It doesn’t matter what the age, gender or region of the world—travelers say their biggest pet peeve when flying is the person sitting right behind them kicking their seat. With an estimated 231 million passengers boarding U.S. airlines alone between June 1 and August 31 of this year, that represents a lot of seat-kicking irritation for travelers.
That’s one of the many findings of a new international survey on the global travel experience. The new study indicates that today’s travelers are highly sensitized to the need for careful preparation. They are doing more research on destinations, seeking better travel deals, and purchasing travel insurance to protect against travel disruptions, emergency medical needs, and other global risks. Travelers are also looking to benefit from loyalty and rewards programs, as well as special services that make travel easier and more manageable.
The research was conducted by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s GeoBranding Center in partnership with AIG Travel. Entitled “The Adept Traveler: How to Care Less about Travel Stress,” the study is based on responses from more than 2,100 American, European and other global travelers via an online survey fielded this summer by the CMO Council and Travelzoo, which has 28 million members worldwide.
Western Europe remains the favorite destination of travelers around the world in 2016. Some 28.7 percent of all respondents identified Western Europe as the most desirable place to visit. A third of North Americans said Western Europe is their favorite destination, more than the 29 percent who identified the United States as their favorite. By comparison, a third of Western Europeans said their home region was their favorite destination, compared to only 11.4 percent who chose the United States. The top four most popular destinations in order were Western Europe, the United States, Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean.
Travel Stress and Strain
The study explores the top causes of travel stress and what travelers are doing to address these issues. Chief among their biggest frustrations are flight delays and cancellations (66.5 percent), researching and finding deals (38.0 percent), sickness or injury during a trip (37.2 percent), crowds and congestion at travel points (36.1 percent), airport security (28.2 percent) and luggage weight and size problems (27.1 percent).
Travelers said that when on an airplane, their top pet peeves were first and foremost people behind them who constantly kicked their seat (56.9 percent), followed by people who recline their seats too far (33.6 percent), loud people (32.2 percent), crying babies (25.5 percent), and passengers who take more than their share of overhead bin space (24.5 percent).
Asked whether and what kind of fellow traveler they found most difficult, slightly less than half (49.7 percent) said they had no problems travelling with anyone. Some (24.6 percent) identified strangers as the people they were likely to have the most problems, followed by children (17.8 percent), a boss (16.2 percent) and extended family (14.2 percent).
The worst situations that travelers said they had experienced first-hand were trip or flight cancellations, illness, theft of a wallet or other possession, and lost luggage that was never found.
Today’s Prepared Traveler
The importance of research and planning to improve the travel experience was a major recurring theme among travelers. Advance trip planning and research via a trusted online source was by far (50.2 percent) viewed as the best way to relieve travel stress and anxiety, followed by the purchase of travel insurance (27.1 percent), application for rapid border and security clearance status (20.1 percent), preparation help from experts (18.8 percent), and premium lounge membership (14.6 percent).
Respondents identified their most valued and trusted sources of travel tips and information as travel web sites (46.7 percent), travel review sites (41.2 percent), travel guide books (37.3 percent), and friends and family who travel frequently (26.9 percent).
In addition, survey participants said that destinations would most help improve the travel experience by ensuring that tourism content was accurate and up-to-date (42.5 percent), followed by better controlling crime and panhandling (38.9 percent), verifying that travel deals were real (38.5 percent), and providing recourse in case of emergencies or problem situations (33.5 percent).
Nearly seven in 10 travelers said they would find value in VIP travel programs that provide special benefits and privileges, although most said the value of such programs depends on the specific benefits provided. Infographics and survey highlights can be downloaded from the GeoBranding Center web site at no cost.
Adept Traveler Survey – Key Findings
Which part of the travel experience do you find most stressful? (Select top five)
|Flight delays, cancellations or disruptions||66.52%|
|Researching and finding the best deals||38.00%|
|Getting sick or suffering an injury during a trip||37.17%|
|Handling crowds and congestion at travel points||36.05%|
|Going through airport security||28.23%|
|Handling luggage weight and size problems||27.07%|
|Boarding, transferring to or disembarking from flights||26.00%|
|Selecting outfits and packing luggage||18.12%|
|Deciding where to go and how to get there||16.18%|
|Ensuring home/pets are taken care of while away||16.13%|
|Dealing with customs and immigration||15.74%|
|Applying for a visa or passport||14.82%|
|Finding my way around foreign or unknown cities||13.17%|
|Experiencing problems with my co-travelers||12.88%|
|Arranging out-of-country health or insurance coverage||9.82%|
|Knowing local customs and understanding other languages||9.33%|
|Picking up rental cars or connecting with car services||7.68%|
|Booking hotels, resorts or vacation rentals||6.71%|
|Making plans for children or elderly dependents||5.10%|
|Other (please specify)||3.98%|
Who do you find most difficult and trying to travel with? (Select top three)
|No problem traveling with anyone||49.71%|
|Spouse, partner or significant other||9.05%|
|Other (please specify)||2.80%|
How do you typically plan and prepare for leisure or business trips? (Select all that apply.)
