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The habits of irritating fliers, ranked

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 23/01/2017 Harriet Baskas
Zach Galifianakis in a still from 'Due Date', in which he plays a person who's annoying to travel with. © Rex Images Zach Galifianakis in a still from 'Due Date', in which he plays a person who's annoying to travel with.

Millions of people fly on airplanes each day, but many passengers leave their manners on the ground.

Just ask anyone who’s had to put up with an aromatic or overly chatty seatmate, or who’s had to sit in an economy seat behind an aggressive recliner.

What in-flight behavior irritates passengers most? 

Rear seat-kicking, according to results released this week from Expedia’s annual Airplane Etiquette Study.

In a commissioned survey that polled 1,005 Americans age 18 and up, most people (64%) put seat-kickers at the top of the list of most infuriating passenger behaviors.

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said they were most irked by inattentive parents who didn’t control or pay attention to crying, whining or misbehaving children. The third least-liked fellow passenger (55%) was one who was "aromatic," due to poor hygiene or excessive perfume or cologne.

Passengers who listened to really loud music, drank too much, talked too much and hogged the armrest were also considered ill-mannered.

Here’s how the rankings settled out. (Respondents could choose more than one answer.)

  • The Rear Seat Kicker (cited by 64% of respondents)
  • Inattentive Parents (59%)
  • The Aromatic Passenger (55%)
  • The Audio Insensitive (49%)
  • The Boozer (49%)
  • Chatty Cathy (40%)
  • The Queue Jumper (35%)
  • Seat-Back Guy (35%)
  • The Armrest Hog (34%)
  • Pungent Foodies (30%)
  • The Undresser (28%)
  • The Amorous (28%)
  • The Mad Bladder (22%)
  • The Single and Ready to Mingle (18%)

The survey didn’t just ask travelers to rank the irritating behaviors of other passengers; it asked travelers to share details about their own in-flight actions and preferences.

While 35% of those surveyed said they dislike the person who fully reclines their seat as soon as the plane takes off and 37% were in favor of banning reclining seats or restricting "recline time" on shorter flights, more than half (53%) of those surveyed said they recline their own seats when flying.

That’s down from the 80% of travelers who reported regularly reclining their seats when this same survey was done in 2013.

Over the past four years of Expedia’s Airplane Etiquette Study, “boozing” passengers ranked among the top five irritating behaviors every year.

“This is true despite the fact that Americans largely claim that they do not drink much while flying,” the survey team points out, and “could suggest that Americans under-report their in-flight alcohol intake.”

Another takeaway: In every year of the study, a sizeable percentage of respondents said they would be willing to pay extra to be seated in a “designated quiet zone,” if airlines offered one.


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