On my early morning walk one day, I came across a middle-aged lady listening to an audiobook on speaker at full volume. It was so loud and rude, I had to stop and say something on my third lap around. It reminded me of recent flights where I’ve encountered similar situations, which got me thinking of all my air travel pet peeves. So I’ve compiled my top pet peeves while flying below but please, feel free to leave a comment with your own travel pet peeves. RELATED: The One Thing Some Women Do on Airplanes That Drives Me Nuts – And I Can’t Believe It’s Not Illegal

1. People coughing or sneezing without covering their mouths
One of my biggest pet-peeves when I was traveling regularly pre-pandemic was passengers who coughed or sneezed without covering their mouths. I would see it on almost every flight, no matter what class I was in. Actually, the worst offender was a woman on a Virgin Australia flight from LAX to Brisbane years ago in first class. She wouldn’t stop coughing without covering her mouth and she was throwing her dirty tissues in the aisle for the flight attendant to pick up. I spoke to the flight attendant about it, who said that she’d given her a mask but she refused to wear it. So I asked for one and I wore it. 

I wrote about the rude seat mate I had on my LAX to Miami flight once (here’s the story) and how he kept taking his mask off. When he started coughing without it, the flight attendant pounced on him.

2. Watching videos without headphones
On my return flight, I was in 10A and the passenger all the way on the other side of the plane decided to watch his movie on his phone without earphones. Everyone around him was looking at him like, “Is he insane?” but no one said anything. I was just about to get up and say something when the flight attendant told him to put headphones on. And he was pissed.

3. Listening to music super loud
I’ve had countless seatmates listen to music so loud that I could hear the thumping beat from a row or two away … and they had earbuds on. I was guilty of this once and my seatmate told me. I was embarrassed and apologetic, but that’s why now I never play music or listen to movies at full volume and I take my earbuds off my ears to see if they’re emitting noise.

4. Using speaker phone
I find people watching videos without earphones the worst offenders or talking on Facetime or speaker phone. It’s like they think they’re the only ones in the world.

5. Loud talkers
On the same flight, the passenger in 6G was greeted by his friend/wife/girlfriend in the aisle and she sat there speaking really loudly for about twenty minutes in the middle of the flight. Most passengers were sleeping or watching movies so it was not the time and was disturbing the surrounding passengers.

6. Cutting toenails or fingernails
Believe it or not, this has happened on more than one occasion.

7. Using nail polish
Ding. I just rang the call button and pointed to the passenger. The flight attendant jumped on them because it’s a fire hazard.

8. Flossing teeth
I kid you not: On a flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific, the lady across the aisle was flossing her teeth. With her HAIR!

9. Passing gas
Why do airlines serve gassy foods onboard or in their lounges? I can personally confirm that masks don’t mask the odor, thanks to my rude seatmate the other day.

10. Parents of out-of-control kids
I have two little kids and I understand they’re not easy to travel with but parents who don’t even attempt to discipline kids drives me nuts.

I have a lot of pet peeves when I fly and I usually can’t bite my tongue. So I usually say something to the passenger(s) or, better yet, ask the flight attendant discreetly to deal with it so things don’t escalate. 

Occasionally, the passenger doesn’t realize they’re being loud or inappropriate and appreciate you bringing it to their attention … though that doesn’t happen often. Usually, they get pissed so it’s best to have someone with some authority, like the flight attendant or pilot, deal with it, someone who can make them stop by having them arrested, fined or banned, depending on the offense.

Did I leave something out? What in-flight behavior irks you most?


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39 Comments On "10 Air Travel Pet Peeves and How To Deal With Them"
  1. Benesse|

    100% AGREE! Those are my pet peeves as well and may I add another, rather controversial one: reclining one’s seat. I feel it is perfectly OK to recline when no food is being served whereas some people would rather you never do it even on a 5+ hr flight. 20-30 years ago no one complained about people in front of them reclining their seats–it was what people did. And now all of a sudden it’s become an issue.

    Bottom line; all this is connected to the prevailing lack of manners.

    1. Marlin Yoder|

      I agree with you, the seats are made to recline, if it’s such an issue, then the airline should make so that they don’t. Till then, that’s what they are for, I don’t care if the person in front of me does it.

  2. Kelly Loeffler|

    You sound like the type of person that is my pet peeve! Arrogant and opionated on what everyone else is doing with their lives instead of worrying about your own.

    1. Ryan S|

      @Kelly Loeffler You sound like the type of person who does all the things listed in the article Nice handle BTW lol

  3. Deborah|

    In the old days,
    People who spend a long time in the aisle stowing their bag, on boarding, and don’t seem to realize there are other people trying to get past.
    Gate Lice. Worse is when they are allowed to board before their time.
    People who, as soon as the plane touches down, are out of their seats blocking the aisle.
    People who recline without consideration for those behind.
    People who kick the seat in front of them, or grab it when they get up.
    I could go on…

  4. Laurie|

    Right on! Oh my goodness

  5. Marlin Yoder|

    If I am vaccinated, why should I care if the other people are not wearing masks?

