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Part 1

Regulators, Airlines Grapple With Air Rage

How To Address Air Rage

By Annette Santiago/AviationNow.com


From regulators to flight attendants and passengers, everyone is responsible for passenger safety. But when it comes to air rage, no one is quite sure how to keep everyone safe.

Following the much publicized Global Zero Air Rage Day in July, there has been much discussion about the how and why of in-flight violence, but little agreement.


The FAA's new leaflet on bad behavior - "Safety Is Everyone's Responsibility" - came out almost a month after the U.S. flight attendants' union accused government agencies of failing to protect them, and airline passengers, from "the dangers of air rage."

But even flight attendants, on the front lines of air rage, think Feinstein is missing the mark. Limiting the amount of alcohol that can be served on flights could be potentially more damaging, and a few flight attendants cite its ability to calm the nerves of some airline passengers.

"Carriers need to adopt responsible alcohol policies," says Candice Colander, a spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) Air Safety and Health Dept. "The airlines should train flight attendants to recognize drunken behavior and how to effectively cut off passengers who have had too much."


United was the first airline to distribute the FAA leaflets at hubs across the country.

The AFA points to figures from United for air rage incidents - higher than those kept by FAA - as evidence that air rage incidents, while still freak occurrences, are growing.

"We think the issue [air rage] is prevalent," says United's Meagher. "It's an industry issue and affects our flights and crew."


A sampling of ASRS reports from cabin crewmembers between October 1999 to February 2000 showed that 16 of 50 reports involved incidents of unruly passenger behavior. Three of the sixteen were alcohol-related, two of the sixteen were alcohol/tobacco-related, and one was solely tobacco-related. There was also a drug-related incident involving PCP and two bomb threats.

If alcohol is not a factor in all cases of air rage, then what is it that causes law-abiding citizens to act in a way that not only endangers themselves but others?

"We are living in the age of rage, where more of the 'me' generation times the millions of travelers equals explosive situations," says Leon James, Ph.D., a professor of traffic psychology at University of Hawaii and co-author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare.

"Air rage is so common that most travelers are unaware that they have it. It's just part of the background feeling that goes along with the stress of travel and transportation," James says.

The AFA, in its air rage report card, pinpointed many of these stresses: oversold flights, crowded planes, small seats, frequent delays, and flight cancellations.

James believes the airlines should, among other things, provide a continuously updated stream of accurate information and elevate the importance of the travelers' comfort.

"Apologize if you can't provide decent seating," he recommends.

James and his colleague Diane Nahl are members of a small community of scholars studying traffic psychology. In 1997 he testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee about aggressive driving and road rage. He believes that the government can approach air rage the same way it has approached road rage, by giving grants to airlines and airports for proper crowd control management training.

"Air rage, like road rage, is the inability to cope with the challenges of congested traffic," he says.

The FAA does not have any immediate plans for action in the fight against air rage, but hopes that the leaflet is a first step in educating the public about the penalties for crew interference.


original here


Recline rancor: Passenger recalls seat dispute

By Scott Mayerowitz, AP Airlines Writer

POSTED: 10:01 a.m. HST, Sep 03, 2014

LAST UPDATED: 04:27 a.m. HST, Sep 04, 2014


NEW YORK >> The businessman whose dispute with a fellow airline passenger over a reclined seat sparked a national debate about air-travel etiquette says he's embarrassed by the way the confrontation unfolded and that he regrets his behavior.

(…) The argument became so tense that the pilots of the Aug. 24 fight diverted the Boeing 737 to Chicago. An AP story about the incident started a broad public discussion of whether passengers should be allowed to recline. In the days that followed, two other flights were diverted under similar circumstances.

For the record, he said, he never reclines his seat.

"You have the right, but it seems rude to do it," said Beach, who is 6 feet 1 inch tall.

The dispute occurred on the final leg of Beach's trip back to his home near Denver. (…)

U.S. airlines prohibit use of the Knee Defender, but the devices are not illegal.

