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Removing shoes, reclining seats? What’s deemed ‘unacceptable’ on flights may depend on where you’re from

To recline or not to recline your seat?

The position in which you fly — and how fervently you feel about the topic — may depend on where you’re from.

Survey results released Monday show that the degree to which passengers found certain behaviors to be “unacceptable” on flights varies by region.

The survey of 18 markets by the research firm YouGov found Europeans were more likely to be bothered by certain behaviors on planes, while those from the United Arab Emirates were the most accepting of many of the same behaviors.  

What’s ‘unacceptable’ — and where?

Respondents from Europe deemed drunkenness, failure to use headphones and personal grooming as unacceptable flight behavior at higher rates than other regions, according to the survey.

Europeans were also the least tolerant of those who fully recline their seats, with nearly 60% saying the practice is either “somewhat” or “completely” unacceptable. Note: Europe is home to the tallest people in the world too.

Conversely, only 32% of respondents in the UAE considered seat-reclining unacceptable, lower than the global survey average of 53%.

Source: YouGov

Respondents in the UAE were also found to be the most tolerant of younger passengers. Only 19% deemed crying babies to be “unacceptable” and less than one-third were troubled by noisy kids over the age of four.

However, there was one issue that bothered UAE respondents more than European travelers. Nearly 40% indicated public displays of affection were unacceptable, more than the 21% of Europeans who said the same.  

A point of agreement

The survey showed one point of agreement — a near universal disdain for drunken antics in the air. Intoxication was deemed the most unacceptable type of behavior in every region, led by 77% of respondents in North America and 78% in Europe, according to the results.

Female respondents showed even less tolerance for inebriation than men. Globally, 81% of women said drunkenness is unacceptable to them, more than 70% of men.

Female respondents were less tolerant of every type of behavior in the survey, save one — crying babies. Only 21% labeled crying babies as unacceptable, less than the 25% of men in the survey.

What’s ‘unacceptable’ to American flyers

Americans are more likely than the global average to view acts like personal grooming and shoe removal on flights as unacceptable. They are also less accepting of crying babies compared with the global average, and even more annoyed by noisy children on airplanes, according to the survey.

YouGov shared the following chart with CNBC — it shows the proportion of American respondents, compared with the global average, who find various situations unacceptable:

Source: YouGov

The results show Americans are less fussed about the ongoing reclining seat issue (43% versus the global average of 53%). Fewer Americans are bothered by talkative seatmates too (37% versus 39% globally).

The results show a considerable variance between age groups, with intolerance levels rising with age.

Younger Americans, aged 18 to 24, were the most accepting of in-flight behaviors that tend to annoy other passengers. Those aged 55 and older were the least accepting, with nearly three in four older travelers deeming noisy children on airplanes to be “unacceptable.”

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