9 Types of People You’ll Find in an Airport

Pick them out to keep yourself occupied in that long, long security line

Types of People You'll Find in an Airport Man Repeller Katherine Irwin in line

I’m Australian. Flying internationally anywhere is an 8-hour minimum commitment, and as such, I can confidently say I’ve seen it all — lost passports, lost luggage, lost marbles. I’ve been seated next to every asshole one could possibly meet on a plane. I have probably, at some point, been guilty of each in-flight offense myself. But typecasts aren’t limited to the friendly sky. Oh no. Through frequent visits and keen observation, I’ve come to realize there are definitive categories that group airport dwellers together, too.

1. The Businessman SmarmyPants

Types of People You'll Find In An Airport Man Repeller Katherine Irwin Businessman smarmy pants

This guy. This three-piece-suit-wearing business class regular can navigate the airport like it’s his own personal pool house. He enters the security line reserved for first class travelers with a casual flick of his top-tier membership card while simultaneously talking loudly (and importantly) at someone down his Galaxy S6. Access to this express lane is a prerequisite in whatever 8-page contract he signed for his C-level position at Insert Bank/Law Firm Here.

2. The First-Time Flyers

Types of People You'll Find In An Airport Katherine Irwin Man Repeller first timers

Get swept up in their enthusiasm, my friends, as it will help wash away your cynicism and disdain when you inevitably get stuck behind them. They’re the type of people who are excited when randomly selected for an explosives test. (They’re also the only people paying attention to the safety briefing when on the plane.)

3. The Lads on Tour

Types of People You'll Find In An Airport Man Repeller Katherine Irwin lads on tour

You can’t decipher their obscure nicknames printed on their jerseys nor the impetus of their trip. Is it a bachelor party weekend or a sporting tour? You actually don’t care. You just pray you’re not on the same flight.

4. The Time Wasters

Types of People You'll See In An Airport Man Repeller Katherine Irwin time waster

Phwoar. Making up about 60% of the security line, they’re the ones wearing triple strength Doc Marten lace-up boots that take 20 minutes to disassemble. They repeatedly forget the four million gadgets in their pockets and go through the security gates upwards of 12 times. Their carry-on bags have a Jack-In-The-Box effect when opening: possessions everywhere. You may or may not have previously fallen into this category but when The Time Waster isn’t you, he or she is your stress level’s worst nightmare.

5. The Productive Member of Society.

9 Types of People You'll Find in an Airport Man Repeller Katherine Irwin model citizen

This is the person who doesn’t use an excessive amount of plastic trays. The person who wears slip-on shoes and doesn’t complain how long the line is taking, who knows where her ID is and finished her water bottle in tandem with checking her suitcase. You can just tell she doesn’t have to pee. This is the person you want to be.

6. The Wildcard

Types of People You'll See in an Airport Man Repeller Katherine Irwin wild card

Despite your best efforts, this one cannot be placed. You saw him in the business class check in – is he secretly a billionaire? And if so, why is he wearing Converse? A tech start-up genius, maybe? Does he travel often? Is he 10 or 30? Why is he eating rice cakes?

7. The Grandparents Doing Life Right

Types of People You'll Find in an Aiport Man Repeller Katherine Irwin adorable olds

Chances are they’re celebrating their soon-to-be golden wedding anniversary and are patiently waiting their turn to be scanned. These seasoned travelers are wonderfully mellow; nothing can spike their anxiety; they’ve seen it all. They’ve learned the zen art of enjoying the trip, not only the destination. They are great! But why oh why oh why do they have to be in front of you moving at the Snapchat-filtered mile per hour of zero?

8. The Disgruntled Airline Employee

Types of People You'll Find in An Airport Man Repeller Katherine Irwin disgruntled flight attendant

Mavis had the privilege of checking in The Lads and she is not impressed. Avoid her check-in kiosk all costs — there will be a zero chance of an arbitrary upgrade. (Find someone whose shift has just begun.)

9. The Late Person

Types of People You'll Find In an Airport Man Repeller Katherine Irwin late person

Who actually receives an applause when they board the plane.


Who have you met? And who have you been? Take your keys out of your pockets, your feet out of your shoes and tell us in plastic the bin below.

