Most travelers are live-and-let-live types as I am, but those limits get tested when airline passengers are crammed aboard a claustrophobic metal tube with 200 strangers. Meet the seven passengers that drive most of us nuts.
1. The Armrest Bully
You're in the middle seat and the louts on either side have brazenly bogarted all available armrests. You could call a flight attendant on these bullies, but that might create more tension. An anonymous frequent flier who works for a large airline likes the passive-aggressive approach. "Life's too short," he says. He waits until the bully leaves for the restroom then stakes his claim.
2. The Phone Freak
The plane is about to take off or has just landed which is when the seatmate known as Yellular (think cellular and yeller) and whips out his cell and begins talking at EAR-SHATTERING DECIBEL LEVELS. Yellular thinks if he doesn't shout no one will hear his crucial comments like, "Yes, we've landed" and "Now we're at the gate." Warning: The FCC is seriously considering allowing voice calls on planes.
3. The Space Hog
Ever have an electronic nose bleed? That's when the space hog in front of you reclines so far that your seat back screen smacks you in the head. It could be worse; iPad edges are pretty sharp and if one of those goes flying, it could be lethal. The space hog is the same fellow that puts laptop, lunch and random stuff under his own seat thereby taking away the few inches allotted for your feet.
4. The Air Blaster
Your hands are suddenly freezing. You look up and your seatmate is not only fiddling with his own overhead air blaster, he's fooling with your air jet, too. A polite passenger never touches another's jet and always keeps his air stream to himself.
5. The Jack-in-the-Box
This passenger always chooses a window seat and always uses the restroom. Repeatedly. He or she climb over your legs, wake you up or interrupt your movie just as Jack Nicholson says, "Here's Johnny!" If this is a long flight to Europe, that'd be one thing. But when a passenger on a short hop makes more trips down the aisle than Henry VIII, it gets old fast.
6. The "I'm on Vacation" Goofball (multiple winners)
Oblivious Parent: Their child can kick and scream and get away with it because Mom and Dad are off-duty. Yes, wrangling angry toddlers is a chore, but there's no vacation from parenthood. Can't you at least pretend you're trying or hire an in-flight nanny.
The Drunk: Intoxicated passengers range from annoying to dangerous, and thankfully this is usually something for the flight attendants to deal with. Last year, however, passengers on an Icelandic Air flight got so fed-up with one out-of-control fellow they took matters into their own hands by piling on and duct taping him to a seat.
7. The 'Would You Mind?" Favor Askers
You've settled into your pre-selected aisle or window with the added bonus of an empty seat beside you, and that's when it happens: A couple approaches to ask if you'd mind moving so they can sit together. If it's an elderly couple or a mother and child, it's hard to say no. It's also extremely annoying to be put in that position.
Here's hoping your next flight includes none of the above.
Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site