"I put them in maybe a third of the time. Usually, the person in front tries (to recline) their seat a couple of times, and then they forget about it," Beach said. The device comes with a courtesy card to tell passengers that you've blocked them, but he doesn't use it.

"I'd rather just kind of let them think the seat is broken, rather than start a confrontation," he said.

(…) When the flight attendants came through the cabin to serve beverages, the woman said her seat was broken. That's when Beach told one of them about the Knee Defender. The flight attendant asked him to remove the device, and Beach said he did.

"As soon as I started to move it, she just full force, blasted the seat back, right on the laptop, almost shattered the screen. My laptop came flying onto my lap," he said.

Beach complained, saying that he couldn't work like that, but the flight attendant informed him that the woman had the right to recline. Both passengers were sitting in United's Economy Plus section, which offers 4 more inches of legroom than the rest of coach.

His reply: "You asked me to let her recline a few inches, and she just took 100 percent of it."

That's when Beach's anger boiled over. He said he pushed the woman's seat forward and put the Knee Defender back in. The woman stood up and threw a cup of soda -- not water, as previously reported -- at him.

(…) The flight attendant stepped in quickly and moved the woman to another seat.

"I said a lot of things I shouldn't have said to the flight attendant: some bad words, what's your name and 'I can't believe you're treating me like this,'" he recalled.

The pilots then changed course for Chicago -- a decision that Beach said "amazed" him.

"The plane was dead quiet for the rest of that flight," he added. "Nobody said a word."

Ira Goldman, who invented the Knee Defender, said the passengers on the other diverted flights got upset after their knees and head were hit by reclining seats. He said airlines are "trying to wish this problem away."

His solution: Install seats that slide forward within a shell to recline or to allow the use of his device, which has been sold since 2003.

"They're selling the same space twice -- to me to sit down and then inviting people to put their seat backs there as well," he said.

When the plane landed in Chicago, police escorted Beach and the woman off. Neither police, nor the airline or the Transportation Security Administration has released any information about the passenger seated in front of Beach.

No criminal or civil charges were brought against them, but United would not let them continue on to Denver.

(…) original here


Interview with Dr. Leon James
IBD Story on Air Rage  Nancy Gondo  August 2001
It seems that we've been hearing about more and more air rage incidents lately. Why do you think they are on the rise?
If you're a passenger and the person next to you or near you starts acting up, what can you do if anything to try to prevent the situation from escalating?
What should you do if you're stuck in your seat and someone has already erupted in a full-on rage?
What is the airline's role in trying to either prevent or resolve the incident?

Answers here


The Psychology of Air Rage Prevention

by Leon James, Ph.D.


AIR RAGE, like road rage, is the inability to cope with the challenges of congested traffic. Just like aggressive driving and road rage, air rage is so common that most travelers are unaware that they have it. It's just part of the background feeling that goes along with the stress of travel and transportation.

This background below the surface simmering feeling of anger explodes into rage at unpredictable moments. What can the air lines do about it, and what can we do as travelers to reduce the risk of being an air rage perpetrator?


1) Provide a continuous stream of accurate updated information. No five minutes should go by without an update. This should be provided in a variety of formats and media: electric board, signs, announcements, and face to face telling.
2) Elevate the importance of the travelers' comfort. Show that you care about it. Apologize if you can't provide decent seating. Make up for it by giving something else in return so the traveler doesn't feel cheated or neglected.
3) Manage lines better. People should not stand in line when they can sit and wait. People shouldn't have to compete physically with each other for a seat by where they stand. Do not make people start forming a line until you're ready to board them.
4) Follow community building principles to create a social group out of the anonymous people in the waiting room or on the airplane. Encourage discussion among the waiting people. Form a support group out of them so they can assist each other and give each other help, ideas, support.
5) More and better security in waiting rooms so travelers can take a nap without worrying their bags are going to be stolen.


