Flight Attendant-Turned-Etiquette Expert on How to Handle Annoying Air Passengers

From armrest hoggers to snorers to seat kickers, one woman has the answer.

ByABC News
March 16, 2015, 11:26 AM
A former flight attendant turned etiquette expert gives tips on handling the most annoying people in the sky.
A former flight attendant turned etiquette expert gives tips on handling the most annoying people in the sky.
Getty Images

— -- Before she was a world-renowned etiquette expert and the owner of the The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Jacqueline Whitmore was a flight attendant for Northwest. In her time, she certainly saw her fair share of annoying airline passengers.

In her next job at the assistant director of public relations at the famous Breakers hotel in West Palm Beach, she was tasked with finding instructors to teach child and adult etiquette classes. When she left The Breakers, she opened her own etiquette school, but never forgot her flight attendant roots.

Here she shares with ABC News nine of the worst people you'll encounter in-flight-- and tips for handling each:

The Armrest Hogger: If the person next to you commandeers your armrest, simply inch your way in by placing just your elbow next to theirs. This should leave plenty of space for your greedy neighbor’s elbow. Armrest rules: When you have three seats next to each other, the person in the middle seat gets to claim the armrests.

The Chatterbox: If your neighbor strikes up a conversation, be polite and exchange a few pleasantries. Then say something like, “It was nice speaking with you, but if you don’t mind, I have to get some work done (or some much-needed rest).” Closing your eyes generally does the trick. Note: Always travel with earphones and eyeshades.

The Space Invader: If this person invades your personal space with his newspaper or carry-on bag, say something like, “It seems that these planes are getting smaller and smaller. Would you mind moving your arm (or bag) over just a touch?”

The Seat Recliner: If someone reclines too far while you’re trying to eat, work on your laptop, or watch a movie, you have two options. 1. You can recline your seat for more space or 2. Say something like, “Would you mind pulling your seat forward a little bit.” The person in front of you most likely doesn’t know she’s inconveniencing you. Note: When you recline your seat, always glance back and make sure the person behind you isn’t using his tray table to eat or work.

The Snorer: It’s best to always travel with a good pair of noise-cancelling earphones. Otherwise, you can ask the flight attendant if you can relocate to another seat.

The Sleeper: If you need to use the lavatory but your aisle seatmate is sleeping, gently tap him on his shoulder and say, “Excuse me.” No other explanation is necessary. Never attempt to crawl over him.

The Unruly Child: Never discipline someone else’s child. Your best bet is to move to another seat, if available, or alert a flight attendant. Never try to intervene yourself.

The Seat Kicker: If a child is kicking the back of your seat, simply turn around and glance at the child and the parent. The parent will oftentimes get the hint and ask the child to stop. If this doesn’t work, kindly speak up and ask the child to stop kicking your seat.

The Surly Flight Attendant: It’s best not to challenge a flight attendant unless you want to be thrown off the plane. If you encounter a rude flight attendant, jot down his name, your flight number, and email a letter to the company as soon as possible. Better yet, share your grievance on Twitter for faster results.