Our Biggest Airline Pet Peeves

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Flying is usually the fastest way to get where we’re going but there’s a lot we don’t love about being crowded in to a metal tube with people we don’t know. Here are our biggest airline pet peeves. 

Our biggest airline pet peeves – Yours and mine

I’ve been flying all my life. I’ve also been flying throughout the pandemic. I’d been on a flight a week before everything shut down in March 2020 and took my first pandemic-era flight in September of 2020 when many people still weren’t flying. While people have feelings and pet peeves about pandemic travel in general, a lot of these pet peeves are timeless. 

Airline Pet Peeves about other passengers

Passengers who don’t understand seating/fare policies

One more time for the people in the back:

If you purchase the cheapest fare category where your seats are assigned at the gate, you saying you’re fine with not sitting with your travel party. Yes, even children. 

The huffy “Well, have fun sitting next to my five-year-old” response might swing things in your favor but then again, it might not. No one is obligated to switch seats with you because you weren’t aware of the rules. If someone paid extra in order to pick their seat, they may not be inclined to switch to a seat they don’t want because you failed to plan.

I don’t mean to sound harsh and I hate that the airlines do this. But for now, they do and they’re getting away with it. While airlines will usually do their best to seat families together (see also getting huffy with the gate agent isn’t helpful) those budget rates are going to get you the middle seat no one else wanted. 

Families who get to the gate or worse yet, board the plane, who are just realizing the limitations of their fare category make things hard for their travel party, the flight crew, and other passengers. 

Southwest is an exception because of their open seating policy but I’ve seen a fair amount of people boarding Southwest Airlines flight that don’t seem to get this. C group = middle seat usually equals middle seat and having your group split up.

Bottom line: Know the rules and don’t rely on other people’s kindness to get your family seated together. It might work out for you but your smoothest travel experiences will be the ones where you’re in control of your plans.

Passengers who recline

I said what I said. I know the seats are equipped to recline but I also know that if the person in front of me chooses to recline, they are going to sit in my lap and no one likes a stranger sitting in their lap. Well, maybe some people do but I don’t and definitely not on a plane. 

I’m 5’10 and economy class seats don’t have enough legroom. I upgrade whenever I can afford it or use my points smartly. I don’t recline my seat unless the person sitting behind me is in my travel party

Passengers who allow their kids to kick the seat in front of them

Pay attention to your kids. I get that kids are wiggly and that most kids who kick the seat in front of them aren’t doing it to be junior jerks. Watch your kids and if they’re kicking the seatback in front of them…how about get them to stop doing that? 

Passengers who smell (BO, smoke or excessive perfume or aftershave)

I would probably rather smell a Axe Body Spray than BO or cigarettes but that one’s a close call. I’ve traveled internationally and on long haul flights and where I had that not-so-fresh feeling but there’s also such a thing carryon approved toiletry kit and taking care of basic hygiene between flights, if you have time. 

I like perfume and cologne but I deliberately leave it off when I’m flying. 

If you smoke, quit. It’s terrible for you and it makes everything about you smell bad. I smoked for 20 years and quitting was the best thing I did for myself. Off soapbox. 

Passengers who bring aromatic food on board

I totally get not wanting to eat airplane food or wanting to eat real food on a Southwest Airlines flight that doesn’t serve meals. 

That said, the other people on the airplane don’t want to smell your tuna fish, egg salad or whatever other stink thing you’ve chosen to bring on board. Honestly? Even a super aromatic bag of burgers is going to get you side eye from me but that’s only because I wished I’d thought to grab that myself. 

Passengers who take off their socks and shoes

I get wanting to be comfortable on the plane but public transportation ≠ your living room. The person sitting next to you – who does not know you – doesn’t want to see or smell your bare tootsies.

Also, airplanes are gross. And, a very reliable source has told me the water on the floor in the lavs is urine. Find some comfortable shoes and keep them on your feet for the duration of the flight. Please. 

See more here:

That last item made me laugh. Although I’m not a clapper, it amused me that passengers who applaud when the plane lands made the list. After the last two years, who’s got a gripe about someone getting an attaboy for a job well done? 

Airline Pet Peeves about flying in general

Ever-changing travel restrictions

Most of the changes in travel restrictions right now are on international flights. The US has been fairly constant for the last nearly two years on travel protocols. 

Many international carriers, such as Easy Jet, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, KLM and others have dropped mask mandates. There has been some flux on which country requires a traveler to show a vaccination card or submit a negative COVID test or quarantine which I think has deterred international travel.

I traveled from the US to Spain in August 2021 and the rules changed shortly after my travel. 

COVID-19 testing requirements

Currently, the United States required most passengers transiting back to the US to submit a negative COVID test before they’re allowed to board the plane. 

I traveled from the US to Spain in August 2021, which I mentioned above. I was not required to submit a negative test or my vaccination card to go to Spain, although I did have to fill out the Spanish Travel Health form. I had to get a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel to return to the US. The rules have since changed (and probably changed again) which probably accounts for the level of frustration with this process. 

Flight delays

Spring 2022 has seen an increased amount of flight delays in the US. Spring break, which is traditionally an ultra busy travel time. All major US carriers came under fire for flight delays but Southwest Airlines seems to be the front runner when it comes to unhappy customers. 

Their Twitter feed is a dichotomy of typical “look at how fun we are” Southwest Airlines campiness and outraged passengers. 

My family was amongst the thousands of passengers stranded by Southwest Airlines over the 2022 spring break. We showed up for our Friday evening flight and received notifications of flight cancellations while in line to check our bags. When we reached an agent, we were very unapologetically told that our flight had been rescheduled for two days later and that no, Southwest Airlines wouldn’t be providing any monetary assistance to cover our lodging or food costs for that extra 48 hours. 

Southwest offered us a very minimal amount of credit (only because I was the squeaky wheel and not enough to book an actual flight) for the two day high and dry. 

Flight delays are part of flying but there seems to be a trend toward extreme delays with no passenger recourse options. That definitely falls into the Airlines Pet Peeves category. 

See more here:

Even though the infographic lists improper mask wear and lack of social distancing in the airports, I’m not sure the lack of distancing is something most travelers see as problematic anymore. As of April 2022 there are very few distance markers – if any – in airports. We’re back to standing in normal lines and Southwest has returned to their standard procedure for lining up boarding groups. The airlines that were blocking middle seats during early pandemic stopped that long ago. There seems to be much more focus on mask wear than on distance or hand hygiene. 

Mask wear

People are divided on this – surprise, surprise. Most people I’ve spoken to in person, including airline employees, seem more than ready for the mandates to be lifted. Online, people seem to be more in favor of sustained mandates, at least that is what it looks like in my circles. 

I’ve flown about once a month since September 2020 and I’ve seen mask wear get more and more lax in the airports. I see lots of noses, lots of masks down around the chin and lots of people who aren’t wearing their masks in the terminal at all. In March, I saw a woman and a child board a Southwest Airlines flight without a mask. Neither person wore a mask the entire flight and I didn’t notice anyone ask them why they were not.

Although the airline announcement to keep masks on unless you’re actively eating or drinking is still part of the furniture, flight attendants seem much less zealous about actually enforcing this than they were a year ago. I’m also starting to hear a lot more tones of exasperation as in “We’re still wearing the masks so keep them on” and even “We don’t like it, either.” 

Infographic source: 

Air Travel Pet Peeves [2022 Study]

All other info is my personal opinion/experience or information gained from crowd sourcing within my online community. 

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