The 14 Most Aggravating Types of Passengers Are…

A s a frequent flier, an encounter with a fellow passenger who irritates you is bound to happen sooner or later — and you probably already have at least several of those experiences to share — but which types of passengers are considered to be the most aggravating?

The results of the 2016 Airplane Etiquette Study was released last month from Expedia and conducted by GfK, which is an independent global market research company that gathered the opinions of greater than 1,000 Americans; and the 14 most aggravating types of passengers are ranked in order as follows:

1. The Rear Seat Kicker

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Of those people who participated in this survey, 64 percent of respondents nominated this type of passenger as the most notorious violator of etiquette aboard an airplane.

Rear seat kickers are usually children; but there are nervous adults who might engage in kicking a seat as a habit and not even realize that they are doing it — or use some other appendage to cause unwanted motion to the occupied seat in front of them. Usually, politely asking the offender to cease is all that is needed — but other times, a strong and unmistakable glare can do the trick in the right situation as well…

…and as an aside: with regard to using an in-flight entertainment system which is equipped with a touch screen, try to tap on it as lightly as possible without poking the seat in front hard enough to cause a significantly lesser but similar effect to kicking the seat. Yes, some of those touch screens are not as responsive as others; but the person seated in front should not feel like he or she needs a weapon to defend himself or herself as the result of an involved game of Space Invaders.

A decision was reached at American Airlines to not install seatback video screens on its incoming fleet of Boeing 737 MAX airplanes — 100 of which are scheduled to arrive later this year — so the tapping on video monitors may one day become an obsolete problem.

Could the finger tapper of the in-seat monitor be included in this group? Would you include the person who constantly fumbles with items placed and removed from the pocket in the back of your seat? What about the tall person who is struggling with a lack of legroom — causing the knees to constantly “kick” the seat in front?

I believe that some clarification is needed on this particular irritant, which ranked second in this list of 21 passengers we hate on flights behind people who smell.

2. Inattentive Parents

Unruly child aboard airplane

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

While complaining about children screaming, crying and running around unfettered can indeed be easy to do, 59 percent of respondents cited inattentive parents as having bad conduct and poor manners aboard an airplane during a flight — earning them second place in this survey.

As annoying as the child may be when acting inappropriately or causing disruption in an otherwise peaceful environment, he or she is usually innocent, as inattentive parents are to blame. If I hear a screaming child and the parent is attempting to do everything possible to comfort the child — well — what can I do other than empathize with the parent? Patience is a virtue in this situation…

…but when the parent is inattentive and allows a bad situation to worsen — to the detriment of others — that is when the scorn of fellow passengers may be justified.

For an excellent example, consider my personal experience as I imparted on a transatlantic flight where a boy was permitted by his clueless parents to be out of control and have free run of the airplane — to the chagrin of fellow passengers — as one of the worst examples.

A responsible parent does everything to ensure that his or her child enjoys travel and learns from it while respecting the enjoyment of fellow passengers and travelers. That is a win-win-win situation, in my opinion.

Here are twelve helpful tips for traveling with children — and Dan Miller of Points With a Crew, I am still waiting for my “goodie bag.”

Other articles which I have written about this issue include:

3. The Aromatic Passenger

small bottle mouthwash

This small bottle can fit two doses of mouthwash, as indicated by the black lines drawn on it. Please click on the photograph to read the article pertaining to traveling with liquid toiletries. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Aromatic passengers are those with poor hygiene or those who wear excessive cologne or perfume — either way creating an affront on the olfactory sense to fellow passengers and contributing to an unpleasant flight.

I would add those passengers who have cigarette smoke or alcohol emanating from them.

There are certainly people out there who scurry about — well — ripe. The cause may not solely be an aversion to the use of deodorant. A severe case of halitosis after consumption of limburger cheese with garlic and onions — possibly from the passengers known as pungent foodies, which is discussed later in this article — mixed with alcohol and the stale smoky odor of tobacco can pack a wallop as well.

Bad breath is one of the six unpleasant things travel by air does to your body — as well as what to supposedly do about them.

Even if a shower cannot be taken for whatever reason, there are simple ways to mitigate or temporarily eliminate foul odors — but drenching oneself with cologne or perfume is certainly not one of them.

It is no wonder that the aromatic passenger places in third on this list at 55 percent of respondents.

4. The Audio Insensitive

Audio Technica bulky noise canceling headphones

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

You probably know more about the business of this passenger after the call — using a mobile telephone — ends, as you have heard every word…

…and if you hear some deep base booming from across the aisle, you know that this person has no regard for fellow passengers and does not take the time to find the volume control and get the music to a more respectable level. You also do not need to hear every word of the movie he or she is watching — especially when this passenger is at the lavatory, leaving the headphones exposed for all to hear.

