo much more, and she was so tired of it all, 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 isle 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…then calmed down. He said, ‘No, you don’t understand. Its like this all 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 SO WRONG.
This poor kid was so messed up and so confused by his mothers 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 more sober. However, at baggage, she was clearly more sober 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 a witch 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 pray so often that that young boy was able to grow and escape his obviously toxic relationship with his mother.”
Entitled Parents Always Cause A Scene
“This happened last year on my return flight from a family trip to Hawaii. I had to go home early whilst my family got another two weeks of pina colada-infused bliss on Waikiki beach.
I had a morning flight and was still groggy from my 4am wake-up. I stumbled along with my carry on luggage down the aisle to my assigned seat. I stopped at my allocated row as lo and behold, all three seats were taken by a small family consisting of a cute little baby laying in the middle seat between her mother and father.
I quickly checked my ticket to ensure I didn’t misread my seat number due to a lack of sleep. As soon as I looked up, I made eye contact with the father and was asked whether I was sitting there. I nodded and the family proceeded to shuffle, with the baby sitting on her mother by the window and the father now in the middle.
As soon as I sat down in the aisle seat, I began to hear murmurs with passive aggressive tones from my new seat mates:
‘How smart of the airline to place someone next to us when we have a little baby.’ muttered the father.
‘We just got married and this is what we get? Where are we supposed to put the baby when she needs to sleep?’ whispered the wife.
The murmuring became louder as they continued to express their distaste with the seating arrangement. I put my headphones in to block out the sound of whining adults but it wasn’t too long before an air hostess was summoned by the father.
The parents proceeded to jointly rip into the air hostess with their complaints. In a nutshell, they expected to have a free seat for their baby and kept saying they just got married etc.
The air hostess was doing her best to reason with them both. She explained that normally babies were either held by their respective parents during the flight or were seated in a special area by request (you know, common sense). The parents weren’t having any of this, kept up their childish banter and made a scene. I could see the gazes of other passengers looking over at our row. The parents then threw in the ol’ ‘going to write a complaint’ line and the air hostess sighed and excused herself.
She promptly returned, crouched by my side and asked whether I was happy to move seats. I think I shouted a yes at her and was quickly moved elsewhere.
I still can’t get over how parents expected their child to have a free seat and caused such a scene.”
Keeping Thoughts To Yourself Ain’t Easy
“The most offensive thing someone said near me was by the man sitting next to me. I had a nice window seat, which is valuable on an international flight because it gives you something to lean on to sleep. The man on the aisle seat next to me was an orthodox Jew and he called the steward over to whisper something in his ear. The steward then told me the other passenger had requested I take another seat since he was not allowed to sit next to a woman. He was not even allowed to talk to a woman, which is why he’d asked the steward to speak for him, although he sat right next to me.
It took me one zillionth of a second to say no. Politely, but firmly. I thought to myself, but did not say, ‘flip off, you old woman-hating fart.’ Fortunately the steward did not press the matter, so it was settled and I kept my seat.
At that moment, the orthodox passenger began rocking back and forth with his eyes closed, apparently praying, and then put his hat over his face. He kept it there the entire seven hours of the flight. I don’t know how he didn’t suffocate.
Now THAT’s piety.”
There’s No Difference
“Being disabled and looking like I do there are two things I always get to overhear. Going through TSA my name comes up red flagged. Meaning check him completely.
A customs agent told me ‘It’s due to your Military career and past knowledge.’
What the heck does that mean? I’m in a wheelchair and have metal in my leg, shoulder, and back. I am a wand beep show. All hands pat downs in a wheelchair. You need two hips to stand, so I can’t stand. Any chance I am taking over the plane? Powder tests on hands AND ARMS. OK so the Navy/CIA service made me an enemy of the state or something?
I think it is bull and it’s profiling but my wife said ‘No it’s not.’
Then you have 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. Does it look like I’m faking it? I tried to get out of wheelchair and fell. Hurt. But I felt better with that. Maybe she’ll get it some day.
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 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?
HURRAY FOR THAT MOM. YOU MADE MY DAY!”
The Final Straw
This was so annoying, and I still get frazzled when I think about this. My then husband and I were flying somewhere – I don’t remember where, but it was a lengthy flight. There was a woman sitting directly behind me, and she constantly got up out of her seat just to stand in the aisle. That was no big deal, but every time she got up, she grabbed the back of my seat to pull herself up. The problem was, when she’d grab my seat, ‘somehow’ she’d grab my hair with it and yank. Each time she did it, my head would snap back, and I’d lose a handful of hair.
I told my husband that I was going to say something to her the next time she does that. He told me not to, he even insisted actually. I told him that’s easy for him to say, nobody’s yanking his hair out. He still said to not say anything. I said I was going to turn around and pull her hair then. Husband said, ‘No you won’t.’
Sure enough, the woman got up again and pulled my hair. I got her attention and said, ‘Excuse me. Every time you get up, you manage to grab my hair and pull it when you use the back of my seat to pull yourself up. I’d really appreciate it if you’d be careful next time you get up from your seat.’
