Life Travel Airline passengers behaving badly: The most infuriating in-flight habits

Airline passengers behaving badly: The most infuriating in-flight habits

airline passenger
Ever had a sleep seat mate do this to you? You're not alone. Photo: Getty
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It’s official. Rear-seat kicking takes top billing as the most aggravating behaviour on a flight, according to the latest Airplane Etiquette Study* of American travellers released by

While 64 per cent of respondents were infuriated by seat kickers, almost as many (59 per cent) cited “inattentive parents” as their main bugbear.

These parents, who appear to be in some sort of travel bubble, “have no control over, or pay no attention to, their crying, whining or misbehaved children,” oblivious to the surrounding chaos.

“Aromatic passengers” were also among the least appreciated fellow travellers, third on the list.

Many of us have endured a flight beside someone in a Bintang t-shirt who didn’t have time to shower before the flight (or possibly during their entire vacation).

At the other end of the aromatic spectrum are those who’ve spent way too long in the duty free fragrance section before wafting aboard in an asphyxiating cloud. 

Parents who don't control their unruly children were a major peeve for fellow passengers. Photo: Getty
Parents who don’t control their unruly children were a major peeve for fellow passengers. Photo: Getty

The Boozer – ­ and the consequences

The drunken and disruptive “boozer” annoyed 49 per cent of passengers, though the problem goes beyond annoyance to safety.

British tourist, Matthew Worall, was sentenced this week to seven months jail for his drunken behaviour on a Boeing 757 flight from the UK to Tenerife.

As the plane was descending he grabbed the in-flight intercom to the pilot and demanded “a f***ing drink”. The pilot had to leave the cockpit to deal with the situation.

Last July, an Australian Jetstar flight to Phuket had to divert to Bali to offload six men who were engaged in a drunken, mid-air punch-up.

Reports of wild behaviour on board are definitely on the rise. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released figures showing the percentage of “unruly passenger incidents” increasing, with almost 11,000 incidents reported by IATA airlines worldwide in the 2015­–16 financial year.

In Australia, the Federal Police charged 76 people with offences related to offensive behaviour, including drunkenness, on a plane or at an airport in 2015–16.

Boozing is not just restricted to passengers. Tekad Purna, a pilot for Indonesian budget airline Citilink, was fired in December after drunkenly stumbling through security and onto the aircraft he was due to fly (he was replaced by another captain before take off).

Noise was another serious problem with 49 per cent upset by the “audio insensitive” who talk or play music loudly, and 40 per cent were frustrated by “chatty Cathy”, who wants to engage in non-stop, in-flight conversation.

Out-of-control, boozed-up passengers (like Kristen Wiig's character in the movie Bridesmaids) are becoming increasingly common.
Out-of-control, boozed-up passengers (like Kristen Wiig’s character in the movie Bridesmaids, picture) are becoming increasingly common.

To recline or not to recline?

Surprisingly, considering the aggravation the full-recline seat passenger has caused on many flights, the so-called “ seat-back guy” who pushes back as the plane takes off only annoyed 35 per cent of American respondents.

More than half those surveyed (53 per cent) reclined their seats but 23 per cent reported that they did not recline their seat because they deemed it “improper etiquette”.

Speaking of etiquette, John Morrey, vice president and general manager of advised giving fellow passengers “respect and generosity” and advised “small acts of decorum can go a long way”.

Perhaps remind fellow passengers of that next time you’re jammed in beside chatty Cathy with the seat-back guy in front and the rear-seat kicker behind.

Some felt reclining your seat immediately after takeoff was a faux pas. Photo: Getty
Some felt reclining your seat immediately after takeoff was a faux pas. Photo: Getty

The full list of on board etiquette violators

  1. The rear seat kicker
  2. Inattentive parents
  3. The aromatic passenger
  4. The audio insensitive
  5. The boozer
  6. Chatty Cathy
  7. The queue jumper
  8. Seat-back guy
  9. The armrest hog
  10. Pungent foodies
  11. The undresser
  12. The amorous
  13. The mad bladder
  14. The single and ready to mingle

* Survey of 1005 US adult residents, December 2016, by independent global market research company GfK for

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