Invading personal space on a flight is just plane rude

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By Dan Sears

After an image of a person’s socked foot sneaking into an airplane passenger’s legroom went viral on Reddit, many people weighed in on what they would do if something similar happened to them. 

The viral post touched off quite a flurry of comments. “Don’t be this person,” user “stefahnia” posted on the “Mildly Infuriating” subreddit, along with a picture that she said her friend sent her from a recent flight she took. In the picture, a person’s foot can be seen reaching in between her feet — almost touching her right heel.

The picture quickly went viral, with over 2,000 people responding to the image – mostly in horror at the invasion of personal space or with stories of what they did when something similar happened to them on an airplane. 

“This happened to me recently. Except not only was the foot just there, the guy would occasionally run his toes up my calf!! Creepy as hell,” said Reddit user “253ish.” 

The user said she “kicked back at him a few times to no avail,” and that the passenger only stopped what he was doing when her boyfriend began “stomping on his foot.” 

Another person described kicking a passenger who kept trying to invade the person’s space.

“Each time, [the person] would yell and I would tell them that the area below my seat is mine, not theirs,” said SheiB123. “They called the flight attendant and she told them the same thing.” 

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SheiB123 continued with another story: “A friend spilled water on a man who did this with BARE FEET!!” 

A person has every right to say "no" to a request to switch seats on an airplane, multiple etiquette experts told Fox News Digital.
After a photo went viral on Reddit showing a person’s foot right near another passenger’s feet, people talked about their own experiences on planes. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Fox News Digital reached out to stefahnia for comment — and to an etiquette expert for advice on what and what not to do. 

While it may be satisfying in the moment to physically react to this kind of situation, that is usually not the best option, California-based etiquette expert Rosalinda Randall told Fox News Digital.

Seeing someone else’s feet invade a personal area is jarring, she said. 

“There you are snuggled into your compact space, when you see, and possibly smell, an intrusion,” said Randall. “You look down and see a foot. Whether it is ‘socked’ or barefoot, it’s an intrusion.”

Coach seats on airplanes, she said, are “not made for taller people.” That said, “it isn’t everyone’s responsibility to accommodate passengers’ comfort.” 

If a person is invading personal space, possibly without even initially realizing it, Randall revealed what to do and not do. 

The first thing to do, she said, is to actually use the foot space in front of your seat. 

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“Gently place your feet in your designated area, gently tapping [the invader’s] foot — and hope they get the hint,” she said. 

If this does not work, a person can move their under seat bag (when allowed) into the space. 

“That will no doubt bump the intruder’s foot,” said Randall. “And hope they get the hint.” 

If these strategies do not work and the “foot intruder” continues to invade, Randall suggested trying to talk to the person.

“You can turn to them calmly and politely explain, ‘I know there’s little space on planes these days, so you understand that I also need all the space I can get.’ Or, ‘I don’t want to keep bumping your foot, so please keep it under the seat,’” she said. 

And, of course, “always end with a ‘thank you,’” Randall said. 

Premium cabins have considerably more legroom than coach – making them a smart choice if possible for taller people, an etiquette expert said.
Premium cabins have considerably more legroom than coach – making them a smart choice if possible for taller people, an etiquette expert said. Getty Images

It is extremely important to remain calm, even if a person is frustrated, annoyed or even downright grossed-out by the presence of an unwanted foot. 

“If you’re feeling cranky or tired or your style of communication is direct and without forethought, don’t handle it,” said Randall. 

Instead, talk to the flight attendant and inform the professional about the situation.

“I would not have advised this a few years ago, but due to the increase in testy passengers, I strongly recommend it,” she said.

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Stomping on the person’s foot or pouring beverages on it is also not recommended.

“Doing anything to intentionally hurt someone is rude and wrong,” she said. 

“In the end, you’re the one who will be looked upon as inconsiderate. Always try to work it out courteously.”

Randall also advised people to avoid making a scene by videoing the encounter or announcing the issue to the entire planeful of people. 

“You may be perceived as the loony one,” she said. 

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