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Official: Crying babies aren’t the most annoying thing on planes


There's something that irritates far more Australians in the air.

So I'm at the airport this morning. The blokes behind me are particularly loud. They start by debating why the names "Sean" and "Dean" are pronounced differently despite ending with the same three letters. It's an intellectual crowd. Then they notice a woman nursing a young child.

"Gawd, I hope I don't end up sitting next to her," one man says. "Baby'll be screaming throughout the whole flight."

Clearly, this is a rubbish attitude, and you can't blame a baby for freaking out under the weird circumstances of flight. But let's not kid ourselves it's an unusual view. You can see it every time someone with a baby starts walking up the aisle on the plane: rows of passengers all muttering to themselves "Please not me, please not me".

That said, it turns out that crying babies aren't the thing that raises our hackles most on planes. A recent survey reveals that the single thing most likely to irritate us when we're in the air is a more direct attack: someone kicking the back of our seat. More than half of us (55%) picked that as the top flight irritation.

It's important to distinguish here between actual kicking and just being stuck in front of someone who is very tall. If you're any taller than six feet, you're not going to fit comfortably in an economy seat (I speak from experience). Yet you can be a lot shorter than that and kick the seat, as any annoying on-board brat can attest. And while a baby has no idea what's going on, a rampaging 5-year-old should know better.

The number two slot was taken by body odour (54%). We're a smell-sensitive set of petals, with bad breath (20%) and smelly feet (19%) also making the list. Noisy took up the third position, put some way back on 38%. Here's the full list of annoyances:

Flying is never going to be the most comfortable experience, and many of these aspects are out of our control. One thing you can do is make sure you're not guilty of these crimes yourself. Don't put multiple bags in the overhead locker. Don't recline your seat just for the heck of it. Don't talk at a volume that would make a sports commentator blush. And it wouldn't kill you to have a shower.

To avoid those seat back kickers, you can aim for a seat at the back of a cabin section, which means there's no-one behind you. If you really want some space, though, check out our guide to when to fly to get a row of seats all to yourself.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on

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