Do You Talk or Not Talk on an Airplane?

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed rules1 to allow the use of cell phones on airplanes in flight. Until the airlines adopt these proposals, it is likely that the talkative person will try to communicate with the person in the next seat. But what happens when the talkative person is seated next to someone who does not want to talk? That depends on the communication skills of the talker and the diplomacy of the listener.

Source

The ideal situation, given the impossibility of escape, would be to seat talkers together and allow non-talkers to enjoy their peace and quiet. However, if that cannot be arranged, here are some ideas to help both passengers enjoy their flight.

Bear in mind that moods change, so that the person who is talkative on one flight may not want to talk on another flight. Therefore, each person should consider being in both roles.


The Talkative Person

Talkers are created by many different circumstances, and if you belong to any of the following categories, you might find it difficult to control your talking.

  • First-time flyers are usually nervous; also there are regular flyers who never get over their anxiety on an airplane. Talking is a popular way to relieve stress.2
  • Some people are good communicators who can always find something to talk about. It is tempting to take advantage of a captive neighbor.
  • Loud talkers like an audience. They know for sure that people on several rows in front and behind them will be interested in their war stories. The neighbor gets the full force of the loud voice.

For Your Consideration

Most passengers on an airplane will listen to a talkative person from any category for about five minutes before they become disgusted. If you are the talker, here are a few things for you to consider:

  • There are other nervous passengers who want to deal with their anxiety in silence.
  • Some passengers have their own stories to contemplate; they deserve respect for their mental and emotional privacy.
  • An exchange of greetings is usually accepted, and may include questions like: My name is . . . What’s yours? Have you been to (flight destination) before? Are you comfortable in the window seat?
  • If the other person wants to talk, you’ll get an idea from their willingness to supply information beyond what you ask for, and by a return of questions.
  • Body language is also a good clue. If the other person’s body is slanted away from you that usually means that conversation is not welcome.

If your seatmate indicates a preference for silence, be courteous and comply. Just keep your smile on. It may be that later in the flight, your neighbor will want to talk; go for it, but be cautious and sensitive. If you never get the opportunity to talk on this flight, dwell on the memories of pleasant conversations you had previously.

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 702 forced to land on Cointrin Airport in Geneva
Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 702 forced to land on Cointrin Airport in Geneva | Source

The Non-Talkative Person

“I held hands the whole way with my seat neighboor, a very nice, simple older italian woman, [unedited]” wrote a passenger on the Ethiopian hijacked plane3 on February 17, 2014.

The mention of this story is to make you aware of the importance of being civil, even when you do not feel like talking. How awkward would it be if the non-talker is rude or negligent one minute, and then looks for support the next minute from the neglected person?

The passenger who shared this experience reported that he and his neighbor held hands for six hours. You never know what kind of help you may need from your passenger neighbor, but even if everything goes well as it happens most often, and you do not need any help, make an effort to be kind.

For Your Consideration

  • Five minutes of listening or responding can hardly ruin your flight. At least, respond to the initial greeting, statement or question with a smile and then express what you want the other person to know. Try not to be too abrupt.
  • A courteous reply would be something like: “Nice meeting you, but I planned to take a nap (or do some reading, or work on a project) during this flight. Hope you don’t mind. Enjoy your flight.”
  • It is very unlikely that the talkative person will want to upset you further. If the talker forgets and directs a remark to you, smile and keep right on doing what you said you would do.

At the end of the flight, while the attendants prepare for landing or when it is time to exit the airplane, express your happiness at accomplishing what you planned. That will be your way of saying thanks for the silence.


Which one are you?

Are you the talkative or non-talkative passenger on an airplane?

See results without voting

Two Talkative People

It’s bound to be a great flight when two talkers get seats next to each other. Good Questions for a Good Conversation is a practical guide for your first chat with a stranger. It offers interesting suggestions to help the conversation flow, and to make it enjoyable for both people.

It is possible to meet someone on an airplane who will become a lifetime friend. Indeed, there are some who have found lifetime partners, and share their success stories online.4 You never know what can develop from meaningful talk shared on an airplane flight. One courteous and friendly effort can pay great dividends.


