The seats are cramped. The overhead bins are overflowing. The armrests are tiny. The bags of pretzels are even tinier. You’re in the middle seat. The passenger on one side is talking loudly on the phone while the one other brags about paying less than one-third what you paid for your ticket. These are all legitimate reasons to hate flying on commercial airlines but none are the primary reason for passengers getting uncontrollably angry. A new study found that the main cause of air rage goes all the way back to boarding the plane and being forced to walk through first class. Grrr!
Katherine DeCelles, associate professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto, lead the study, which analyzed data on over 1,500 flights from a large international airline (kept anonymous for obvious reasons). Their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences medical journal, showed that passengers in the economy section were 3.84 times more likely to have an incident of air rage if they were on a plane with a first-class section. They were 2.18 times more likely to have air rage if they also had to walk through first class while boarding, looking down at those smug passengers already seated with their big drinks, hot mixed nuts and ample legroom. Can you relate?
Psychology (research) tells us that when people feel a sense of deprivation and inequality, they are more likely to act out.
DeCelles says flight crews define air rage as belligerent behavior, emotional outbursts, non-compliant behavior, and events fueled by drugs, alcohol or sex, with belligerent rage more common in first class and alcohol-fueled rage the norm in coach.
The very definition of the air rage phenomenon is that it has to endanger the safety of the flight.
Is first class and its passengers being given a bad rap? According to the study, just the presence of a first class cabin on a plane (even with separate boarding doors for coach) raised the odds of having an air rage incident to the same as if the plane were delayed for nine and half hours. Make them walk through first class and the odds are the same as if the plane had been delayed 15 hours!
Can anything be done? DeCelles has a few ideas beyond getting rid of first class completely. Allowing coach passengers to use the first class restroom when it’s available is one. Closing the curtains is another. Keeping the smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies from wafting into economy is a good one too.
How about giving every passenger a hot cookie? How about removing one row of first class and giving everyone in coach an extra inch of legroom? Would that be too much to ask? Would it? WOULD IT? ANSWER ME!!!