1) Bring things with you to take care of your comfort--warm clothes, pillow, blanket, reading material, snacks, games, etc.
2) Form a mini-support group with one or more fellow travelers. Share and consult with each other on whatever problems are encountered.
3) Come prepared with the right attitude and coping tricks. See our travel emotions education cards for ideas.
4) Have alternate scenarios worked out in case you don't arrive when expected.


These workshops teach positive techniques for managing passenger rage through community-building forces using Compassionate Crowd Management Techniques delivered through Community Crowd Management Workshops for flight crews and airline ground personnel.


There is increasing evidence that crowded spaces become occasions for some people to express violent rage against others present, whether directly responsible or not. Road rage incidents have grown about 12% per year in the past decade. Metro rage and elevator rage are now on the increase. So is air rage in airplanes and at airports. Airlines and authorities are concerned.

There are two approaches available in crowd control and crowd management, one negative, the other positive. Both are essential, and where only one is used, there is less effectiveness. Negative crowd control is what security personnel are now trained for. It is based on law enforcement threat: "You should know that if you do this or that, you can be arrested. We are watching you." When this type of system is in place, it needs to be supplemented with positive crowd management techniques, or else people resist the regulations, and a certain percent can be predicted to openly rebel by creating a "scene" and engaging in aggressive, hostile, and sometimes violent, behavior called "rage."

We are the first to offer positive crowd management techniques, also known as Compassionate Crowd Management in our Community Crowd Management Workshops for flight crews and airline ground personnel. These techniques have been developed for teachers several years ago and are now being applied to this new venue.


1.     Live Demography

2.     Shared Feedback Form

3.     Flying Partner Agreement

4.     Flight Alumni Activities


1. Live Demography

An airline official or other designated person in authority, stands before a crowd in a waiting hall, or on the plane, while waiting or in the air, and announces the activity. This is followed with a series of questions that allow individuals in the crowd to raise the hand or to speak up. Some sample questions:

*How many here are going home and how many are going someplace else?
*How many people here have children traveling with them?
*How many people here have never been on an airplane?
*How many people here have other people waiting for them?
*How many people haven't had a decent meal in more than 24 hours?
*How many people here feel that this has been their worst trip of the year?

Etc. Each time the leader would count and announce the number of hands out loud. After doing this for a few minutes the entire crowd will have released some frustration and feel better because they are no longer an anonymous mass and they've had an occasion to react to each other and to get to trust each other more.

2. Shared Feedback Form

An airline official or other authorized person distributes a Shared Feedback Form explaining that it has to be filled out by two people together. The official should encourage strangers sitting next to each other to fill it out together. This can be done while waiting or in the air, as needed and depending on circumstances. One individual enters the ratings after discussing each item with the other individual and the two agreeing on a compromise answer.

By doing this activity strangers not only become known to each other, thus releasing some of the stress, but their reactions and emotions to annoying or scary events can be discussed together as a legitimate part of answering the Shared Feedback Form.

3. Designated Flying Partner Agreement

This activity can follow the Shared Feedback Form and is especially helpful if the two travelers did well with each other, or see each other as a potential resource for support. This form helps the two make the "designated flying partner" relationship their next step. It lists the various ways they can share thoughts, support each other emotions, and look after one another for the duration of that flight. It helps they sit next to each other on the plane but this is not a necessity since there are other ways of interacting.

4. Flight Alumni Activities

The airline official designates the flight by Name (not just flight number--e.g., Flight 345 Feather Sky, etc.) and informs all travelers that they are Alumni of that unique historical flight when these particular individuals were brought together by fate and risk their lives together, and their comfort and emotions. Everyone receives a flight symbol to keep (button, diploma, gifts, shirt, flag, toy, etc.) as a memory of the event. People can also hand in a form to indicate their interest in an annual Virtual Reunion on the Internet.


Community Crowd Management Techniques follow these principles of community-classroom:

Principle A: Crowdedness can be turned into a community resource.

