My worst seatmate ever. EV-ER. Can you top this story?

a black and white drawing of a man's nose

When Randy Petersen says, “Tell us a story!” I obey. Here’s a story πŸ˜‰

This is a tale about my worst seatmate ever. EV-ER.

2009. I was on the longest Southwest flight of my life, from Rhode Island to California. I had the window seat, plus a supply of distractions, so I thought the six-hour trip would be a cinch. At first glace, the guy next to me seemed fine. Actually, he was tall, dark, and handsome, but I’m married, so I was more interested in short, dirty-blonde, and gruesome (the latest episode of Dexter).

I had just settled in with my headphones when I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Excuse me?”

I took off my headphones. That was my first mistake.

“Do you know how to turn on the overhead lights?”

I smiled (my second mistake).  Then I reached over and showed TDH what to do. He was grateful. I put my headphones back on. Things were cool for another ten minutes, until he tapped me on the shoulder again.

“It’s okay if you want to raise the window shade,” he said. “Or keep it lowered. Either way.”

I nodded and replaced my headphones. But he kept talking.  Because it seemed incredibly rude to ignore him, I took my headphones off for the third time. He launched into a super long story about why he was taking this flight. Something about a construction job. I was only half-listening, because I really wanted to find out how Dexter was going to get out of his latest jam. So I just smiled and nodded.

Then the drinks cart rolled past. My seatmate ordered a double vodka, which he gulped, then began to tell me about his brother, who had died tragically two years ago. At one point, he began to cry. “His life was so short!” he sniffed. “And I miss him so much!”

“Of course you do,” I said. Then I got up out of my seat. I walked down the aisle and hung out by the lavatory for awhile. Good times. I was hoping that by the time I got back to my seat, my seatmate would be all cried out.

No such luck. In fact, he was waiting for me with a fresh round of stories. I heard all about his childhood, his abbreviated modeling career, and his difficult relationship with his father. The stories were enhanced by several more drinks, and punctuated by more sobbing. At one point he literally cried on my shoulder, his tears soaking through my shirt.

I wasn’t really sure what to do. It was a full flight, and the man in the aisle seat was asleep. I finally put my headphones back on and tried to watch Dexter, but my seatmate (who was now completely wasted) continued to babble at me, touching my shoulder and occasionally bursting into tears.

I walked back to the galley and asked one of the flight attendants for help. She shook her head sympathetically. “At this point, there’s not much we can do,” she told me. “As long as he’s not disorderly.”

“What does ‘disorderly’ mean?” I asked. “Because he is disordering my flight!”

She laughed a little. “Sorry,” she said.

I returned to my seat. I put my headphones on, pulled my travel scarf fully over my head like Red Riding Hood, and turned my body completly away from my seatmate. This didn’t deter him at all. He shook my shoulder. “Do you think this looks ugly?” he asked me, pointing to a blemish next to his eye.

I shrugged and pointed at my computer screen. “I’m watching Dexter!” I told him.

“Do you have a mirror?” he asked.

I ignored him, but he was undeterred. Instead, he braced one elbow against me and proceeded to squeeze his blemish. I was completely horrified, but also completely trapped.

“Got it!” he yelled.

I stood up and pushed my way into the aisle. For the rest of the flight, I hung out in the galley. The flight attendants let me sit in their jump seats, and they gave me free snacks and drinks. When I got home, I wrote a long email to Southwest, and they gave me free flights.

Since then, every so often, when I’m on a long flight, feeling annoyed by the people around me, I remember this man. And while I am sure that someone out there has a story that can top this one, I have yet to hear any.

Anyone want to share?




  1. here is my story (GRU-FRA with JJ):

    boarding completed:
    he offers me to buy drugs he got from some tribe in Paraguay and makes some racist jokes about black and indigenous people.
    he squeezes my arms, tries to hold my hands and mumbles something about we all gonna die.
    he makes eye contact, farts and grins. he drinks from my cup immediately after service filled it. an hour later he tries to steal my headphones and magazines while I was trying to get some sleep.
    before landing:
    he finally fall asleep, except he did not. he died.

    end of story.