I rarely encounter fellow passengers who play music too loud. Perhaps that is because I am usually listening to music from my portable electronic device — but I know that I do not play music too loud myself, as I prefer that it is not played too loud.

Noise-cancelling headsets are arguably useless or useful, depending on your point of view; but again, they are one of the included amenities which you can enjoy as a passenger aboard an airplane operated by Etihad Airways. Unfortunately, you cannot keep those headsets — you must return them to the flight attendant prior to the conclusion of the flight.

With 49 percent of respondents voting for this inconsiderate person, it is no wonder that the audio insensitive passenger ranks in fourth place — but could being hard of hearing possibly be a legitimate reason?

5. The Boozer

Bern’s Steak House restaurant Tampa wine cellar

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Remember the person who smells like alcohol? The boozer — also voted by 49 percent of respondents and technically tied for fourth place with the audio insensitive passenger — not only might stink; but is also disruptive and possibly inebriated.

“Only 12 percent of Americans claim to consume more than two alcoholic drinks when flying”, according to the aforementioned article.

There is no excuse for anyone to be drunk on an airplane during a flight — especially when the result of being inebriated results in extreme situations which can be avoided…

…such as urinating on fellow passengers.

There is hope, however: please read this enlightening article pertaining to quitting alcohol for one month as a frequent traveler.

I must say that the name given to this passenger sounds like the title of a song by The Steve Miller Band — but nobody calls me the Space Cowboy or the Gangster of Love or even Maurice…

6. Chatty Cathy

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

The name of this passenger is too cutesy for my taste; but this is the person who strikes up a conversation with you and refuses to stop.

I personally do not dread sitting next to this person, as I have never had a fellow passenger not respect my request to not engage in conversation; but there are times where the conversation does become interesting…

…and my experience suggests — believe it or not — that this passenger will eventually usually stop on his or her own accord.

If all attempts of politely responding that you do not wish to engage in conversation at this time is not effective, solutions are to pretend that you are asleep — or perhaps don some headphones and morph into the audio insensitive passenger to silence this offender, who was voted by 40 percent of participants.

I am not typically the type of person who freely engages in a conversation with a neighboring passenger; but I have been known to do so when prompted under the right circumstances.

Then again: is a chatty person amongst the worst passengers to whom you have sat next aboard an airplane?

7. The Queue Jumper

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Talk about inconsiderate — this is the person who is too good to stand in line and thinks he or she is better than you or anyone else. The world revolves around this person. “Do you know who I am?” Who cares?!?

Queue jumpers are not going to arrive to their destinations any faster, as everyone on the same airplane arrives at the destination at the same time.

Perhaps they cut in line because they cannot wait to be seated and enjoy their pre-departure beverages prior to departure? Maybe it is to secure a good spot for their carry-on baggage? Could it be a fear that the airplane will leave without them?

I had proposed whether or not there should be four types of Pre✓ lanes at those airport security checkpoints which serve frequent fliers.

If 35 percent of respondents would be more vocal about telling this selfish person to get to the back of the line — loudly enough so that other fellow passengers can clearly hear what is going on — perhaps these brazen people will be less successful in the future.

8. Seat-Back Guy

Seat recline

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is a sexist name, as female passengers have been known to recline their seats as well.

I am surprised this person ranks only tied for seventh with 35 percent of participants voting for whom I would rather call the recliner, as the seemingly never-ending debate over reclining seats has been intense for years — to the point where it has actually led to violence where two passengers were embroiled in a heated argument aboard an airplane which operated as United Airlines flight 1462 over seat recline on Sunday, August 24, 2014 — resulting in the airplane being diverted to Chicago, where police and agents of the Transportation Security Administration were summoned.

Perhaps to mitigate the animosity surrounding this controversial issue, the interiors of airplanes should be divided into two separate sections: seats which recline; and seats which do not recline.

I even experienced my own issue pertaining to having seats reclined in front of me for ten straight hours and having the seat reclined in front of me even though its occupant was not sitting in it during an international flight.

Out of courtesy for the passenger sitting immediately behind, should the occupant of a seat in the economy class cabin aboard an airplane not have it reclined when he or she vacates it?

This passenger rarely aggravates me; but there have been times where the reclined seat has adversely affected my flight experience — even if only slightly.

9. The Armrest Hog


Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is another surprise for me, as I thought that this passenger would also rank higher than ninth with 34 percent of respondents voting for this person.

As with reclining seats, the war over the shared armrest in the economy class cabin aboard airplanes has also been intensely contentious over the years — to the point where a boutique industry of products devoted to mitigating this controversy has attempted to flourish

…and to worsen matters, there are people who use the armrest for body appendages other than arms — such as for bare feet.

