Flying anything but first class means you are going to have to deal with strangers right beside you in a small area. It's an anxiety-riddled nightmare just thinking about it. When you're actually in the middle of it, it can be either a lot better or a lot worse than you imagined.
Unfortunately for the people in the following stories, their flights would go down in history as the weirdest they've ever experienced. All thanks to their horrible seatmate and the trouble they caused.
Points have been edited for clarity.
"My now-wife and I were on a flight from Paris to New York City in 2007. She had the window seat, I had the middle seat, and the aisle seat was empty.
The last group of passengers boarded, and a guy sat down in the aisle seat next to me. I can't really describe why, but he just instantly creeped me out. He was wearing sunglasses and a big puffy winter coat, which was odd since it wasn't cold (this was in June), and especially not on the plane with everyone packed in.
He acted strangely the whole flight -- interjecting into other people's conversations, randomly commenting out loud about what he was doing to nobody in particular, etc.
At one point, he took out a pair of what I think were earrings, hung them on the back of the seat in front of him, asked if I thought they were nice (I said yes), and then switched the video display to show the flight path. When the flight attendants came around to take drink orders, he asked for both a glass of one thing and a Coke, then poured the Coke on top of the other thing and sipped it while he just sat there staring at the video screen (which showed nothing interesting since we were over the middle of the Atlantic), while the earrings swung back and forth. The whole thing was just very odd.
Nothing notable happened after that -- until we were getting ready to land. They made the announcement that we were approaching, asked everyone to fold up their tray tables, sit down and buckle seatbelts, etc. That's when this guy decided to get up, stand in the aisle, and announce to the entire plane, 'Ladies and gentlemen! It's judgment day! If you have anything left to say, say it now!' I thought, Oh God, the guy planted a bomb and we're all going to die. Then he sat back down and... nothing happened. We landed and everything was fine.
Suffice it to say, I didn't fly for another nine years after that!"
"On a long, long flight from Kilimanjaro to Amsterdam, I encountered a man on my way from the boarding gate to the aircraft, where he struck up a conversation with me. He appeared at first to be confident and outgoing, but not an unpleasant person. When I got to my seat just a minute later, I discovered that he was sitting in the aisle seat next to mine. At first, he didn't recognize me and asked what I had been doing in Tanzania. He then apologized when he realized we had already had this conversation, admitting he had 'had a few' prior to the flight.
After an initially polite conversation he began to talk disparagingly about the looks of the female cabin crew ('That's not what you expect when you pay a lot of money for your ticket'), and then took a photo of a passenger, who he described as a 'freak,' saying he and some friends have a WhatsApp group in which they share photos of weird-looking people. He swore like a sailor, and his sentences had more swear words than non-swears. He talked about KLM Airlines, saying they were okay as an airline, but lamented the poor quality of the refreshments. He boasted about the many flights he took that he didn't have to pay for, and spoke in glowing terms about the refreshments on other airlines. At this point, I was satisfied that he was just a bit more brash and uncouth than me, put his behavior down to drink, and was contented by the fact that I would soon have my earphones on, so I could ignore him.
Immediately after take-off, and as the seatbelt lights went out, he was up and out of his seat, firstly to the toilet and then straight to the galley for a drink. He returned with one, which he downed quickly. He went back to the galley but returned unhappy, shoving his empty cup into the seat pocket and moaning. The plane stopped in Dar es Salaam for an hour, but immediately after takeoff, he was asking one of the flight attendants for another drink. He complained to her, saying he had pressed the light for an attendant to come but that he had been ignored, and that he had been waiting for two hours for a drink. She assured him that the attendants were all busy (they clearly were) and that he would get another drink in due course when she had the opportunity to do so. He continued to moan, saying to no one in particular (though I think it may have been aimed at me as if I was interested) that the service was 'awful.'
When our attendant came to serve us with our meal he was asked what he wanted to eat, and he replied the name of a drink. The attendant then served me with food and asked us what we wanted to drink. At this point the man became agitated, asking why he had been ignored and why we had been served before him. The attendant very calmly and politely explained the order in which food and drinks were served (window seat to aisle seat, in order) and said she would get him his drink after I was served mine. He continued to complain about the 'game' she was playing, saying he could see what she was up to, whatever that meant, and continued to describe the service as awful. In order to attempt to placate him, the attendant served him his drink before returning to me to serve mine. As she did so, he kept insisting that she pour more into the glass as he wanted a large one. Although she probably did pour the equivalent of a large drink, going by official measures, she explained that she was not allowed to pour him a large measure. Of course, he complained about this.
