And the most annoying passenger on the plane is …

Here we go again. Expedia is out with yet another survey on the most annoying passengers on a plane.

It’s a predictable effort to capitalize on the upcoming holiday travel season (here’s last year’s survey and the 2013 poll).

I don’t have a problem with identifying the most annoying travelers. In fact, I just did it on Monday in my USA Today column, a bold piece of reporting that turned me into persona non grata in the frequent flier community almost overnight.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United. If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Oh, oops. I’m sure I didn’t mean to do that.

But the Expedia study and its timing underscores a false assumption about holiday travel: that everyone flies.

And so my mainstream media colleagues have taken to this survey, predictably. (And, um, I guess that would include me since I’m writing about it.)

Let’s do a few numbers first:

Most annoying airline passengers (2015)

1. Rear Seat Kicker (61%)

2. Inattentive Parents (59%)

3. The Aromatic Passenger (50%)

4. The Audio Insensitive (talking or music) (50%)

5. The Boozer (45%)

6. Chatty Cathy (43%)

7. Carry-On Baggage Offenders (38%)

8. The Queue Jumper (rushes to deplane) (35%)

9. Seat-Back Guy (the seat recliner) (32%)

10. Overhead Bin Inconsiderate (32%)

Some news outlets, like, played it straight, basically cut-and-pasted the Expedia data like I just did. My friends at the LA Times also did it by the book, obediently embedding Expedia’s infographic. They also interviewed an Expedia spokeswoman.

It’s unclear if Yahoo’s travel editors did any original reporting, but they win the award for most comments on a story — they were pushing 1,000 the last time I checked. Impressive.

But other than parroting Expedia’s research, is there anything new to see here? Oh, sure. I suspect the really interesting trends are the proprietary research companies like Expedia do on their own customers, who are probably delivering a more disturbing message that wouldn’t be quite so click-baity.

Our annoyance with each other is eclipsed by our annoyance with a predatory airline industry, which always has its hand out, asking for another fee or a higher fare. People are so fed up with air travel and they’re either driving to their destination or not going at all.

But that’s not the kind of message that resonates with readers of your average travel section, where upbeat features about travel and funny human interest stories about “rear seat kickers” and clueless parents entertain us on Sunday morning.

So yeah, let’s keep pretending all Americans fly and that they’re mad at each other in kind of an aw-shucks cute kind of way, like the whole thing is a sitcom episode. But we’d never be mad at the airlines that squeeze us into tighter spaces and turn us into animals. Oh no.

Let’s turn this into a cute feature — yet another ditty for Nero to fiddle while Rome is engulfed by flames.

25 thoughts on “And the most annoying passenger on the plane is …

  1. Interesting that overweight passengers did not make the top ten — based on comments here you;d have expected them in the top two.

    1. I was thinking the same thing-given how many stories there have been about overweight passengers here.
      Also, isn’t there a lot of overlap between carry-on baggage offenders and overhead bin inconsiderate passengers? It seems to me that they’re pretty much the same thing, because most carry-on baggage is too big to fit under the seat in front of you but does fit in the overhead bins.

  2. Actually, the report did explain a little what the “overhead offender” was. That’s the person who puts luggage in the first available overhead bin, not necessarily near where the offender is sitting. Also, for sunshipballoons, the “backseat grabber” came in 12th,

    My guess is that certain categories were not options, and the people surveyed were given a list and asked if these stereotypes annoyed them. So, no reference to people who overflow seats, etc.

  3. So, this is off topic, but I couldn’t figure out where to post this question. Increasingly, when I come to read an article, it is “Closed” to additional comments. Oftentimes when it’s an article from the same day. Why is this? I often can’t read/comment until the evening, so it’s annoying to find an article already closed off… Is there a time limit?? For example, today’s article on the AA 24 hour hold policy is already closed and it’s only 6pm…

    …and now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

    1. Yes, I came back from today’s hike and noted that today’s new article on AA’s 24-hour hold policy already closed to comments while I was out. What’s going on here?

  4. I’m surprised that the kicker is number 1. I’ve actually never had my seat kicked on a flight. MY top annoyance is the Typhoid Mary/Harry who hacks and blows all flight long. I swear I can FEEL the germs crawling onto me… I’m not squeamish about most things, but for some reason phlegm and snot just…gross me out, maybe because my Mom taught us to go to the bathroom to blow our nose and to cough into our elbow.