The external imposition of enforced regulations, called negative crowd control techniques, cannot eliminate resistance, sabotage, and rebellion when the climate includes cynicism and alienation. Alienation and cynicism prevent positive feelings and mutual contact. When people are crowded together and forced into close quarters for hours, they can be led to the right type of positive interactions which can release community-building forces. Under these social forces, individuals change the way they react emotionally and evaluate the situation.

The very condition of being crowded together makes these community-building forces available, similarly to what happens in a natural disaster that unites a town or nation and motivates it to rebuild. Managed collective activities can help release these community-building forces when they create a joint and collective group focus, so that all individuals who are present are focusing jointly on the same item. Size and diversity add to this effect, and so they are turned into an advantage, rather than a burden. MINING CULTURAL DIVERSITY is one of the techniques taught.

Principle B: Community-building forces in a crowd can be released through managed activities.

Positive crowd management techniques are humane and compassionate. They are designed to create a social climate that relieves stress and suspicion in a climate of cynicism and alienation. People are able to handle an unexpected negative experience when the social environment is perceived as favorable or friendly to them. Managed community activities can be viewed as a user-friendly bonus that releases positive feelings of hope and security. These feelings can be expected to transfer to the authorities or airlines, promoting respect and loyalty.

Principle C: Collective decision making is emotionally more intelligent.

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. When left alone in a crowd, the individual becomes vulnerable to standardized imaginings. These are culturally acquired norms of expressing dissatisfaction (e.g., "They're taking advantage of me." or "I'm a wimp if I let them get away with it." or "If they hurt me, I'm going to hurt them." etc.). When people in a crowd turn to one another and share a focus, the solutions they come up with is superior and tends to avoid the pitfalls one individual can fall into (e.g., "attribution bias" "level of adaptation" "schemas and scripts" etc. -- see this chapter).

Principle D: Expressing rage in public places is a learned "culture tantrum" or norm.

1) generational upbringing (observing parents behave that way; observing TV characters behave that way). "That way" means without civility, or suspending the normal rules of civility. "Normal" in the sense of what we usually and normally do. Another way of saying this: We give ourselves permission to suspend the normal rules of civility. When that happens, rage behavior is being performed.

a) a social philosophy of cynicism must already exist.

b) a sense of alienation or being dis-entitled in some way.

For instance,

lines that are unusually long
or unusually slow
or when we have to sit in the airplane on the ground when it's not moving
or expecting a window seat and not getting one, etc.

People in these types of situations have their expectations violated. They feel they've been robbed of what they are entitled to, and what they have been promised. An elevator that gets stuck, or too crowded for comfort, or takes too long to come, etc.: these are the violations of one's expectations leading to a sense of dis-entitlement, hence alienation.

Now combine (a) and (b) to get dynamite rage: cynicism and disentitlement. People whose social inhibition against violence has been weakened, experience this combination of cynicism and disentitlement as a legitimate opportunity for suspending the rules of civility to which they normally adhere.

This type of LEARNED RAGE can be managed through social forces of community.

To Ease Air Rage Stress

  1. Use a Take-a-Number system for seat arrangement (reduces passenger's anxiety about seating, and avoids long lines at boarding.
  2. Put up a Flip Sign in the immediate boarding area for Count Down to Actual Boarding. This is more accurate than what the electronic signs indicate and calms passengers as they wait.
  3. Create Happenings while people are waiting in the boarding area: A raffle; Hula dancing; Clown walking around; Take Photo sessions; Quiz Board, etc. This distracts passengers from their troubles, keeps them entertained, makes them feel pampered and cooperative.

Principle E: Anonymity is anti-social and interferes with community-building forces.

Strangers can be crowded together in small spaces yet not know what others are thinking or how they are interpreting the situation. This is because the norm is to refrain from communicating except in very limited ways. However, this norm does not apply when a recognized official person addresses the crowd. At that point social energy is released and several individuals suddenly wish to express publicly their opinion or need. However, when the official leaves, the norm of enduring silently takes over again. This has unpredictable consequences because individuals are trapped in their suspicions, standardized imaginings, and attribution errors.

