We’ve come to expect a certain level of service when it comes to air travel. Cramped seats; pathetic excuses for food; and delays – unless of course, you fly business class. But these extremities pale in comparison to that moment we realise we’ve been sat next to someone who wants nothing more than to tell you their life story.
Despite pre-selecting a seat in an area we believe to be the safest – at least, away from screaming children – we constantly survey the oncoming passengers, trying to work out which one of them will spend the next several hours silently fighting for armrest real estate.
We cower in fear of the moment they turn their head in the hope of engaging in conversation. But what do you do to avoid it at all costs? We’ve already outlined what to do when you’re the one wanting to talk to an in-flight neighbour, but what do you do if the roles are reversed?
Mark your territory
One fool-proof way to put up the invisible barrier between you and your neighbour is to get to your seat quickly, sit down and start playing on your phone, read a book, or watch a movie. If you can get a seat next to the window then it’s a bonus, because it reduces the number of potentially overtalkative passengers from two to one. You ultimately want to avoid eye contact with whoever sits down next to you, to drop the subtle hint you’re in no mood for a chat.
If eye contact is unavoidable and you at least mutter a faint “hi” to your capsule companion, you could engage in a brief bit of small talk: “what’s your reason for travel?”, “do you live there?”. But to help your neighbour understand you’re not in a mood for a full Jimmy Fallon-style chat, be blunt with your replies, and cut off all replies when the conversation comes to a natural end.
Put your hands on anything nearby
If you haven’t got headphones on, or you aren’t pretending to be asleep, then anything else you can get your hands on will be a natural deterrent to your noisy neighbour. Books are a great example of this, or as a last resort, the in-flight magazine. Nobody in their right mind will want to disturb someone who has their head buried in a novel – and if they do, you’d be well within your rights to give them a piece of your mind.
If you’re not the reading type, then a game on your phone is another good option, or if you’re travelling for business and have some work you can do on a laptop, then you can kiss any kind of conversation goodbye.
Some people just don’t take the hint.
We’ve surely all encountered these people throughout our lives. If your chatty seat companion hasn’t cottoned on to the fact you’re not interested from your obvious hints, then tell them straight to their face that you’re just not happy to talk to them. You’re never going to see this person again, so you should feel no shame or embarrassment for acting out of character. Not only will you get a silent flight, but they’ll also hopefully learn a lesson or two in the process.
Take a night flight
If you’re the type of person who is adamant they can’t deal with any sort of social interaction, then consider booking yourself onto a night, or ‘red-eye’ flight, if your schedule allows. Not only should there be less chance of someone parking themselves next to you, but if they do, they’ll more than likely fall asleep.
This will be the only time we say this here at D’Marge, but one trick you can use to repel the person sitting next to you is to look as ungroomed as possible. We’re talking Tom Hanks in Castaway levels of dishevelled. Don’t wash the day of your flight (or the day before either if you really want to make a statement), wear an old set of clothes and maybe even leave the morning’s sleep in your eyes. Definitely still brush your teeth, though, there are still lines that should never be crossed.
If all else fails, and you’re one of the very unlucky souls that gets stuck next to someone who simply must tell you their life story. Humour them, pretend to listen, interject with the occasional “really?” or “no way?!” and get the hell outta there once the plane touches down on terra firma.