Smelly passengers and out of control children ranked as the leading complaints for air passengers

We all have different things that irritate us when travelling from being stuck in long security and immigration queues in airport terminal buildings to passenger behaviour onboard aircraft. For many it is the armrest hogger or seat recliner that causes the most frustration, but an update of the Airlineratings.com ‘Passengers from Hell’ survey has revealed that smelly passengers and out of control children have now hit the top of its own annual ranking.


Summary:

  • Latest update of the Airlineratings.com ‘Passengers from Hell’ survey has revealed that smelly passengers and out of control children now lead the annual ranking;
  • While the passenger behaviours are based on individual traits they also highlight some general trends in both aviation and society;
  • This survey follows a report from Expedia last month into the findings of its ‘2018 Airplane and Hotel Etiquette Study’, a deep dive into travel behaviour from 35,000 feet to 350 square feet;
  • The Expedia survey found the seatback kicker was deemed the most annoying type of flyer for the fourth year in a row, although the smelly passenger and out of control children also made the podium places.

The findings from the global airline safety and product ratings website, followed a survey of its readers in which they were asked to rank ten individual passenger types who they felt caused the most grief on planes on a scale of one to ten from the most irritating to the least.

“There has been a significant shift in passengers’ gripes about their fellow travellers, who are either not conscious of their odour or don’t care,” explains Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of the digital platform, who suggests that advances in technology and widespread usage of online check-in may mean “offending passengers are slipping through the traditional checks and only coming into contact with airline agents at the boarding gate”.

Some airlines have acknowledged declining standards among air travellers and have introduced tighter dress codes, especially for access into corporate lounges. Similarly, the issue of hands of parents and their runway children, which ranked second in the survey, has also been an issue discussed by airlines as the increasing use of social media platforms has brought many a horror story out into the public domain – as highlighted in the following video.

While the ten passenger behaviours are based on individual traits they also highlight some general trends in both aviation and society. Notably, people are now carrying more cabin baggage as airlines introduce costs for checked bags as part of commoditised pricing; space on aircraft is shrinking as airlines maximise all available space – especially in the Economy cabin – to deliver financial returns; while passengers are getting larger.

The full ranking of the ten individual passenger types from Airlineratings.com comprised:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Hands-off parents and runaway kids
  • Seat recliners
  • Armrest hoggers
  • Excess carry-on baggage
  • Frequent bathroom visitor
  • Chatterbox
  • Aisle exerciser
  • Arrogant, demanding passenger
  • Window hogger, who pulls at the shades the entire flight

This survey follows a report from Expedia last month among travellers where the seatback kicker was deemed the most annoying type of flyer for the fourth year in a row. More than half of the 18,000 survey respondents (51%) identified the seat kicker, grabber or bumper as the worst person to sit near to on an aircraft. According to the travel company, almost two thirds (62%) of passengers refuse to succumb to the annoying habit and alert the cabin crew of the issue in the hope to resolve the problem.

The problem of the aromatic passenger landed in second place in the Expedia ranking with 43% of passengers saying a smelly neighbour was there worst fear when locating their seats, while noisy children on a flight were voted the third most irritating type of passenger with 39% of flyers admitting they get annoyed by inattentive parents who fails to control their children. The top five was completed by personal space violators among 34% of flyers and audio insensitive passengers, who fail to hear the volume of their own flight entertainment, the pet peeve of 29% of respondents.

The Expedia ‘2018 Airplane and Hotel Etiquette Study’, a deep dive into travel behaviour from 35,000 feet to 350 square feet revealed that over 90% of global respondents agreed it’s not ok to be barefoot during a flight. This was particularly true for nearly 75% of Americans who said they always keep their shoes and socks on.

Americans also prefer privacy when flying or staying in hotels. Nearly 90% of Americans prefer to keep to themselves during a flight, while 66% always or frequently use the privacy indicator to prevent hotel staff from entering their room. To pass the time while flying, Americans would rather sleep (69%) than talk to other passengers (28%).

The top ranked list of worst hotel guests sees inattentive parents top the ranking with 45% of respondents ranking it as their biggest gripe, ahead of in-room revellers and the hallway hellraisers (41%), the complainers (29%), and the party-goers and the bar boozer (27%).

Other fascinating findings of the Expedia survey included:

  • Across the globe, travellers are most annoyed to find bed bugs, a used condom, cigarette smoke or foul smell upon checking into a hotel room – while dirty surroundings are the main reason travelers request to switch hotel rooms, more than half rarely or never sanitise items like the remote and phone, or wear shower shoes to protect their feet;
  • South Koreans are the most likely to get drunk on a flight – Thai and American travellers round out the top three;
  • Travellers typically recline their seats for two reasons – only if it’s a long flight, three hours or more, or when going to sleep. A quarter of Americans said they never recline their seat because it’s rude. Europeans tend to be more likely to ask fellow passengers to un-recline their seat;
  • More than half (54%) of people agree it’s ok to wake snoring passengers – and when it comes to passing a sleeping passenger, most don’t hesitate to wake them and ask them to move. One in five say it’s ok to just climb over with your back to them.
  • Online and mobile check-in are taking the world by storm, just over a third of travelers still check-in at the airport – half of Americans check-in online for their flights. Meanwhile, 72% still print a boarding pass and less than one in three (30%) use a mobile boarding pass;
  • Hotel habits – most travellers admit to hiding valuables from housekeeping and taking items from a hotel room.