  2. Wow, struggling for ideas to post on your blog? If thats the worst you’ve experienced then I have no sympathy for you. Nothing he did was more than a simple annoyance until he started squeezing his blemish. Even then it was gross, but did not in any way directly affect you. If you want to know what a truly bad seatmate is, just read one of the many stories that can be found on the internet involving physical violence and/or bodily fluids.

    1. Seth – Um, okay…? But still wondering…can you (personally, not vicariously through the internet) top this story? πŸ˜‰

    2. Wow, what planet are you from Seth?? It was a great story! And um, it sure sounds like more than a simple annoyance to me – sounds like a HUGE ANNOYANCE! A simple annoyance would be something like their arm pushing over onto your side of the armrest, or a funky odor. Happy travels! SMILE πŸ™‚

      1. To use Points Pixie’s exact words, this guy was the worst seatmate EV-ER. A huge annoyance does not qualify as worst ever in my opinion. I can’t match the horrible stories on the internet but I think a few experiences I have had top someone who talks too much and squeezed a pimple. Here are two:

        I was once upgraded to premium exconomy on a flight from BOS-LHR. I thought I had gotten incredibly lucky. Little did I know I would end up being placed next to a incredibly large woman who could not fit into a normal economy seat. I Spent the next 5 hours pressed up against the window as a large portion of her body spilled over into my seat. It was also a particularly warm day and the woman smelled as if she had not showered in a long time. You might be too polite to tell your seatmate to shut up, but there is no way to tell someone to stop smelling.

        Another experience I had had involved a woman traveling alone with a young child. The baby cried nonstop the entire flight. This alone would not be terrible except the woman decided to whip her boob right out at the seat and breastfeed the child in front of everyone without even trying to preserve her modesty in the least. To top it all off, the woman’s child needed its diaper changed, but the woman decided she wanted to watch the end of her movie first.

        Happy? Your story is a mere annoyance that you blew out of proportion.

        1. Wow! You’re saying Points and Pixie dust’s complaint is annoying and blown out of proportion yet you are complaining about a breast feeding mother? What century are you from? Talk about being catty. Oh, and you’re a big fat sexist and bigot!!!

          1. Learn the meaning of the term bigot. I did not criticize the seatmate for being part of any particular group, I criticized her behavior. I am no more a bigot than any other person posting here.

          2. Bigot- intolerant person. Maybe you are the one who should be looking up definitions?

            I honestly feel bad for you. You are a grumpy and mean person and probably all alone! Pixie did this silly post on an experience she had flying to give us all a good laugh and you jump down her throat and go all crotchety old man on her.

        2. Oh but you err dear Seth. Title of article is “MY worst seatmate ever” not “THE worst seatmate ever”. Get the “exact words” right D.A.

          1. Your are correct. However where someone feels compelled to write a very public blog post about their worst seatmate “EV-ER” I can’t help but read into the words to see someone complaining unnecessarily. To me the post screamed of a complete overreaction for the most part. Had I been next to the seatmate in question I don’t think I would be feeling as aggrieved as pixie. Annoyed? Sure, but I don’t think I would feel like I had such a horrible experience.

        3. Ooooh someone whipped out a boob in front of you to sooth her crying baby. The nerve! Ha! What a first class jerk you are and I mean that sincerely. I can only imagine the “worst seatmate” stories people have to tell about YOU!

          1. Wow way to accuse me of being a jerk while being jerks yourself. Way to not practice what you preach.

            The issue wasn’t the breastfeeding, it was the complete failure to preserve modesty at all. Women have the right to breastfeed in public, but I do believe that an attempt should be made to not expose yourself to everyone in the immediate vicinity if they are in close quarters without the ability to look away. What this woman did was beyond discretely feeding her child. She completely hiked up her shirt and took out her entire breast.

  3. Can’t beat that one. (Well there was that long flight amongst 20 safron-robed Buddhist monks …) Geat story telling thanks.

  4. You should have spoken up and said you do not want to be disturbed and need privacy. However, you did what I would expected…. “When I got home, I wrote a long email to Southwest, and they gave me free flights”. Not sure why the airline is responsible.

    Your mission accomplished. Shameful.

    1. Jay – Not sure what the difference is between “speaking up” to my seat mate (which I did), the flight attendants (which I also did), and the airline? What is “shameful” about writing a letter?

