Dealing with an Annoying Seatmate

There you are, ready for a takeoff on your comfortable seat. You have done everything right. You were able to check in on time. You stood in those check-in lines with patience, packed an appropriate bag, loaded it in the bin without any assistance. You even helped that lady behind you get space for her luggage.


Now, here you are all settled in; it’s time to pull out your favorite book that you have been anticipating to read for so long. Who travels without a book, anyway? Even if you are not going to read it, after all this, you do not deserve what is going to happen when an annoying seatmate won’t stop talking.

Earphones send a signal. Do not disturb!

Well, for some people, being chatty comes naturally. My friend Brandy, for example, recently showed up at a party with a new friend, and guess where they had met? They met on a flight the previous day. Earlier on in the week, he had mentioned going to visit a friend in another state.


“Where do you meet such friends?” I asked him.

“Oh, we just started talking on a flight,” he answered.


Now, if you are not like Brandy, it can be uncomfortable to excuse yourself from a conversation, more so when removing yourself physically is not an option. Here are some tips that will be helpful. Also, for our friendly travelers, if your seatmate is displaying any of these cues, it’s a sign that they need some space.

Tips to (Politely) Avoid an Annoying Seatmate

Be Elusive Yet Obvious

Yes, it is possible to do both. Being intangible means you are not asking your seatmate to keep quiet directly. You are giving the clues that you appreciate their friendliness, but you are looking forward to having a quiet time. You can put your headphones on or get a free moment and open that book. This should send signals to your seatmate that you need space.

Be Honest

I know you think this is rude, but hey, some people do not get it until you come out clean. If your seatmate can’t read between the lines, speak, and explain what you want. For instance, tell them you appreciate the conversation, but you are going to listen to music or read a book for the remaining duration of the flight.

Change the Environment

Yes, space is limited, and you might not be allowed to switch seats without a good reason, but there are certain things you can do to break up the conversation. You can excuse yourself to go to the washroom or stand up to stretch. Doing so will allow you to excuse yourself, get enough time to settle in, smile, and put your headphones on to listen.

Pull Out That Laptop

It is commonplace to find people doing work while traveling. Mostly when airlines provide free WI-FI, it is common to see passengers with their laptops, either working on that last minute presentation, sending out emails, or even writing travel-related blog posts. Likewise, your seatmate might get the hint when you pull out your laptop and excuse yourself, explaining that you have to finish up some work.

But if all else fails, relax and enjoy the conversation.

There is always a reason why people attempt to have conversations on a flight. Some might be nervous and use this as a tactic to distract themselves from having flight anxiety. Others are just excited to meet new people. The list goes on, and you never know what you might learn from them. The adage goes: it’s a small world. You never know. You might meet that special person seated next to you.


Unless you want to listen to music and fall asleep, finish watching that movie, or do your work, it is interesting to get to know your seatmate. Who knows, you might have a lot in common. After all, you are heading in the same direction. An annoying seatmate might turn out to be your best friend tomorrow.