Different year, same annoyances: It’s time to change
“We’ve been looking at airplane etiquette for the past five years,” Christie Hudson, senior communications manager, Expedia North America, tells NBC News BETTER. “We see some consistencies year over year. The seat-kicker has four years running as the most annoying behavior, and inattentive parents always ranks highly. It’s really no surprise that some things go to the top of the list as we can all relate to how disruptive they can be.”
Hudson notes that the research, aimed at shedding light on passenger behavior and opinions, is also launched with the intention of showing how we can all be more considerate (and contented) passengers. “We’ve all been guilty of less than polite behavior when traveling,” says Hudson. “But there are some really polite travelers out there.”
It comes down to ’empathy and patience’ — plus some travel tricks
I like to think of myself as one of those really polite travelers, but I know there have been flights, where, stuck in the middle seat, I’ve passive-aggressively fought for the armrest, or when trying to sleep, I’ve stared down a babbling child with the fire of a thousand suns. And I’d wager to bet that I’ve also been an annoying passenger myself. My frequent choice to feast on a smelly egg salad sandwich has surely prompted groans from my fellow travelers.
When it comes to how travelers can do better to both curb their aggravation and their potentially annoying behavior, Hudson notes that it “really comes down to empathy and patience.” But having a few travel tricks up your sleeve can certainly come in handy.
Be prepared with your own personal comfort items
Part of what makes these our irksome behaviors so annoying is that travel is already pretty stressful, and after going through long TSA lines and other airport pains, our nerves may already be worn down. Then we get on board to find less than ideal surroundings. To cope, we should plan out as much as we can ahead of the flight.
“Knowing what to expect before leaving the comfort of home always helps prepare you for what you can as well as can’t control,” says Carolyn Scott, aka, The Healthy Voyager. “Be sure to pack a meal or give yourself enough time to eat at the airport before boarding. Have reading material, your favorite playlist [lined up], a comfortable neck pillow, an eye-mask and earplugs.”
Invest in noise-canceling headphones
Hudson strongly recommends investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones to block out those screaming babies and loud talkers. Valiente wholeheartedly agrees, adding that you should also turn your face away from the area of noise.
The wearing of earphones can also deter people from chatting you up, with Youst noting it as “the universal sign for ‘I do not want to be disturbed’.”
Carry essential oils to keep out bad smells, and ditch the perfume
For tackling bad odors, Vanessa Valiente of V-Style, a fashion and travel blog, recommends carrying an essential oil or a face spray. “Smell it directly from the bottle to distract from the smell that’s bothering you, [or] put a swipe of it at the center of your neck to change the smell of the area close to your nose. But be careful with this: you don’t want to bug anyone with your scents. For example, some people hate the smell of mint, so choose a scent with mass appeal that has a calming influence like lavender.”
Valiente also advises against wearing perfume on a plane, noting, “It gives so many people headaches, and affects people’s allergies.”
Confront the seat-kicker (even if it’s a child) with polite sincerity
“When someone is kicking my seat, bugging me or encroaching on my space, I just turn around and say, ‘I’m sorry to bother you, but I think you’re kicking or poking me,'” says Valiente. “This usually prompts a quick apology and an end to the nuisance. I have also asked people to scoot over a bit, and they always comply. Being sincerely polite, but upfront, is key. If kids are old enough to understand, I do the same thing with them. Children are easily intimidated by strangers and respond to direct conversation, so treating them like an adult and politely asking them to stop whatever it is they are doing always works for me.”
If a child keeps on kicking, Jacquelyn Youst, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol suggests asking their guardian if they wouldn’t mind switching seats with them.