From here on in things only got worse. After serving others, and giving him another drink (while she was pouring it he still said that the service was awful and that she shouldn't worry, he wasn't inebriated. He could handle his drink), the attendant returned to ask what she could do to help the man, and to ask what perhaps she had done that might have upset him. He ranted about the service, about being ignored, about how horrible KLM was, and insisted on ordering another complimentary drink, which it was his right to have. Over a series of conversations with the cabin crew, he described them as 'useless,' and said, 'Just do your job and pour me a drink.'
When the unfortunate attendant was moving the food and drink trolley along the aisle, our man's leg was sticking out in the aisle. The attendant, clearly aware that she did not need to do anything to provoke him and that he was likely to be unpleasant to her, asked very carefully if he could move his leg so that she could get past. He said that his leg wasn't in the way, that she had enough space, and that she should just carry on moving the trolley. This happened a couple of times, with the attendant looking very concerned that she was likely to get a mouthful because she was brushing past his leg, but he said nothing.
The purser eventually came to speak with him in order to attempt to calm him down and find out what was wrong, and he told her that the service was bad, that the attendants were incompetent, that all he wanted was a drink but that he had been ignored. At this point, he also complained that the 'clumsy' attendant had been 'crashing' the trolley into his leg as she'd pushed it along the aisle. It was almost as if the previous behavior had been a set up in order to justify his criticisms. He said that each of the attendants were equally bad and said that he would be telling his employers (he referred to his company by name and pointed proudly to the logo on his shirt) how bad KLM was, that his company would not be using KLM again and that he would be recommending that others should not use KLM either. He said how much better other airlines were, that he normally flies business class and that he was used to special treatment (I would certainly agree that he needed treatment). At one point in the conversation the purser turned to speak to an attendant behind her, and the passenger poked the purser in the back (not with any force, but it was an act of antagonism), and said that she should get out of his face, only to come back when he wanted a drink.
He was informed that he was not permitted any more drinks. He was asked to calm down or he would cause problems, to which he responded, 'What are you going to do about it?' Fortunately, he soon fell asleep and therefore did not upset anyone for some time. A few hours later the attendant came around with breakfast. The passenger had his eyes closed and his hat pulled down over his face, so she opened his tray in order to put his breakfast on it. He opened his eyes, forcefully pushed the tray up with anger, and told her to 'get lost.'"
"I had a very weird and somewhat visually uncomfortable/disturbing experience with a co-passenger, whom I could possibly describe as having a take-charge personality.
In August of 2009, on a Cathay Pacific flight from Wuhan to Guangzhou, China, I got to share my neighboring seat with a local citizen. The person, to my best guess, was a man in his mid-forties, possibly from the country-side, owing to his awkward stare and glances at everything in the aircraft. Maybe it was his first time in an aircraft or was he just amused by the idea of flying again, his obnoxious behavior around air-hostesses, the washroom, and co-passengers kept me engrossed for the rest of the journey.
Things started to get abnormal when the air-hostesses began to make a round and distribute some arrival forms to be filled by all passengers. I do not exactly remember anymore, what that form was all about, but what followed afterward was definitely a not-easy-to-forget sight. This guy, who after getting some hints from me in pure hand languages what he has to do, started to look for his passport. After fumbling for a few seconds, and a sigh of realization, he started to unzip his pants and put his hands inside, as if searching for some hidden treasure deep down 'there.' Finally, he took out a clumsily rolled pack of plastic sheet, which seemed to be hiding something of the utmost value to him, based on the way he was unfolding the plastic with that surgical precision. There it was, a small diary with symbols written on it in Chinese, which he read quickly and after speaking to himself a few unfamiliar words, he appeared to be happy and contended.
After finishing his business, he folded the plastic sheet with the same dedication, slipped it again into his underpants, zipped up and continued with his otherwise normal conduct. During the entire series of events, I, being a complete stranger to local culture and language, found myself staring at the guy in complete fascination and surprise. Wow, this guy is keeping his passport in his underpants, I was thinking for few seconds. Further, not trying to think what else was he hiding there, I started to mind my own business by flipping through glossy Chinese magazines, in which I didn't understand a single character, to be honest.
Lunch was over and the flight was preparing for its happy landing soon. This little hyperactive co-passenger of mine, who was unable to keep himself fixed in his seat for few hours, caught my attention for the second time. He started to unzip his pants, again. Instead of being amused, this time I was curious to see what was his next fore in the chamber of secrets. After looking around to make sure that no Air-Hostess was roaming in the aisle for final security checks, he rolled up the Cutlery served with the meal in a tissue paper and pushed it inside his underpants. Zipped up again, came back to normal self, and basked in the glory of his recent achievement.
Meanwhile, the flight landed and came to a halt. When at the end, he caught me looking at him sideways in total amusement and awe, he gave that cocky smirk and moved out towards the exit.
The whole experience was funny, yet falls to some degree under the category of disturbing."
