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Had sex on a plane? Who’s most likely to get drunk on a flight? It’s the wonderful, clickable world of travel surveys


Did you know that 80 percent of travelers think there should be a separate zone for overweight passengers on airplanes? Have you heard that 36 percent of Americans have taken a picture of another airplane passenger without their permission? Or, maybe you know that 1 in 11 passengers have had sex on a plane?

There’s a good chance you may be familiar with some of these deliciously clickable morsels. There are studies released nearly every week about some of our most despicable travel habits — and I’m here for it. I devour these surveys with all the eye rolling and headshaking I can muster. There are far too many surveys, and some are completely ridiculous, but ridiculous in the best possible way. I let them collect in my inbox while thinking “Surely someday I’ll write a story about how South Koreans are most likely to get drunk on a flight.”


Here’s another important fact: Expedia found that 90 percent of travelers say it’s not OK to be barefoot during a flight. I’ve come very close to printing that one and handing it out to people seated near me.

Companies that sell discount airfares, hawk travel insurance, or rent cars eagerly commission these surveys with the same frequency that the Hallmark Channel churns out Christmas movies. They are eager to promote their names alongside content that is as irresistible as a bucket of kittens.

It’s an inexpensive way to get their company names linked into a viral discussion. Although I’m not sure I would want my company associated with a study that found used condoms to be one of the most horrifying items people have seen in their hotel rooms.

There are a few perennial favorite topics. Irritating airplane behavior tops the list because everyone has a pet peeve. Generally these don’t differ from year to year, but they always spark heated discussion. Resentments simmer when you read studies, such as the one from www.airlineratings.com, that rank the 10 most-hated passengers on a plane. These include some I was unfamiliar with (the window hogger, the aisle exerciser), and old favorites such as the seat recliner, the chatterbox, and the smelly passenger. Expedia’s most recent study on the topic found that the most hated passenger is the seat kicker.


Even though we’ve all seen these studies before, the results are voraciously consumed because we want a chance to bore friends with our own air travel horror stories.

Another favorite topic is sex on airplanes. I think people enjoy reading the sex-on-airplane surveys because it gives them hope that someday they’ll also have an opportunity to dance the forbidden polka at 30,000 feet.

JetCost sent me a survey last month that found 9 percent of traveling Americans have had a sexual encounter in their airplane seat. I’m not quite sure how that’s possible because I can barely unfold my laptop in my seat. Seventeen percent said they’ve enjoyed adult relations in the loo. To break that down further, because I know you want details, 5 percent said they performed these acts with a complete stranger, and three percent said it was with a member of the crew.

Not all studies are so salacious. There are the annual lists of best beaches in the United States, and the fanciest hotels. Those are usually compiled from ratings on TripAdvisor, and readers always complain that they can’t possibly be accurate. It’s our job to dissect these studies and either agree or shake a fist at the sky and complain to anyone in earshot. Obviously, we know better than the tens of thousands of people who submitted reviews.


There are always the studies that tell us Americans don’t take enough vacation — the exact number is 705 million unused vacation days annually, according to Project Time Off. These are as predictable as the changing seasons, but because they’re relatable we read them, vow to take more vacation days, and then forget the promise until we read the studies the following year.

To further drive the point home, another study from Allianz Global Assistance found that a third of Americans who don’t use all their vacation suffer from depression.

And just when you think the topic has been exhausted, along comes studies that are pure clickbait. That’s when I empty a bag of Skittles in a bowl and sit down for a good read. Another JetCost survey (this company loves putting out surveys, and I’m still not sure what they do) found that 42 percent of Americans don’t like traveling with their kids. Twenty-five percent said they don’t like traveling with their in-laws.

Perhaps the creepiest survey of all arrived in my e-mail last week with the enticing subject line “Over a third of Americans have recorded fellow passengers on a flight without their permission.” Of course I opened that e-mail. Before you ask: Yes, it was another survey from JetCost.


It stated that the top things recorded were passengers sleeping, doing something unhygienic, arguing, getting kicked off a flight, or engaging in sexual activity. It always comes back to sex. Even worse, 65 percent shared the photo or video on social media.

Full disclosure: I’ve taken pictures of fellow passengers without their permission, but it was to shame a barefoot seat kicker who smelled kind of bad. Since I haven’t had sex on a plane, I need to have something to give survey takers if I ever have the honor of being asked to participate. Now if you’ll excuse me, another survey just arrived in my e-mail about the 10 dirtiest parts of your hotel room. Here’s a hint: Number One is not the toilet seat. Happy travels!

Christopher Muther can be reached at muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and in Instagram @Chris_Muther.