The dos and don'ts of airplane etiquette: The behaviors Americans find unacceptable
April 12th, 2023, Bhavika Bansal

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

Flying can be a stressful and uncomfortable experience when dealing with co-passengers' behaviors. A recent YouGov Surveys: Serviced poll - conducted across 18 international markets – explores which of these behaviors passengers find most irksome.  

Data from the study reveals that drunkenness is the least acceptable aeroplane behavior amongst consumers globally. More than half say that it’s completely unacceptable (55%) and a further fifth describe it as somewhat unacceptable (20%); and more than three out of four Americans agree (76%). 

The proportion of respondents who find loud and noisy children above the age of four unacceptable (58%) is more than twice the proportion of those who think crying babies are unacceptable (26%). But it’s another type of noise that’s troublesome for most air travelers in the US. More than six in ten (63%) are annoyed by passengers who don’t use headphones while watching or listening to media. Around one in eight (12%), however, are tolerant of such behavior.

While personal grooming in public – such as combing your hair or clipping your nails - is found unacceptable by more than three-fifths of Americans (62%), around a third feel the same way about public displays of affection (31%). In fact, PDA is one of the most tolerated types of behavior in our survey, especially across European markets.

Americans are significantly more likely to object to passengers removing their footwear than their neighbors in the UK (55% and 48% respectively), but the opposite is true when it comes to passengers fully reclining their seats (US, 43%; GB, 59%).

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

While almost half of American women say that they find fully reclined seats (48%) unacceptable, this proportion falls significantly when it comes to American men (38%). 

Female respondents are also more likely than men to be bothered by passengers removing their footwear (59% vs 51%) and by public displays of affection (34% vs 27%).

An almost equal proportion of male and female respondents are not okay with passengers not using headphones (63% and 62% respectively) and loud and noisy children above the age of four (59% and 58% respectively).

Crying babies is the only airplane behavior that male respondents (28%) find more objectionable than their female counterparts (22%).

Looking at the data by age reveals that Americans above the of 55 are generally more intolerant of all airplane behaviors compared to younger travelers.

While nearly nine out of ten respondents above the age of 55 find drunkenness unacceptable (89%), close to three-quarters feel the same way about loud and noisy children above the age of four (73%).

While a quarter of 25-34-year-olds think that being forced into small talk is unacceptable (25%), this proportion increases significantly amongst Americans aged 55 and above (47%). 

A similar situation can be seen in the case of public displays of affection - while nearly a quarter of 18-24-year-olds (24%), 25-34-year-olds (24%) and 45-54-year-olds (23%) find PDA intolerable, this proportion increases to a third of 35-44-year-olds (31%) and two-fifths of 55+ year-olds (38%).

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.

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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.

Photo by Lukas Souza on Unsplash