Follow Molly on Instagram @mollyobrien9; illustrations by Katherine Irwin. Check out her Instagram @whensdessert


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  • Sam

    Yaaas for being a productive member of society (except now while I dodge work to read this post)! The only problem with this approach is that it makes you a dead giveaway as an American when you are in foreign airports. I get in the zone in the security line and then realize (to my embarrassment) that no one else is taking off their shoes. It happens more than I care to admit.

  • Lol yep. I like to think of myself as a productive person, but it kind of sucks because as you said 60% of people are time wasters and it really pisses me off.

    • Aydan

      Yes, I too am the same.

      • Retta Scanlan

        “it was that time when i lost my job and was very desperate”…du327 until i started with my PC and earning 87 d/hr … last month little over 26 k ,,,, my monthly income …
        Learn More

  • Aydan

    And I must admit that when I am in line, I absolutely the one shooting dirty looks at the people time wasting around me. Yes sir, you random man, you calling that woman’s child a boy when the child is a girl are a waste of my time. Maybe there should be another category, the seasoned traveling who is all decked out in TSA pre and global entry and glares at everyone who gets in her way of coffee, plane, and efficiency…. 🙂 🙂

  • Amelia Diamond

    I HAVE TO TELL YOU GUYS A FAST STORY: i was the late person recently, on my way to a bachelorette, because the fucking security line was longer than anything i had ever seen in my life, and I had to lie my way to the front saying that i was IN the wedding which was starting the second I landed and if I didn’t cut then I’d miss the wedding so I spent half an hour cutting and THEN got stuck behind the worst, slowest people at the actual security portion and THEN i had to run as though i was the family in Home Alone at the airport (run run rudolf scene) and I literalyl ran straight to my gate (with my heavy ass carryon duffel flopping) and was like I AM HERE I AM HERE and they let me on to the plane and then whe ni got in my seat i was sweaty and almost died but so victorious, the end.

    • Molly O


      • Amelia Diamond

        no 🙁

        • I got an applause when I boarded my connecting flight to Mardi Gras. The first leg of my flight was delayed and then it took them forever to offboard us, but because Southwest is awesome they communicated to our connecting flight, got our bags transferred (before we even made it onto the next flight) and waited 10 minutes as we ran from one end of the airport to the other. I was so sweaty when I arrived too haha! Semi-embarrassing but a total win!

    • Yvonne Dunlevie

      I feel stressed just reading this.

  • Babs

    Such cute illustrations! I’m a productive member of society who wishes she was a lad on tour…

  • Victoria

    despite being on countless airplanes my whole life, I am a first time flyer with how stupidly excited i get to board a plane and fly (the excitement does help with how terrible the whole flying process can be tho) !!! also there should be a category for terribly dressed flyer, no matter how hard i try i literally always end up looking like i have just emergency evacuated the plane haha

  • I always strive to be the Productive Member of Society. It baffles me how people are still blindsided by the no-water rule or confused about taking their laptop out of their bag. Airports really bring out my lack of patience

  • Cassandra

    I feel like I’ve been a little bit of several of these at different times, even if I feel like I’ve got it all together. Once, I left a knife in my backpack. Another, a pan of brownies I was taking to a friend got mistaken for a bomb due to their density. I once had a very early flight out of Montreal and fell asleep in a comfy seat at the gate. The sweetest airline employee ever came over to warn me that they were closing the plane door and asked if it was my flight – I honestly got up and ran, unsure if it even was my flight (it was), and once aboard the plane accidentally opened some emergency compartment – total mess. The worst person type I’ve encountered on a plane was who I’d like to call, “The Full Immersionist,” who was on his way home from visiting some place that bathing wasn’t really a thing. He obviously was all about not bathing and smelled the worse for it. I was sat next to him for the 6-7 hour flight home from Paris. Phew.

    • Molly O

      “The Full Immersionist!” – I think you have your book title?

  • Kristina

    I recently flew through CDG on my way back to the US where I subsequently purchased Parisian cheese with my remaining euros (no use exchanging back to USD when you can get cheese instead, amiright?!). After landing in ATL I found myself among the other disdained travelers in the separate “I brought back animal products” customs line. I was questioned and searched three times and was forced to reveal the foulest smelling cheese each time. By the time this debacle was over, it was 10 minutes until my final flight to New Orleans was set to depart. I’ve never sprinted so hard in my life, and I was the last person to board my flight – stinky cheese proudly in hand.