More by this Author


47 comments

Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Interesting hub MsDora. I don't initiate a conversation on a plane, but will talk to the other person if they start it. Anyway you give good advice here. Voted useful and interesting.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

Im a non talker on airplanes.. but i think the fcc is opening a can of headaches... i get tired of watching so many folks in grocery lines, gas stations and even in ball parks.. I pay 300 a ticket to watch a game and I get six or seven different phone conversations going at once... Im sorry IOm getting off the topic here.. you know this was a well put together piece Msdora


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Great ideas for one sitting on a plane I am sometimes a talker.An interesting layout here with valuable points.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Jodah, I'm the same. I enjoy being courteous and civil. Thank you.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Frank, many people give a similar forecast on cell phones in the airplane. I feel your fury. Thank you for sharing.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Devika, I could guess that you're a talker. Hope you get other talkers as neighbors. Thank you also for sharing.


Purpose Embraced profile image

Purpose Embraced 2 years ago from Jamaica

Thanks for an interesting hub, MsDora. I am not much of a talker on airplanes, I read instead. But if the person beside me is talkative, I usually become engaged in a conversation with him or her.


Purpose Embraced profile image

Purpose Embraced 2 years ago from Jamaica

Thanks for an interesting hub, MsDora. I am not much of a talker on airplanes. I mostly read. But if somebody beside me is talkative, I usually get involved in a conversation with the person.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

I really prefer not to talk on airplanes and have that quiet, reflective time and really hope that I am not seated next to a talker. I do not mind small talk for just a bit, but not the entire time I am on the plane! My husband is a talker, and I have gently told him that most people really do not enjoy spending the entire time talking to someone they do not know, as they have other things on their minds. LOL

Up and more and sharing

Blessings,

Faith Reaper


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

MsDora, You've really brought up some valid points here. Being trapped on a flight with a loud talker can be quite distracting, particularly on a long flight. We were trained as Flight Attendants to treat each passenger with quiet courtesy as it is generally unknown the reasons they are travelling. Some are headed to a wedding while others are bound for a funeral or other unhappy experience. It is a matter of respect to gauge our conversations to suit the varied possibilities of the individual and to respect the needs of our fellow passengers.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Purpose, I think you have the right attitude. Thank you for your input.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Faith, you made me smile concerning your "gently" telling your husband. I do not mind it, either way. I can enjoy the quiet as well as an interesting conversation. "Interesting" is the key.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Peg, thank you for letting us know what to expect from the flight attendants. I value your input; you add important information.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Oh my goodness, I hate talking to strangers on a plane. They are already in my personal space. LOL Plus I'm shy. Thank God I rarely fly so I don't have to worry about it. :)


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Bill, I did not mean to scare you. I'm laughing too. You don't have to worry. You couldn't be shy enough to have a problem talking to strangers.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 2 years ago from london

What made you write this one? Great observation and useful pointers for all.


sheilamyers 2 years ago

Good advice. I'm a usually a non-talker and once the plane is in the air, I get a book from my carry-on and that's usually the end of any and all conversations. Although, I have been known to get drawn into a conversation if the person has an interesting enough story to tell. I guess I've been lucky not to get stuck next to someone who wants to talk the entire time.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Manatita,my Muse brought it to me. Thank you for your kind comment.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Sheila, thank you for sharing. So far, you've been lucky, hope for your sake, you stay lucky.


Edward J. Palumbo profile image

Edward J. Palumbo 2 years ago from Tualatin, OR

I usually bring a book or my iPod on the plane, but occasionally encounter an interesting individual or someone with a sense of humor. If I see a tense expression or body language that indicates "fear or flight", I engage the person in conversation for their stress relief. My flights are normally 2-4 hours in duration, and there's usually something to comment upon or talk about in the course of the flight.


Colleen Swan profile image

Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

I prefer to read rather than talk. If I do talk I think first. I was recently pestered by talker on a plane. I gave him my spare book to read.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Edward, seems like you'd make an interesting and enjoyable seatmate. Thank you for sharing.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Colleen, way to go. You're a problem solver. Hope both you and the talker benefited. Thank you for sharing.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Thank you, Ms. Dora. I like your suggestions for courtesy from both the talker and the non-talker's perspective. Bringing out a book is usually a good sign that the passenger does not want to engage in conversation. Colleen's solution is a good one! More than once during business travel, I found that I was reading the same book as the passenger next to me.


