Have you experienced any of these annoying air travel behaviours?

Traveling during the holidays is stressful. That stress tends to bring out the worst in otherwise kind and rational people. But that doesn’t mean you have to deal with annoying people or things at the airport. To help, here is a list of irritating air travel behaviors and how to avoid them. Keep your eyes on the prize: There’s delicious food, great sights and your loved ones on the other side.


From rude comments to outright sexual harassment, flight attendants are frequently mistreated, says air travel expert Scott Keyes. Ironically, it’s by the people they’re charged with keeping safe as they fly around the globe, he says. “Everyone should be treated with kindness and generosity. For some reason, many people seem to think these societal mores don’t apply in airports or at 10,000 metres,” Keyes says.

Other employees, such as gate agents, are frequently verbally attacked because of factors outside their control – like airline bag fees or an unpredictable weather event causing hours of delays, he notes.


On most accounts this is accidental, but bumping the back of your seat feels like a small earthquake to the person in front of you. In a 2018 Expedia study for global travel etiquette, the ‘seat kicker’ ranked in the top five most annoying habits. The other four were the ‘germ spreader’, the ‘drunk passenger’, the ‘aromatic passenger’ and the ‘inattentive parent’. Another frequent complaint is passengers who hog the armrest.


Seasoned travellers have become airport security screening pros, knowing exactly what to do with their shoes and laptop, Keyes says. “But the process of going through airport security is not at all intuitive, and feels highly stressful for new flyers, especially with a line of people behind them,” Keyes says. “On my last flight, I witnessed a passenger in line yelling at an elderly couple, who clearly were not regular travellers, to ‘hurry it up’ as they struggled to take off their shoes and belt.”


In the Expedia study, 77 per cent of respondents dread sitting next to a chatty Kathy. Travelling can be anxiety-inducing for some, and the last thing some passengers want to do is to have a conversation. Instead, pass the time by reading a book or gazing out into the clouds.


One of the most mocked behaviours on social media, according to Keyes, is when people line up well in advance to board a flight. Instead of blaming travellers, blame the airlines. This is simply the outcome of airlines charging for checked bags and allowing free carry-ons, he notes. There’s a reason why people line up early to ensure overhead space. “People respond to incentives; that’s nothing to blame them for,” Keyes says.


There’s a time and place for airing out your feet, and a plane is not one of them. The Expedia study showed that 78 per cent of people disdain this rude habit – and for good reason. Your feet house over 100 different bacteria species. Plus, take-off and landing are the most dangerous parts of the flight and loose shoes would also pose a safety risk.


And finally, the armrest. That such an innocuous divider has become a proxy war for airline manners is a perfect illustration of the fraught nature of aviation etiquette. Should the middle seat lay claim to both, given their inferior seat assignment? Or should it be a matter of taking turns? It is a divider that will remain divisive forever—just don’t rest your head on it.

My one off solution. Take a breath and stay cool. Focus on the prize. 

Check out my related post: What happens if you don’t put your phone to airplane mode?

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  1. I have witnessed most of the behaviors on your list. As a more seasoned (older) traveler, I can remember a time when air travel was fun. I always looked forward to a business or pleasure flight. You were treated like royalty on most airlines and you weren’t packed in like cattle. Flying was comfortable and fun. Today I dread flying.


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