How to act like a rude jerk while traveling. (But please don’t.)

According to the FAA, the number of unruly passengers has doubled over the past five years. Air rage incidents soared during 2021. (Remember mask mandates?) So far, 2023 is shaping up to be another banner year. Which leaves us to ponder if there is a generation of children who observed their parents and thought, “When I grow up, I want to use my airplane seat as a toilet, just like daddy.”? Or were they born with a gene that allows them to think that wheelchairs can be used as luggage trolleys? Scientists have yet to weigh in.

But what about the rest of us who didn’t have parents to show us how to get into physical altercations at the baggage carousel or weren’t born with a gene that causes us to punch flight attendants without a second thought? Civilized, sober travelers never go viral on TikTok or wind up on the evening news. It’s just not fair. No one will post a video of us reading a book or watching a movie peacefully.

If you have a craving to star in a viral video and pay a hefty fine to the FAA, we’ve put together a list of actions guaranteed to annoy your fellow passengers or get you tossed off a plane and maybe a book deal. We’re not promising you’ll reach to reach Crazy Plane Lady status, but get ready for your iPhone closeup.

A woman rests her bare feet on an airplane tray table from this photo from the Instagram account Passenger Shaming.Passenger Shaming/Instagram


Do gross things with your bare feet.

Nothing sets people off like airing out your tootsies and then using them like you’re Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot.” In 2019, the country was captivated as they followed traveler Jessica Char’s encounter with a fellow passenger’s bare feet. The feet emerged from the row behind her and were used for activities such as opening and closing the plane’s window shade. It came on the heels (pun intended) of the passenger who used his feet to scroll through options on the inflight entertainment screen. If your toes aren’t talented enough to engage in such activities, simply start clipping your toenails or peeling dead skin off your feet. I never knew Americans were plagued by dead skin on their feet until I started spending a lot of time on planes.

Make some noise.

Making too much noise is sure to draw icy stares or get you ejected from a plane. You can begin your cacophonous symphony by forgoing headphones. Everyone loves listening to a tennis match or hearing Jason Aldean’s “Try That In a Small Town” emanating from your phone when they’re trying to fall asleep. Bring noisy toys if you’re traveling with children; the louder and more repetitive, the better. Also, fellow travelers enjoy hearing you scream, “Yes, Dad, we just landed,” into your phone as soon as the plane touches down. If you really want to be a clodpoll, try singing. Earlier this month, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant came close to kicking performer Bobbi Storm off of a flight because she wouldn’t stop singing. The Detroit-based Storm said she was doing “what the Lord is telling me to do.” She posted the altercation on her Instagram account. A majority of her followers on social media sided with the flight attendant rather than the Lord.

Things could get ugly if you down too many martinis before your flight.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Get drunk. Like really drunk.

Show me a viral video of two passengers brawling on a plane, and I’ll show you three empty margarita glasses at the nearest airport Chili’s-to-Go. Alcohol is often the root cause of fights between passengers, questionable antics, attacks on crew members, and lascivious behavior. Drinking and acting silly will also snag you 15 minutes of fame and shame. You’ll get at least 10 million views on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) if you down several overpriced airport martinis and then start turning cartwheels on your way to your gate. Sadly, that’s not fiction. A woman in Los Angeles was barred from boarding a Southwest plane when a flight attendant spotted her floor routine.

Seats in the premium economy cabin on Norse Atlantic Airways in full recline.
Ulf Heikman

Start fighting over reclining seats.

We’re coming up on the 10th anniversary of the legendary Knee Defender battle. In 2014, businessman James Beach used a $22 device called the Knee Defender to block the woman seated in front of him from reclining. Words were exchanged, soda was thrown, and the flight was diverted from Denver to Chicago so the warring factions could be extracted from the plane. Getting people to agree on whether or not passengers should be allowed to recline is easier than getting Will Smith and Chris Rock to attend the same dinner party. Every time a new fight goes viral, the debate begins anew. Earlier this month, it boiled again when a woman repeatedly yelled, “I’m allowed to put my seat back,” while claiming the passenger behind her pushed her seat through the entire flight. In case you’re wondering, the answer is that you shouldn’t recline your seat unless it’s a long-haul overnight flight.

Turning left into business class while sending your kids to the back of the plane is a quick, efficient way to lose friends and put your children into therapy for life. Patrick T. Fallon/Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/

Sit in business class. Make your kid sit in economy.

Turning left into business class while sending your kids to the back of the plane is a quick, efficient way to lose friends and put your children into therapy for life. British pop star Robbie Williams, whose net worth is $300 million, makes his four kids sit in economy. Celebrated grump and perpetually angry chef Gordon Ramsay, who is worth $220 million, also makes his six kids sit in economy. It’s not just celebrities. There are many cruel parents who send their children to economy because they reason that the kids wouldn’t appreciate business class or they claim they don’t want their kids to get spoiled. Not only is this tough on the children, but think of the other passengers who are stuck sitting near a brood of unsupervised children.

Pass the aspirin, please. If the children share their father’s demeanor, the pre-departure cocktails can’t come soon enough. At least soon it will be your moment to shine.

Christopher Muther can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.

Scroll to Top