      And by the way, my “mission” was to fly from Rhode Island to California.

      1. Please do post a copy of your letter to Southwest. Would be good to know what your ‘compliant’ was to the airline.

        Maybe subway riders can learn from this to get free rides next time someone has bad breath or BO.

        Sorry Maam, you had a choice not to respond. Maybe in this season of giving, you could donate your tickets to some charity. Would be a good gesture.

        1. Wow Mr Jay! Did you wake up on the wrong side of bed this morning or are you always so sour??! I hardly think posting her letter – so you can continue your anonymous rude postings, would be a good use of anyone’s time. Did you realize this is a travel blog where Points & Pixie Dust shares travel experiences & tips? I for one loved the story! Southwest didn’t HAVE to compensate her, but clearly they agreed and thought she was deserving.

          Perhaps in this season of giving, you can soften your heart, be a little more open and less judgmental, and SMILE! πŸ™‚ it helps the spirit

          1. Jay’s right. Airline isn’t responsible for boorish behavior of pasengers. FAs did all they could – and more than they needed to. Certainly no freebies from WN were necessary.

          2. Ron – I actually think the flight attendants should have cut him off long before they did. He had 8 drinks! And I thought SW would want to have the feedback.

      2. The shameful part is that you failed to control the situation and then got LUV to give you free flights (I assume you meant to type PLURAL) for something they have no accountability or responsibility for.
        This is the same as getting drunk in a bar and then blaming the bartender.

        Yes, the dude was annoying, but not LUV’s fault. You could have handled it better unless you felt the guy would physically assault you if you spoke up. Which he did not sound like based on your account.

        But bravo, you finagled a free flight (or more)

  5. Well, unfortunately, on my last flight, I was the annoying one. I had my 17 month old on the plane with me and we were going TPA-DEN. Seriously, his diaper leaked and u didn’t have any clothes with me because the dang flight attendant made me gate check my dang bag. So, he was sporting just a diaper on the flight. Fail number 1. As the flight got going, he was just a complete monster! Screaming at the top of his lungs, hitting me, etc. During takeoff, he grabbed the lady next to me’s pen and chucked it in the isle and watched it roll to the back of the plane! The people sitting next to me were less than tolerate. We finally get our drinks and what does my naughty child do? Kicks them over onto the lady in the middle. It also went all over her purse. No joke, her husband got up and went and stood in the back of the plane and after she finished cleaning off her purse, she joined him, for the remaining duration of the flight! It was fantastic! I always feel bad for my seats mates when I travel with him! The best part is when I got to Denver and met my hubs and other two boys. I asked how his flight was and he said it was amazing and that my kids slept the whole time!

    1. @Toni – “No joke, her husband got up and went and stood in the back of the plane and after she finished cleaning off her purse, she joined him, for the remaining duration of the flight! It was fantastic!”

      You are a jerk!

      1. JakePB – I’m pretty sure she was being sarcastic!! She clearly felt sad and bad about the ways things went down.

      2. Wow, what’s with all the men haters? You’re a jerk for calling me a jerk! I felt awful and told them sorry about a million times! Tell me, almighty JAKEPB, what would someone with your moral and clearly ethical stature have done? By the way you just called me names like a 3 year old, although my three year old has more class than you, I could only imagine how you would have handled that situation!

    2. Toni – Wow, that is a doozy of a story! Sounds like you were able to keep your sense of humor about it, though. Was this on the flight home from the FTU Tampa?

  6. Wow. I’m not the best flyer, so anything that disturbs my comfort can push me over the edge. A seat mate like that would have done me in! I think it’s really great that you wrote a letter to SW. While it’s not necessarily their fault, they want us to have positive experiences on their planes so that we continue to fly with them. When I’ve written to them about issues in the past, I’ve felt heard, whether they gave me a flight, drink coupons, or even just a courteous apology. These are the things that make me keep giving them my money, sometimes when they’re not even the least expensive option. Points and miles and value and making the most of the offers out there are common goals of probably most of us, but brand loyalty can trump all of it and SW is one of the few airlines out there that seems to get it. (At least most of the time.) Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Pinkisnice – I write letters when I have either a really GREAT or a really TERRIBLE experience. In fact, the last letter I wrote was to the City of Berkeley because someone in one of the city offices went out of his way to help me. He was amazing, and I wanted as many of his bosses to know as possible.

