Top 5 Paths to Plane Peace

April 23, 2008 | By | Comments (6)

How do you deal with an overly friendly seat mate on an airplane?

It’s enough to make me want to wear a mask, gloves, and blinders. But seriously. I work for a polite magazine, and when I’m on the road I try hard to be pleasant. Still, most of the time when I’m ferrying between destinations I prefer a little quiet time to prepare for work or to transition into being back home.

While I’m not a testy flyer, these are my top five ways to enjoy the plane ride by myself:

1.    Wear ear plugs.

I keep a pair in a case in my bag at all times. They allow me to sleep on planes, sleep with my snoring husband, and sleep in strange hotels rooms—especially when the party rages next door. I put the brightly colored plugs into my ears as soon as I arrive at my seat. Only once has some well-meaning woman grabbed my arm and asked, “Honey, can you hear when you wear those things?”

2.    Bring a newspaper onto the plane.

I actually shield myself from my seatmate with a newspaper completely unfolded, along with loud sweeps of refolding upon each page turn. When I use earplugs and an open paper, I can fend off any friendly talker long enough for him or her to lose interest in me—especially when I read the obits.

3.    Be nice to the flight attendants.


(Photo courtesy of Sean Munson via flickr)

While this has nothing to do with the other passengers, I may need all the help I can get when I misbehave (see number 5).  I always say hello when boarding and make eye contact. I never ring the call button, I buckle up first thing, and I tuck my bag under the seat in front of me. Then when I ask nicely for a cup of tea, most attendants are happy to oblige (it’s a special request that requires an extra trip down the aisle to the kitchen).

4.    Keep the air-sickness bag within hand’s reach.

While I’ve never actually used one on a plane, I have pulled the bright white envelope out of the seat back and placed it on my leg. Then I was able to shut my eyes and snooze while my seatmate thought I was close to, well, you know. (Another hint? Don’t put your leftover peanuts or carry-on lunch in the bag to take away with you. The flight attendants will get the wrong idea.)

5.    Give your seatmate a small shower.


(Photo courtesy of mrjoro via flickr)

This really is a last resort. But I have sat next to persistent intruders who simply wouldn’t hear of leaving me alone. That’s when my arm lightly brushes my tea enough to cause a spill—toward my seatmate. Whoopsie! After that, I’m glad the flight attendants have a good first impression.

What do you do to fend off the talkative flying companion?


  1. Tanner

    Here’s a new little Southwest experience. I was way down the boarding pass line–(B-49) which in Southwest terms means you’re lucky to share half the aft lav–so my expectations were the worst. To my surprise a middle seat sat open close to the front and sported ample overhead space for stowage. Pulled out my book to plop down and the guy in the aisle said, “If you want, you can have my seat.” “You sure?” “Yeah, that’s my wife, (at the window) and we’re together.” He reluctantly slid to the middle, and I took advantage of his disappointment.

    May 11, 2008 at 10:49 am
  2. Annette

    I know what you mean on Southwest. I love the exit row seats, but that middle seat is generally the first to go on the plane because of its ample legroom. I always get disapproving looks from long-legged travelers seeing my short stubs sprawled out there. But, with as much as I travel, I don’t mind taking the best seat on the plane.

    April 25, 2008 at 6:12 pm
  3. Tanner Latham

    You gotta love the Southwest Spreadout. You know what I’m talking about. You scored an aisle or window seat and to preseve that precious middle, you stick your coat or a book there. You can’t officially claim it as yours, but you’re creating the illusion. You’re not really fooling anybody, though, because I’ve heard more than one flight attendant chastise the practice.

    April 24, 2008 at 7:54 am
  4. TB

    A friend of mine tells them, if he’s trying to exit the talkativeness, that he sells life insurance for a living. Kind of a damper, wink.

    April 23, 2008 at 7:25 pm
  5. Kim

    One colleague I know will actually clutch the airsickness bag and rock back and forth neurotically to ward off potential seat mates on Southwest. Works like a voodoo charm.

    April 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm
  6. Matt

    If I need to rest and relax on a flight then for me it’s the iPod every time.
    Nothing says, “Leave me alone” like those two little, white ear buds.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:19 am

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