What is Air Rage?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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Air rage is a term used to describe extreme or unruly behavior demonstrated by some passengers of an airplane during commercial airline travel. This term is often used in a manner similar to other terms such as “road rage” or “computer rage” and, though the term indicates anger, it can also be used to describe other unruly or disruptive behaviors on an airplane. Air rage can be caused by a number of different factors present during air travel, such as intoxication, hypoxia, cramped space, and delays in travel.

Also called airline rage or aviation rage, air rage is usually found among passengers on an airplane and is a serious problem for a number of reasons. Unlike other forms of disruptive behavior, air rage can be especially dangerous to many people since unruly actions could potentially damage an aircraft or result in a crash. The setting of the airplane is also somewhat unique since a person who is behaving inappropriately cannot be asked to leave or removed from the aircraft without landing, which would result in greater time delays and punish other passengers.


There are a number of types of unruly behavior that can be considered symptomatic of air rage, though violent actions are among the most common. Passengers under the effects of such rage have been known to attack other passengers or flight attendants. In some instances a passenger in a fit of rage may lash out at anyone around him or her, even making attempts to enter the cockpit or attack the pilots. These acts of air rage are not necessarily terrorist actions, since they are not typically premeditated or driven by political or ideological convictions, but are instead merely an act of unreasonable passion.

Psychological professionals and airline safety experts have pointed to different conditions as causes of air rage. Alcohol is often seen as one of the major contributors to irrational and violent actions on an aircraft. The pressure on an airplane is typically the equivalent to an elevation of about 7,000 feet (over 2 km) and so feelings of lightheadedness or mild intoxication can be produced merely by this altered pressure. When alcoholic inebriation is combined with this, a person may begin acting in a way that is significantly different from how he or she may otherwise behave.

Air rage could also be caused by hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen to the brain. This can be caused by the change in pressure, as well as reduced oxygen levels present in the cabin of an airplane due to the use of recycled air. Passengers on an aircraft may also be predisposed to irritability and rage due to frustration over cramped conditions or time spent waiting on canceled or delayed flights.


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Post 2

@Grivusangel -- Some parent is going to come after you! Ha. But yeah, I understand. I can deal with delays, crowding, etc. Some things you just can't control. But some things you can.

I was on a packed flight (also on a regional jet. Must be because they're so small) and a mom across the aisle from me had two children, an 18-month old and a 6-year-old. The 18-month old was screaming like a banshee. Maybe his ears were hurting.

Bad enough, but (and this happened, I swear), after we pushed back from the gate, the little girl started saying she had to go to the bathroom. The flight attendant tried to get her to wait until we were at 10

,000 feet (maybe 10 minutes?) but nothing doing. She *had* to go.

We had to stop before getting on the runway so the kid could go potty, and believe me: she took her own sweet time. When we finally took off, I could see all the aircraft backed up that would be late taking off because the kid's mom wouldn't tell her to hold it.

Lest someone think I'm being too harsh, I met the little threesome in the terminal bathrooms 45 minutes before we boarded and the little girl went then. I know this because her mom made a *big* deal about her wiping herself. Sigh. Also, she had made some noises when we got on the plane about, "I wonder what the bathroom looks like." Kids, yes. But seriously. The passengers around us who could hear what was going on were murmuring angrily and it sounded like an angry beehive in that cabin!

Post 1

At the risk of ticking off parents everywhere, I think one of the leading causes of air rage is children: either from parents who feel someone is unjustly accusing their child, or from the person who has had bad behavior inflicted upon them.

I was on a three hour flight in a regional jet, which meant there weren't many empty seats. This little girl kicked my seat, right where the space is between the back and seat, for two hours. Her parents were across the aisle, sound asleep and her brother was busy with his DS. I finally turned around and said, "Please stop that." Her brother looked up and fussed at her, then apologized to me. The kicking stopped, but I can see how this would cause air rage.

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