Drunks, armrest hogs, clappers — oh my! Most annoying air travel habits revealed

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Air travel can be a source of stress for many, and certain passenger behaviors only exacerbate the issue. According to a study of 2,000 flyers, some of the most irritating behaviors include passengers who claim both armrests, those who remove their shoes and socks during the flight, and travelers who hastily stand up the moment the plane lands.

The research, commissioned by Skyscanner in connection with the launch of its Travel Hacks Hub, identifies several other flight pet peeves. These include passengers who consume excessive alcohol on flights, line up at the gate long before boarding, clap when the plane lands, or hover close to the luggage carousel during baggage claim.

There’s also no shortage of inconsiderate behaviors reported during flights. These violations include letting hair drape over the back of a seat, reclining chairs just as meals are being served, and causing delays in security or check-in lines by being unprepared.

“For many people, boarding a plane marks the beginning of a long-anticipated vacation. However, the many do’s and don’ts of air travel frequently spark debate. The entire airport process, from check-in to security checks, is often stressful, reducing our usual tolerance levels,” says a spokesperson for Skyscanner in a statement. “While it’s tempting to start vacationing the moment you step on the plane, it’s essential to be considerate of fellow passengers. If something might irritate you, it’s best to refrain from doing it.”

Interestingly, the survey found that while many travelers could identify annoying behaviors, some confessed to being culprits themselves. For instance, 12% of respondents admitted to exhibiting some of the irksome habits. Among them, 25% had removed their shoes and socks during a flight, 19% had caused delays at security by forgetting to remove specific items, and 17% immediately stood up once the plane landed, eager to disembark.

Airplane passenger with shoes off and socks in the aisle during the flight.
Taking your shoes off like you’re in the confines of your own home is a big no-no for flights. (Photo by Nattawit Khomsanit on Shutterstock)

The survey, conducted via OnePoll, also provided a generational perspective. Gen Z individuals perceived themselves as the most guilty of unwanted plane behaviors (22%), followed by millennials (18%), Gen X (12%), and Baby Boomers (7%). Younger travelers identified themselves as more likely to overpack, cause check-in delays by repacking, recline their seats during meal service, or let their hair intrude into the space of the person seated behind them. In contrast, Boomers confessed to frequently forgetting to remove metal items before security checks and being among the first to stand once the plane lands.


1. Do not separate liquids just before arriving at security.

Picking up your toiletries after security saves you space and weight in your checked bag. You can even save time by using in-airport pharmacies that offer a click-and-collect service. It also ensures you can plan ahead, avoiding a stressful dash around the shop looking for your go-to shampoo. This is also handy for heavy non-liquid items, like baby formula, as it doesn’t count towards your luggage allowance.

2. Have passports or boarding passes in hand.

Some countries have programs to make getting through border control a breeze, such as Global Entry (U.S.) and DigiYatra (India). These usually involve pre-approval and clearance to enter, so you can spend less time at the desk. There are usually faster lines for passengers signed up to these programs, too.

3. Don’t overpack and hold up the line while sorting your bags.

Regarding etiquette, a significant 74% of those surveyed believe it’s polite to ask the person behind before reclining a seat. A substantial 81% favor a rule prohibiting seat reclining during food and drink service. Moreover, to ensure an orderly exit, 69% support disembarking the plane row by row, eliminating the rush of passengers standing up immediately after landing.

Young girl coloring while on an airplane flight.
Keeping children occupied with interactive activities instead of screens will likely keep them from getting bored and cranky. (Photo by MNStudio on Shutterstock)

StudyFinds Editor-in-Chief offers one more important piece of advice to parents flying with little ones: “Do not just bring one or two books or activity packs for the kids and expect that will cover them. Overpack distractions for them like you’re taking a month-long flight. I often rib my wife for the amount of things she’ll pack for the kids when we go places, but on the plane, she’s got it down such a perfect science.

“Children get bored easily these days, and then they get cranky — especially if they’ve been staring at a screen for hours. They’re much better off doing interactive activities like puzzles, coloring, and games to feed their developing brains. When one activity starts becoming less interesting, the key is to have a completely different one waiting in the wings before they get fixated on being bored and upset. By keeping them occupied with a variety of activities, you’re ensuring they’ll stay seated and happy. And that goes double for you and passengers around you.”


  1. Drinking too much alcohol on the flight (48%)
  2. Parents letting their children run around on the plane (48%)
  3. Line-cutters (43%)
  4. Reclining your seat while the food and drinks are served (43%)
  5. Reclining your seat back at any point during the flight (40%)
  6. Using gadgets without headphones (35%)
  7. Standing up as soon as the plane lands (33%)
  8. Leaving bags on the seat to get comfortable when you’re trying to sit down (31%)
  9. Hogging both armrests (31%)
  10. Draping hair over the back of the seat (28%)
  11. Taking up multiple seats in the departure lounge (28%)
  12. Not separating liquids before security and causing a hold-up (27%)
  13. Not having passports or boarding passes to hand and holding up the queue (24%)
  14. Taking shoes or socks off on the plane (22%)
  15. Blocking escalators/ travellators so you can’t walk past (22%)
  16. Over-packing and holding up the line while you sort your bags out (21%)
  17. Clapping when the plane lands (20%)
  18. Picking up the wrong luggage from the carousel (18%)
  19. Standing right next to where the luggage comes out from the carousel (15%)
  20. Lining up at the gate long before boarding starts (13%)

South West News Service writer Gemma Francis contributed to this report.