We've all seen them: The people who clog the aisle while boarding an airplane. Why, oh why, don't they just sit down so the plane can take off on time?
In a slight turn of the tables, I thought I'd take a look at what makes the worst type of airline passenger from the standpoint of people who work on a plane or in the travel industry. After recently detailing the worst ways to interview for a job, it seemed like an interesting way to look at a profession from the other side.
We've all probably had the worst flights of our lives, and these are the types of passengers that can make them a lot worse for employees, as well as passengers:
The luggage hog
As more airlines charge for checking bags, more passengers are trying to beat the system by bringing their bag through security and to the gate as a "carry-on." When all of the overhead bins are full and the flight attendants are struggling to find space for everyone's bag, the customer with the "carry-on" knows it won't fit overhead and will be "gate checked" for free, said Bobby Laurie, 25, a flight attendant from Phoenix who doesn't want to identify the carrier he works for.
Since time is important in the minutes before departure, airline employees don't charge for checking bags at the gate at the last minute, which stresses out employees, said Laurie, who talks about this and other such topics at the podcast The Crew Lounge.
There are also passengers who try to stuff three suitcases and a suit in the overhead bin, or have one bag that is so big that there is no way it will fit overhead
Again, as more airlines charge for every service that used to be free -- food, drinks, movies, headphones, etc.-- most fliers should know that most services on a plane cost money. Haggling with a flight attendant for a lower price on an item isn't allowed by the airline, Laurie said. He recommends checking the airline's Web site for fees before getting on the plane.
Exit row violator
Everyone knows that the exit rows have extra leg room, so they're prime spots if you're willing to follow the rules and help people out during an emergency landing.
In the book "Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase: Hilarious Stories of Air Travel by the World's Favorite Flight Attendant," the authors describe how one overweight man tried to get the extra leg room by breaking two rules of the exit row. The rules are simple: You must be 15 or older, speak English and cannot require a seat belt extension.
He asked a flight attendant in English for a seat belt extension, and she told him she couldn't give him one in that seat and that she'd find him another seat. He gave her a blank look and said "No hablo Ingles."
"Well, that meant he violated two of the three rules of sitting in the exit row, because you can't sit there if you don't speak English," according to the book, "which I told him (in English) while he continued to pretend he didn't understand what I was saying. When I persisted, he pretended to be asleep." She gathered other flight attendants, including one who spoke Spanish, and they finally convinced him to move.
An airplane is an enclosed space with recirculated air, so someone with foul body odor can make flying difficult. "It permeates the entire aircraft and just sets a bad tone for the entire flight," wrote Cal Ford of Lido Deck Cruises, in an e-mail.
The same goes for bringing strong smelling food onto a plane, notes Markus Rotenberg, 26, a salesman from Boston who flies often. Pizza or fried chicken smells good if you're eating it, but if you're hungry, the smell can be overwhelming.
The important first class passenger
"This guy looks down on all those people walking by him toward coach, and believes no one under the age of 40 could possibly deserve the right to sit up near his throne," Rotenberg wrote in an e-mail to WalletPop.
Rotenberg dresses in jeans and a polo shirt when flying, and was given a dirty look and a comment from his seat mate under his breath about how it's getting easier to get into first class. Rotenberg said he asked him how many miles he flew in the past year. He answers 60,000, with a big smile, and Rotenberg tells him that he was at 70,000, causing the man's smile to disappear and not to say another word for that leg of the flight.
The aisle clogger
"These are the people that are oblivious to the line of people standing behind them trying to get to their seat," Rotenberg writes of the straggler everyone has seen. "They walk very slow to their seat and finally find it. They put their bag down in the seat. They take a few items out. Look for space in the overhead. Try and figure out the best place to put their bag. Then take their coat off. Try and figure out where to put their coat. This is all of course going on in the middle of the aisle. Five minutes later, they decide to sit down."
These "spoiled adult sky brats," as Ann Lombardi, a travel consultant for The Trip Chicks, describes them in an e-mail with WalletPop, are chronic complainers who demand seats, snacks, drinks and are hyper in using the call button.
"They gripe about their seats, asking to be changed," Lombardi said. "They are constantly fidgeting, whacking the seatback of the innocent passenger in front of them, flipping the tray table up and down. They sigh and roll their eyes."
"Invariably, these passengers are people who paid the absolute most dirt-cheap of airfares but alas, are such infrequent fliers that they are totally lacking in airline basic manners and common sense," she wrote.
The fat person
Airline policies on overweight passengers are in the news lately, bringing a touchy subject more into the light. As Rotenberg puts it, it's the person who strikes fear in everybody.
"The one who, when they sat down, the arm rest is in their pocket," he said. "They ask if they can put the arm rest up, but all that does is ... force you in the window or out in the aisle. There is not a single other person you can see getting on a plane and everyone looks up and says, 'Please don't let them sit next to me.' You start making deals to your God, whoever that is, that if they don't sit next to you, you will be a better person."
Here's hoping these examples of the worst types of airline passengers will make you a better flier.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Take the first steps to building your portfolio.View Course »