    1. Typhoid Harry might be me. One of my own top peeves is airline policy that requires me to fly when sick. But if they don’t feel like flying today, they get infinite do-overs.

  5. I know that this was about flights, but I had the opportunity to ride Amtrak Boston to Penn Station last month. The most annoying person that I have ever traveled with was across the aisle. Free internet – YES! Loud over the phone communication for all 4 hours. Now, he gave out his e-mail a dozen times, named names, talked of negotiations, etc etc. I sent him an e-mail that night with all of his information. I bet he tones it down the next time.

    1. That’s funny! Don’t they have quiet cars on Amtrak? Most of
      My train experience is with metro north which taught me to set the bar low.

  6. Overweight people who WANT PART OF MY SEAT OR WANT THE ARM REST RAISED. NOPE. I DON’T DO IT. I PAID FOR THE WHOLE SEAT. .Lose weight. I weigh around 95 pounds and keep myself slim.

  7. Most annoying people are those with stinking animals (dogs mostly) that are FAKE
    “service animals.” Only “service” they provide is stinking up the plane!!

  8. I hate it when there’s a couple where one of them is being nasty to everyone around them especially the crew members. It’s the worst and makes for an awkward flight. I’ve been in the last row last four flights and on all but one there’s that one couple who complains about everything and makes it awkward for everyone.
    One couple the last was nasty but the man was not then they started arguing with each other about it. So awkward can’t concentrate on the book or work on tablet but can not look up afraid you’ll catch their eye and get drug into their whoa is me negative nelly attitude and it seriously blows.
    Really all you can do is have a sympathetic look to all the passengers around you and the crew member being subjected to the degradation for what seems to be lack of snack meal choices and blankets or lack of lol.
    I don’t know I don’t remember people being so just well odd and neurotic in general. God speed fellow travelers

  9. I am astonished at people who are unhappy about the guy behind them not being able to get up without pulling on the back of the seat in front of him. Do you really think s/he’s doing this on purpose to annoy you? S/he has a bad knee, a balance problem, a sore shoulder, recent surgery … all kinds of health issues. Have a little compassion, guys.

    1. I just made a similar reply to another comment. Knee replacement surgery didn’t go well for me and it’s very hard for me to stand up without something to lean on, especially when I’ve been in a cramped seat. I’m 54 so a handicap isn’t necessarily the first thing you would think of when I had to grab onto the seat to stand–until you saw me try to walk on my stuff knee.

    2. As I said in response to Tricia’s similar comment: that’s totally fair. Not all seat pullers deserve to be maligned for their seat pulling. And we can’t always tell that people are disabled (and therefore perhaps need to seat pull) by looking. That said, clearly some seat pullers don’t need to do it, and certainly don’t need to do it to the extent that they do. (For example, the percentage of hte population that starts and a window seat and pulls on all three seats in front of them as they leave is far greater than the percentage of the population who can’t reasonably get out of their sat without doing that.) I still have a problem with those people.

      And, no, nobody (I hope) is doing it on purpose to annoy me. But a lot of people who don’t need to do it are doing it because it’s convenient for them and they don’t think or care about their effect on other people. That’s true of most of the bad behavior on this list. Do you think people who rush to the front of the plane to get out first are doing it to inconvenience everybody else? Of course not; they’re doing it because it’s to their benefit and they don’t care about anybody else. Same with the subset of the seat pullers I’m still calling out.

  10. I try my hardest not to grab the seat in front of me when I get up, but a bad outcome after knee replacement surgery makes standing up very painful–I do usually push on the armrests. I had another version of this on a flight from Pittsburgh to Vegas. An extremely overweight man in the seat behind me couldn’t sit back in his own seat due to his size. So, he folded his arms in from of himself, rested his head on his arms and hung on to the back of my seat the entire way! Not only did he yank on my seat the entire way, I had to listen to his labored breathing as well.

  11. Heaven help me we’re flying back east for Thanksgiving. I hate traveling for holidays, Thanksgiving in particular. Not only do you have crowds of people everywhere, and of course the “special person” who thinks their needs or reason for flying is so much more important than anyone else, you’ve got people who don’t normally fly and don’t have a clue what they are doing (overweight suitcases, liquids in their carry on, don’t take jackets or shows off). If it wasn’t two days driving in each direction (and requires going through Chicago), we would probably drive. But then again, so will everyone else.

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