Ah, business travel. On the one hand, it's terrible. On the other hand, it's also terrible. And now I'm starting to lose my faith in humanity as a result.
A guy at a party explained how he always gets two empty seats on Amtrak by pretending to be drunk. Who else out there is weirdly proud of doing devious things like that while traveling?
I asked around, and I wrote an article: 17 Selfish Things Other Passengers Do to Make Their Travel Better (and Yours Worse), Ranked in Order of Pure Deviousness.
It went viral. Then, many more readers sent me their own stories and tricks. It turns out, some of them are even worse. So, here's Part II--ranked as always, in order of increasing evil.
1. Squeeze out everyone else for a free ticket.
It's saying something that this tip, about preemptively volunteering to give up your seat so you'll be first in line if they offer free flight vouchers in return, is the least despicable item on this list.
"Cut to the front of the line? I'm one up on that," wrote one traveler, referring to a tip that a guy named Brian gave in Item #9 in the original article.
"I lurk till the staff arrives, then ask if they're overbooked," and if so, before they've even made an announcement, "ask them to please start the list with me on it first."
2. Bring a gift (and get free drinks).
Again, not quite despicable, but this one basically involves enticing airline employees to steal from their employer. The person who suggested it said he "guarantee[s] it will get you free drinks." It goes like this:
"Years ago I dated a flight attendant, and she told me if I wanted to make the flight attendants' day, to bring them some nice chocolates. Sure enough, the next time I hopped a flight I picked up a couple of bags Ghiradelli chocolates (about $3.50 a bag at Walmart) and drank free on the flight.
I now carry chocolates on every single leg of every flight I ever take and have never been charged for a drink.
As a matter of fact, on a morning flight to Miami last year, I was drinking (free) blood marys. As I was walking off the plane, the flight attendant handed me a brown paper bag. ... What did I find? Eight Tito's vodka minis and two cans of bloody mary mix."
3. Plan ahead, and grab a free upgrade.
It's getting harder to sneak up into the "economy plus" section on most airlines, but one reader said he's found a loophole, as long as you're willing to trade sitting in a middle seat for some more legroom.
"Jet Blue charges extra for the 'Even More Space' seats. On a cross country flight (e.g. BOS to LAS) it's $95," explained Harry Mandeville, who also pointed out that window and aisle seats don't cost anything extra. "Who wants to pay $95 extra for a middle seat? They are pretty much guaranteed empty, except on a really full flight."
4. Fake the sniffles (or worse).
This one almost came up last time, and it's kind of obvious. Given two empty seats, most people would be likely to take the without someone acting like a tuberculosis patient next to it.
"I take the window seat but make sure I spread over onto the middle seat," said one traveler. "When someone approaches my row, I start coughing and wipe my nose with a tissue. I make the cough sound bad like I have a cold. They all pass by unless it's a packed plane and I can't get away with it, in which case I don't even try."
Writing on Scary Mommy, Estelle Erasmus had a similar story about using this technique while riding the subway:
"When someone is standing so close ... that they can measure my bra cup size (and seem about to), I make space for myself ... by coughing, sniffling, fake sneezing and creating phantom phlegm. Added bonus: [I]t's kept me out of uncomfortable conversations with creepy strangers."
5. Slow-play anyone who wants to sit.
Here's one that's sort of a play on the two beer can trick that prompted the other article, although without the fake drunkenness. Again, from a writer who asked for anonymity:
"Sit down in the outer seat and pull both beverage trays down. Put one drink on your tray and one on the window seat's tray. Sprinkle both trays liberally with snack foods. ... . Load up the window seat with items to make it look like someone is sitting there and got up to go to the bathroom.
People who board the train now have several barriers to work through in order to take the seat next to you. Is someone sitting in that seat? If no, then it will take at least 10 minutes for you to clumsily clean up the area and stow the items away. Seat hunters ... don't have time to play detective with you, so will usually move on to an easier target (after they've paused to give you a disapproving, suspicious glare.)"
6. Gas attack.
This one is an unfortunate byproduct of biology, and I was surprised to see someone suggesting using it as a personal space weapon--especially since I assume most business travelers are beyond, say, seventh grade.
But sure enough: "I fart. That works great," wrote one traveler, who didn't give permission to use his name, the little stinker. In case you're wondering; it's not your imagination. People do pass gas more on airplanes. It has to do with the pressurized cabins.
7. Fake a pregnancy.
Women only for this one, obviously, but I can certainly imagine it working. Writes one reader:
"I once had stayed up all night with my relatives in Mexico City. I had to fly early the next morning to JFK. I decided to go make-up free and looked like absolute shite.
