The Most Polite Ways To Avoid An Unwanted Conversation During Your Next Flight

You find your seat and settle in after carefully making your way down the center aisle of the airplane. You're ready for a relaxing flight. All of a sudden, a stranger plops into the seat beside you and starts talking endlessly. Now, you must choose between trying to escape the conversation or potentially chatting with your rowmate for the duration of the flight.


While not a comfortable situation, you may be able to avoid the problem altogether. For example, you could try to secure a single-person row during seat selection, though the airlines often place these single rows in first or business class, not economy. You could also attempt to get a row to yourself with this seating trick if traveling with a friend.

If chatty seatmates bother you, don't worry; you aren't alone. According to a 2023 survey by Skyscanner (via Business Insider), 39% of respondents agree with you. For context, this doesn't mean you can't give a polite "hello" or engage in a little small talk. We're avoiding a full-blown, perhaps even hours-long, conversation in place of watching "The Lego Batman Movie" on a tiny screen in peace.


Subtly hint that you don't want to talk

Avoiding conversation with a seatmate doesn't have to be awkward — especially if you board before them. Even if you don't make it on the plane first, you have several options for passively (not passive-aggressively) signaling to them that you don't want to talk. "Subtle signs like [putting] headphones on signal to other travelers that you are hoping to have some alone time," Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas and frequent flyer, told The Points Guy.


You could also occupy yourself with a book, pull out your laptop, or shut your eyes for a while. Once the flight gets going, your seatmate may become preoccupied and not want to chat anymore. Some folks suggest you pretend not to speak English, but it's usually better to be straightforward with someone than mean to them.

Chatty strangers tend to kick off their convos in the first few minutes after sitting down. You may only need to appear occupied or closed off for a little while. If you avoid that sit-down window, you may sidestep conversing altogether. The next time you book a flight, remember the best seats to choose if you need to get work done — that could be your no-talking saving grace.


Be direct with chatty seatmates

Unfortunately, not everyone will take the hint that you'd like to be left alone on an airplane. When that happens, some folks on Reddit liken it to being held hostage. "Because you're just sorta trapped in there together and the other person can't get away if you make them uncomfortable or won't stop talking," one user wrote. So what can you do if this happens?


You can politely tell your seat or row mate you aren't up for a whole conversation. Let them know you've had a long day, need to do some work, or tell the truth. Not everyone has the energy to talk all the time. If, for some reason, things go badly, call over a flight attendant to help.

The best thing you can do for your mental well-being and those around you is to be direct. After all, you'll probably be next to this person for hours. To avoid awkwardness during this period, make your needs known. Or, if you don't mind being slightly inconvenienced, you could also book the worst rows on a plane. which are (in our experience) far less likely to have seatmates.