    1. Ajk|

      I still haven’t seen a straight answer about whether a vaccinated person can vary the virus to another person. My husband cannot get vaccinated and I don’t want to bring it home to him. Jeez, you wear a seatbelt….wear a simple mask!

      1. Ajk|

        *carry oops

      2. KC Adams|

        Just now seeing this, so you probably already know that, indeed, vaccinated people can still spread the virus to others. All the vaccine does (and I don’t mean to diminish its value, btw) is lessen the effects if a vaxed person comes down with Covid. It does not keep one from getting Covid, nor does it keep one from spreading the virus via respiration, coughing, or sneezing. Safe travels!!

  6. Tim McGarry|

    Pet peeve on Southwest flights is when people save seats for their friends and family. I call them seat weasels. One person in a group buys the early boarding pass and is allowed to put books, bags or clothing on the seats in the front rows of the plane.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I don’t blame you. Haven’t heard of that one before but I don’t fly SWA often

  7. L|

    Just to name a few:
    1. Remove shoes and put his/her foot on the arm rest in between both front row seats.
    2. Open window shades in mid air with sunlight shining through the window while flying long haul, while others all are closed as passengers are trying to sleep to adjust to the time zone difference.
    3. Passenger’ knees/legs at the row behind keep thumping the seat in front despite if the front seat is upright or reclined. I understand some passengers have longer legs, but I can also tell if someone who is considerate and try to limit such action.
    4. Passenger at the row in front have his/her hands over his/her head, rests and blocks the screen at the back of the seat.

  8. Benita|

    I detest “man spread” where a man in the next seat thinks he can just spread his legs as far apart as possible — and encroaches on my space.

    Another one is a sleeper who snores, particularly when it is in my ear!

  9. Suzanne Wolf|

    I find it judgmental for you just to assume us ‘anti-maskers’ are liars. I respect (Not agree with) all mandates and follow them when out in public. I would never lie about being vaccinated because it is my personal choice to do so or not. Others may choose to lie, but putting us all in one category under one blanket assumption is part of the problem.

  10. Scott|

    All good ones as far as passengers are concerned.
    I have one about all the airlines who announce an upcoming landing as “we will be on the ground in 30 minutes“ I wonder if this is some kind of dark humor on their part. I would prefer “we will land “ or “We will be at the gate in 30 minutes “. Better Karma

  11. Kelly Stevens|

    As I read down your list, I was like “yep, ya, yes, you bet” On a flight, the watching videos without ear buds is probably my top one. Out in public, the use of a speaker phone is. Who is so self absorbed that the think everyone must want to hear their conversation? My boyfriend teases me and calls me the ultimate rule follower.

  12. Norma|

    People who are seated at the rear of the plane and stow their bags up front rather than where they are seated so that those sitting up front have no room for their luggage

  13. Miska|

    I so very much agree with your list! A few more pet peeves I will add: Parents giving their children VERY NOISEY toys to play with! I understand little children need distractions to help them cope and not be a nuisance, but, having them make lots of noise defeats the purpose! Gum smackers, pen clickers, leg bouncers, and “tray drummers” drive me nuts, also. Another peeve is individuals who feel the flight is their personal office; they have laptops out on their trays or laps and get upset if you move your seat at all, you need to get past them, or you converse with others – it disturbs their work! But, worst one of all are those who watch porn on their laptops; it is uncomfortable sitting next to that – there are only so many places to look in such a confined space!

  14. Patrick|

    As for people opening their window shades, sorry, but I can’t believe so many people close theirs! The view from ~35,000 feet gives a perspective on the world unlike any other, and I’m constantly amazed by how many passengers would rather watch a bad movie than wonder at the view out the window. I’ve been flying for 60 years now and I still thrill at the views on nearly every flight.

    I recently flew CVG > SLC > SFO, on a final approach route that took us outside the Golden Gate with a view of the GG bridge and the entire bay area as we flew down the peninsula and then did a 180 to come into SFO. It was really sad to see that easily 70% of the window shades were closed, and those folks missed such an incredible view. Same with coming in & out of SLC, with the stunning contrasts of the salt flats and snow-capped surrounding peaks. That stuff on the tv will be there to watch anytime, at home or in a hotel. The world from a height humans couldn’t even imagine just a few generations ago is only there for the duration of your flight.

  15. Ed|

    that is what America is now.
    The only thing to do is AVOID.
    Or, get the best PR firm to place certain video clips
    of major violators of
    Johnny Jets Pet Peeves
    on a new show


    Then, a few will heed the fear of being ostracized in public.

