Expedia Study Ranks Worst Airplane Passengers

Airplane (Edit Only)  ipopba/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
Photo by ipopba/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Expedia.com has released the results of the Airplane Etiquette Study, an examination of American conduct in mid-air. In particular, Airplane Etiquette identifies passenger behaviors that most infuriate fellow travelers. Out of all behaviors, including boozing, excessive chatting, undressing and inattentive parenting, one earns the most fury: rear-seat kicking.

The study solicited feedback from 1,005 Americans aged 18+. It was commissioned by Expedia and conducted by GfK, an independent global market research company.

Sixty-four percent of Americans cited the "Rear Seat Kicker" as the most problematic passenger, edging "Inattentive Parents" (59 percent), defined as "parents who have no control over, or pay no attention to, their crying, whining or misbehaved children." "Aromatic" passengers – those with poor hygiene or those wearing excessive cologne or perfume – are the third least-liked (55 percent), followed by the "Audio Insensitive" (49 percent), the passenger who talks loudly or listens to music without consideration for fellow fliers.


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"The Boozer," a drunken, disruptive person, annoys 49 percent of his fellow passengers. However, only 12 percent of Americans claim to consume more than two alcoholic drinks when flying.

"Chatty Cathy" – the neighbor who strikes up conversation and won't stop – frustrates 40 percent of American fliers. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) report that they "dread" sitting next to someone who talks too much. On the whole, more than one-third (35 percent) of Americans would pay extra to be seated in a "designated quiet zone," should the airline offer one.

Thirty-five percent of surveyed Americans dislike the "Seat-Back Guy," the passenger who reclines his seat fully as soon as the plane takes off. A full 37 percent of Americans would choose to have reclining seats banned entirely, or at least restricted to set times on short-haul flights.

More than half (53 percent) of Americans do recline their seats when flying, while 23 percent report that they do not because they deem it "improper etiquette." An additional 11 percent do not recline because they feel it is uncomfortable. A quarter (25 percent) of respondents claim that they would recline their seat for retaliatory reasons, if the passenger behind them "showed aggressive behavior or was rude." A full 11 percent of those who claim to recline would do so even if the passenger behind them was "noticeably pregnant."

Americans report that they are reluctant to address misbehaving passengers directly. Sixty-two percent would choose to alert the flight attendant to have them handle, while 33 percent would endure in silence. One in ten respondents would "confront a misbehaving passenger directly," while 13 percent would record the offending behavior via their phone camera. And five percent would turn to social media: 3 percent would "shame a fellow passenger's behavior via social channels," while 2 percent would simply "tweet about it."

Just under 3 percent of Americans report having "been physically intimate" with a fellow passenger aboard a plane. "The Amorous" passengers – couples who display an "inappropriate level of public affection" towards one another – were cited disapprovingly by 28 percent of Americans.

Nearly four in 10 Americans (39 percent) "always" pay attention to the flight attendant during safety presentations, while a nearly equal percentage, 42 percent, say they do so "occasionally." Two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans turn their phone to Airplane Mode when instructed to do so, though 15 percent "never" do so.

Despite the long list of behaviors that incur passengers' ire in-flight, all is not lost onboard. Seventy-nine percent feel that "for the most part, fellow passengers are considerate of one another," and 74 percent "thoroughly clean their space before leaving the plane." Four in 10 fliers report having helped another passenger with luggage, while 28 percent have offered up their seat to another.

The full ranked list of onboard etiquette violators includes:

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

* For totals that exceed 100 percent, respondents were given the option of choosing more than one answer.

Source: Expedia