Annoying Air Travelers and How to Not Become One

When you’ve got a couple hundred people confined to a plane or an airport terminal, someone is bound to irk others. You don’t want to be that irritating person who gets dirty stares and becomes the subject of whispers. Online travel agency Agoda recently released findings from a study that surveyed passengers about the most annoying travel habits. It may serve as a cheat sheet for what not to do on your next business or personal trip.

In conjunction with independent research firm YouGov, Agoda collected data from 10,384 respondents from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and China. Globally, the top five pet peeves are:

  • noisy travelers (57 percent)
  • mobile device addicts (47 percent)
  • cultural insensitivity (46 percent)
  • large tour groups (36 percent)
  • selfie-takers (21 percent).

Results varied based on country of origin, but let’s dissect what most annoys Americans.

Screen Time

In comparison to other countries surveyed, Americans spend less time on mobile devices when traveling solo versus traveling with family or friends. This is good news for Americans, since mobile device usage and taking selfies both rank in the top five annoyances worldwide. Forty-eight percent of Americans ranked mobile device usage as an issue, one percentage point higher than the global average.

This serves as a reminder to be present while traveling. Doing so not only enhances the travel experience, but also keeps you safer by being more aware of surroundings. In defense of business travelers, it is difficult to avoid logging on when away from the office. Keeping occupied on smartphones, tablets and laptops also helps pass time during long waits, delays and in the air. Some business travelers also find this undistracted time more focused and productive than being in the office.

Posting on social media has also become a standard part of meeting planner and meeting attendee’s repertoire, to create awareness and buzz about the conference, trade show or FAM trip. Just as with most things, selfies are okay in moderation.

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Peace and Quiet

Shhhhh!!! Can I get some quiet, please? Many passengers want to sneak in some zzzz’s, listen to music, watch a movie, comprehend what they’re reading or simply want silence to meditate. According to the report, 53 percent of Americans surveyed cited noisy passengers as annoying. Men were found to be more tolerant than women of excessive noise levels.

Although the study doesn’t share what noises most irritate people, you know the usual suspects—whining and crying babies and children, blasting headphones, elevated conversations, barking dogs, meowing cats, loud chewing and snoring. Observe the golden rule, and do whatever you can to be as silent as possible. If noise is something that bothers you, reach for your earplugs or a noise cancelling headset.

Get Cultured

Meetings take planners and businesspeople to unfamiliar cities, states and countries where the cultural norms may be very different from what is accepted at home. Forty-one percent of the American passengers surveyed stated that cultural nuances are annoying.

Many of these faux paus are likely unintentional and easily avoidable. Planners should supply meeting attendees with a tip sheet of what is culturally acceptable in the destination. This can include how to say “please” and “thank you” in the native language, proper attire, tipping norms and respectful greetings. For instance, some cultures endorse or frown upon kissing, hand holding, handshaking, curtseying or bowing.

Getting On My Nerves

Agoda’s list of five annoying habits is far from comprehensive of all the ways people behave badly at 30,000 feet. Here are Seven “Annoying” Dwarfs of Travel:

  1. Smelly: Airplane seats are close quarters and getting smaller by the day. Fellow passengers will very much appreciate a seatmate who is clean and has fresh breath.
  2. Germy: It’s a passenger’s worst nightmare to be seated next to someone coughing, sneezing, nose-picking or nail-clipping. Keep your germs to yourself and remember to cover your nose or mouth if you do need to cough or sneeze. Always travel with hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes.
  3. Sloppy: If you drop something, do the right thing and pick it up. If you spill something or create a crumby mess, attempt to clean up for yourself. Ask the flight attendant for help, if necessary, rather than ignore your mess.
  4. Slo Pokey: Be as efficient as possible when going through security, boarding and deplaning. Don’t be the sloth everyone behind you is waiting for. That means no blocking the aisle while digging through your purse or backpack to find your earbuds.
  5. Getter-Upper: Some medical conditions do require passengers to stretch their legs to get blood flowing or go to the restroom multiple times mid-flight. If this is you, please avoid the window seat.
  6. Noisy or Nosey: As stated above, noisy passengers are amongst the most annoying. Keep conversations hushed and headset volume at a level only you can hear. Nosey-body passengers can also be annoying. Curiosity gets the best of us sometimes, but avoid being intrusive when eavesdropping or reading over someone’s shoulder.
  7. Space Hogger: Space is limited on planes. Don’t take more than your fair share. Be mindful of the shared armrest with the person beside you and keep in mind that, if you recline, you’re cutting into the already-minimal legroom of the person seated behind you.
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