Plane etiquette: Aussies reveal what drives them nuts on flights

Photo of Grace Millimaci

The problem with flying economy is the risk of having to sit next to an annoying passenger — the kind of person we would never associate with in real life because their lack of basic manners would make even a four-year-old cringe.

With zero common courtesy or consideration for others, their behaviour makes those around them uneasy, which turns long-haul flights into nightmares.

Thankfully most of us have bad memories and the experience is forgotten — otherwise we would never leave the house.

Two recent surveys have gauged Australian travellers’ love-hate relationship with flying.

Expedia’s 2018 Airplane Etiquette report is based on a study conducted among 18,229 respondents across 23 countries.

The travel site’s study found that the No.1 most annoying thing to annoy Australians in airports or planes is the seat grabber — the “passenger who constantly bumps and grabs the seat in front of them when they get up out of their seat”.

Parents who pay no attention to their child annoy 45 per cent of Australians; while 44 per cent hate the “aromatic passenger” with either poor hygiene or too much perfume.

Surprisingly, only 35 per cent hate the personal space violator who gets too close or falls asleep on others; or the baggage mishandler (13 per cent) “who hogs all the overhead locker space or hits you with luggage on the way down”.

Expedia’s top three most-annoying behaviours reflected a study by comparison website Finder of more than 2300 Australian travellers, with 55 per cent hating seat kickers, 54 per cent annoyed by smelly passengers, followed by loud/crying children (38 per cent).

Finder’s survey found that passengers also hate people who cough without covering their mouth (25 per cent), armrest hoggers (21) and smelly feet (19).

Both surveys found that seat reclining drives people bonkers.

“Just because your seat has the ability to recline, doesn’t mean it always has to, especially if it’s only a short trip,” Finder says.

“That’s not to say that you should never recline, just be respectful and understand there are some times that are a definite no-go for reclining, such as during food service. 

“If you do choose to tilt your seat back, make sure you do it slowly and carefully, that way the person sitting behind you doesn’t end up with their glass of red all over them.”

Expedia found that 40 per cent of travellers think seats should recline only on flights longer than three hours, while one-fifth feel it’s rude to recline seats.

Fact File


  1. Introduce yourself before the plane takes off and establish ground rules — ask the aisle seat if they would like to be woken or climbed over during the flight.
  2. Warn the seat behind you if you’re going to recline your seat — even if the passenger behind hates people who recline seats, they are going to appreciate that you gave them warning, rather than just putting the seat back.
  3. Keep your feet on the floor, not on the arm rest in front — no one wants to see feet peeking through when they are trying to sleep on the plane.
  4. Be prepared — get what you need out of your bag before take-off so you don’t have to ask to access the hold once everyone is settled.
  5. Be respectful and nice to cabin crew.
  6. Use arm rests effectively — not only are arm rests for comfort during the flight, but they also can be leaned on for getting in and out of seats, which avoids grabbing the seat in front.
  7. Be patient — no one likes a queue jumper.

Picture: Getty Images


You may also like