In the same way that traveling introduces you to new places, it also introduces you to humankind. There is definitely something to be said about the wide variety of humans you come across in your travels. From the strangers you meet at a communal dinner table to the friends you make out of shared fear before a skydiving excursion, traveling opens you up to people who you would not normally meet.
More specifically, nothing brings total strangers together like breathing the same air in an enclosed space 30,000 feet above the Earth for an extended period of time. These are the five people that you typically encounter on an airplane.
1. The Frequent Flyer.
This traveler knows the ins and outs of each and every airport and airline. Most likely, they have priority boarding, so they can separate themselves early on from the rest of the crowd. They have their carry-on situation figured out perfectly, right down to the lip balm they keep in their pocket for that mid-flight lip hydration fix. He/she will be watching the in-flight entertainment or reading The New York Times on their iPad.
2. The New Tourist.
This person flies once every few years. They struggle to get through every part of the preflight process: from check-in to security and beyond. They’re excited/panicked for take-off, landing, and everything in between. If they’re anywhere else but a window seat, they’ll crane their neck and inch their way closer to you as your plane descends into its destination.
3. The Solo Millennial.
This traveler (between ages 14 and 34) is traveling from home, from school, or returning from their stint as an expat. They’re pretty knowledgable about traveling, so they already know exactly what they can/cannot bring with them in a carry-on. They’ll most likely be using earbuds to minimize conversation with other travelers.
4. The Family.
One or more parents, accompanied by one or more child. They bring their own snacks, in addition to every single belonging they’ve ever bought. Children may scream and cry. Parents will shush until they go cross-eyed. Here’s a tip: don’t sit within two rows of The Family. Children may kick your seat, pull your hair, or play loud video games. You will suffer.
5. The Talker.
Do not engage. I repeat: do not engage! If you stray from monosyllabic answers to their questions, you’ll be committed to a conversation that will last for the full duration of your flight. “What’s your life story? Oh, you don’t want to share? Let me tell you about every single thing that has happened to me from birth until now.”