|Do extensive research online regarding all aspects of trip and destination||72.91%|
|Read travel articles, reviews and social media posts||57.38%|
|Seek recommendations from friends or colleagues||37.62%|
|Check weather, flights and other details en-route via mobile device||32.23%|
|Source information from AAA or other travel services||25.83%|
|Talk with my travel agent or destination representative||21.60%|
|Use a small group of preferred vendors (airline, hotel, rental car, etc.)||19.17%|
|Read briefing document from my corporate travel department/advisor||18.25%|
|Use a mobile app to manage my itinerary and source in-destination info||10.29%|
|Don’t do much preparation or research||7.62%|
|Never worry about travel preparation||4.42%|
|Other (please specify)||2.72%|
What is your biggest pet peeve while flying? (Select top three)
|People sitting behind you who constantly kick your seat||56.84%|
|People who recline their seats too much||33.52%|
|People who are loud on the plane; people who talk loudly or listen to music or a movie without headphones||32.14%|
|Passengers who take up more than their share of the overhead bin space||24.50%|
|People who are unprepared to go through security and take extra time getting their things in order||18.76%|
|Passengers who stand up and clog the aisles as soon as a plane lands or those who push past others in front of them to get off the plane||18.66%|
|People who don’t clean up the lavatory after they use it||15.63%|
|People who wear too much perfume or cologne||9.69%|
|People who use both arm rests||8.51%|
|People who take the window seat and constantly get up to use the lavatory or walk around||7.33%|
|People who bring offensive smelling food on the plane||6.36%|
|When airlines run out of options by the time the food trolley gets to you||5.33%|
|People who want to talk to you for the duration of the flight||5.13%|
|People sitting behind you who tap too hard on the touch screen||3.64%|
|People who fall asleep and end up encroaching on your personal space||3.38%|
|People who ask you to change your aisle or window seat to their middle seat so that they can sit with family||2.31%|
|Passengers who walk around barefoot on the plane||0.82%|
|Other (please specify)||3.84%|
What has been the single worst travel situation you have ever experienced? (Select one.)
|Trip or flight cancellation||15.64%|
|Sickness or disease||12.74%|
|Theft of wallet, documents or possessions||10.16%|
|Lost luggage that was not found||8.90%|
|Lost passport or tickets||3.90%|
|Injury or fatality||3.58%|
|Customs or border crossing issues||3.53%|
|Trip operator failure||3.21%|
|Car crash or accident||2.90%|
|Crash or emergency landing||2.16%|
|Stranded in remote or overseas location||1.95%|
|Riots or political upheaval||1.84%|
|Hotel or resort fire/closure||1.00%|
|Terrorist incident or kidnapping||0.63%|
|Other (please specify)||17.43%|
What do you think would best help to reduce travel worries, anxieties or stress? (Select top three)
|Do more advance trip planning or research via a trusted online resource||50.13%|
|Purchase travel insurance||27.10%|
|Apply for rapid border entry and security clearance status (like Global Entry)||20.13%|
|Be better prepared with the help of experts||18.76%|
|Pay for premium lounge membership||14.64%|
|Increase health coverage to ensure coverage in every destination||13.93%|
|Join a loyalty and rewards club for more privileges (like elite status with hotels or airlines)||13.68%|
|Use a travel industry authority to settle problems||13.57%|
|Sign up for a 24/7 travel aid service||13.37%|
|Subscribe to a travel, weather or flight notification service||13.27%|
|Download and use a travel advisory app||12.35%|
|Other (please specify)||8.39%|
Would you find value in a special VIP travel program that provided many of these benefits, privileges and assurances through one card?
|It depends on what specific benefits were provided||50.95%|
If yes, what would you be willing to pay on a monthly basis?
|Less than $5.00||23.29%|
|$5.00 to $10.00|