Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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What are people’s biggest pet peeves when flying? Recycled air? Crying babies? Oh, or the jerk in front of you who reclined their seat all the way back, slamming your table tray forward? There’s nothing quite like being crammed into a domestic flight. With limited legroom and space, most passengers can feel agitated at worst and slightly claustrophobic at best. Plus, it’s not uncommon for other passengers to make themselves right at home, whether that means breaking out the egg salad or kicking the back of your seat out of boredom (we’re looking at you, child).
With so many Americans heading to the airport this holiday season, we wanted to discover which airlines racked up the most complaints and get a closer look at some of the worst air travel pet peeves 30,000 feet in the air.
Plane etiquette can enter dicey territory when you’re stuck on an 8-hour flight. Can you ask to switch seats if your seatmate reeks of BO? Must you join in the seemingly obligatory clapping when your flight lands? We pulled back the flight curtain to discover Americans’ worst pet peeves, below.
Some passengers may not know that they can get compensation when their flight is delayed or canceled. After all, you did pay for a seat on that flight with the reasonable expectation that, you know, you’d be able to board your flight. Still, this raises questions like how much compensation you deserve for your lost time due to a canceled flight. We gauged the temperature of this question and more with an in-depth look at some of Americans’ top pet peeves and the monetary value they deserve for each inconvenience.
While some passengers may be tempted to keep their best pet peeves to themselves, there is a time and place to make your frustrations known. People’s formal airline complaints can include everything from mishandled baggage and flight problems to ticketing and refunds. See which airlines have the best and worst customer service.
Missing baggage, delayed arrivals, and sudden cancellations are the necessary ingredients for most holiday disaster movies. And while we may enjoy watching this type of misery ensue for others onscreen, we certainly don’t wish it upon ourselves. Below, we break down which airlines are most and least likely to make you the star of the show for all the right or wrong reasons:
To discover Americans’ insights on air travel today, we took a look at the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Aviation Consumer Protection’s Air Travel Consumer Reports from August 2021 to August 2022 to find the U.S. airlines with the most on-time arrivals, flight cancellations, and mishandled baggage. We also found the types of complaints people make most often with individual airlines.
We then decided to take a closer look at other complaints people might have when traveling on flights by conducting a survey. We surveyed 500 Americans over a week in October 2022 to get their thoughts on appropriate compensation for common airline mistakes, which of those mistakes bothered them the most, and their top pet peeves when flying.
In an aircraft carrying hundreds of people, turbulence is unavoidable — and we’re not just talking about a bumpy ride. People’s pet peeves range from being bumped from a flight to having to endure a stinky passenger. However, some airlines still see the value in putting the customer first, such as Southwest and Delta, with both fielding fewer than 1 complaint per 100k enplanements.
To nail down the best airport for your needs, discover the average TSA security wait times by U.S. airport. Happy flying!
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