I know she heard me, she didn’t apologize, but she acknowledged me. She sat down, got up, pulled my hair. I screamed loudly, ‘OUCH! Please be careful!’
A few minutes later she sat down. Sure enough, a few minutes later I felt her hands on the back of my seat, she had my hair in her hand and pulled to stand up, thought better of it, and sat down. I said, ‘That’s IT!!’
I pushed the recline button on my seat and pushed back as hard as I could, totally smashing her. She was a rather portly woman so I know I pinned her into a ridiculously uncomfortable position.
The woman sitting across the aisle from me just laughed and laughed. My husband had a good laugh. The woman didn’t get out of her seat again, and given her tendency to not listen to my request to exercise care, I didn’t hear any requests from her to be let out.
So there she stayed for the rest of the flight!”
She Finally Shut Up!
“Woman who boarded last minute on a Southwest flight was seated next to me in middle seat & her boyfriend behind her. She complained about not being seated together. Groused non-stop about the woman next to her boyfriend, who was asleep so ‘she shouldn’t care about where she sat,’ and said same thing about me when I closed my eyes. Never picked on 2 white men on window seats, just the Asian women on aisle seats. (I paid to sit on an aisle seat.) Then she kept twisting around in her seat talking to her boyfriend, then proceeded to pass a crossword puzzle back & forth overhead.
I finally had enough and told her that if she had checked in on time or paid a fee to draw an earlier number, like we did, she could have sat with her boyfriend. Since it appears she didn’t, she needed to suck it up, shut up and sit still. She apologized and was quiet the rest of the flight.”
Totally Worth It
“Normally, I am among the first to get on the plane. But on this day, I didn’t fly on the company plane. Arriving late, I missed the First Class passengers enter the aircraft first. I just made the last group of passengers. I overheard a white old woman tell a crew member not to have a young Mexican woman sit next to her. I pulled out my credit card and gave it to the crew member and told them to move the young Mexican lady to First Class. The look on the old woman’s face was worth the extra cost on my credit card.”
Some Entitled Newly Weds!
“About 30 years ago, I was on a 6-hour nonstop flight that included a complimentary full dinner and a snack. The flight was fully booked and we were on one of the first generation of passenger jets with extremely limited room between rows of seats. So even though I’m not tall, it was discouraging, right after takeoff, to have the young man in front of me immediately recline his seat back as far as it would go, which was very far on that particular craft. He wasn’t napping, either. He just wanted to have as much room as possible so he could sit cross-legged and sideways in his seat facing his wife. She was seated next to him and they were playing cards.
I had planned to read my book, but the man’s seat back was literally in my lap, and I had nowhere to hold my book, unless I held it in the aisle or in front of my seatmate, who had to contend with the seat back of the young man’s wife in his lap, though at least my seatmate was taller and the wife hadn’t lowered her seat back all the way.
When the flight attendant came around with drinks, she saw immediately that I couldn’t even lower my tray. She politely requested the young couple to put their seat backs in the upright position. The young woman complied immediately, and kept hers upright for the duration of the flight, but her husband made a fuss, complaining that he couldn’t sit comfortably that way, he had paid for his ticket, why did the seats recline if passengers couldn’t use them, etc. The flight attendant prevailed, but as soon as she and the drinks cart had moved forward, he lowered his seat a couple of levels, so that I had to grab my gingerale to avoid wearing it, as it would have toppled off the tray.
We went through the same nonsense when dinner was served, and again with a later drink and snack service. At every opportunity he reclined his seat fully. It reached the point that the flight attendants were coming up behind his seat to order him to put it upright, but as soon as they moved on, he would fully recline it again, so I spent most of the flight pinned in my seat. I certainly wasn’t going to give myself room by committing the same rudeness against the passenger behind me, and there wasn’t a free seat on the plane to which I could be moved.
Toward the end of the flight, the senior attendant apologized once more, thanked me for my patience, and asked me to report to a customer service desk belonging to their airline in the airport, so I could be given a travel voucher as an apology. Hearing this, the young man turned around and had a mini-tantrum, saying that he and his wife were on their honeymoon, and being forced and harassed to raise his seat back had spoiled their second day of marriage, so they were the ones who should get a voucher.
‘Oh, shut up, Gerald,’ said the new bride, who had apparently had enough. She pushed past her groom and stalked down the airplane aisle, Gerald in whiny pursuit.
‘I give them six months,’ said my seatmate, handing me my suitcase from the overhead bin.
‘Three if they fly much,’ responded the flight attendant, and everyone around us started to laugh.
I got off the plane surrounded by the broad grins of nearby fellow passengers who had watched the whole thing unfold. I’m pretty sure they felt I had earned my travel voucher.”
No One Else Wanted To Move, Either!
“I was traveling alone in first class. I had gone to the restroom and upon my return, I found someone sitting in my seat. The woman who had misappropriated my seat asked me if I minded changing seats with her so she could sit next to her husband. It seems they had been upgraded and had not had seats together. Her seat was next to a woman holding an infant who was VERY FUSSY.