"My brother-in-law was traveling on a short haul flight to Saudi Arabia on the national carrier and was told at check-in that he was being downgraded to coach because first class was being taken over by members of the royal family. He grumbled, but not having a choice, accepted a partial refund and a premium seat in the first row of economy. Shortly before the cabin doors were closed, a wiry gentleman took a seat next to him and nodded hello in a friendly manner. After takeoff, when the seat belt signal was turned off, the man reached into his briefcase and pulled out a pack of smokes, lighting up in the cabin. The flight attendant ran up, asking him to extinguish it immediately, telling him it was against regulations. He looked at her and explained that it was okay because he had purchased a first class ticket and was involuntarily downgraded. After a long explanation by the flight crew and my brother-in-law that this didn't in any way entitle him to do that and the law forbade it, he finally relented.
A few minutes later, he wrapped himself in a blanket and after some shuffling pulled out his shirt and deposited it on the floor in front of him. He repeated his actions and his trousers were then thrown on top of the shirt. Finally, he took his underpants off and added them to the pile. My brother-in-law was slightly shocked, and noticing this, his neighbor explained that he found it stifling to fly fully clothed.
Trying to ignore him, my brother-in-law pulled out a magazine and started to read through it. A couple of minutes later, the man reached into his briefcase and pulled out reading material of his own and began perusing it. Looking over, my brother-in-law noticed it was a hardcore adult magazine. Remember, this was a flight to Saudi Arabia on Saudi Airlines, and not only is such material illegal, but punishment can be humiliating and severe. When the man noticed he was being stared at, he smiled and asked, 'Would you like to read something,' pulling out more magazines from his briefcase.
My brother-in-law thanked him, made a cursory comment about how he was fine with his own magazines and turned away trying to create his own cocoon, pretending the man didn't exist, although activity under the blanket made the man hard to ignore. As soon as they landed, he made sure to put some distance between him and the man trying to forget what he just had to endure."
"About 20 years ago, I was flying alone from Sydney to Perth with a 7-month-old baby on my lap (as was the usual way to fly with a baby at the time). I had requested the bassinet rows, but they were unavailable and I was placed in a window seat.
I was seated comfortably when the passenger for the middle seat, a man dressed for business, arrived. He began a loud protest about how he wasn't going to sit next to a screaming baby and that they had better move him. The attendants told him that the flight was full.
He took his seat but pushed his elbow over into my space and said that 'the brat' better not bump him (despite me now being squashed into 3/4 of a seat) and if she did he would, 'bump back.' He embarked on a long, loud monologue about young girls who have babies (I was 26 and long married, but whatever) and how babies should be banned in planes and a whole lot of personal assumptions about me.
Now this was our home flight of four, and my daughter had been fabulous (and silent) on the other three, but this was my first without my husband to help (he flew home early for work) and I was terrified she would cry on take off or make some sound during the 6 hour flight.
It is announced that our takeoff is delayed. Great.
Suddenly there is a flurry of activity. Four flight attendants arrive. The man next to me stands and they tell him to sit. 'We're moving you and the baby, Honey.' A passenger is waiting to take my place. About 6 other passengers are switching seats.
Baby is passed to an attendant and they move all my things for me. The passengers and crew have moved a whole heap of people and we are put at the bulkhead with a bassinet AND two empty seats.
There was some applause as I am moved and lots of 'Good on you Sweethearts,' and encouraging smiles."
"I was on a 12-hour flight to Lima, Peru. I chose the cheapest flight. We only got one meal and NO TV! As you can imagine, the situation was disturbing enough but I was yet to meet my seatmate.
I was sitting in the middle row in an aisle seat. Next to me was a teen/young adult traveling alone. At the beginning of the flight, I did not take much notice of him because I am a slightly nervous flyer and do not like taking off. However, once we were in the air, out of the corner of my eyes, I see the boy taking out very long, sharp objects from his bag. I dart my head to the side thinking the kid has managed to sneak knives on the plane and is going to end us all (I am quite a paranoid person, as you can tell).
What I was greeted with next was not a knife. This boy had fingernails almost reaching the airplane ceiling. They were sharp, dirty, and I still have no idea how he managed to successfully press the buttons on his iPod. IT WAS HONESTLY THAT INTENSE!
Anyway, as I had no entertainment on this flight; I was just sleeping most of the time. Halfway through, I feel something on my leg. I wake up to him stroking my leg with his fingernails and smiling at me very seductively.
When I landed in Peru, I took a long shower, taking extra care in scrubbing my legs."
"On my Air India flight from Delhi to San Francisco, my seatmates were a guy and his little brother.
The flight took off, meals were served, and a couple of hours later, most of the passenger dozed off, including me and my seatmates. After a peaceful 5 hours of sleep, I woke up to find that my in-flight headphones were missing. I turned left and saw the 'little brother' was using it to watch a movie, while his headphones are nowhere to be seen. It wasn't a big issue, I was okay with that.
