Corporate Traveler

The people you want to sit next to on a plane

Regular travellers know the frustration of being seated next to the passenger from hell whether it's the person who stretches out excessively, the guy who hasn't discovered deodorant or the parent struggling to calm an upset child. If you forgot your noise cancelling headphones or can't get re-seated, enduring a bad seatmate can make a long flight feel even longer.

But what about the people who'd be amazing to sit next to? The kind of seatmate that would have you wishing the flight lasted longer.

The Corporate Traveller team has compiled a list of the people who would be the greatest seatmates of all time. Whether alive or deceased, real or fictional, jetting off on a long haul flight next to any one of these illustrious names would make even the longest of journeys feel like a holiday. 

Richard Branson

A guy who lives a lifestyle only most us can dream about. The Virgin Group founder could give you tips about business, entrepreneurship and generally how to take life by the horns. As an airline owner, he'd also be acutely aware of how to behave like a model passenger so you'd never have to worry about dealing with bad body odor, rowdy behavior or armrest encroachment.  


Think of how handy it would be to sit next to Middle Earth's most powerful wizard. Don't like your meal? Gandalf could conjure something more delicious. Too much engine noise? He could zap you a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Need some more leg room? You're instantly in first class.  Hard to see how he'd fit his magic staff in the overhead locker though.

Elle Macpherson

Let's face it, who hasn't wanted to get randomly seated next to a supermodel? Elle Macpherson is a win-win whether you're male or female. Girls can pick up the latest trends for fashion and inside knowledge of the best places shop around the world. Guys can smile and nod while trying not to look like idiots in front of one of Australia's most beautiful people. Even if you were too intimidated to say hello, you'd still have a cool story to tell your friends.

Sir David Attenborough

No matter where you are flying to, Sir David Attenborough could give you the low down on all the natural wonders to check out in your downtime. He could also give you a detailed history of the place, probably since the beginning of time, all in a smooth British timbre.

Sheryl Sandberg

Billionaire, tech expert and one of TIME's 100 most influential people in the world. Need some advice on better business, economics or leadership? Sheryl Sandberg knows a lot about a lot, and a whole lot more. She's also Facebook's COO and can give you the lowdown on what makes the world's largest social network tick. Your in-flight meal might give way to frantic note taking so extra serviettes would be a must.

Orson Welles

You'd have to be flying business class to strike up a conversation with the man who made Citizen Kane (Wells was around 6'3) but the anecdotes would be well worth the extra cost. As one of most famous storytellers in the history of stage and screen, you could forget the in-flight movies and instead laugh about that time he fooled the public into thinking an alien invasion was actually happening during the War of the Worlds broadcast, or at the various stunts he pulled on Columbia Pictures uber-producer Harry Cohn.


You'd have to hear his story about that one time with the MiG about 50 times but Maverick's enthusiasm for all things flying would be entertainment in itself.  He could also serve as a backup if the pilot needed help landing the plane, just as long as he could pull a flyby on the nearest air traffic control tower first.

Mary Poppins

An ideal seatmate for the last leg of a long journey home. When you're tired and irritable, Mary Poppins' could sing you to sleep with a soothing melody, get rid of your headache with spoonful of marvelous medicine and keep you entertained with any number of fascinating items from her bottomless bag.

The Wright Brothers

Air travel might have been very different if it wasn't for their collective efforts. What would Orville and Wilbur make of today's fixed wing aircraft? Would they be astonished at the progress, or concerned that aviation had lost direction, style and 1900s' style mustaches.