I told the gate agent that I just found out I was pregnant and couldn't stop throwing up and could he please sit me away from anyone else in my own row since I didn't want them to start throwing up in the plane either.
He answered, "Si Senorita...", implying that he KNEW I was not a Mrs., as a kind of insult. But they he gave me my own row with no one around. I slept like a baby for 6 hours. :)"
8. Smuggle a dog onboard.
I've never taken a pet on a plane so I didn't realize this, but all of those people you see carrying cats and dogs in little carryon bags are supposed to pay for the privilege. One reader said she knows that, but she just refuses to pony up for her little dog.
"The airlines charge up to $150 for my nine-pound dog to replace my under seat carry-on....one way. This often makes his ticket more than mine. I hide the fact that I have him with me from the ticketing agents and flight attendants.
He comes out for security, but they don't check to see if the dog has a ticket. He has flown now nine times for free. All nine times the passenger next to me didn't know he was there."
9. Fake nausea/vomit.
Two passengers suggested this same devious trick, that not only potentially gets you more room, but it also garners sympathy. It's just a matter of telling the flight attendant before you sit down that you need a bag because you sometimes get sick while traveling.
"My wife and I used to fly the cattle cars that are Southwest," suggested one reader who said he and his wife are now retired. "When we got to our seats, we would take the aisle and windows. She would then take out a barf bag and pretend to be nauseated. Amazingly no one would try for the middle seat."
10. Intimidate smaller or female passengers.
Okay, this one is pretty horrible. I say that as a guy who stands five-foot-seven, and whose wife is petite (but super-cute, just saying.) Two fat, middle-aged men were overheard talking before boarding about how they preferred to sit next to small women because they could "intimidate them [into] scrunching into the smallest possible space to avoid contact."
Our narrator, who described herself only as a "middle-aged road warrior and a Southern lady," picks up the story:
"Well, what do you know, it was a full red-eye flight and this [guy] was seated next to [me], and the other guy was seated next to a petite, Asian lady [in front of us]. ... The moron next to me starts manspreading and hogging the arm rest, putting his leg into my space, etc. SO, I sit there a minute and I start laughing to myself, and then I start jerking my hands around or making odd movements or sounds sporadically.
My seat buddy was unhappy. He started moving back, but I started leaning into his space and continued being weird. I have been told I have a creepy chuckle and I could barely control my laughter as he tried to get his pal to initiate the trade. In the end he went and complained to the flight attendant. ... Eventually she became angry and moved him to... the back of the plane.
I spread out. Then I began to quietly kick the seat of the moron in front of me when he looked like he would drop off to sleep. ... This is the worst thing I have ever done in my life. It is my favorite travel tale."
11. Just toss other passengers' stuff away.
This one is so blatant, but I'd actually heard a similar story before writing the original article. I was skeptical, but having heard it twice now--well, I'll just let you decide.
"Was on a flight Atlanta to Chicago. ... During boarding when the plane was about half to two-thirds full, overhead bins are about maxed out. Guy with an aisle seat a few rows ahead of me pulls out two bags from the bin right above his seat, drops them on a nearby empty seat, then puts his bag in the space and closes the bin door.
Sits down like a boss and nothing was out of the ordinary."
12. Fake a handicap--especially with a wheelchair.
I mentioned hearing friend-of-a-friend stories about people who held onto crutches after having a sprained ankle, in order to board airplanes early. Now, three separate people said they'd seen even worse behavior.
"I was coming home on a flight and this woman was being wheelchair-ed onboard," wrote one passenger. "Now I thought something was funny because I remember her from the hotel I was staying at and she moved around fine. (She was at a religious convention!) When the flight was over she got up and bolted off the plane with absolutely no help."
Another reader, who says he has Executive Platinum status on American Airlines (which means he flies more than 100,00 miles a year), said there's something else that bothers him about this idea:
"I have noticed a new trick being used frequently. You are a big group of people traveling. You designate one as needing a wheelchair and so they are coddled and loaded on every airplane before even first class.
Of course the entourage gets to board at the same time and I have seen groups of four or five people, and even more, doing this very technique to get boarded and the possibility of the best coach seats.
They never have a problem with all their bags as all the overheads are empty when they board and the wheelchair rider always has extra bags as well."
Related: the bus driver who talked about passengers who "carry a cane ... to get the half fare discount. ... Never actually using it, just carrying it in their hand. They also get to sit at the front of the bus where the mobility challenged people sit. Just goes to show that people will do about anything to gain some small advantage."
All right, one more time. Got your own story about selfish, sorry-not-sorry passenger behavior? Let us know in the comments below, or if you want to confess without attaching your name to the story, go to Sorry Not Sorry.