Analysts have coined 2022 the year of “revenge travel." People around the world are embarking on trips to try to make up for vacations lost to COVID-19 restrictions while airlines are struggling to meet demand. However, certain challenges still face travel-goers, such as inflation affecting travel costs and a lack of travel experience in the last few years resulting in some downright bad behavior.
Even though the team at Solitaire Bliss loves to travel, we know it’s not always fun and games. We conducted a survey of over 1,200 Americans who have traveled abroad in the last year to ask about their experiences with “revenge travel” and about their fellow travelers’ behavior on flights and in airports. We also found out how Americans prefer to pass their time while traveling and gained some insight into air travel and attitudes in 2022.
As of July 12, 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration has cited 1,634 reports of unruly passengers on airlines so far this year. An unruly passenger is someone who jeopardizes the safety of the airplane, interferes with the flight crew’s work, or otherwise disrupts the well-being of fellow passengers.
This domestic travel data matches what our respondents reported for international flights, where 22% of respondents witnessed unruly passenger behavior in the last year. The most common unruly behaviors reported include refusing to wear a mask (25%), refusing to follow the flight crew’s instructions (18%), and verbally harassing crew or passengers (13%).
American travelers have witnessed plenty of unruly passenger behavior in the last year, but some behaviors pass the unruly threshold and reach the point of being perfectly annoying. We asked respondents to rank how annoying certain behaviors are when exhibited by fellow flight passengers.
According to our results, the most annoying in-flight behaviors include:
We also asked respondents to rank how annoying certain behaviors are in the airport, and we list our results here, ranked from most to least annoying:
It may be difficult to pass the time when the behaviors of our fellow travelers annoy us, but we all have different preferences for how we like to spend our time while traveling. However, conversation with a stranger is not one of them.
More specifically, 61% prefer sitting in silence, 37% prefer chatting briefly with their seat partner, and only 2% prefer chatting for most of the flight. Men (40%) are more likely to want to chat briefly than women (35%), and Baby Boomers (60%) and Gen Xers (46%) are the generations most likely to engage briefly in small talk during a flight. Only a third of both the Millennial and Gen Z groups want to chat briefly on a flight.
Americans have preferences for ways—other than chatting—that they pass their time on a flight. For example, when asked their favorite way to pass time while traveling, respondents ranked streaming movies or TV shows (32%), listening to music (18%), and reading a book (15%) as their top choices.
Popular “other” responses not included in the above list were drawing, looking out the window, doing puzzles, and crafting. Americans also love to play games while traveling, and our favorite ones include Candy Crush, Solitaire, Sudoku, Chess, and Tetris.
Considering all the bad behavior that was common on flights this last year, we wanted to know how Americans' attempts at “revenge travel” fared. Is this as popular of a phenomenon with travelers as predicted?
According to our respondents, 68% are likely to go on more vacations this year than normal, which fits the bill of “revenge travel.” Interestingly, 81% of Baby Boomers indicated that their itch to travel is more than normal. Not only are Americans interested in traveling more, but they’re also spending more: 47% reported that they are likely to spend more than they normally would on trips this year.
America's current biggest travel priorities include visiting somewhere new (43%), returning to a favorite spot (23%), and visiting somewhere inexpensive (14%). Only 12% are not currently prioritizing travel, and 8% are focused on visiting somewhere COVID safe.
Given that our respondents have all traveled abroad in the past year, we wanted to ask them more about their experiences. In the last year, 44% of these travelers experienced delayed or canceled flights. Difficulty booking flights (30%) and adjusting trips due to above-average prices (43%) were also common. Additionally, 17% have had to adjust their trip due to a COVID infection, and 13% have experienced canceled accommodations.
Although the phenomenon of “revenge travel” is to make up for lost time traveling due to COVID-19, the pandemic is still impacting traveling experiences for Americans. Nearly half of Americans have had to cancel travel plans due to COVID in the last year. Testing positive for COVID in another country and remaining stuck there is a fear for 60% of Americans.
Fear of COVID infection also impacts traveling planning, since 69% of travelers research mask and vaccine requirements of their destinations, and 32% decide where to visit based on COVID rates of destinations.
Traveling is meant to be relaxing, and many of us look forward to flight times as peaceful periods to catch up on our favorite media or games. Between COVID, inflation, and the itch to travel, everyone may feel a bit on edge and ready to get out of town and relax. So remember that we’re all headed in the same mental, if not physical, direction when sharing a flight. Practicing excellent travel etiquette can help everyone land in an elevated mood.
Methodology: From June 16 to 18, 2022, we surveyed 1,209 Americans on their travel experiences in the last year. Respondents had all traveled abroad in the last 12 months. 50% identified as men, 48% identified as women, and 2% identified as nonbinary or preferred not to say. Of the respondents, 9% were Baby Boomers, 16% were Generation X, 52% were Millennials, and 23% were Generation Z.