How many times have you found yourself glaring at a fellow passenger on a cramped flight and saying silently to yourself "come on, the headphones are free!"

You know the passenger I'm talking about. The one obnoxiously playing a first-person shooter or watching some show involving Howie Mandel with the volume turned all the way up, as if there weren't literally several people trying to take a nap within earshot. 

Seriously, who doesn't travel with headphones? You think in total befuddlement. They'll give some to you right now. I'll get them and give them to you right now!

As it turns out, you're not alone in your irritation.

Playing, music, movies or games on a flight without headphones bothers 83 percent of people, according to a survey conducted for AT&T retail outfit All Home Connections. That's even more annoying than talking on the phone while on the ground or using a bright screen when the cabin lights are out, which bothered 63 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

Now, you could just politely ask the person to turn down the sound, or offer them your free headphones, but given the amount of tension and occasional scuffle we read about on flights lately, it's understandable why passengers aren't feeling that confrontational. 

But of the three offenses that bugged passengers the most, pumping up the volume on your device is the only one that a majority of people thought should trigger some sort of consequence.

Thirty percent of the 1,000 Americans surveyed said the device should be confiscated, 21 percent said the offender should be fined something between $20 - $500, while one percent represented society's most serious disciplinarians in calling for someone so discourteous to be banned from the flight.

This could be particularly harsh if the offense came at 35,000 feet. What are the odds that someone who didn't pack headphones remembered to stow a parachute in their carry-on?

The remaining 48 percent didn't think there should be any consequences. 

I'd like to think that the polite request to turn down the volume is actually the real solution here, no matter how much no one wants to do it. Glares are easily ignored, and all the above consequences feel a little excessive to me. 

It's entirely possible the person blasting Ariana Grande doesn't realize just how loud it is. Approaching them with a little compassion, emotional intelligence and even humor can easily diffuse the situation.

Something as simple as: "hey, that song is way more entertaining than the kid screaming up front, but I need to get some rest. Would you mind turning it down? I can help you track down some headphones if you want."

In the unlikely event your seatmate responds by switching from Ariana to Pantera and shouting expletives at you, then yea, maybe call the flight staff for a little help and we can revisit the idea of consequences. 

Published on: Jul 18, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.