While airline passenger numbers might not quite be back to pre-pandemic levels, many of us are flying again after an extended time off. With that comes the trials and tribulations of sharing an enclosed space with strangers at 36,000 feet.
From manspreading and body odor to clapping when the plane lands and noisy kids, we dug into what irks you the most. We surveyed over 1500 airline travelers and asked what annoys them the most about other passengers when flying.
The Top 20 Airline Passenger Annoyances Ranked
Having your seat kicked is top of the list, with 9% of those surveyed putting this as their number one annoyance. Improper mask wearers came in at number nine, and the least annoying passenger behavior is using bright screens on night flights. Below are the rankings of each annoyance.
- The Kicker — Your seat being kicked.
- The Stinker — A passenger with a bad body odor.
- The Loud & Proud — Other passengers talking loudly.
- The Leaner — Your seat being pulled or leaned on.
- The Drunk Flyer — Drunk or tipsy flyers.
- The Noisy Kid — Crying babies or children.
- The Recliner — The seat in front of you reclining.
- The Scented — A passenger wearing strong perfume or cologne.
- The Not-So-Masked — Passengers not wearing their masks properly.
- The Loud Sleeper — A passenger snoring.
- The Stinky Feet — A passenger removing socks or shoes.
- The Eager — Passengers standing and getting bags as soon as the plane lands.
- The BYO Meal — A passenger bringing on smelly food.
- The Weak Bladder — People getting out of their seats regularly.
- The Chatty Cathy — Your neighbor talking to you through the flight.
- The Armrest Hog — Your neighbor taking up all of the armrest.
- The Too Relaxed — A passenger putting their feet up on or between your seat.
- The Clapper — Passengers applauding when the plane lands.
- The Manspreader — Passengers spreading their legs, aka manspreading.
- The Night Owl— Bright phone or tablet screens on night flights.
The Right to Decline Your Airline Seat Debate
The debate as to whether airline passengers have the right to recline their seats and therefore take up space behind them is one that crops up every year. For example, there was this incident where a seat stuck in recline led to a brawl, and the year before that, a video emerged of a man repeatedly punching the seat in front.
One argument is that if the seat has the ability to recline, then you can. Alternatively, hasn’t the person behind also paid for the space directly in front of them, especially for their knees?
We asked travelers whether they had the right to recline, and 2 out of 3 people said that they did.
We also approached various Airlines such as Alaska Air, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines to get their take on it. They all said essentially said the same thing. There is no policy on the right to recline. You could try talking to the passenger in front or behind, and if diplomacy fails, speak to your flight attendant.
Most Common Airline Passenger Annoyance by Gender
We also dug into the data to see how annoyances were affected by gender. For example, women found body odor to be the biggest crime, whereas men were more affected by having their seats kicked.
Most Common Airline Passenger Annoyance by Age
We also broke the most common airline passenger annoyance by age group. Gen Z are more put out by having their seat kicked, whereas Baby Boomers are more affected by bad body odor.
Air travel will always be a lottery as to who you end up sitting near. While some behaviors are inexcusable (smelly feet, yuck), a lot of annoyances can be resolved with patience or just a friendly conversation between strangers. Happy flying.
Amar was born and raised in England and embarked on an 11-country round-the-world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second, which ended up being a 23-country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then, Amar has spent the last 14 years traveling the 7 continents.