      1. Am I the only one who feels this *was* the responsibility of Southwest? When this man touched you, the line was crossed. Those flight attendants should have put a stop to it, not to even mention serving a passenger eight drinks absolutely boggles the mind.

        Southwest was very much responsible and they knew it.

  7. I don’t have a bad-flight story, but only a comment about the comments.

    This post is a story about a bad experience on a flight.
    It’s not about how to spin a bad experience into a free flight, and I can’t imagine that was Point Pixie’s intention for writing the letter. Perhaps Jay’s?
    If the paragraph about writing a letter were left out, this post would still stand on it’s own.
    This was an invite to share similar/worse stories and there are plenty of goodies out there.

  8. Can’t top it, but I had one pretty horrible experience myself once. I had to come home early from Shanghai to SFO last year, and luckily got the last available seat on the only daily non-stop w/United. I thought I was really in luck because it was the window seat 31K on the 777, which has only two vs. three across. However after I boarded my luck soon ran out as a very obese, sweaty man sat down in 31J and literally spilled over into my seat. He was polite and tried to keep himself contained but it just wasn’t possible. Add the sweaty factor and soon things got very fragrant in row 31. I really couldn’t do anything as the flight was completely full, so I just made myself as small as possible against the window, and prayed for relief from the god Ambien. Luckily he heard my prayers and the 12-ish hours passed with me mostly asleep and only occasionally waking up to the stench of sour B.O.


  9. It was the time I was traveling from Seattle to New York. I boarded early as I had status, and lucky enough to get first row seating (in Economy). I like the aisle seats and that’s where I was seated. After a bit of time, a rather large woman sat down in the middle. Ok very very large lady. She immediately raised the arm rest between her & the window seat & spread out. Oh good I thought to myself. She was responsible and reserved two seats due to her size. That is great! Boarding continued, and soon someone appeared to sit in the window seat. I guess she didn’t book two seats. hmmm. Window passenger didn’t seem to mind the arm rest being up. Ok whatever, their deal. Next, she raised the arm rest between me & her. Uh oh. This was getting a little too close for my comfort. I don’t really like touching strangers skin or bodies. I’m weird like that. But I don’t like to be confrontational or rude either, so I just scooted over as far as I could towards the aisle, basically taking up about half my seat, while she used the other half. It was very uncomfortable for me. I thought, gee I should only pay for half a ticket too. I decided to ask the flight attendants if there were any rules or anything that could be done- perhaps move my seat? They did say that the arm rests have to be down so thankfully they enforced her doing that, so she had to remold and squeeze the fat into her block of seat. There was still a lot of arm touching (I tried to keep my arms in) but at least the arm rests were back down. I guess some might call this a minor inconvenience, but for me it was a most memorable unpleasant flight experience.

    1. In hindsight, I wish I would have written a letter to the airlines. I think it’s important that they hear via a formal channel (i.e. written communication) about unpleasant experiences so they can make improvements.

  10. I am not a fan of “bad travel stories” but have to say that this one is pretty bad…I guess that means good. πŸ™‚ But I also don’t understand why so many seem to think this is the airline’s fault. Looking forward to some more of Points Pixie’s positive stories.

  11. What a story! I have two experiences that come to mind.

    The first one was on a flight to Shanghai several years ago. It was my first time traveling international, and was for a work trip. Like Peter, I was in a window seat where there were only 2 seats instead of 3 seats in the segment, with a small bit of extra space btwn the window. I think it was because of the shape of the plane where it curved. Anyway, I don’t like window seats but that’s what I got. The guy next to me fell asleep for TEN hours straight!! I could not get out to use the restroom, walk around, stretch etc. It was just awful. Finally the people behind me all got up so the row behind me was open. Fortunately since there was extra space by the window, I was able to squeeze around and exit through the rear (thank goodness!).