Elearn4Life profile image

Elearn4Life 2 years ago

I'm guilty as being the initiator on the plane. But I quite down if I get little or short responses. I like to make a talker talk before I start reading.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Peg, I believe that courtesy solves many problems before they start. That's interesting to find your seatmate reading the same book. I think I will also have an extra book and use it only if I'm not enjoying the conversation. I actually like talkers.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Elearn, you're smart to observe the other person's response. Thank you for sharing.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

I have been both a talker and a non-talker, and have had seat companions that have been considerate as well as the other way around. You have given a wonderful key of how to deal with this. Thanks!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Denise. You're more likely to enjoy your flight than someone who is strapped into being a talker or non-talker. Compromise has its place.


word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Very well written MsDora. I find it most interesting to enjoy my flight. I may not initiate talking to a flight neighbor but will end up out talking them before the flight ends if they initiate the talk. but of course, it depends on who you're sitting next to. Thanks for sharing. -:)


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Word, thank you for your input. Hope you always have a good flight neighbor.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

What an ingenious topic, and you covered it so well trying to make each see the other's side. I'm a non-talker (or sleeper, preferably), and I sure do dislike being cornered conversationally for a couple of hours. I try to be civil but not engage.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Flourish, it seems you are like so many other people who just want a peaceful, non-engaging flight. I commend you for being civil. Thanks for your input.


Janellegems profile image

Janellegems 2 years ago from Virginia

Great hub and topic to write on. I am a non-talker, don't start conversations on the plane, I either read or sleep, but I don't mine talking to someone who makes small talk for part of the trip, as long as it is not for the entire trip. You brought out some good points in seeing things from the talker's view as well as the non-talker's. Thanks.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Janelle, thank you for your kind comment. I think it's great that you compromise, talking even for a short while. I think that's a good way to do it.


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 2 years ago

Hi MsDora thanks for this wonderful tips on talkers and non talkers. It is really a timely topic. I like to talk once in a while but I enjoy watching movies more especially if it is long hours of flight.

Have a great day!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Ignugent, thank you for the feedback. I appreciate you.


titi6601 profile image

titi6601 2 years ago

I am not the talkative person on an airplane but sometimes you meet real nice people that want to continue talking and I don't want to be rude. So I listen and try not to keep the conversation going. Voted up & Interesting!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Titi, thank you for your input. It would be great if every traveler had the same attitude that you have.


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 2 years ago from Iowa

Great subject and great tips! I will be polite to someone who initiates a conversation with me on a plane, but I prefer to either sleep or read than carry on a conversation (even when seated next to my husband). I find that the best defense against a talker is to bury my nose in a book. I do dread the thought of cell phones being used on planes. I would hate to be sitting next to someone who is blabbing away on his/her phone for the entire flight. It's bad enough when the plane lands and people get on their phones right away. Some of the loud, one-sided conversations I have heard on a plane haven't been at all appropriate for a confined public space, generally business people discussing matters that are best discussed behind closed office doors. Maybe they think it makes them sound important.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Deborah, in the end we have to do whatever we can to make our flight enjoyable. You're doing great--being courteous and carrying your book. Thank you for sharing.


kerlund74 profile image

kerlund74 2 years ago from Sweden

This really can be a problem... I'm not so fond of speaking to people I don't know. So I suppose that on a plane I'm a non-talkative. Great hub, I really enjoyed reading:)


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Welcome, Kerlund. Glad you had an enjoyable read. Thank you for letting me know.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

You are correct in saying that even a talker might become a non talker sometimes. Though I'm not much of a talker a good conversation partner can perk me up.

Nice and useful tips here. Will keep them in mind for my future trip.

Voted up and interesting.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Rajan, glad you can use these tips. Thanks for reading and commenting.


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

With no offense to talkers intended, it drives me crazy when people talk to me too much on planes. Of course a polite brief conversation is ok, but then I'm done and I usually play solitaire for most of the trip. Useful tips!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Glimmer, it seems that many people feel the same way. Hope it happens s you like it on ll your flights. Thanks for your input.

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