The Airplane Game: A Way To Make Flying Less Miserable

I hate flying. I used to have to fly twice a month for work for 13 years. Flying sucks due to the long security lines, crowded cabins, and flight delays. To make flying less miserable, I came up with the Airplane Game.

While in the air, I like to spend most of the time writing new posts. I use my tray table to place my 13″ laptop and need to be wary of the seat in front bashing into my laptop during recline. Then I try to nap as much as possible.

One nice solution to working more comfortably is to pay about $60 extra for an Economy Plus seat. The seat measurements are the same, but you get six more inches for typing.

Before a long flight, I like to do 50 push-ups and 100 sit-ups to get the blood flowing. Usually, I always board last to minimize my time in the airplane. About 50% of the time, my neighbor on the plane is large. As a result, the person usually rolls over to my seat space. What a bummer.

But here’s the upside. I always create financial mechanisms to hedge against unfortunate events.

The Airplane Game To Make Flying Less Miserable

Whenever I travel with a friend or colleague, we always play The Airplane Game. Given airplanes don’t charge humans by weight or size (even though they do for luggage), it’s always risky to fly in the United States.

One third of Americans are considered overweight, and another one third are considered obese. Therefore, there's a ~65% chance you will sit next to someone who may take up some of your seat space when flying.

And if you think it's bad for a normal-sized person to sit next to an obese person for five hours, think about how uncomfortable the flight would be if you were an obese person sitting next to another obese person.

The seats today just haven't kept up with our growing waistlines. Instead, seat with has steadily shrunk over time to boost capacity and profitability.

The Airplane Game is focused on what happens once you get inside and find your seat. However, you can always add new rules for delayed flights, unruly passengers outside the plane, and so forth.

Rules Of The Airplane Game

Rule #1: If you sit next to a normal sized person who does not take up any of your space, you must put $20 in the pot. You have an estimated 35% chance of this happening.

Rule #2: If you sit next to someone you find attractive who does not take up any of your space, even if you want him or her to, you must put $40 in the pot. You have an estimated 10% chance of this happening.

Rule #3: If you sit next to an attractive person who does not take up any of your space AND you get his or her number you must put $100 in the pot. This is your Eat, Pray, Love moment! You have less than a 5% chance of this happening.

Rule #4: If you sit next to a fit person who so happens to be famous, you must put $200 in the pot. You have less than a 1% chance of this happening in economy class. $200 may sound like a lot, but think about all the stories you’ll be able to tell and the selfies you can take to show all your friends over social media?

Rule #5: If you sit next to an obese person who takes up some of your space, you get $20 from the pot. In other words, you make $20. You have a 65% chance of this happening.

Rule #6: If you sit next to an obese person who takes up some of your space and sweats all over you, you get $40 from the pot. You have a 50% chance of this happening as it’s generally cold on the airplane.

Rule #7: If you sit next to an obese person who takes up some of your space, sweats all over you, and gives off horrendous body odor, you get $100 from the pot. You have a 25% chance of this happening, since most people are courteous enough to shower and brush their teeth before mingling with other people.

Rule #8: If you sit next to a morbidly obese person who takes up a lot of your space, sweats all over you, gives off horrendous body odor, and is sick, you get $200 from the pot. Not only do you have to suffer through the flight, you have a greater chance of becoming sick for 1-2 weeks after the flight as well. You have less than a 5% chance of this happening.

Get Rewarded For Suffering

Based on these Airplane Game rules, the more you suffer, the more you get paid. It's a great hedge! Who knows, some of you with needs may actually enjoy the suffering!

We already have this type of system in place. It's called our progressive income tax system. The richer you are in America, the more taxes you pay to help the less fortunate.

This reminds me. Before getting on any flight, make sure you have a good life insurance policy in place. I don't fear flying, but I always have a “what if” scenario in the back of my head.

I realized only after I got a new $750,000 term life insurance policy with PolicyGenius at the end of 2021, did I suddenly become more enthusiastic about flying. It was as if my soul began to relax, because a couple weeks later, I booked a roundtrip ticket to see my parents in Hawaii. I hadn't seen them in two years!

In addition to getting a life insurance policy, especially if you have kids, please put together your Death File. It will make things easier for your loved ones.

The Airplane Game Perputations

If you will be traveling alone, ask some friends beforehand whether they’d like to play the game with you. It’s up to you to be honest, or at least take secret pictures of your neighbors to prove your position.

If you are traveling with one other person, then you have to pay the amounts to each other. Plan to sit together in a row that has more than two seats? You must decide before boarding who takes the seat next to a stranger. If both of you are screwed or lucky, no money is exchanged. Or, you can just keep a running tab for the flight back. In general, it’s best to settle payment before the plane lands.

If you are traveling with multiple people, this is where things can get really fun because the pot can be sizeable.

Let’s say you’re traveling with your basketball team. There are 20 people in total and you are the unlucky smuck who happens to sit next to a morbidly obese person who is hacking up a lung. Meanwhile, the 19 other in your party are sitting with their current and future soulmates. Theoretically, your sorry situation could be assuaged with a 19 X $200 = $1,800 + $200 equals $2,000 payout!

If you are an obese person who tends to take up some of your neighbor’s space, consider giving each neighbor a $20 bill and telling them about The Airplane Game! It's a nice way to initiate a conversation about an unpleasant situation and might just make you a new friend. At the very least, offer to buy your neighbors a drink.

You don’t have to follow my exact dollar amounts either. Instead of $20, $40, $100, and $200, you could do $5, $10, $25, $50 for example. The goal is to redistribute money from the fortunate to the less fortunate. But in reality, the main goal is to just have fun.

Always Make The Best Of A Bad Situation

I hate flying with a passion. Security lines are long. Making connections may be stressful. My butt gets numb after a couple hours. The food is terrible. If the plane crashes, you will likely die. Finally, your neighbors might take up your space and smell bad.

Despite my hatred, I do my best to make the best of a bad situation by:

1) Making flying a business expense to save money.
2) Upgrading to Economy Plus or First Class for more leg room and typing room. Who knows, maybe I'll get rich enough to fly private one day too.
3) Flying to nicer places for business because as CEO I can choose where I want to hold my work retreats.
4) Working while in the air with the goal of writing at least one post every five hours. Work along with sleep are terrific time killers. It’s probably more efficient to work on your laptop in a dark airplane cabin.
5) Buying life insurance.
6) Creating a new version of The Airplane Game.

I’m a super optimist. During my childhood, there were some unlucky situations that could have derailed my path towards financial freedom. But because they didn’t, in bad situations I’m always looking for the positives. I firmly believe that if you start looking at things in positive ways, your life will be happier.

On our paths toward financial freedom, sometimes things don’t work out. The best we can do is come up with a financial plan, follow our financial plan, review our progress, and keep the faith long enough until the turbulence clears.

Questions For Frequent Fliers

Readers, what are some of the things you do to make the best of a bad situation? How would you deal with a passenger who takes up some of your space? Are there any rule changes you’d like to make for The Airplane Game? What are some other ideas for making flying less terrible?