    The second experience is not so bad, but memorable nonetheless. I was at an event in Thailand, and due to the threat of a coup d’Γ©tat – the area was drawing in massive amounts of protesters from all over. When a similar protest had happened a few years prior, the airport was shut down and colleagues were stuck for weeks during a similar mtg. Due to concerns of this happening again, it was recommended we end the conference early and evacuate. Well, others had the same idea and it was very challenging getting flights out. Nonetheless, we all took what we could get out and made extra connections in some cases. I remember getting on the long haul leg from Tokyo to SF. I was exhausted from the whole experience and rushed travels and just wanted to rest. The people I was traveling with had all gotten business or first class seats since that was all that was left, but because I was quick & efficient in getting my travel plans changed first, I was fortunate to get the last economy seat. Great. Oh well just glad to be on my way home. When I got to my seat, there was a traveling kids group of some sort, and they were excited and full of energy. Someone sitting near me smelled of funk. Great. Earlier before boarding, I had tried to upgrade to biz class, but was told it was full. I noticed from where I was sitting that not all seats in business were full. I asked the flight attendant if I could pay to upgrade, and they went to check, taking my amex with them to pay the fee. When they came back, the flight attendant said I could move to the biz class seat. He whispered in my ear however that my card was not charged, since technically they couldn’t resell the seat since it was sold, and that person had just not showed up. SCORE! He said he could tell that I was really tired, and if I was willing to pay to upgrade, he knew it must be important. Thank you United! I wrote them a nice note about how helpful the attendant had been.

    1. Rebecca – Wow, not moving for ten hours would have been truly miserable.

      The second experience is a great story! Thanks for sharing it.

  12. I have to admit that I got a little warn out by some of the negative comments so I stopped reading them about half way down. If I am repeating something someone else has already said, please forgive me. I feel like a couple of you are being a little hard on Pixie and the other commenter. 1) I think it is the responsibility of the airline to at least try to stop someone from annoying other clients, and it is clearly their job not to let someone get that intoxicated. No one should be allowed 8 drinks on any flight, let alone one that is only 6 hours. 2) It is a silly, lighthearted story, people. If your life is so perfect that this is what upsets you, than I am so happy for you. We should all be so lucky. I am just grateful to Pixie for trying to put a smile on my face.

  13. If you have the time – or can make the time, there ARE still some benefits in driving your own car. When that Trans-Atlantic tunnel is finished (Oh how I wish) it will be popular.)

    1. No Fly Zone – Yes, at least the people with you in your own car are usually there because you know/like/are related to them, plus you can stop for breaks if necessary or even turn around and go back home!

  14. My experience is a little different than the others stories you have received to date. Mine was more of a pre-boarding problem. I had been staying with a friend and taking care of her while she was recovering from a knee replacement and her husband was dying of cancer. After 10 days, I was emotionally and physically spent. I went to the airport in the late afternoon in the summer, ready to board and a line of thunderstorms rolled in. I knew what that meant. As the agents were busying trying to rebook everyone, I just wanted out and to go someplace quiet. I asked if they could put me on a flight for the next day so I could get out of Dodge (aka IAD). They were very happy to accommodate that request. I had another friend pick me up and take me to her house where I spent the night. As the flight was at 6:30 AM, we left her house at 4:15 AM to get to the airport, go through security and be at the gate. I must say that this was a Delta regional jet. At 6:15 AM, we were still not boarding and I asked the gate agent what was going on. She told me that they were waiting for the flight attendant to arrive. I was beginning to get concerned because I had a connection and there were only 2 flights each day on small jets. I stood in the concourse waiting for her (I needed to do something) and joining me was another flight attendant waiting for her crew to arrive. I saw a flight attendant strolling up the concourse and when I asked the FA standing next to me if it was mine, she replied “yes”. I happened to mentioned to the strolling FA in a very matter of fact voice that we are suppose to leave in 6 minutes. She told me in a loud voice that “we’ll leave when I say we’ll leave” Whoa, I was a little taken back. I knew at that point I needed to keep my mouth shut.