    – The Late Person (just this once)

  • Racchelle

    frequent flyer, once very late, mostly sort of nearly late, but i know my shit

  • meme

    I put a lot of effort and thought into being a productive member of society, but my husband is a low maintenance time waster, as in, he doesn’t have a lot of stuff but for some reason he is always surprised the moment we get to security, and he has coins all over the place and he is wearing a belt and shoes with laces. Meanwhile, I’m in my slip-on shoes waiting for him to finish, which really defeats the purpose. I make him make up for it by having him carry my second bag of liquids with his toothpaste.

    • Stacie Robertson

      exactly my life, but I make him carry everything which he is willing to do anyway. he puts up with me having anxiety so it evens out

  • Greer Clarke

    Molly I’m also Australian, and I really hope this similarity means one day we can schedule a time for a thorough bitch-fest about the atrocity that is LAX. I literally missed my plane back home to Australia from New York because of the LAX stopover.

    • Molly O

      I spent 16 hours detained in LAX before having my visa revoked – I know ALL about that atrocity :/

    • Kelly

      OMG yes! A fellow Australian here and I remember when I was much younger and moving to the states I missed my connection to NY because of this. Twelve hours waiting for a plane… Welcome to America!

    • H

      YES im Australian too and this has happened to me. LAX is the worst!!!! I’ve travelled quite a lot, and seriously, it’s the most annoying airport I’ve ever encountered.

      • Greer Clarke

        OMG THANK YOU everybody for this validation! I will not hesitate to call it the worst airport in the world, I could give you a far more emotional version of the saga if you wanted. I would literally walked up to staff, look them in the eye and ask a question, and they would continue to stare back at me without answering, it was truly the weirdest shit ever, I felt like cattle.

  • ajanes123
    • Molly O

      Oh – absolutely not. Writing someone else’s words would make my insides feel like I was Hodor being clawed by the Whitewalkers. Like I’d have to undertake Cersei’s walk of atonement. Pure coincidences only here my friend. Wish I’d thought of Eager Beaver though…

  • ajanes123
  • Alison

    I have been applauded by the crew! Very tight connection while returning from a campus visit (Charlottesville-Chicago-Phoenix-Albuquerque). I sprinted from terminal D to terminal B in my ballet flats, purse slung over my left shoulder, carry-on in my right hand (no bag fees here), and got passed by a guy whom I subsequently passed. He gave up and started walking, because the Phoenix airport is no joke.

    When I rounded the corner to my gate, the gate check guy wound his arms the way that a 3rd base coach sends a player home. I got on the plane, the flight attendants clapped, and I yelled, “seven minute mine y’all!” Then, I fell asleep in my seat. Also: I got the job. Tracks are for tenure and sprinting.

  • Kelly

    I fly fairly regularly, so I like to think that I am the Productive Member of Society. I always seem to get randomly checked by security or have the TSA open my baggage so I am a streamlined dresser and excellent packer because of it.
    I was the late person once.. I was drinking at the bar and didn’t hear my flight boarding. I JUST made it as they were getting ready to close the gate. Never been late since.

  • I think I am a fun mix of 5 and 9. You will never know what to expect. I might be late, but at least you’ll be sitting waiting while I am marathoning the airport in a rush of adrenaline. Good thing I ran 7 miles every morning.

  • Aggie

    Parents with kids between age 5-10 are the WORST. Tiny backpacks through security lines, the NOISE they make, they get bored so easily on the plane and start running up and down the aisle…I once got on a plane about to hit the runaway which decided not to take off in the end because of a technical issue and stayed there for a full hour before starting the whole process of getting in line to fly again. One dad with THREE kids in front of me, didn’t care about entertaining his kids who got bored in 5min and started running around everywhere, got into an argument with the stewardess because it was finally time for us to leave and his kids wouldn’t put their seatbelt on and we couldn’t take off until they did. That literally took another 20min because he just decided that it was not a big deal. When we landed and exited the place, he walked past her and told her she was the worst stewardess he had ever met.UGH, can you blame her for wanting all passengers to be safe during take off?! I’m still mad, can you tell?