That is simply gross and disgusting — that bare foot may be a trait of the passenger known as The Undresser, who is discussed later in this article — but certainly not as nauseating as the person who clips her toenails aboard an airplane; picks some of them up off of the floor; and starts to chew on them as they crunch between her teeth.

10. Pungent Foodies

I tried to eat this cold sandwich; but I simply did not like the taste combined with the texture. Regardless, I was appreciative that Delta Air Lines served a meal for a two-hour flight which departed at 7:30 in the evening. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Speaking of putting pungent items into one’s mouth, probably about as irritating as someone who brings aboard food which emits a pungent odor — such as that fermented sea herring, limburger cheese and liverwurst sandwich with plenty of garlic and onions on the side; or perhaps you prefer a durian and bean sandwich from which the water must be squeezed — is when a fellow passenger brings food which smells absolutely delicious aboard the airplane while I am hungry and had no time between connecting flights to stop and pick up something to tide me over.

Ranking in tenth place, 30 percent of participants voted for this passenger as aggravating.

11. The Undresser

This is the passenger who treats the space around his or her seat as though he or she was home — perhaps to get comfortable enough to sleep, for example…

…but I wonder if we could count those passengers whose feet spill out of their sandals or flip-flops and create a disgusting sight?

Certain people not only put their bare feet on armrests, as mentioned earlier in this article — they also tend to use the lavatory while their bare feet remain uncovered

…and after splashing their tootsies in puddles of unknown origin or composition on the floor of the lavatory, there is no wonder why their feet emit unpleasant odors — and who knows where else those feet had been.

I cannot tell you how many passengers I have seen aboard airplanes who wear sandals, torn clothes and emit odors worse than a pungent cheese factory near a sewage treatment plant across from a sulphur mine next to a landfill — regardless of in which cabin they are seated…

…but there are also people who reportedly strip down to their undergarments to get more comfortable. I suppose these are the same people who pick their noses inside of their cars, thinking that no one else can see them.

Of the participants who voted in this survey, 28 percent found this particular type of passenger aggravating.

12. The Amorous

Tied in eleventh place with 28 percent of the vote of participants, this is the person to whom you tell to go get a room after sucking face with his or her companion — or even worse: copulate in their seats during a flight…

…but this is nothing new, as the so-called Mile High Club celebrated 100 years this past November.

Just be grateful when the amorous passenger is not also the undresser…

13. The Mad Bladder

Lavatory Toilet

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

Urine luck if you happen to be assigned to a seat next to the aisle and this passenger occupies the middle seat or window seat — if you are into exercise in the form of getting up and sitting back down every time this person has to use the lavatory.

Fortunately, I prefer a seat by the window — but despite my seat preference, I am not a frequent user of the lavatory; but if I am sitting in an aisle seat, I have no issue with someone who constantly uses the lavatory during a flight, as I am usually accommodating…

…just please have the courtesy of waiting until the meal service has concluded and my tray table is stowed and secured first, if that is at all possible. Attempting to get up while juggling a tray half full of food, a beverage, utensils and other items is not fun by any stretch of the imagination.

The mad bladder garnered 22 percent of the votes of participants.

14. The Single and Ready to Mingle

My experience suggests that encounters with this passenger is rare — but then again, I am male. I would bet that women encounter this passenger far more often than men; and I would think that much of the time, they would consider this type of passenger creepy. That reasoning is probably why this type of passenger only scored 18 percent of the votes.

Then again, there are many ways with which you can potentially find love at 35,000 feet — including AirDates, which is “absolutely free” of charge to use and allows you to “transform your Airline in to the best spot for Offline Dating, regardless of your internet connection.”

If this passenger would rather meet others the old-fashioned way, here are a total of 37 pick-up lines to possibly consider using aboard an airplane for that purpose.

Missing From This List

Surprisingly, missing from this list are the following types of passengers:

A. Overhead Storage Bin Hogs

Overhead storage bin

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I wrote and posted this article pertaining to the never-ending war over space in the overhead storage bins; so I will refer you to that article.

In the meantime, here is a primer from this short article written by me on Tuesday, October 5, 2010:

  • Do not hog the entire overhead bin with your jacket or other small item.
  • Do not complain if the flight attendant moves your belongings if ignoring the above suggestion.
  • Do not touch the belongings of other passengers when attempting to fit your items in the overhead bin.
  • Eat before you board instead of placing perishable food — especially odoriferous items — in the overhead bin.
  • Check your baggage if it will not fit in the overhead bin — do not attempt to shove and push while holding up the boarding process.

B. The Aisle Blocker

The aisle blocker is someone who futzes around with their luggage while blocking the aisle.

One quick solution is to have belongings in the bag organized better so that items may be found easier. Do this at any time — but please: not in the aisle aboard an airplane.

For the record, no one should be blocking the aisle at any time.

