Plane flying towards beautiful sunset

The Great Travel Etiquette Debate

05 Dec 2019
Plane flying towards beautiful sunset

Truth be told, when it comes to travel, we’re not quite ourselves – for good and bad. You see, going on holiday is all about escape. It offers you an opportunity to leave behind your demanding job, your never-ending chores and the draining effort of trying to be a respectable member of society. Real life is hard work!

Moreover, a holiday, as the saying goes, let’s you ‘take a break’ – a sentiment which some of us take quite literally. Pint at the airport in the morning? Thank you very much. Queue jump? Sure thing. And so on. The same rules that define so much of your day-to-day life, your brain tells you, don’t apply anymore. Hence the often overheard and slightly edited to be family-friendly cry of, “I’m on holiday! I’ll do as I please!”

Which brings us nicely to the topic of this blog: travel etiquette (or to be more specific, ‘lack of’). Having endured a few peculiar and irritating experiences as of late, we decided it was time to find out what gets under our skin, whether we’re up in the air on a plane or back on land in a hotel/resort – and what we’re guilty of too (some of the Broadway Team are looking at little sheepish right now). Here’s what our survey* found.

Travel etiquette on a plane

Bar graph showing the grossest and most annoying things on a flight

Backseat kickers are the worst of the worst

Just when you think you’ve found your perfect comfort zone, ready to snooze, read or watch a movie, you find, much to your dismay, that you’re sat in front of a backseat kicker. The kind who seems unable to keep still long enough for you to forget the last flurry of kicks.

Our survey found that this was the most annoying thing that passengers do on a plane, with over two in five (43%) travellers describing it as their biggest pet peeve. Interestingly, 12% admitted that they’ve accidently kicked the seat in front of them multiple times throughout a flight, with youngsters more ‘prone’ to this folly (28% of respondents aged 16-24 compared to 4% aged 55 and over).

So, perhaps the next time your flying, and you’ve not reserved seats, you may want to see who you’ll be potentially sitting in front of and take it from there.

Feet-related peeves feature quite prominently

You’re either indifferent or averse to the sight of other people’s feet. It’s just one of those things that clearly divides people into two definite camps, like Marmite, Love Actually and Brexit (just saying). What surprised us with our survey was just how gross people find feet-related transgressions when on a plane.

For example, over a third of respondents (36%) said that they were or are grossed out by passengers who rest their feet on the back of the chair, with just over a quarter (26%) saying they are offended by passengers who take their shoes and socks off. A similar number (25%) said that they felt unsettled by those who are happy to visit the loo barefoot – which we’re fairly confident is an infrequent occurrence (only 4% of respondents ‘fessed’ up to doing this).

The worst offenders for this tend to be from Liverpool, Brighton and Norwich. So if you’re flying from any of their respective airports, you’ve been warned.

Map showing who is most guilty of going shoe and sock free to the loo on a plane

Loud noises and rowdy crowds tick us off

The thing about an airplane is that space is at a premium, which is to say that your only options are your seat or, well, the loo – and no one wants to be spending time in a bathroom (not counting the sockless passengers, perhaps). That means you’re pretty much stuck and have no choice but to buckle up and tolerate whatever is ‘thrown at you’ – including noise.

Our survey found that this was another major cause of irritation, with 38% of Brits stating that the sound of screaming babies and loud children was the most annoying thing about flying (it was second overall, behind backseat kickers). Others were more perturbed by drunk passengers (34%) rowdy stag or hen parties (27%), loud talkers (12%) and noisy eaters (6%).

If all of the above vexes you while flying, you may well want to stick on your Christmas wishlist a pair of stylish, noise-cancelling and wireless headphones.

It’s a free-for-all when it comes to middle seat armrests

Most people prefer either the window seat, whether it’s for the view, the ability to rest one’s head or the hassle-free perk it affords (e.g. not having to get up for others), or the aisle seat, mainly for space and convenience. The middle seat … well, there are few that consider this their first choice.

The one perk, perhaps, is that you get two armrests – right? Not according to our survey. A whopping 60% of respondents said that they are of the opinion that the middle armrest doesn’t belong to any passenger. Only 26% said that the middle seat passenger had first dabs, while a minority (12%) stated that the armrests belonged to whoever bagged them first.

We appreciate that it doesn’t really settle the debate, so hit the gym, work on those arms, and claim your space. And watch out for sneaky opportunists – they’re quietly waiting for an opportunity to steal an armrest.

Who the middle seat armrests belong to

Travel etiquette at a hotel

Annoying things hotel guests do

From bagging yourself a window seat or an aisle seat on a plane to finding a sweet spot on the beach, location (location, location) matters. And that’s especially true when it comes to the crème de la crème of sunloungers, a hotly contested piece of hotel/resort real estate.

So much so that fellow guests are often willing to go to extreme lengths to bag themselves a lucrative spot by the pool – much to the frustration of our respondents. Over a third (36%) said that guests who ‘secured’ pool chairs with a towel, and then proceeded to spend time away from them – for hours on end – was a major source of irritation when on holiday.

It seems that unless each hotel/resort police this better, it’s all to play for. And, for 17% of our respondents, that is simply business as usual (the percentage of Brits who admitted to waking up early to ‘reserve’ the best poolside chairs).

More blasé behaviour is a sore point

There are some things that we would never, in a million years, dare do at home or in the office. But no sooner are we away from the scrutiny of those we know or work with, that sense of conscientiousness soon disappears. We go from being attentive to being, how shall we put it, a tad more nonchalant.

And that exasperates Brits. For example, our survey reported that almost half of all respondents (46%) get annoyed when other holidaymakers leave rubbish all over a hotel/resort, including poolside. Likewise, children being left to run around unsupervised was cited by 44% of respondents as being the most annoying thing about other guests.

Interestingly, not many of the respondents owned up to either, with only 3% of
them saying, respectively, that they’d left rubbish around their hotel/resort or let their kids run around unsupervised.

Loud and raucous guests – a problem at hotels too

Among other things, holidays are about unwinding, recharging your batteries and getting in that essential R&R time. Meaning, when our oasis of calm is disrupted, it kind of throws a spanner in the works. A little peace and quiet really is a luxury that many of us welcome when away.

So it’s no surprise to learn that like flying, noisy and unruly travellers can really put a damper on things. We found, for example, that screaming kids (32%), noisy neighbours (32%) and drunk poolside guests (26%) were among the most annoying things that Brits have had to put up with at a hotel/resort. And while 16% acknowledged they themselves had been sozzled (29% of respondents aged 25-34 compared to 5% aged 55 and over), only 3% said they themselves had been so noisy that they’ve had a complaint made.

It seems that those noise-cancelling headphones may prove to be an absolute holiday essential.

*Broadway Travel surveyed 2,039 respondents who have travelled abroad by plane in the last 12 months, between 8.11.2019 and 12.11.2019.

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