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Mile High Manners: Sensible Solutions to Mile High Club “Rites of Initiation” & Snoozing Seatmates


Traveling can be a tricky business, one that’s often complicated by unexpected, misery-inducing difficulties. You’ve got tightened airport security to deal with, not to mention delayed flights, discourteous strangers and maybe even a screaming child to top it all off. Sometimes it feels like the whole ordeal isn’t worth the hassle, but fear not! Mile High Manners is here to lend a helping hand and guide you through the polite “do’s and don’ts” of flight etiquette, regardless of the class you’re seated in and situations you come up against.

Have you ever faced an in-flight encounter or unexpected situation at the airport which you were unsure of how to handle properly? Send your dilemmas to us at [email protected] and check back every Wednesday as we endeavor make the travel experience more enjoyable for everyone.


Q: Believe it or not, Miles, the “Mile High Club” actually exists! I thought it was something made up, because really, how could people manage to discreetly get it on in such a cramped cabin? The answer? With some help from the bathroom. There I was, flying United from LGA to IAH, patiently waiting to use the facilities and wondering “my, they’ve been in there for a while, hope they’re not sick or—” when the filthiest moan violated my ears. Mortified, I ran back to my seat and hid behind a tattered magazine, deciding it would be safest to just ignore my bladder. They were in there forever, though, and I felt like someone should’ve done something. Tell a flight attendant, or knock on the door, or anything to admonish the randy individuals that were hogging one of the bathrooms we all have to share. What’s the protocol here? Should I have done something? What should you do when the Mile High Club disrupts a flight near you?

A: I am shocked, dear reader. I always assumed, like you, that the “Mile High Club” was an urban legend, possibly even something thought up by airline marketing executives looking to limit the number of passenger trips to the restroom, thereby saving them money on toilet paper. The entire world just exploded before my eyes!

I admit that I was always curious about (and half-expected to witness) this on a long-haul flight at some point, but I’ve yet to have such an encounter. Maybe those who’ve done it on flights that I’ve been on are just very good at concealing it. Who knows?

Simply put, the logistics of the situation itself are rather questionable. I don’t imagine that an airplane bathroom is the most romantic place in which to engage in this sort of activity. I’d imagine that there are those who do this sort of thing as part of a “bucket list” challenge.

In terms of what you can/should do, one can go down the whistleblower route and inform the nearest flight attendant of what’s going on. It’s quite an awkward conversation to bring up, though, for sure. Alternatively, you can wait it out until someone else makes the trip to the bathroom and watch what they do after discovering what’s going on inside.

My two cents? Let the situation be and leave the lovebirds to procreate in peace. Marvel at the randomness of the whole thing and walk the extra twenty paces to the plane’s other bathroom.

Q: I’ve seen this sort of thing happen in the movies, but I didn’t think it would ever happen to me, but there I was, stuck on another redeye, when the guy sleeping in the aisle seat next to me slumped over to use my shoulder as a pillow. He wasn’t a snorer, for which I was grateful, but he was definitely a heavy sleeper, because all of my wiggling and scooting (trying to discreetly wake him up) did nothing to disturb him. After about 15 minutes, a bit of turbulence jolted him awake, and he apologized for nodding off on me… an hour later, though, he was snoozing on my shoulder all over again. It made me quite uncomfortable to say the least, but he seemed tired and I didn’t want to be rude, so I endured. For those who don’t want to endure the way I did, what’s the best way to handle an individual who mistakes your shoulder for their pillow?

A: When faced with a shoulder sleeper, it’s best to decide on a course of action quickly and stick to it — you can either fight or shrug it off. If you opt for the first solution, then there are different ways to approach the situation, each with varying degrees of harshness.

If you have a pillow handy, then a gentle approach would be to try and position said pillow between them and your shoulder. This way you at least create a barrier and give yourself some relief from the immediate presence of their slumbering body. If you possess the right set of skills, you’ll be able to do it without waking them.

If you’re in a bad mood and in no way wish to have anyone encroach on your personal space, try moving your body in a sudden, forceful manner, jerking away and not relenting until your neighbor rouses.

You could also simply get up, excusing yourself to use the facilities. When you return to your seat, you’re your body so that your seatmate would be unable to comfortably lean against you if they tried to do so again. Afterwards, you can both simply carry on for the remainder of the flight as if nothing had happened.

If you’re not all that affected when a seatmate nods off on your shoulder and you don’t wish potentially hurt said seatmate’s feelings, then why not follow their example and take a nap yourself? Naturally, using their head as a pillow serves as quiet form of payback.

[Photo: iStock]

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GRALISTAIR December 11, 2014

My sister and her husband joined the club a few years back on a flight back from Germany to the UK.