By Expedia Guest Author, on November 10, 2015

Kicking and Screaming: Expedia Study of Airplane Etiquette Finds “Rear Seat Kickers” are America’s Most Infuriating Co-Passengers

“Inattentive Parents,” the “Aromatic,” the “Audio Insensitive” and the “Boozer” Round Out List of Top Five Most Offensive Air Travelers  

Bellevue, Wash., Nov. 10, 2015 –®, one of the world's largest full service online travel sites1, today released the results of the third annual Airplane Etiquette Study, which asked Americans to rank the most frustrating behaviors exhibited by the hundreds of millions of fellow Americans who fly each year. The study was commissioned by Expedia and conducted by GfK, an independent global market research company.  

The Expedia 2015 Airplane Etiquette study consisted of 1,019 interviews of randomly selected U.S. adult residents, conducted between August 7-9, 2015. An analysis of the study, as well as an infographic, can be found here:  

Seat-Kickers Are the Worst

Americans rank “Rear Seat Kickers” as the most aggravating co-passengers. When asked to choose from a list of annoying behaviors, 61% of Americans cited seat-kicking as a top in-flight concern. “Inattentive Parents” – parents who exhibit little or no control over their children – rank a close second (59%). The “Aromatic Passenger,” who exhibits poor hygiene or is in some other way giving off a strong scent, was the third least-liked passenger, cited by 50% of Americans.  

The “Audio Insensitive,” who either talks loudly or whose music or entertainment is clearly audible to neighbors, annoys 50% of Americans. 45% of Americans scorn “The Boozer,” and 43% complained about “Chatty Cathy,” the overly talkative seatmate. The full list of etiquette violators, including “The Amorous,” “The Undresser” and the “Mad Bladder,” is included down below.  

“Planes continue to fly full, never more so than during this season, when millions of Americans will fly to be with their families for the holidays,” said John Morrey, vice president and general manager, “Inside a packed plane at 30,000 feet, both good behavior and bad behavior are amplified. Respecting our fellow passengers is a small but important gift we can all give each other.”  

The Quiet Zone

Americans show a marked preference for peace and quiet in midair. Three-quarters of Americans concede that “small talk is fine,” but they prefer to keep to themselves for most of the flight. 16% admit that they use flights as an “opportunity to meet and talk to new people.” 66% of Americans “dread” sitting next to them. 53% of American fliers find themselves annoyed by parents traveling with loud children, and a full third (37%) of Americans would actually pay extra to be seated in a designated “quiet zone” if the airline offered one.  

To Recline or Not

Reclining seats can be a flash point; nearly one third (32%) of Americans say they would either prefer to have reclining seats banned entirely, or at least restricted to set times during short-haul flights. Yet only 31% of Americans refuse to recline their own seats. Among the larger percentage of Americans who do lean back, 30% do so when they plan to sleep. 28% recline if the flight exceeds three hours, and 13% do so immediately after takeoff. 13% recline when the passenger in front of them does, domino-style.  

26% of Americans would recline their seat punitively if the passenger behind them was aggressive or rude. 12% would recline anyway if the passenger behind them was tall, and 10% would recline even if the passenger behind them was noticeably pregnant.  

Social Shaming vs. Studied Silence

In the event a fellow passenger misbehaved noticeably, 49% of Americans would sit quietly and attempt to ignore them. 21% would confront the offender directly, while 10% would surreptitiously record them using their phone’s camera or video. 3% of Americans would publish that misbehavior across social media channels.  

Despite the surfeit of etiquette violations, 75% of Americans feel that “for the most part, fellow passengers are considerate” and just over 50% feel that air travel is “fun and exciting.” 41% have helped a stranger with their luggage, for example. 73% wait patiently until they reach their assigned seat before stowing luggage in the overhead bin, versus 13% who stow their luggage in the first available spot once they board the plane. And only 10% of Americans drink more than two drinks during air travel, either at the airport or on the plane.  

Oh, And …

Just over 1% of Americans report membership in the Mile High Club, having been “intimate” on a plane, either with a traveler they knew, or a traveler they met on board.  

The full ranked list of onboard etiquette violators includes:

  1. Rear Seat Kicker                                 (cited by 61% of study respondents)
  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(stows bag in first available spot, rather than nearest to his/her seat)                                            (32%)
  11. Pungent Foodies                                      (30%)
  12. Back Seat Grabber                                   (27%)
  13. The Amorous (inappropriate affection levels)(26%)
  14. Undresser (removes shoes, socks or more)  (26%)
  15. Mad Bladder (window seat passenger whomakes repeat bathroom visits) (24%)                                       
  16. The Single and Ready to Mingle                    (13%)
  17. The Seat Switcher                                       (13%)  

About the Survey

The study was conducted online using the GfK “KnowledgePanel,” an online probability-based panel designed to be representative of the US general population, not just the online population. The study consisted of 1,019 interviews of randomly selected U.S. adult residents, conducted between August 7-9, 2015, among adults aged 18+.  

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1Based on a comparison of other full-service online travel agencies, defined as those providing booking and services related to air, hotel, cruise, car and activities to a global customer base. Data based on comScore Media Metrix for Expedia, Inc. Sites, Worldwide, Average Monthly Unique Visitors, Oct '12-Sept '13.  

About GFK

GfK is one of the world's largest research companies, with more than 13,000 experts working to discover new insights into the way people live, think and shop, in over 100 markets, every day. GfK is constantly innovating and using the latest technologies and the smartest methodologies to give its clients the clearest understanding of the most important people in the world: their customers. In 2012, GfK's sales amounted to €1.51 billion. To find out more, visit   

GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications is a division of GfK. The group specializes in customized public affairs and public opinion polling, media and corporate communications research, and corporate reputation measurement in the US and globally, in addition to delivering a broad range of customized research studies.  


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