The dos and don'ts of airplane etiquette: The behaviors travelers find unacceptable
April 10th, 2023, Bhavika Bansal

The dos and don'ts of airplane etiquette: The behaviors travelers find unacceptable

While flying can be an exciting and convenient way to get around, it can also be a stressful and uncomfortable experience, particularly when dealing with other passengers' behaviors. A recent YouGov Surveys: Serviced poll - conducted across 18 international markets – explores which of these behaviors passengers find most irksome.

The data reveals that drunkenness is the least acceptable aeroplane behaviour amongst consumers globally, with more than half saying that it’s completely unacceptable (55%) and a further fifth describing it as somewhat unacceptable (20%).

While personal grooming in public – such as combing your hair or clipping your nails - is found unacceptable overall by more than half of consumers globally (55%), less than a third feel the same way about public displays of affection (28%). In fact, PDAs are one of the most tolerated types of behaviour in our survey.

The proportion of respondents who find loud and noisy children above the age of four unacceptable (51%) is almost twice the proportion of those who think crying babies are unacceptable (23%). But it’s another type of noise that does it for most air travelers. Almost six in ten (59%) are annoyed by passengers who don’t use headphones while watching or listening to media. Nearly one in five (18%), however, are tolerant of such behavior.

Removing footwear is a big no-no, however. More than half say that taking off shoes or socks is unacceptable (51%), but that’s not as irksome to fliers as the person in front fully reclining their seat (53%). Small talk forced on you by a fellow passenger is somewhat less annoying, with 39% saying such behavior is unacceptable.

Looking at the data by gender reveals some more interesting nuances.

While more than four out of five female consumers find drunkenness unacceptable (81%) this proportion falls significantly when it comes to male consumers (70%).

A similar situation prevails in the case of passengers not using headphones (female, 64%; male, 55%), passengers fully reclining their seats (female, 59%; male, 48%) and personal grooming in public (female, 59%; male, 51%).

An almost equal proportion of male and female respondents are not okay with loud and noisy children above the age of four (51% and 52% respectively) and forced small talk (female, 41%; male, 38%).

Crying babies is the only airplane behavior that male respondents (25%) find more objectionable than their female counterparts (21%).

Interestingly, consumers in the UAE seem to be generally more accepting of most airplane behaviors by their co-passengers as compared to consumers across the other polled markets.

While three-quarters of consumers across Europe (78%), North America (77%) and APAC (73%) find drunkenness ‘completely’ or ‘somewhat’ unacceptable, this proportion falls significantly when it comes to consumers in the UAE (57%).

Similarly, consumers in the UAE are significantly less likely than their global counterparts to find it unacceptable for passengers to fully recline their seats (Europe, 59%; North America, 46%; UAE, 32%; APAC, 53%) and remove their footwear (Europe, 52%; North America, 56%; UAE, 38%; APAC, 49%).

On the other hand, respondents in the UAE and APAC (39% for both) are more likely to find public displays of affection objectionable compared to a quarter of respondents in North America (26%) and a fifth of respondents in Europe (21%).

As air travel continues to pick up pace once again, it may be important for both passengers and airlines to consider these behaviors and work towards creating a positive and comfortable environment for everyone on board.

Explore our living data – for free

Discover more travel and tourism content here

Want to run your own research? Run a survey now

Make smarter business decisions with better intelligence. Understand exactly what your audience is thinking by leveraging our panel of 20 million+ members. Speak with us today.

Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. The data is based on surveys of adults aged 18+ years in 18 markets with sample sizes varying between 512 and 2,034 for each market. All surveys were conducted online in February 2023. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from Mexico and India, which use urban representative samples, and Indonesia and Hong Kong, which use online representative samples. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.