    Finally it was time to board. I stepped onto the airplane and she said to me “I hope your attitude has changed”. I really didn’t know what to say or do at this point. As I looked to my left, I saw that the cockpit door was wide open and decided to take a chance that the pilot might hear this conversation. Basically I said “MY attitude! What about YOUR attitude when you told me that this plane would leave when you wanted it to leave!” She then kicked me off the plane. People behind me and those seated just stared at me. I was thoroughly embarrassed. I stood there stunned, not knowing what to do but knew not to say anymore because I did not want the presence of the police. I stood in the jetway and then went back up the ramp to the gate where there was an agent. She knew of the earlier comments and I told her what had just happened. She was aghast and told me to wait right there. She went down the jetway and came back a few minutes later with a female employee who turned out to be the pilot. The pilot did indeed hear everything and spoken to the FA. She was upset because this FA has a habit of doing this and it makes her record look bad with leaving late or arriving late. She asked me to come back on the airplane. I said I would after I grabbed a drink to take on with me as I didn’t trust the FA. As I boarded for the second time, I did not look at her.

    While the FA was giving the safety instructions, she mentioned her name which I jotted down in case I was going to say anything to Delta. As we landed, I got up my carry-on and left the plane. Waiting in the jetway was the pilot who gave me her name and encouraged me to report it to Delta.com. She was going to report this FA as well.

    I did as requested and received a $50 voucher that was good only for flights. I did not do this to get any money back but rather to point out this FA’s lateness, how she treated me and how thoroughly embarrassed I was particularly since I would be flying them again in a month and was concerned that I would have contact with her again. Perhaps you’ll say I had it coming to me but honestly I wasn’t didn’t think what I said called for that type of reaction – perhaps I’m wrong. I just never thought I’d get kicked off a plane.

    I can now tell people that I was kicked off a plane and they are totally surprised.

    1. Jane S. – Wow, that is quite a story. Sounds like the FA had some other stuff going on!

      Thank you for taking the time to write in and share.

  15. Ok People – can we just take a sec to go back up to the first comment from roccoco.
    What’s the deal with the focus being on who’s responsible for the drunk guy.

    The dude farted, grinned, and died!


  16. Pixie, Your terrible seatmate sounded like a well-intentioned Aspie (person with Asperger’s Syndrome). He was trying to make nice but was unable to pick up any clues from you. Poor guy.

    1. Don’t try to rationalize here. This post is just about complaining about other without trying to think about perspectives other than your own. Who cares if the seatmate may have had a reason for his actions, it annoyed Pixie and thats all that matters to her. (that was sarcasm btw)

  17. Well I have to agree with Toni…

    “Pixie did this silly post on an experience she had flying to give us all a good laugh and you jump down her throat and go all crotchety old man on her.”

    Thanks Pixie for the fun post… I don’t have ANY travel stories that can compare!

  18. First off: I’m totally on Pixie’s side here! What’s with all the haters?!?!? (BTW: Found Pixie from Rene’s interview)

    Now, my stories: (which I’m writing while on a flight, using GoGo)

    1) LAX-.Amsterdam: Full flight. Was in economy next to a huge guy who needed a seat belt extension, and who spilled out into half my seat. Okay, that’s pretty common. A few days later, on AMS->LAX return, I paid for an upgrade to Economy Comfort, so I wouldn’t have to suffer again. No wider, but more legroom. Guess what? Seated next to a huge woman, who needed seat belt extension, and spilled into half my seat! Both flights were full, so purser couldn’t move me.

    2) Seated next to a guy who had a clear plastic iced-tea bottle. He spent the entire flight chewing tobacco and spitting into the plastic bottle, filling it up. Oh, and he was drinking rum and cokes non-stop.

    3) Got a first class upgrade on an int’l flight LHR->LAX. Got seated next to a guy who was *chugging* red wine the *ENTIRE* flight, and getting sloppier and sloppier drunk. I was *certain* he was gonna spill a full glass of wine on my lap and/or my laptop. Fortunately, he downed his drinks so fast, that when he did finally knock a glass over onto me in his drunken stupor, it was empty. Phew!

    4) Was flying a same-day there-and-back trip LAX->LAS, to deliver a lecture in front of a big audience of doctors. Didn’t pack any clothes — just my laptop in the overhead. I guess someone must have put their full coffee up there before take-off, while arranging their stuff, and forgotten about it. Land in LAS, and I grab my laptop bag from the overhead, and it was *soaked* with coffee, which went *all* over my white shirt. Tried to clean and dry it as best as possible in airport bathroom before heading to give my lecture. Finally gave up, and decided to own it — took a picture of my shirt, and made it the opening slide of my PPT!

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