    • meme

      Yeah, I know it’s a mean thing to say, but parents who neglect entertaining their children on planes are the worst. The plane is not the place to educate your kids, so give them tablets, put them on 8 hours of cartoons, just do something and act like you care about the people around you.

  • Basil

    I’m the “Productive Member of Society” as I used to get searched by security, a lot so I figured that if I was prepared for it and polite at least it wouldn’t be painful. According to a friend who used to work for El Al’s airline security, it’s because I looked like someone who would be used by a terrorist (nice!). I’ve had airport staff think my umbrella was a weapon (flying in the UK, so somewhere where umbrellas are pretty common) and my mascara a screwdriver. Really?!

    Nonetheless, I LOVE LOVE LOVE flying and even get excited about airplane meals. Even though they’re always disgusting

    • Aggie

      I literally always am half asleep because I am just waiting for the food cart moment…whoops

  • Oh my gosh, The Wildcard was hilarious.. I may have been that person once. It started with a Monday 6AM Berlin-Munich – classic business trip, so the waiting area was packed with suits. I removed my ThinkPad in miliseconds, my documents were ready, but not too ready. I hit up the only good coffee place in Terminal C and I was wearing what could be described as business casual.. but, there were holes in the professional aura. There were open-toed gold sandals, I was eating beef jerky out of an almost-empty, but somewhat large package at 5:30AM. I don’t think anyone cared or wondered what I was doing, but if they had stalked me they would have seen that I got on a train in Munich, which stopped at my then pre-boy-friend’s hometown in Austria for two minutes, at which point I waved him to my cabin dramatically with a large straw hat, then treated him to the remaining beef jerky and some starfruit flavored candy that come in lion shapes (so good!) and then we had ourselves a damned good little trip in Croatia.

  • Robin

    I was 10, I was with my niece and the sister of her grandma (the one that wasn’t mine) it was my first flight in years. The sister of her grandma’s husband had passed away a few weeks ago, and apparently he used to be the one who kept track of time when they were flying because WE WERE THE LATE PERSONS. But like SO late. She figured we should show up at ‘departure time’, and whilst walking to our gate took a ‘quick’ stop at the toilets, so by the time we arrived at the (obviously empty) gate there was a completely stresses out stewardess screaming at us. She literally contacted the cockpit (lol alexa chung) and asked if we were allowed on board still. The captain was like ‘hmmm yeah well whatever yeah let them on’. Walking down the plane to find our seats was the actual worst walk of shame I will ever experience. Aunt gave us noodles though because we were so shocked so that was a good thing

  • Annie

    As a flight attendant, I can tell you that everyone thinks they are the “productive member of society”, but it generally is not the case. Boarding the plane, you would not believe how many people stop when I say hello, roll their eyes and shake their head at the person taking their time and stopping the line to put up their luggage, and then go on to take five minutes for their bags as well. It’s just the nature of the place! I always say that people tend to check their common sense along with their bags when they first get into the airport.

  • I love this guide!
    My pham Ohui

  • Mun

    Kids and babies?!?


  • Gunjan Virk

    I travel all the time and can relate to most of these guys you are talking about! The biggest laughing stock are the suited-booted with LV check in luggage and all and who will sometimes condescendingly look at you…I always have fun at airports! http://www.sourcingstyle.com

  • Amanda Leon

    I’m a mix of the wildcard and the productive member of society haha

    Amanda Leon | Reads By Amanda http://www.readsbyamanda.com

  • I’ve only flown for a few times so I think I still fall in between First Time Fliers and Productive Member of Society. Not sure how it’ll last though, considering I’ve already experienced two critically delayed flights.

  • Ali Peat

    As a fellow Aussie who has lived in three different countries and spent many a time in airports, I started out as #2. First-time Flyer, before quickly moving to #5. Productive Member of Society. It still amazes me that people don’t know to take out their liquids, laptops or iPads (and be prepared in advance) when going through security!

    • God, yes! I’m literally the same, have also lived in three different countries and am always going back and forth between two. I always take my laptop out, drink my water, have my passport and ticket ready before all the checkpoints. It’s so obvious but it’s so strange how some people haven’t caught on.

