Airplane Etiquette: What To Do When The Person Next to You Won’t Shut Up?



Pop quiz hotshot. You’re on a six hour plane flight and the dude next to you just won’t stop going on about his dreams and schemes. What do you do?

If you ask me, there’s nothing worse than being trapped next to a Chatty Cathy or Loquacious Louis when you’re on a long plane flight. Nothing worse. Honestly, I’ve played out some scenarios in my head and nothing else really even competes. Meteors pattering your city? A massive lizard whipping your house to cinders with its tail? A mini-blackhole, courtesy of the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, slurping up your entire country while you’re off on business? Nothing. Nothing is worse than being talked at for hours and hours up in an airplane.

Not to sound all anti-social or anything. I’m happy to exchange in all the typical pleasantries when the plane’s on its final descent. Where you headed in Los Angeles? What line of work you do? Why have you been staring at my crotch-region for most of this plane flight?

You know, all the typical “we’re about to land” chit-chat. Because that’s what normal people do: they wait to open the can of worms until they know the plane’s about to land, so even if the other person doesn’t know when to shut up it’ll all be over soon enough anyway.

But what happens when the person next to you opens up that can of talk worms when you’re still sailing over the country with nothing but time on your hands, or, much worse, before you even take off in the first place? How can you get out of that cluster-f-ck gracefully, respectfully? Unless you’re the kind of person who don’t take no BS and would have no problem just telling your talkative neighbor to shut the hell up before you pop him in the face, you’re in quite the pickle.

For nice and polite sorts, getting seated next to a motormouth on an airplane can be very much like Chinese water torture. Is he going to keep talking? Is this really happening to me? When is he going to talk next? The suspense is killing me! Oh crap, here he goes again!

For all those people out there who are more afraid about this particular scenario than the plane actually crashing, I’m here to help. I’ve been there, folks. I’ve got ways to handle this situation.

What to do when the person next to you in an airplane won’t shut up

  • Make yourself look and sound very tired. Keep yawning into the other person’s face until (s)he comments on your obvious tiredness. At that exact moment, let your head slump forward as if you’d just fallen into a sudden, deep sleep. Pretend to be out cold for the entire six-hour plane flight. Don’t “wake up” until everybody else has already de-planed.
  • Whip out your cell phone and pretend like you’re checking an important message. Every time the talkative person looks like (s)he’s gonna try and say something, raise your finger as if to say, “Hold on, hold on, just let me finish listening to this.” Do this for the entire six-hour plane flight. If the flight attendant comes by and tells you you can’t use your phone, give her the “Hold on, hold on” routine too until she goes away. Don’t put the phone down until everyone else has de-planed.  
  • Just be a terrible conversationist. If the talkative person asks you a question, answer as if you didn’t understand the question. If he goes, “How old are you, if you don’t mind my asking?” Just say, “No way pal, I prefer cats. They’re so much easier to take care of, ya know?” You do enough of this and the talkative person will to think either you’re completely crazy, or (s)he is, and will promptly go into a sort of “safe mode” in order to sort things out. You’ll have the rest of the flight to yourself.

This post was written in response to a Daily Post writing prompt

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14 Responses to Airplane Etiquette: What To Do When The Person Next to You Won’t Shut Up?

  1. List of X says:

    If you can respond in a foreign language, it would also help.

  2. Doobster418 says:

    “Unless you’re the kind of person who don’t take no BS and would have no problem just telling your talkative neighbor to shut the hell up before you pop him in the face, you’re in quite the pickle.” I guess I’m that type of person. I’d rather tell the talkative neighbor to shut the flock up than spend the whole flight being in the pickle. Fortunately, I haven’t yet hat do pop anyone in the face.

    • Bill Carson says:

      I envy you your steely resolve. Please train me in your ways. My own personal anti-Chatty Cathy techniques require a lot of energy, I’ll be the first to admit it. All that play-acting can start getting old after the first three hours or so.

  3. zareenn3 says:

    This is actually helpful. Specially the part where you give off an answer that doesn’t make any sense. Bound to throw anyone of their game a bit and leave us alone.
    You know I like talking so you never know, the talkative person might just be me 😦

  4. I’ve flown my fair share of flights and THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME.

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