    But the rest will just go on.
    Besides the 60 years do bad t worse education and
    cultural degrades year after year,
    we are all subject to being the lowest esteem
    and must wade thru the above peeves just to

    i would forget this subject, it’s a downer and needs to be kept
    behind the scenes.
    Who wants to book flights if they know about Johnny’s
    Or, yes, or, Johnny Jets’ new airline!

    Peeves not permitted, peeves are placed at the back of the plane in
    translucent sealed seating where that cannot display their peeves until they
    are offloaded.

  16. Dale|

    I’m a window seat guy and looking out the window is the best form of IFE for me. I specifically choose window seats (when available) so I can look out.

  17. Ed|

    The 2 new Airlines flying out of Ogden, Utah, Allegiant and Avelo, both
    land after the tower is closed and unattended.
    0700-2000 daily are the tower hours.
    It’s not illegal, pilots and students do it daily to get more lesson time in because
    there is less air traffic then, but for a hired hand to land the airliner without tower control seems too risky.
    They do get Salt Lake Center radar normal flight control but Salt Lake sends them to the Ogden Tower Frequency but nobody is there!
    Others operating in and out of that field will announce themselves as approaching and which runway and which traffic pattern but there is no 2 way discussion from who is in the air if they see each other or acknowledge
    they’ll wait for the other guy before turning on final approach etc.

    So how’s that for a buzz kill on those 19 dollar flights?

  18. Debra Bokur|

    Two: The Elbow Invader and The Trash Monster. When I’m in coach and my seat mate thinks it’s okay to hog the armrest and have their elbow jutting into the space in front of me– or worse, jutting into ME, I feel like I’m being physically accosted. And people who leave their trash all over the floor are disgusting. We just flew back to Denver from Detroit, and a family seated across the row from us left dirty diapers, napkins and food items on the floor under the seat in front of them, and chips and food covering their seats. They seemed completely oblivious to how inappropriate this was.

  19. Clem Zawadzki|

    I agree that there seem to be ever more annoyances in air travel these days. But 20 years ago we traveled on the N*******n national airline and it was like being transported to flying in the ’60’s – wide seats and rows comfortably far apart. Delicious meals cooked on the plane, etc (and this was “economy” class) and the flight staff was very polite, cheerful and helpful. Could the crowded, uncomfortable seating, narrow walkways and overbooking be a serious cause of the current problems (along with Covid)? With the load of stressors these days, over-the-top rudeness is becoming the norm when we’re all feeling like life is out of our control every where we look. I remember when the pilot would comment on the particulars of the landscape passing below – the best reason for the windows. I do bring earplugs, eye covering and a neck pillow to help prevent snoring. If I’m in the center seat, I announce (politely) that the center seat gets both armrests and all of the floor space defined by my seat. Luckily, I’ve never had a problem. I also carry extra Kleenex, packs of sterile wipes, and individually-wrapped chocolates for the flight crew. With all this stuff to carry, I mail my clothes to my destination.
    Stay well,

  20. Ali|

    I think everyone has lost sight of the fact that the flight staff is not there as your personal servant, but first and foremost as a lifesaver in case of an emergency. To disregard any requests from the flight staff put your life and the lives of everyone else on the plane at risk if there is an emergency. Is that what you want?

  21. donron|

    All valid Bad Behaviors… Here’s one that never gets mentioned: While waiting at the Gate to board your flight many people these days are so extremely inconsiderate and take up the available seats to put their luggage on. Doesn’t seem to matter to them that many other people have to stand, so long as they have their space. VERY RUDE behavior!

  22. Tom & Grace|

    Parents not controlling their children is a big peeve for me. I live in Hawaii so obviously when I travel I must fly. I can give many examples but let me share one in particular. On one occasion, flying back from LAS to HNL on a 2AM flight with me having an aisle seat, a solid boy of heavy stature – maybe 10-12 years old – was sitting next to me, his older sister sat to the left of him, and his parents were behind him a couple seats to his left; upon departure at that hour, the lad promptly fell asleep encroaching into my space to the point his head was resting on my shoulder! It got worse!! At some point in his sleep, the youngster lashed out unexpectedly with a closed fist and decked me catching me by complete surprise – I was resting with my eyes closed – causing me to bite my lip, bleeding. Shocked, I promptly raised up halfway in my seat, pushed the boy off of me, and looked left to the parents/older sister who were busy chatting away seemingly oblivious to what had just occurred but definitely ignoring my stare. I got up and walked to the back of the plane where the flight attendants were all sitting and chatting and eating among themselves. I informed the flight attendants what had happened while applying a napkin to my cut lip asking both for ice and if I could relocate my seat. The flight attendants indicated nothing could be done to accommodate me (there were a few open seats) and they would further monitor the situation (which never occurred). I did report the incident to the airlines when arriving back home but nothing ever came of it nor did I receive any sort of apology – nothing. I now take my dollars elsewhere whenever possible especially with international carriers out of HNL but agree wholeheartedly that the American Airline industry, like many examples in our society as a whole, are going downward fast. I am of that age when I can say that the generation of leadership now in power didn’t have and don’t provide good role models so naturally expectations are few for each succeeding generation thereafter. Come on; wake up folks or the generations of the future will see this country existing no more. If I could go down to the border at this age and protect our sovereignty, I would do so! God Bless America.

