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The Margin: This is what Americans hate most about flying — and it’s not reclining seats, or even disruptive passengers


So, you’ve dealt with long lines and the flight delays or even cancellations and you’re finally seated on the plane. What difficulties now await?

A new survey from the Vacationer website finds that Americans are most bothered by passengers who kick the seat in front of them or who display drunken or disruptive behavior. The Airplane Etiquette Violations Survey was based on a poll of 1,098 Americans over the age of 18, who were asked to pick from a list of actions that “they found irritating,” according to the Vacationer. Respondents could select as many actions as they wanted.

The seat kickers and drunk and disorderly passengers topped the list of offenders, with both being cited by 59.11% of respondents. Other top peeves included passengers who smell because of poor hygiene or who use too much cologne or perfume (cited by 48% of respondents), passengers who don’t pay attention to their children (46.81%), passengers who eat pungent or foul-smelling foods (39.8%) and passengers who hog the armrests (39.07%).

But other actions proved less objectionable. Passengers who take off their shoes were only cited by 23.59% of respondents as a key irritant, for example. At the very bottom of the list: Passengers who request too much from flight attendants, an action cited by 13.02% of those surveyed.

The survey comes at a time when airlines are struggling to deal with unruly passengers. In 2021, more than 5,000 incidents of air rage were reported, according to Federal Aviation Administration data. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement last November warning of the consequences of such behavior. “Passengers who assault, intimidate or threaten violence against flight crews and flight attendants do more than harm those employees; they prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel,” he said.

Some particularly bizarre or scary incidents grabbed headlines, such as when a passenger displaying erratic behavior on an American Airlines

flight was subdued by a flight attendant who administered a blow with a coffee pot.

Of course, there’s a difference between dangerous behavior and merely annoying behavior. And the Vacationer survey found that 11.57% of respondents had no issues with their fellow passengers. “These people must be saints and we need to cherish their patience,” the Vacationer said.

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