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Who do we hate most in flight? Take the sniff test

March 15, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Oooh-er! Is that body odour? Smelly passengers have emerged as the most loathed in a new “Passengers from Hell” survey undertaken by, the global airline safety and product ratings website.

The website surveyed its readers on 10 passenger types and asked readers to rank them from the most irritating to the least.

The West Australian newspaper, which is close to, has given insights into the survey, which found evil-smelling passengers to be the most reviled.

This is in line with other surveys. Several years ago, an in-flight survey revealed that people suffering “personal hygiene problems” were twice as likely as drunks to be shunned by fellow travellers aboard aircraft. That’s not to say drunks are popular. Smelly drunks are perhaps the worst travelling companions of all.

Odorous sock

Problems relating to foul smells and/or body odour have bubbled up before. Airlines can refuse to carry stinking passengers. US Airways once ordered a “profoundly smelly” couple off an aircraft before takeoff, after other passengers threatened to flee the plane. The precise nature of the couple’s problem was not disclosed, but the odour was so appalling that the aircraft had to be removed from service for fumigation. “They stunk like wet goats,” an airline executive told me later, with uncharacteristic bluntness.

The survey found out-of-control children to be the second-worst traveling companions, after smellies. The kids managed this year to push passengers who recline their seat into third place in the rankings.

A previous survey named seat recliners as the most irritating passenger type, which is kind of weird, because airline seats are generally designed to recline.

In fourth place this year came armrest hoggers. This is a perennial problem, with seat widths shrinking, passenger girth expanding and airlines providing armrests that often have to be shared between two seats.

The ever-expanding amount of carry-on baggage and those that cram overhead lockers came fifth on the list.

Passengers with weak bladders, constantly clambering over their seatmates to get to the aircraft lavatories, took sixth place. Constant chatterers, passengers who do exercises in the aisle, arrogant and demanding passengers (constantly hassling flight attendants), and finally window hoggers who treat window shades as personal property, took the remaining four positions.

Written by Peter Needham

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