Instead of merely departing, or being a silently present, airline officials have the opportunity of starting group activities that dissolve anonymity. Live Demography, described above, has that desired effect. Once begun, the official can depart for other duties and the group cohesion that was created will continue for some minutes afterwards.

Principles of CCM Compassionate Crowd Management

1 Orienting

Officials are to give frequent updates on how long the delay is expected to continue in specific terms (minutes, hours), and what's being done about it.

2 Giving Advice

Officials are to give elaborated explanations that cover the consequences and implications of the delay or lack of service as expected.

3 Providing Reassurances

Officials are to demonstrate sympathy and compassion by showing that they are recognizing our distressed emotions and are willing to so something about it:  e.g., offering compensation, awards, raffles, entertainment, food, etc.

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Sidebar: Fyling the Unfriendly Skies..

tips from the experts on preventing air rage

by Jo Goecke
August 30, 2000

Leon James, Ph.D., and Diane Nahl, Ph.D., are experts on the phenomenon of air rage. Dr. James is a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, where he teaches a course on traffic psychology, and Dr. Nahl is a research scientist in the Information and Computer Sciences Department at the same university. They are co-authors of a new book, Road Rage and Aggressive Driving, co-facilitate air rage workshops (point your browser to http://DrDriving.org/airrage.html for more information), and collaborate to write and produce Dr. James’ web site http://DrDriving.org.

They provide the following professional travel tips and techniques for avoiding air rage:


1) Each airline should provide accurate, updated travel information every five minutes, using electric boards, signs, announcements, and personal contact.

2) Staff members should elevate the importance of each passenger’s comfort and apologize, if for any reason, it does not meet this high standard. The staff should compensate any passenger, who is not comfortable, with some tangible goodwill gesture.

3) Staff members should not expect passengers to stand in line when they can sit down to wait. Nor should passengers have to compete physically with each other for a seat next to their place in line. Do not make the passengers start forming a line until crew members are ready to board the passengers.

4) Special trained staff members should provide community-building principles to create a social group out of the anonymous passengers in the waiting room or on the airplane. Encourage discussion among the waiting passengers. Form a passenger support group so they can offer assistance to one another when help is needed.

5) Airline officials should provide tighter security in the waiting rooms so passengers can nap without worrying about their personal possessions, such as carry-on luggage, laptop computers, purses, briefcases, clothing, etc.


1) Passengers should bring things to the airport to ensure personal comfort—warm clothes, pillow, blanket, reading material, snacks, games, etc.

2) Passengers can form a mini-support group with one or more fellow passengers. Share and consult with each other on whatever problems are encountered.

3) Passengers should come prepared with the right attitude and coping tricks.

4) Passengers should always have alternate scenarios worked out in case they do not arrive when expected.


Passenger to Passenger Relations

The Etiquette of Seat Backs and Elbow Room

There are two directions from which air rage can develop--from the airlines or airport authorities, and from other passengers. The latter is called passenger etiquette. Ed Hewitt, Features Editor of The Independent Traveler, has reviewed some of the social forces that operate on shared seating space on tightly packed airplanes.



(FORT WORTH, June 29) The man in charge of American Airlines says he feels your pain when it comes to delays and poor service.

Chairman Donald Carty says he recently sat on an american flight for three hours before it took off, and no one with the Fort Worth-based carrier could tell him why it was late.

Passenger complaints against the airline industry as a whole were up 74 percent in the first four months of the year. Still, Carty says he believes the industry has made progress.


What Congress wants to do

Congress is not about to repeal deregulation. Instead, it will try to ease the pain a little for travelers and take action to create more competition at key hub airports.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced in the Senate on Feb. 5 that they would introduce the "Airline Passenger Fairness Act" to establish some minimum standards for customer service and give travelers access to information they need to make decisions about flights.

Airlines must refund the money of any passenger on a flight that is canceled for economic reasons.

Airlines must report all cancellations to DOT, including the flight number, departure time and load factor of the flight canceled. .

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