By James Limbach

May 6, 2010

Travelers have a lot to gripe about, but what bugs them most are luggage charges and add-on airline ticket fees, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.

Travelers also were very annoyed by rude or unhelpful staff, whether at airlines, hotels, or rental-car companies.

In a nationally representative survey conducted in January, CR asked 2,000 consumers to score three lists of travel gripes covering rental-cars, airlines, and hotels for a total of 24 items on a 1-to-10 scale, 1 meaning an experience "does not annoy you at all" and 10 meaning it "annoys you tremendously."

Luggage charges (8.4 overall) and added airline ticket fees (8.1), top the list, but rude or unhelpful staff at rental-car companies (7.9), hotels (7.8) and airlines (7.7) were also among the more annoying things that rub travelers the wrong way while traveling.

Dave of Orlando, FL, cites a prime example. He tells, "I was disrespected by the most arrogant and pompous group of people I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with in my life," while renting a car from Thrifty at Memphis airport. "When I checked in the rental vehicle I was told that one of the bugs on the windshield was instead a small nick in the glass. I explained it had bugs on it when I rented it and I still thought it was one of the many bugs on the windshield. Then his attitude changed and the guy was now accusing me of intentionally putting a nick in a windshield and covering it with bugs. He demanded that I fill out paperwork...or I could be 'arrested right now.'" Dave says he will never do business with Thrifty again.

The complete report on how travelers ranked all 24 annoyances is available in the June issue of Consumer Reports.

Among the highlights:

• Poor communication about airline delays (7.1) annoyed people slightly more than the delays themselves (6.8).

• Airline travelers who hog your seat (7.0) and carry-on space (6.7) are less annoying that some other irritants. Many people give crying babies and unruly kids (4.9) on planes a pass and have apparently gotten used to puny or no airline snacks, (5.1) and long lines for security and check-in (5.2).

• Women travelers are somewhat more annoyed than men. Among complaints for which the gender gap was sufficient: pricey in-room hotel snacks (6.8 women, 5.2 men); insufficient or chintzy hotel bedding (7.2 women, 6.2 men), and high-pressure pitches for extra rental-car coverage or upgrades (7.1 women, 6.0 men).

• Some gripes, annoyed respondents under age 50 much more than those 50 and older. Those included rude or unhelpful airline staff (8.6 under 50, 8.0 50 or older), rental-car pitches (6.8 under 50, 6.1 50 or older), and absence of the ordered car (6.5 under 50, 5.4 50 and older), However, older folks are far more ticked off than younger people by those unruly kids on planes (4.5 under 50, 5.3 50 and older).

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. 2,000 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviewing took place from January 21-25. The margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.