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Study Examines Onboard Etiquette When Travelers Behave Badly

American and Canadian travelers ready to offer onboard acts of kindness ... to a point.

Expedia looked at how U.S. and Canadian travelers handle misbehaving seatmates and measured how alike and how different they are in their approach.

The travel company’s annual 2019 Airplane and Hotel Etiquette Study, took a deep dive into U.S. and Canadian traveler preferences, behaviors, and pet peeves. And while there are plenty of travel horror to go around, this year’s findings called attention to ways travelers, at times, spread kindness and goodwill.

According to the study, Canadians ranked above the global average in terms of delivering acts of kindness, with almost half (47% vs. 41% globally) expressing that they have helped someone lift their suitcase into the overhead compartment. Though this gesture may be because Canadian travelers like to push the boundaries when it comes to carry-on and they know when they see a fellow traveler doing the same. Canadian travelers were the second most likely, behind US travelers, to stuff their belongings into a carry-on to avoid checked baggage fees.

Kindness in the sky, Canadian Style, extends to seat switching. More than thirty per cent (33% vs. 29% globally) of respondents offered to switch their seat so another party could sit together. Americans, however, are the most willing to change their seats (42% vs. 33% of Canadians) so another party can sit together. Similarly, nearly half of Americans expressed they’ve helped someone lift their luggage into the overhead compartment (48% vs. 41% globally), and 41% believe you should almost always step in to help another passenger struggling with a heavy bag.

And when it comes to unruly kids,  some 21% of Americans have helped entertain other travelers’ children compared to only 14% of Canadians.

On the other hand, misbehaving or inconsiderate passengers are not given as much courtesy as other passengers. While being confined to an airplane seat can bring out the worst in some, Canadians like to deal with things directly, but often reach out to others on board to help manage the situation. This demonstrates a certain amount of deference and poise, versus combative behavior. The report revealed:

• Almost half (47%) of Canadians indicated they would get the flight attendant to deal with a situation if one passenger was being rude to another.

• Over forty per cent (43%) expressed that if someone next to them was spreading across into their space and hogging the arm rest, they would just place the arm rest down when the chance arose.

• And over half (52%) would politely ask the flight attendant if they could be reseated, if they were sitting next to a passenger who gave off a repelling odor.

Similarly, 45% of Americans believe politely speaking with a seat kicker is the best way to address this annoyance, and another 16% wouldn’t even do anything because they assume it’s not intentional. Globally, 45% of passengers get straight to the point and ask a seat neighbor hogging the armrest to make room for them, while only 35% of Americans would take this course of action. The study also found that nearly 90% of Americans have never been drunk while flying to avoid being one of the commonly cited “most annoying” passengers.

The Germ Spreader Verses the Seat Kicker

While 43% of global respondents identified the Drunk Passenger as the most annoying person on a plane, Americans zeroed in on a different offender: the Germ Spreader.

It turns out catching a cold on the plane is something Americans really want to avoid, but they go about it in a respectable way. Nearly 50% said they would ask the flight attendant for a different seat, 40% would offer them tissues or cough drops if they had them, and another 31% would just apply hand sanitizer throughout the flight. Presumably, these anxieties around health and hygiene are also behind Americans’ world-leading dislike of going barefoot on a plane (78%).

The top five most annoying flight passengers for Americans are:

• The Germ Spreader (40%)

• The Seat Kicker/Bumper/Grabber (36%)

• The Drunk Passenger (35%)

• The Aromatic Passenger (32%)

• The Inattentive Parent (30%)

Do’s and Don’ts for Democratic Travels

Do lend an extra hand. If a fellow traveler appears to have their hands full, offer to help and see if there is something you can do to make their life easier. This could be as simple as assisting with heavy luggage or giving attention to a restless child.

• Most travelers are trying to achieve vacation nirvana – especially after scoring great deals. Be polite, don’t start fights or be confrontational.

Do be mindful of the space around you. If you think you’ll need more room to stretch out during flight, consider paying a bit extra to upgrade your seat.

• If you are sick but have to travel, don’t get others infected. Whenever possible, clean up around yourself and ask to be reseated away from fellow passengers — everybody will appreciate your efforts to keep others healthy.