After some minutes, I dozed off again. Somewhere around when we were flying over Canada (I think) I felt my comforter being pulled. I opened my eyes and saw the guy was cleaning his teeth using my blanket, while his blanket was on him. My eyes opened wide in shock... and he finished his cleaning.
I felt disgusted and simply put my blanket away. I looked for the crew, but I could not find anyone. So, I decided to sleep it off, as I was in no mood to find a crew member and ask for a new blanket."
"I was traveling from Washington DC to Mumbai, India with a layover in Dubai. I had booked my ticket last minute because this was not an anticipated journey. The flight from DC to Dubai is around 13 hours. I always take the aisle so I can move around freely.
When I boarded, I noticed there was a man and I assumed his wife sitting next to me. They seemed to be in love and seemed very touchy. I usually fall asleep the moment I board so I was asleep within seconds. When I woke up the wife had moved over in the middle seat and it seemed like she was sleeping on his lap. And then the man groaned. She wasn't sleeping. I was like screw this, I'm going back to sleep.
I woke up to the woman's hand on my upper thigh. I think they thought it was okay if a woman touched me inappropriately. I told her to stop or I was going to call the flight attendants. She asked me if I wanted to be with them. I told them this was their last warning and they backed off."
"On a flight from New York to Hong Kong, 747, seated next to a nice businessman (Dave, I think). It's business class, so drinks were flowing before takeoff. He was a tall man, 50-ish, sitting in the window seat next to me. He has several drinks. 'Several' in this case means too many.
Shortly after takeoff said seatmate excuses himself to walk past me. He then lies down in the aisle between the rows of seats and is completely still. The flight attendants all step over him and go about their business.
I think he might be dead. I point this out to one flight attendant who says that this happens in business class all the time - she thought he was doing sit-ups.
Eventually, he came to, sat down, had more to drink and started asking VERY personal questions about my husband's and my bedroom activities. It was a 13-hour flight of torture!"
"The check-in desk had kindly left 2 spare seats next to me as I had a small baby and was feeding my first child. I was only 21 and an inexperienced mother.
A couple on the flight had an argument (drink-fuelled I think) so the husband stormed off up the plane and unfortunately decided to sit next to me, I hadn't paid for the spare seats next to me so had no right to stop him, he then proceeded to take far too much interest in my breastfeeding and started talking very descriptively about intimate things suffered by his wife when she breastfed. Gross and very uncomfortable conversation.
If it happened now I'd tell him to get lost."
My first-time ever on Etihad Airways was singularly remarkable. I had just settled in when my seatmate turned up, a Caucasian blonde, reeking of something on her breath. We exchange pleasantries and then settle down.
The flight takes off, and within minutes she is sobbing. I asked her, 'Are you alright? why are you sobbing?' Explains that she had just broken up with her boyfriend.
I try to console her. 'I understand, but give it time, you'll get over this.' She tells me I'm sweet and gives me a hug.
After some time, the air hostess offers drinks. I take tomato juice, she takes 3 glasses of things she probably shouldn't be drinking in her state. Now tipsy, she says, 'I don't feel so good, I'm gonna puke!'
I narrowly avoid her puke trajectory as she narrowly escapes my face and pukes in a paper bag. The air hostesses gather and escorted her to the washroom.
She returns visibly sober, most of the stuff out of her system, then essentially fall asleep. I fall asleep too. Sometime later I find her basically cuddling my arm, her face nestled comfortably on my chest.
Then the worst happens! She starts to slide downwards and ends up sleeping on the floor of the flight.
An air hostess now approaches me with a stern look on her face. 'Sir, could you please tell your girlfriend to sleep properly?'
Shocked I answer, 'What? NO! We aren't together. She's not with me.'
'But sir, she was sleeping next to you, holding your arm.' The confused Air Hostess says.
I tell her that the girl has had a lot to drink and, 'I am just trying to be a good passenger to her.'
Multiple air hostesses now try to wake her up by speaking in English, Arabic, French, Spanish and maybe 6 other languages, all effort goes in vain!
The girl now suddenly wakes up, and hugs me tight and falls asleep. I promise the air hostesses I'd keep an eye out for her, and then I fall asleep with her gripping my neck tightly.
During landing the next morning the girl says, 'Hey sorry for last night. I hope you didn't mind. It was fun right?'
Mentally cursing myself, I say, 'It was certainly unique.'
'So are you also traveling from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne like me?' She asks.
'No I'm going to India.'
She then hands me a paper, 'Cool! Here's my number, let's talk on WhatsApp then, Mr. Good Cuddler.'
'Ok thanks. Have a great flight, talk to you soon!' I say.
As soon as she exits the terminal, I tear the paper viciously, throw it in a dustbin, then go to McDonald's for a meal."