  23. Tony|

    On going, “pet peeve”: When the airlines are doing the “pre-board” for a parent w a child or someone who is physically handicapped, the quantity of those who tag along is my “pet peeve” of many years. Mom and /or dad with child(ren) – ok but not aunts/uncles/grandparents. Similar w those w handicapped individual. Next “pet peeve” folks with their “backpacks” who invariably, twist / turn as they are going down the aisle smacking it into others. Looks like they are going camping in the great outback for a month. Check-it or don’t bring it.


    My pet peeve is people who refuse the flight attendants’ instructions to turn off electronic devices on take-off and landing. I assume that these rules are there for safety reasons. It’s not up to the passengers to decide that the rules are irrelevant.

  25. Oahu Hawaii|

    My company made me travel on 2 days notice, and all of the decent economy seats (company no-upgrade policy) are taken on fully-booked planes. The flight from HNL (Honolulu) to LAX (Los Angeles) is bad since the entertainment centers for a few rows in the rear port side don’t work, but it’s a red-eye, so I nap intermittently throughout the leg. However, I’m assigned a middle seat on the 13-hour direct flight from LAX to IST (Istanbul). The guys on either side of me are overweight, with bellies and arms spilling over both armrests and touching me. What makes it more miserable is that they stink to High Heaven, like they’re wearing soiled diapers as undergarments. Minutes after sitting down, I’m tearing up. I slowly lose my sense of smell because my smell receptors are simply overwhelmed. My senses recover a few hours after I land: my döner kebab tastes gamey and funky (yuck!), but I don’t complain because I know I’ll enjoy my Efes beers (Xtra and Dark Brown).

  26. Leslyn Farmer|

    The reason people didn’t use to mind the seat in front of them being reclined is because there was considerably more room between them. Now, it truly cramps the individual sitting behind. We were traveling back from Hawaii once and the guy in the seat in front of my husband was literally laying in his lap from Mauii to Dallas. The seat was broken. The flight attendant pointed that fact out to the passenger – he didn’t care.

  27. sue|

    I can see that these are valid complaints, I have severe asthma and people who wear copious amounts of perfume and aftershave put me into a severe asthma attack (not just on planes anywhere) I now must carry a portable nebulizer, which I do but it’s the worst issue when you are closely seated and the person near you has bathed in their fragrance.

  28. Stephen O'Neill|

    In the UK I like Ryanair because the seats don’t recline

  29. Kevin P|

    What about when the plane lands and eventually parks whereupon as soon as the seatbelt sign switches off everone around immediately gets up in a chaotic manner to grab their luggage from the luggage rack above, then they just stand there all squashed together in the central isle for at least 10 minutes until allowed to file out in a single steam on eventual opening of the plane door – usually at the front. Being one who prefers to remain seated during this initial scramble to get up and ‘valise’ up. what annoys me are people in my row who verbally complain, even using swear words, that I am in the way of their getting out to join this crazy ‘squash and wait’ scenario.

  30. Michael NotYourBiz|

    People suck. So being crammed in a tin can with a bunch of people makes flying suck. It’s as simple as that.

  31. NDB in SD|

    omg. WAH WAH WAH. This just adds to the delusion that we have any control over anything other than ourselves… Bruh. Drive. Don’t go anywhere. Get a different job. Stay home in your bubble where nobody does anything to poke your endless list of peeves. Or better yet, just deal. I appreciate that there is a quantifiable increase in humanities lack of consideration, but, unless it endangers your life (not your entitlement) shut up. Good grief.

  32. Foto Grapher|

    There are solutions to a couple of these complaints… I always like to take photos, and carry at least one camera and a monopod. The monopod works good in blocking the seat in front of me. I wedge it between my seat frame and the seat in front of me. That way that seat cannot recline, When someone puts there bare feet on my armrest, I can “accidentally” spill my hot coffee on their feet. OOOPS! Sorry for the accident. ;)

  33. Marie B|

    Flying with all of the above has stopped our air travel and we drive to avoid the hassles and they
    can still happen at your destination place/vacation.

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