Let me be clear, if the infant were sleeping I would have felt the same way. We were going abroad and I did not wish to be next to an infant. My seat was in the front row. The infant was in the last row of first class. Everyone stared at me waiting. And of course I heard the ‘Let her sit next to her husband’ comments. I looked at the woman and said ‘I am sorry but I’m comfortable where I am’ and stood my ground.
I could feel the disdain of those around me. I was a horrible human being and a baby hater who would not let a married couple sit together. (Now the baby is wailing.) The woman is not getting up, the flight attendant asks ‘Is everything OK?’ Someone yells, ‘She won’t let her sit with her husband.’ The attendant tells me to take my seat. I explained that someone is sitting in my seat. The woman tells her that she wants to sit with her husband and I won’t change seats with her. Now this flight attendant asks me if I’m willing to change my seat.
At this point I take a deep breath, and point out there are other people that can move their seats but that I want my seat, a glass to drink and no further discussion. I would say that was the most disrespectful event in my traveling history on an airplane.”
Shamed On The Plane
“As a 12-year-old at that time, I honestly loved the concept of going into a plane and just getting as close to the concept of flying as I possibly ever could. So to start off, you can imagine a pretty excited kid boarding the plane with her family and whatnot, as I got to my seat, strapped on that blue seatbelt and slid the window slide thing open and just purely happy. It wasn’t long till the flight attendant came to check if everything was okay and introduced herself. All in all everything was going pretty fine, right? Well, darling reader, as an hour passed by it was time for the ‘chicken or beef’ question and the smell of the food invaded the air and my mind as I carefully thought out what I would choose and the small conversation with said flight attendant would be. She came and gave out my seat partners their preferred food and then it was my turn but got skipped over and she proceeded to the next row. The person next to me (God bless her) called her for me and the attendant just looked at me with a look which was hard to describe but eventually apologized and went ahead asked me and whatnot. That’s okay, honestly didn’t think that much of it at all. Half an hour later, she came in with the ‘coffee or tea’ question and asked the lady beside me who replied with tea and no sugar to then she answered ‘That’s a very healthy choice, madam, sugar is very bad and makes us all fat almost like that child next to you,’ as her eyes landed on me with disgust. Oh… I get it now… my 12-year-old body shape was being critiqued which was slightly overweight. Anyway, my face probably showed all the expressions it needed to show to which she cheerfully said, ‘Oh it’s okay you just need to stop stuffing yourself with food and you won’t be fat anymore!’
Well then, ‘goodbye to my self-esteem and adios to my love of boarding planes’ was my concluding thought of that trip.”
They’re Not Playing Around
“When I was about 9 or 10 years old, my family was returning from a trip to Boston. I was playing with my toys, minding my own business when I dropped a toy.
It had gone between the seats (I was in a window seat) and was next to a young couple and their toddler sitting behind me. Being a kid, I debated asking them for my toy as I was very upset. About 10 minutes after I dropped the toy, I summoned up my courage and asked for it back.
To my eternal horror, the 3-year old was having a grand old time with MY toy, sucking on it and abusing it. Of course my child’s mind was blank: the worst crime anyone could commit was taking my toy.
When I asked for it back, the mom just looked at me and said, ‘Ella really likes it so I think we’ll keep it.’ To this day, what really ticks me off is that she wasn’t joking and she said it in that know it all way that moms use when they think you’re being stupid.
The mom carried on reading her magazine, completely dismissing me. I tapped my step dad saying they wouldn’t give my toy back.
My step dad proceeded to ask the couple for my toy. Now when the mom repeated her answer, my dad got frustrated (he’s a very protective dad). My dad was overall very calm but let’s just say the couple was not.
After a discussion with my dad telling them that the toy belonged to me as we paid for it, the mom started screaming that they COULDN’T AFFORD ANY TOYS.
A flight attendant came over and asked what was wrong. We each told a different story. My dad told the truth. I dropped my toy, the mom wouldn’t give it back, and now she was yelling at us for not reason. The woman said that it was her daughter’s toy and I had pretended to drop my toy because I was selfish and cruel to young, innocent children like Ella. Mind you, I was 10 and this woman was screaming at me; traumatizing.
Some people around us confirmed our story and the flight attendant apologized to us and we got some stuff for our trouble (I can’t remember what we got). Oh and I got my toy back.
As soon as the attendant left, the woman started calling me names and completely verbally abusing me.
My dad finally lost his cool. He proceeded to tell the woman how disgusted he was with her and her behavior to a child. We moved seats, far away from the couple and their child.
As I was walking to my new seat, the mom, who was sitting in the aisle seat, proceeded to do the childish action of tripping me. Like WHAT!!!?!!
Anyways, the rest of our flight was peaceful until we were leaving the plane. The woman saw me and my dad and gave us the middle finger.
We reported our experience, pointed her out and went on our way. Needless to say, I learned some foul language that day.
I know this isn’t the most disrespectful story, but the fact that this MOM did all of that to a child disgusts me. All I can think about is her poor kid.”