C. People That Encroach On Your Seat

Gulf Air economy seats

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Although this section does not directly deal with passengers who swap seats, there are two sides of the story pertaining to people who poach seats aboard an airplane — and here is the point of view as imparted from the perspective of the seat poacher

…but here is a highly unusual story about swapping seats which will warm your heart where someone paid a fellow passenger to trade his seat in the premium class cabin for a seat towards the rear of the aircraft in the economy class cabin.

My approach to seat poaching is as follows:

  1. If someone is already sitting in my assigned seat, I will first check my boarding pass to ensure that I have the correct seat assignment on that flight before I politely ask that person if he or she is certain that he or she is in the correct seat. After all, I have encountered myself and another person in the past having boarding passes with the same seat assignment on the same flight on the same day — albeit rare.
  2. If the person is indeed in the wrong seat, I will politely ask that person to move and give the benefit of the doubt that he or she simply made a mistake. Usually, that person moves and the situation is resolved.
  3. If the person automatically assumed that I would move without even asking me, then all bets are off. In order to justify being that rude, that person had better have a really good reason to convince me to switch my seat — and not to some unwanted seat towards the rear of the aircraft. In this situation, I have no problem denying the request of the seat poacher after the fact — and I will call a flight attendant to resolve the situation, if necessary.

D. The Passive Aggressive Complainer

This is supposedly the person who “silently judges with the occasional eye roll or tut, making mental notes about other passengers to go home and blog about.”

I would never do that.

Nope — I would never do that


…nor would I ever do that pertaining to articles written by other authors.

E. People Rude to Flight Attendants

There is no excuse for anyone to be rude to a flight attendant. Period. End of story.

If there is a significant problem with any member of the flight crew, report it to the airline which employs them after the flight has concluded; and be detailed but concise. If the problem is not significant enough about which to do anything, try to ignore that flight attendant — if it is at all possible.

F. The Nervous Flyer

Nervous Etihad

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I do believe that I sat next to a nervous passenger during a recent flight — and I initially found him to be seemingly inconsiderate, rude and rather annoying…

…but then, a passenger who is nervous about flying cannot help himself or herself from an experience which he or she has trepidation.

While I do believe that patience is in order and should be exercised for nervous passengers, those passengers should also consider whether or not enduring a flight is a good idea; but I would have to think that a nervous person would not want to voluntarily subject himself or herself to what could potentially be a traumatic experience unless he or she has some important personal or professional business to conduct at his or her destination.

G. The Party Goers

These passengers wear matching vulgar T-shirts; chant songs related to their favorite sports teams — or maybe whatever song comes to their minds at that moment — and order the in-flight alcoholic beverages with which to imbibe.

I have been seated amongst a rowdy group of individuals — teenagers and young adults, usually; and sometimes the most unruly offenders are female — but I find that to be quite rare. It is a situation whose solution is usually to change a seat if there is an empty one elsewhere aboard the airplane…

…but they can still be unnecessarily noisy and annoying.

H. People Who Clap After The Airplane Lands

People who clap after the airplane lands can be mildly irritating at best; but it only lasts for a few seconds anyway — so maybe this should not be included on this list. Perhaps they are passengers who have a fear of flying as a passenger in an airplane.

“In no other workplace does someone get applauded for fulfilling the most fundamental aspect of their job…” That is the verbiage from the aforementioned original source.

Not that I would support actual clapping per se; but perhaps an expression of gratitude as a show of appreciation towards someone who successfully performed “the most fundamental aspect of their job” might be appreciated and compel that person to not only better enjoy doing his or her job; but perhaps that performance could improve even further.

Do I get any applause for opining?


A study of road rage was conducted by both Expedia and GfK — the same entities behind the survey highlighted in this article — and I reported on it in this article pertaining to seven tips on how to avoid road rage on Friday, May 20, 2016.

As with road rage, patience, politeness, consideration, courtesy and respect are what we should all have towards our fellow passengers anytime we are aboard airplanes. It goes a long, long way towards significantly improving the travel experience for as many people as possible.

I am confident that this is by no means an exhaustive list — which is where you come in on this discussion. What types of aggravating passengers are missing from this list, according to your experience?

 All photographs ©2013, ©2014, ©2015 and ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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4 thoughts on “The 14 Most Aggravating Types of Passengers Are…”

  1. Joe says:

    OH MY GOD!!! You really should not fly….or even leave your safe little house for that matter. Does your family bother you too?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Um…did you even bother to read the article, Joe?

  2. Dee says:

    My most annoying passenger are #3,4,8 & 10. Also, being rude to the F/A. Since I’m a F/A it’s gotten pretty bad lately. Flying in general is just not enjoyable!!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I am certainly interested in hearing some of your stories from your experience as a flight attendant, Dee.

      I will bet that you have some doozies…

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