Airplane travel etiquette

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Expedia study of in-flight etiquette for the holidays finds inattentive parents rank as “most annoying” fliers

Have you been a victim of the “Mad Bladder?” No? Or maybe you’ve fallen victim to the “Rear Seat Kicker” or the “Pungent Food Eater?” Oh you know who we’re talking about. We’re talking about those offensive airplane etiquette violators, from the “Armrest Hog” to the “Overhead Bin Inconsiderate” to the “Inattentive Parent.”  All of us who travel have been a victim of them, and at one point or another, probably been a violator ourselves.  And today we’re confronting those sky crimes and misdemeanors.

It’s that time of year again. Sure, it’s the time of year to pull out that ugly holiday sweater that Grandma gave you 10 years ago and the time of year to practice your “OMG face” for when you receive that gift you were hoping your aunt was kidding about getting you for the holidays. But more important for this discussion, it’s that time of year for holiday travel, the busiest travel season of the year. But as excited as we are to see more travelers hitting the friendly skies, this time of year often brings with it unfriendly skies, as more travelers, typically means more airplane etiquette violators.

So this holiday season, we teamed up with Northstar to survey 1,001 American adults to rank and respond to a range of in-flight behaviors, from rear-seat kicking and seat-swapping to boozing and making out (that couple coming out of the bathroom simultaneously weren’t brushing their teeth together). Expedia’s 2013 Airplane Etiquette Study revealed a lot about people’s travel habits, many of which had us nodding in agreement, and others, which had us laughing out loud.

“Inattentive Parents” and “Rear Seat Kickers” are the most offensive airplane etiquette violators.

So who are the most offensive airplane etiquette violators? The study found that “Inattentive Parents” (41%) and “Rear Seat Kickers” (38%) were neck and neck. All of us would probably nod in agreement that we’ve been victims of this. Rounding out the top five were “The Aromatic Passenger” (28%), “The Boozer” (26%), and “Chatty Cathy” (23%).

We were surprised to see that certain violators were further down the list, such as the “Pungent Food Eater,” who came in at #13, at 9%. Evidently, most travelers would prefer someone who brings tuna on the flight rather than someone who will talk their head off. Coming in last at 5% was “The Seat Switcher.”

And what about the Mile High Club? Evidently, Mile High Club membership is alive and well. The study found that 10% of Americans report having “been intimate” on a plane. It would appear, however, that travelers prefer their fellow passengers to remain dressed, as “The Undresser” (defined as someone who removes shoes, socks, or too many layers of clothing) ranks 17th on the list of etiquette violators.

Despite the findings of Expedia’s 2013 Airplane Etiquette Study, most Americans do in fact consider the friendly skies to be just that. 84% of passengers agree with the statement: “For the most part, fellow flight passengers are considerate of other passengers.” We only hope that the friendly skies will remain so on into the holiday travel season. As our very own vice president and general manager, John Morrey, recently said, “Most of us, when we look at the list of offending behaviors, can admit to having committed one or more of the violations. So this season, perhaps we can all take care to be as friendly and accommodating to our fellow passengers as possible. After all, we’re quite literally all in this together.”

A full analysis of Expedia’s 2013 Airplane Etiquette Study can be found here. For more on travel etiquette and holiday travel tips, join us tomorrow, Tuesday, December 10, at 10 am PST/1 pm EST on the Expedia Google+ page for our next Google+ Hangout on Air with our very own travel expert, Expedia Viewfinder blogger, Matt Villano, along with Robert Reid and Rachel Rudwall.

Download the Expedia 2013 Airplane Etiquette infographic.

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Sarah Waffle Gavin

Sarah Gavin is Expedia’s Vice President of Global Communications, overseeing a team around the world that focus on telling travel’s great stories. Her passion lies in bringing people together through the shared experiences and mind-broadening phenomenon of travel – while revealing all the tips and tricks to getting the best value on vacation. Part foodie, part tech geek, part mom, part traveler, Sarah loves a mini staycation with her husband, as much as a power shop through New York. Her family trips are treasured above all else, and when she's not sitting poolside in Mexico with the kids, she hangs her hat in the burbs of Seattle, Washington at the intersection of travel, technology, and motherhood.


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