Travel Tips: Coughing on Planes

Getting seated on a plane is like a lottery. You just wait to see what ticket you’re handed. I recently returned from China, and on a 10-hour flight, I happened to be seated next to someone coughing.

He didn’t just cough once. He kept coughing, over and over. Some were normal coughs, but others were exceptionally loud, and then he’d clear his throat, spitting gobs of phlegm into a growing mound of tissues on his tray table.

But what could I do? You can’t ask someone to stop coughing. It’s not their fault.

So I sat there for four hours trying to drown out his coughs with my movie. After two movies, I had to sleep, but I couldn’t because he would not stop coughing.

Finally, do you know what I did? I tapped him on the shoulder and asked politely, “Can you try to cough more softly. You keep waking me up.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, then he stopped coughing. He literally just stopped. I think I heard two soft coughs over the next six hours. The moral of this story is that you can ask someone to stop coughing. Believe it or not, it is possible.

That’s your travel tip for today.

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