If in-flight movies reduce you to tears, follow this 10-step guide.


Airplane movies always make me cry.

It can be a comedy, an action-packed blockbuster, or even a nature documentary — anything with just the slightest hint of pathos will reduce me to a puddle of tears and give the passenger next to me cause for alarm. And I’m not alone.

There is something about an airplane cabin that makes people more prone to emotional displays. It’s a well-regarded phenomenon, although scientists have yet to pinpoint an exact cause (some cite lower oxygen levels or the very psychology of travel).

But after a flight attendant found me welling up during The Big Short and asked if she could get me anything, I vowed to never again be caught in such a compromising situation.

Cry hysterical tears airplane flight
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

So I developed an arsenal of tricks that allow me to discreetly bawl while at cruising altitude. Although some travelers may pack tissues or wear sunglasses onboard to mask tears, it's still fairly obvious to surrounding passengers what’s going on.

This may be acceptable for those who only cry at films that are actually heart-wrenching, but when you weep during children’s movies and comedies, you need techniques that are a bit more covert.

Here’s how to sob on an airplane and arrive at your final destination with dignity still intact.

1. Always pick a window seat

Planning in advance is often the best defense. Passengers who are sitting in the window seat have a built-in cry shield, and only need to worry about blocking leaky eye sockets from one side. Stare directly out the window until the sadness has passed. The aisle seat is the worst spot for criers. Avoid it at all costs.

2. Wear a hoodie

There’s no garment that was built for a public cry quite like an oversized hoodie.

3. Take a bathroom break

If you know you’re going to be blubbering and gasping for air, get a little privacy in the airplane bathroom. The loud woosh of the toilet flush can mask any loud sobs. Reserve this space exclusively for short, cathartic emergency cries, as other passengers will start knocking on the door if you take too long.

4. Pack a mini bottle of Visine

Hudson News sells them, thankfully, and they come in travel-friendly droppers (less than one fluid ounce).

5. Use a sleep mask

Emotional passengers on long-haul flights can use the provided eye mask as a shield for sobs. Secure the eye mask as tightly as possible to create a dam that will prevent tears from rolling out the bottom.

6. Book a redeye flight

Those prone to crying on planes should try to book flights when other passengers are likely to be sleeping. It’s much easier to get away with waterworks in the dark. When the cabin lights dim, let the tears fall.

7. Learn to fake a sneeze

If anybody confronts you about your tears, tell them it’s allergies.

8. Pretend you’re sleeping

If the in-flight entertainment starts to get too emotional, pause the film, cross your arms on the tray, lay your head down, and make a few snoring sounds before letting the tears loose. Pro tip: Use your sleeves to dry your eyes before popping back up and resuming the movie.

9. Have reading material

Magazines, newspapers, and books are a requirement in any weepy arsenal. Not only are they a great barrier from which to cry behind, but also the pages can double as tissues in a pinch.

10. Don't underestimate the genre

I once cried while watching Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. So don't let your guard down just because you're watching a comedy.