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2010: Year of the angry traveler

By Marnie Hunter, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bag fees, scanning and pat downs have outraged many travelers in 2010
  • Unfortunate cruise incidents, from fire to illness, have interrupted some seafaring escapes
  • A flight attendant, outraged with the irritated public, made a dramatic exit
  • Volcanic ash and snow left many stranded in the U.S. and Europe
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(CNN) -- There's generally no shortage of aggravated travelers, but as far as years go, 2010 seems to have gone above and beyond in irritating the moving masses.

Last year on Christmas Day, a Nigerian man was accused of attempting to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear aboard a Northwest Airlines flight. That incident got the air travel year off to a rocky start with a rush put on the deployment of the now-infamous full-body scanners, which critics call "virtual strip searches."

Add an onslaught of bag fees hikes in January, and you have a delicious recipe for disgruntlement. In April, Spirit Airlines heaped it on with a fee for carry-ons stowed in overhead bins. Fortunately, the major carriers didn't follow boldly in Spirit's footsteps.

On a positive note, airline passenger protections designed to reduce long tarmac delays went into effect in April, and the new rules have dramatically cut the number of domestic tarmac strandings lasting more than three hours, without causing a noticeable increase in flight cancellations. Flights on international carriers -- as we've seen during this week's Snowpocalypse -- are not subject to the same rules.

We all learned that air travel and ash clouds don't mix this spring when a volcanic eruption in Iceland grounded thousands of flights across Europe, stranding travelers on both sides of the pond for days.

From fire and crashing waves to gastrointestinal illness, many cruise passengers have had a tough time of it this year with a handful of unfortunate events rendering some seafaring retreats less than relaxing.

But, let's be honest, travelers are no picnic. In fact, during a 5,900-mile airport odyssey, one CNN reporter discovered how awful and annoying we are.

And there's no lack of examples of travelers behaving badly: A drunk cruise passenger managed to drop anchor on his vacation, and just this week an airline passenger smacked a fellow traveler who wouldn't turn off his iPhone as their flight was taxiing for takeoff.

Angry with the ill-behaved masses, flight attendant Steven Slater channeled his outrage into one of the most spectacular take-this-job-and-shove-it moments in recent memory this August. His employer, JetBlue Airways, didn't share the public's admiration. Slater was suspended and eventually resigned. He made a deal with prosecutors to avoid jail time.

Thanksgiving brought the usual travel rush and a new catchphrase in "don't touch my junk," Video prompted by the Transportation Security Administration's implementation of "enhanced" pat down screening procedures for some travelers.

The pat downs, conducted by TSA screeners of the same sex as the passenger, involve touching the groin and breast areas. Opponents say they're an invasion of privacy, with some comparing the procedures to sexual molestation.

The uproar over the pat downs didn't amount to much during the peak Thanksgiving travel period, and the Christmas holiday has been plagued with a wintry weather snarl on roads and at airports in the U.S. and Europe.

Tarmac delays reared up again this week with some travelers on international airlines stranded at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport for up to 11 hours.

All this on top of the quiet (and not-so-quiet) battles waged daily on planes -- from reclining seat wars to critics of crying babies.

Why do we heap all this hassle on ourselves? The magic's in the destination -- and getting there does make for some of the best travel tales.