Flights in planes configured with first class sections aboard are much more likely to experience incidents of passenger air rage, according to new research.
Not that the air rage will necessarily take place in the first class section.
Katherine DeCelles of the University of Toronto and Michael Norton of Harvard studied more than 1000 air rage incidents over the course of nearly a million flights with one major airline (whose identity was not disclosed), seeking predictors of bad behaviour, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The researchers found that smaller seats, flight delays and longer flight durations all increased the incidence of air rage. None of that is surprising.
Strangely, however, there were two other unexpected predictors. Firstly, if a plane had a first class section, the incidence of air rage more than tripled among economy passengers. Secondly, if economy passengers had to walk through first class to get to their seats (boarding from the front of the aircraft) incidence of air rage leapt – registering a staggering sevenfold increase.
Having first class aboard a plane, according to the researchers, riles other passengers as much as enduring a delay of over 15 hours.
The theory is that when things aboard an aircraft become annoying or infuriating, the irritation is increased if passengers know that other flyers, very close to them, are finding everything vastly easier and more comfortable. It’s easy to apply the same to society in general.
Of course, some air rage actually does take place in the first class section – and it can be dreadful. The disgraceful behaviour of New York investment bank managing director Gerard Finneran in 1996, regarded as the grossest behavior ever witnessed aboard an aircraft, took place in first class.
Finneran screamed obscenities and yelled repeatedly for more alcohol while flying United Airlines from Buenos Aires to New York. Finally, after threatening a flight attendant with violence when no alcohol arrived, Finneran demonstrated his displeasure by leaping from his seat and defecating on a first class food trolley. He used the linen napkins as toilet paper and staggered half naked and screaming down the aisle until restrained.
“I was angry,” Finneran told the judge. He ended up paying USD 48,000 to reimburse his first class fellow passengers’ ticket costs, performing 300 hours of community service and paying USD 1000 towards United Airlines’ clean-up costs.
Written by Peter Needham