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What kind of person talks to a stranger on a plane?

Do you talk to your in-flight neighbour?
Do you talk to your in-flight neighbour? Credit: GETTY

Many years ago, on a flight from Cyprus, I struck up a conversation with the stranger beside me. We talked about my life as a freelance journalist, the challenges I faced, and my hopes for the future. When the plane landed a few hours later, he urged me to keep on going – and handed me a wad of cash (no strings attached). I hadn’t even told him my name.  

Ask a friend or colleague about in-flight small talk and you’re almost certain to get an impassioned response. Some travellers will say they cannot stand it. They haven’t the patience for a stranger’s life story and just want to be left alone to read, listen to their music, or stare at an iPad.

Others, however, can’t get enough of it. Take my mother. On a recent Wizz Air flight from Luton, I dozed off – for 10 minutes at the most. When I woke up I found her happily chatting across the aisle to a woman and her daughter about their home in Camden, the wedding they were attending, and their recent holidays. By the end of the four-hour flight she had spoken to half a dozen others.

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