20 most annoying things people do on planes

Story highlights

  • Unofficial survey of too-frequent fliers reveals top inflight bugbears
  • Bare feet are bad enough in the row ... but in the toilet?
  • Mere talking irritates many
  • And the absolutely most annoying activity at altitude is ...
The holiday travel crush is upon us.
Want to give a special gift to a stranger?
Spread some holiday cheer by not doing any of the things on this list while flying.
Polling at least a crowded plane toilet's worth of travel writers and other too-frequent fliers, we've conducted an unofficial survey of the most rude and irritating things you ... sorry, other people, do on planes.
Starting from the least frequently cited annoyance and ending with the humdinger of all irritants, here are the 20 most atrocious kinds of behavior we inflict upon each another at altitude.
The list could clearly be endless: let loose your own bugbears in the comments.
20. Abusing someone else's possessions in overhead bin
You arrived at the gate on time, boarded in orderly fashion and used your allotted overhead bin space for your nicely folded coat and new fedora.
Then Late Lummox arrives with a suitcase, stroller and shopping bag and mangles your dapper wear beyond recognition while shoving half his life possessions into a compartment meant for one personal item.
Then proceeds to sit twelve rows away.
19. Taking ages to choose a movie
"Look, I'll choose the movie for you."
Airplane movies: opiate of the flying masses.
Except when your neighbor takes 30 minutes deciding between "Grown Ups 2" or something a little less cerebral.
An interesting variation observed by travel writer Tom Jordan: when someone within eyesight is watching the same movie as you but a few scenes ahead -- spoiling it for you frame by frame.
18. Compulsive leg-shaking
Not often encountered but nonetheless trying at 30,000 feet.
This one was actually raised by a leg-shaking travel author himself, who notes that, once, the woman next to him leaned over and placed a firm hand on his knee -- a unmistakable signal to still the hyperactive leg.
"I can only imagine the prolonged psychological drama that finally led to such an aggressive request," the tremulous author writes.
17. Boarding before group number is called
Most airlines have a system for getting hundreds of passengers aboard in the least amount of time.
That's why we schlep onto a plane as part of Group A or B or 1 or 4.
Granted, rubbing shoulders with the dirties in boarding group Y is like being stuck in the back row for a concert at Wembley.
And we're all familiar with the anxiety that comes with watching the multitudes board and snatching up all that overhead bin space.
And if airlines hadn't started with the checked baggage fees, getting on early wouldn't be so critical to one's emotional well being.
But just because you drew the short straw on this one doesn't give you the right to pretend to be dyslexic.
16. Babies crying
Is the human race worth perpetuating?
You often think not when exposed on a flight to incessant infantile bawling.
Kid-free zones top the surveys of many airplane wish lists.
Are we really blaming babies for doing what babies do naturally?
Sure, as long as they're your kids, and not ours.
15. Getting huffy when a neighbor leaves their seat
Weak bladder as moral failing.
"I'd learn some bladder control if I was in the window seat," these smug aisle sitters think to themselves virtuously.
On the other hand, constant restroom visits are annoying.
Airplane toilet breaks? Nobody wins.
14. Yapping on cell phone
"Hey, we just landed. ... can you hear me? ... we just landed ... I'm on the runway ... can you hear me now? ... We just landed ... "
13. Scarfing smelly food
We get it -- airlines have cut back on food service, forcing us all to bring our own snacks and meals onboard.
But did you really have to clean out the back of your refrigerator and bring it on the flight?
12. Loud talking
"You're going to Miami, too? Fascinating!"
If Internet dating doesn't really work, is random plane jawing going to? We're trying to read.
11. Establishing armrest hegemony
The weapon here is the elbow -- and the lesson?
That nowhere do we regress to selfish, war-like invasion of territory more speedily than on a plane.
10. Poaching the empty middle seat
God be praised, the middle seat is empty!
Until the selfish boor next to you lays claim to the no man's land of the middle seat with a book, coat or inflatable neck support.
Space is at a premium on these buses with wings, as Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary described aircraft: share it when you can.
9. Coughing, sneezing, germ sharing
Sharing is good -- just not exotic germs.
"Boundaries" are what these last few points are really about.
And in no way are boundaries more violently shattered than when someone shares their spit globules or spends 20 minutes horking up the carrier agents of a virulent new illness picked up on vacation.
8. Playing games without turning sound off
Funny how some of the most irritating things on the planet can be called "games."
No, you're right
It really isn't funny.
Unless being a bystander to "bleep, bloop, blorp" keeps you entertained for two hours.
7. Rolling huge suitcases up aisle
"There's always at least one culprit on each flight with a bag that's way too big to be carry-on trying to prove to everyone that's it's not," reads a News.com.au article.
"Supermarket-sized duty free shopping hauls" are another related bugbear from travel journalist Tom Jordan.
6. People behind you trying to disembark first
The queue was invented for a reason.
What is it about flying that induces such primitive behavior?
Here we've regressed to the time before the invention of the queue.
5. Neglecting personal hygiene
"I once sat on a seven-hour New York-London flight next to the smelliest man in the universe," writes travel scribe Sandra Lawrence.
"The concept of soap and water seemed never to have occurred to him.
"The plane was fully booked. There was no way out."
Air crew carry deodorant on board for this very reason. But they shouldn't have to.
Carrying out personal hygiene routines while aloft -- cutting your fingernails, say -- is just as bad.
4. Bare feet
"Feet nudism" was a common complaint in our unofficial survey.
"Flights are the perfect time to air these puppies out," snarls the Huffington Post sarcastically.
Appalling side note: people who actually go to the bathroom on the airplane in their bare feet.
Foot-related side note: several survey respondents nominated aisle sitters who stubbornly park their feet, legs and other body parts in the aisle for rude traveler honorable mention.
3. Hogging the toilet
What are they doing in there, you wonder as you hover cross-legged by the door.
Certainly not being considerate of other people.
2. Reclining the seat
Curious how a sanctioned behavior -- pressing the seat recline button, thus pinioning the person behind with their own tray table -- should raise so many people's ire.
"It's such selfish behavior," sighs world-weary traveler Mary Novakovich.
De-design these babies, airplane engineers!
1. Kicking/bumping/shoving the seat back
Punitive action against a seat kicker.
Here's the most toxic irritant by a country mile.
Designed to save on fuel, airplane seats are incredibly light -- meaning they transmit the slightest touch.
Or amplify it: to the poor schlub in front, your constant fidgeting with your tray table and seat pocket feels like a kung fu world champion working out.
Are we there yet?
Is something annoying missing? Tell everyone how rude they are in the comments.