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5 Reasons Why 2023 TikTok Will Go Down in History as the Year of the Airplane

There’s a new term for it too- “airplanetok”.

airplanetok, airplane, TikTok
Credit: TikTok/ @ryanair

Airplanes have been exploding over TikTok this year. From etiquette at high altitude to the “that man is not real” woman – can you remember these five viral moments at 30,000 feet?

There’s been a travel boom this year. Following years of restrictions, numbers of customers and flights are slowly creeping back up to pre-pandemic levels. There’s a whole trend surging in America about European summers. People adore traveling abroad and participating in the digital nomad age. This new age of the airplane has also spilled into television- such as Apple TV’s new series Hijack, which stars Idris Elba.

But nowhere has the rise of the airplane as a cultural icon been felt more than on social media- let’s talk about the top 5 moments where airplanetok shot to the forefront of our TikTok for your pages.

1- “That Motherf****** Is Not Real” Woman

Let’s start with the most bizarre first, shall we? I’m sure when 38-year-old Dallas marketing executive Tiffany Gomez woke up on the eighth of July. She was likely thinking about the concerns most of us have when traveling. How to get to the airport on time? Did she have her charges packed, her passport, her boarding pass…

She certainly couldn’t have anticipated becoming a viral TikTok phenomenon overnight after a recording emerged of her being escorted off an airplane.


Replying to @Truman Capote you asked for Part 2! VIRAL AIRPLANE MOMENT…. It’s 38year old Dallas marketing executive Tiffany Gomas – who had a meltdown over wireless headphones #fyp #viral #airplane #meltdown

♬ original sound – Daily Mail

Other passengers watched wide-eyed as she stormed down the aisles, insisting that the man sitting next to her wasn’t real.

“I am telling you, right now, that Motherf*****, that Motherf***** back there is not real.” She spouted this to her bewildered fellow travelers, who all immediately craned their necks to spot who she was referring to. “And you can sit on this plane and and you can f****** die with them or not. I’m not going to.”

Clearly others on board were not convinced by her pleas. One man even cheerily said “bye” to her as she left.

Not only did the original video go viral, but Gomas’ voice also got turned into a TikTok sound. All sorts of TikToks were uploaded proclaiming that things weren’t “real” in her vein, her warbling voice a perfect mix of an assertive “Karen” and meme-able content.

But there’s a twist in the tale. New footage has been uncovered following Gomas’ disembarkment.

Body cam footage has emerged of Gomas continuing to beg airport officials not to let the plane take off. She was led away from the airport by security guards despite her plea.

Part of the appeal of Gomas’ story is the almost conspiracy theory-esque debate about what she saw. Was she on drugs or drinking heavily and hallucinating? Or did she truly see an omen of the end of times?

Until she decides to share, we can only speculate, and quote her whenever we hear a piece of gossip too outrageous to be true.

2. Plus Size Passengers on Airplanes

Airplane seats can be uncomfortable, no matter what size you are. For plus-size passengers, however, they can be painful and even cause injury. Not to mention the threat of causing discomfort for others around them because they cannot fit into one seat.

Influencer Jaelynn Chaney started a petition this year demanding that airplanes provide an extra one or two seats for plus-size passengers. These seats would be free of charge for these passengers.


Some commentators pointed out that airlines offer much bigger seats in business or first class at a higher price, but Jaelynn Chaney didn’t comment on why she isn’t interested in exploring those options #catchupnews #plussize #airline #flight

♬ Showw the Worlddd – ABAH IMY

Unsurprisingly, this sparked a raging debate on TikTok about whether airplanes should go through with this or not.

Many of the comments directed at Chaney were explicitly fatphobic, telling her to eat less if she wanted to fit comfortably. Others pointed out that it was preferential treatment to give plus-size passengers extra comfort, which others would not be able to access.

Alternative solutions, such as forcing plus-size people to upgrade to business class tickets if they can’t fit into the parameters of an economy seat at the gate, have been suggested.

Some TikTok users have started documenting their travels online as plus-size individuals to try and give the debate a more ‘human’ side. They also serve to reassure others who are anxious about flying because of this reason.

3. Kids on Airplanes

Speaking of etiquette and not disturbing others at 300,000 feet, let’s talk about kids on airplanes.

Over the course of this year, several videos have emerged which have sparked an explosive debate about how *not* to travel with kids.

To just focus on controversies in the last couple of months, there’s the girl wearing the light-up costume, which disturbed everyone on the flight. And there’s the mother who was, fairly innocuously, rocking her baby to sleep on the flight.

TikTok users slammed her for disturbing other passengers, but unlike the parents who put a light-up costume on their child on a long-haul nighttime flight, other users ran to the young mother’s defense.

One commentator on the video said, “Certainly, she is annoying other passengers. But at least she’s trying to remedy the problem. Seen other parents just ignore the baby and let them cry.” Another said, “I think we are the first generation in history to hate children so much.”

However, one of the ways that TikTok users get angriest with families is not through routine disturbances but rather through their need to sit together with young children.

4. The Great Seat-Switching Airplane Debate

It’s that moment: you’ve boarded a plane, settled into your lovely window seat, ready for takeoff. And then suddenly you hear: “Excuse me? My family and I have been separated. Can we switch seats so we can all be together?”


Replying to @anitahirro ✨Switching Seats✨ parody comedy planeproblems airplanetiktok tiktok

♬ original sound – AKANA

And you switch to a middle seat, at the back of the plane, so that the family can all be together. Because otherwise, you’re a bad person, right?

Several TikTok creators have made comedic videos about the problems with seat swapping and seat arrangements. While some families have hit back, arguing that it is often out of their control and that they need to sit together, others have pointed out that for every family that genuinely can’t sit together, there’s at least one who deliberately games the system to get better seats.

The universal etiquette for switching seats seems to be to trade an aisle or a window for another aisle or window. A middle is okay for another middle, but never anything else.


You know… just good old plane things lol

♬ original sound – Caleon Twins

And although some may accuse you of participating in an anti-family individualistic world, it’s always your choice about whether you switch or not. For your next travels, here is the greatest airplane seat in the world – one you will definitely not be switching from!

5. Ryanair’s Social Media Marketing Team

European budget airline Ryanair may be skimping on staff, seats and baggage allowances, but they’re investing in their digital marketing team! Many of Ryanair’s hilarious TikTok videos have gone viral over the past year.


Ok Timmy but just this once 🥵😫 #airline

♬ original sound – twotwofunny

With an innovative use of pop culture and viral trends, this (probably Gen Z) marketing manages to exploit the airline’s budget reputation comedically. As well as point out that for the price of some flights, you are getting what you pay for.


Benji is a good boy. be like benji! 🎵 @KhakiKid

♬ original sound – Ryanair

And also, my personal favorite of their videos:


Free (toilet) refills included 🚽🚻 #Ryanair #freetoilet

♬ original sound – Chris Dapkas

So, Why Are We So Obsessed With Planes?

There’s something quite anxiety-inducing about flying. You’ve got no power over delays, no other options to get from A to B, and once you’re up in that cramped cabin- there’s no going back.

It creates an environment where everyone has to strive to make everybody else as comfortable as possible through a hugely uncomfortable experience.

Maybe we should all just be grateful to afford plane tickets in the first place rather than having endless debates online.

Written By

Hi, I'm Georgie and I'm currently studying at St Andrews University, Scotland. I love writing about social media trends and unpicking the ways which platforms like Instagram and TikTok give rise to certain cultural phenomena. I'm writing for the Life section of Trill at the moment, so look out for my articles!

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