  • lily

    Honestly I am the wildcard. Peep me in Chanel eating hot cheetos accompanied by a large pillow in the admirals lounge binchezzzzzz

  • Dani

    Oh man, I was the late person once in a bad way. Flight to Vegas, delay on the first leg made our connection reaaaaaally tight. We were running through the Denver airport, sprinting. It was night, and the area that our gate was in was totally dead, like empty. So we’re running through the airport like, “Is this it? Is this even open?” Got to our gate and there was ONE living person there, but the door was already closed. You know in the movies, once the door is closed it’s a big deal. So we’re running up, breathless, and before we say anything she picks up that phone by the door and is like “they’re here.” Never asked for tickets or anything, so weird. Opened the door and let us board. The applause happened as we were making our way allllll the way down the aisle to the back, of course, and I think I was literally in the back row in the middle of two people who had to get up and shuffle around, etc. but we made it to Vegas that night, dammit.

  • Jessica

    Love this! But you didn’t include my favorite people while traveling are the large family groups that are a combination of the lads on tour and the wild cards. It’s always interesting to people watch them and there are so many questions. How many generations are there here? Who is related to who? Is the new boyfriend joining the family vacation? How are they low key this chic? Where are you ultimately going (because it always involves a connection and meeting so-and-so flying in separately at the next stop) It makes me feel a combination of annoyed that they’re taking up such a large area of boarding lounge and jealous that they are so cool and fun.

  • Jessica Williams

    Most recently the late person ? intl. flight Dublin back to NY. For some reason the Dublin airport is strange AF and doesn’t prompt you to the next area, like, at any stage. Thought I had already gone through what must have been a very lax security/customs- hadn’t. Gets to be 15ish minutes before my flight, so I find some disgruntled employee to ask where to find the gates. Am horrified by the info I receive, haul booty to actual security. Important-looking woman grabs me from the back of the line, holds my wrist as she pulls me to the front, and yells, “Some NERVE ye have shown’ oop at this tyme.” Embarrassed x100. She waits for me to clear security, then cuts me to the front of a long ass customs line. Customs officer sees this happening, makes sure his interaction with me is the slowest of his day. “Sir, my plane is leaving in 1 minute.” “Hope you make it. Did you have an Irish breakfast while you were here?” Next step is to RUN to my gate, a flight attendant is running towards me from the other end, “WHAT’S YOUR LAST NAME???” I yell a response, keep running, she turns back with that info and has me checked in by the time I arrive. Run down the terminal. Next flight attendant makes “slow down” gesture with hands. “We don’t need to scare anyone.” From there, the sailing was smooth and the drinks were complimentary. I don’t think I’m welcome back at DUB Intl tbh.

    • RubyWednesday

      did you go through US pre-clearance? if it was a direct flight, you do US immigration in Ireland and arrive in the US as a domestic passenger. that’s what was happening there.

  • Raul Garcia

    A hair away from the seasoned grandparents. A little stress when the wife tries to take one item on Carry-on she shouldn’t. ( hence have to start line all over again)

  • Zoe Harewood

    Regrettably, I fear a tendency toward the Asshole category: a seasoned, efficient, minimalist and elegant traveller whose excretory system has an in-flight lockdown on the short to medium haul, but with one yawning flaw (me not my gut) – the need to point out glitches no-one else seems to have noticed, such as for example the presence of exit signs where there is no exit or the absence of fasten seatbelt signs where there should be some.
    My latest observation, that there appeared to be a hole in the wing, caused a half-hour delay on the Tarmac in searing heat while the problem was investigated. I found it hugely entertaining: I got to meet the Captain and the First Officer; engineers climbed up on stepladders, scratching their chins and prodding the suspect wing; and flight attendants spoke soothingly to frazzled fellow passengers.
    Turns out the ‘hole’ wasn’t a hole at all, just a piece of duct tape some big silly had left up there (while they were mending the wing previously I wonder?). Anyway, after the more excitable customers had been pacified, we got on our way. Some people looked at me angrily every now and then during the flight…but, better safe than sorry, I assured them.

  • Molly

    I love these illustrations so much