America’s Biggest Travel Nightmares

(SWNS)–From canceled flights and natural disasters to frantic, last-minute searches for accommodations, it can cost the average American traveler at least $570 – and upwards of $4,198 – when things go wrong on an airline trip, according to new research.

In fact, from being the victim of pickpocketing to canceled flights, being vomited on by a child or even seeing a fellow passenger die in flight, as many as a third (35 percent) have experienced what they deem a “travel nightmare,” in which seemingly every part of the trip went wrong.

And when those “nightmare trips” do occur, not only is there a wide range in potential costs, there’s also a high risk of the whole vacation being ruined – half of respondents who experienced a nightmare said it completely ruined the rest of the trip.

Although many have thankfully never experienced a nightmarish scenario, the study of the travel experiences of 2,000 Americans found that the majority of travelers (59 percent) report having been on a trip where things really didn’t go as planned.

And it doesn’t have to be a big thing going wrong for traveler comfort and enjoyment while traveling to decline severely. One in six respondents rate themselves “extremely disappointed” even when they don’t get their preferred seat on the plane, with the majority preferring the window seat.

Commissioned by AIG Travel, and conducted by OnePoll, the survey also examined modern travel etiquette on flights and revealed America’s top 10 most commonly experienced traveler faux pas.

The behavior that passengers find most aggravating is when the person in front of them reclines his or her seat (65 percent), followed by having their seat kicked by the person behind them (57 percent).

Also making the top five were traveling with a disruptive baby or child (54 percent), hogging both armrests (53 percent) and people who talk loudly on the flight (49 percent).

While travelers can’t always do something about other passengers’ behavior, there are ways they can help their own trip go smoothly – or at least be prepared if something doesn’t go according to plan.

To combat potential “travel nightmares,” 60 percent of travelers make sure to arrive at the airport with plenty of time before their flight, 55 percent print out all confirmation emails and 39 percent call hotels and airlines to double-check their reservations.

Surprisingly, though, 74 percent of travelers have taken the risk and flown without travel insurance.

“We don’t like to think about the things that can go wrong when traveling, and while travel insurance can’t stop someone from kicking the back of your seat, it’s designed to help protect from unforeseen, potentially ruinous events,” said Jeff Rutledge, AIG Travel CEO. “When coupled with 24/7 assistance services, it can also improve the overall travel experience.”

A quarter of travelers find the most difficult part of traveling to be navigating the airport and the security screening process, while 23 percent say the flights – including any transfers and layovers – are the worst part.

Seven in 10 travelers have experienced a delayed flight, while 44 percent have had their checked bags delayed and 40 percent have had a canceled flight.

“Travel insurance is specifically designed to provide financial protection in these situations – lost or stolen luggage, flight delays or even emergency medical issues,” Rutledge said. “However, even if a claim isn’t made, our Travel Guard plans offer comprehensive assistance for anything from event ticketing to restaurant recommendations, finding a local translator abroad or sending souvenirs home.”

Unfortunately, travel insurance doesn’t protect your seat – and 23 percent of respondents admit to trying to take a seat that isn’t theirs, with those who want middle seats the most likely to do so.

The survey was conducted online from Aug. 10 to Aug. 28, 2018, by OnePoll with a sample of 2,000 American adults (aged 18 and older) who have traveled by plane. The research was commissioned by AIG Travel.



(Based on dollar figures given by 2,000 respondents.)

Missed flights                                      $570
Lost luggage                                       $582.14
Medical situations                               $568.74
New accommodations                        $591.77
Lost or stolen passport/wallet             $571.04
Natural disaster                                  $638.30
Canceled flights                                  $676.05
Total:                                                   $4,198


  1. Leaning their seat into your space
  2. Kicking/jostling the back of your seat
  3. Traveling with a disruptive baby/child
  4. Using both armrests
  5. Talking loudly on the flight
  6. Not properly disciplining their child
  7. Taking their shoes off
  8. Getting up and needing to get past your seat during the flight\
  9. Smelling bad (either body odor or too much cologne/perfume)
  10. Trying to talk to you throughout the flight



  1. Flight being delayed
  2. Checked bags getting delayed
  3. Flight being canceled
  4. Getting a minor sickness (such as a cold) while on a trip
  5. Checked bags getting lost/stolen



  1. Arrived at airport with two or more hours to spare (three for international flights)
  2. Printed out all confirmation numbers/emails
  3. Called hotels and/or airlines to double-check reservations
  4. Planned a detailed itinerary
  5. Only brought a carry-on (no checked luggage)
  6. Purchased travel insurance
  7. Brought hand sanitizer/disinfectant
  8. Used a travel agent
  9. Kept a strict budget
  10. Used travel-planning apps



  1. Having a man die one row over on the plane
  2. Passengers joked about a bomb threat on the plane, delaying the flight
  3. Being choked by another passenger
  4. Three emergency landings before arrival at the destination
  5. Rerouted when almost there after being struck by lightning
  6. Being vomited on by a child
  7. Breaking a foot after getting tangled in a suitcase strap
  8. Spending five nights in an airport because hotel accommodations fell through
  9. Flying in a thunderstorm and being asked to get in crash position for the landing
  10. Getting robbed/pickpocketed