Air rage

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Air rage is disruptive or violent behavior on the part of passengers and crew of aircraft, especially during flight.[1][2] Air rage generally covers both behavior of a passenger that is likely caused by physiological or psychological stresses associated with air travel,[3] and when a passenger becomes unruly, angry, or violent on an aircraft during a flight.[4] Excessive consumption of alcohol by the passengers is often a cause.[5]

Landing to disembark the troublemaker cannot usually be done quickly and causes great delays to other passengers. However, unlike large ships, there is insufficient room on board to hold the offender in an isolated area until arrival. Therefore, diversions or unscheduled stops do occur because of air rage.

Examples of behavior that threatens flight safety include failure to follow safety regulations or behaving in a way that gives suspicion of a threat to flight safety.[2][6][7]

An airline passenger's uncontrolled anger is usually expressed in aggressive or violent behavior in the passenger compartment,[8] but air rage can have serious implications, especially if the offender decides to interfere with the aircraft's navigation or flight controls.[7] Generally, such passengers are not at risk of committing terrorist acts, but since the September 11 attacks, such incidents have been taken more seriously due to increased awareness of terrorism.[9]


The first case of air rage was recorded in 1947 on a flight from Havana to Miami, when a drunk man assaulted another passenger and a flight attendant.[10] Another early documented case involved a flight in Alaska in 1950.[11]

At the time, applicable jurisdiction was unclear, so offenders often escaped punishment. It wasn't until the 1963 Tokyo Convention that laws of the country where the aircraft is registered were agreed to take precedence.[12]

Air rage events have increased since International Air Transport Association (IATA) started collecting data on disruptive passenger behavior in 2007.[13] No definite explanation for that trend has been established; possible explanations include heightened anxiety for one's safety and irritation with invasive security.[14]


The most common cause of a passenger or crew member acting unruly is from drunkenness. The availability of alcoholic beverages on airlines and at airports enables passengers to drink excessively before and during flights. Flight attendants have the ability to keep track of how many drinks are served to passengers while on board an aircraft, and are required by many countries to refuse further drinks to passengers who appear intoxicated, but have no way of knowing how many are consumed prior to boarding. According to one study by the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPU), half of all air rage incidents on Western airlines involve alcohol.[15]

Other causes include the use of drugs (prescription or illegal), sometimes in conjunction with alcohol consumption.

Sometimes, sober passengers are disruptive by failing to obey laws and rules that must be observed or arguing with flight attendants.[9]

Stressful situations, such as jet lag, flight delays, or other difficult or annoying passengers or crew members in one's vicinity, can lead passengers and crew members to an increased likelihood of becoming agitated and air rage. Passengers who are afraid on board of a plane already experience stress from the fact they are boarding a plane and can easily panic. The HKPU study found that on Asian airlines, where air rage incidents are rarer due to a less entrenched drinking culture and greater tolerance for the inconvenience and space shortages involved in air travel, the air rage incidents that do occur arise from inexperience and lack of knowledge about the restrictions involved. In China, where the study's authors described some incidents of air rage as "legendary" due to pictures or video posted on social media, some passengers have been known to do things like open cabin doors while the plane was taxiing to let hot air out, or throw coins in the engines for good luck.[15]

Air rages can also be the result of a combination of factors, for example a person who is already afraid of flying can be tipped over the edge by an overuse of alcohol, medication, stressful situation or disruptive behavior from others.


Air rage generally covers both behavior of a passenger or passengers on the aircraft or more generally speaking at the airport:

  • Undue anger.[4][16]
  • Gratuitous violence.[3][4][7][16]
  • Unruliness.[3]
  • Obnoxiousness[3]
  • Threatening flight safety.[2][6][7]
  • Failure to follow safety regulations.[2][6][7]
  • Behaving in a way that gives suspicion of a threat to flight safety.[2][6][7]
  • Claiming to have a bomb on the flight or falsely saying they are a terrorist with malignant intent.
  • Temper tantrums.
  • Disruptive behaviour.[17]
  • Threatening crew members and other passengers.[18][6][19]

Other related behavior that may interfere with the comfort of cabin crew or passengers include smoking on board the flight, viewing pornographic materials, performing sex acts ("mile high" club) in the aircraft cabin, making undue sexual advances towards other people, performing sex acts in the lavatory, the inappropriate groping and touching of crew members, loud or drunken behaviors, spitting, swearing, and wearing clothing that is inappropriate or offensive.[20]

Handling air rage[edit]

Extremely unruly passengers or crew members who must be restrained are restrained using a variety of methods. Some airlines carry flexcuffs for this purpose. Others use seatbelts, adhesive tape, neckties, shoe laces, or whatever is available on the aircraft. While the United States does not allow passengers to actually be confined to the seat or any other part of the aircraft, and only allows their individual body parts to be restrained, other countries, such as Iceland, do allow tying an unruly passenger to the seat.

Sometimes a flight must be diverted to allow an aircraft to dispose itself of the offender as soon as possible.[9]


In the United States, passengers who disrupt the duties of a flight crew member can face fines up to $25,000 and sometimes lengthy prison sentences. In addition, the airline can choose to ban the problem passenger from any future flights.[9]

In Australia, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority reserves the right to use stun guns to subdue unruly passengers.[21]

In Canada the Pilot-in-Command (Captain) of the aircraft is designated as a Peace Officer under the Criminal Code and as such, have the same powers of arrest as a Police Officer. The Pilot-in-Command is authorized to enforce all sections of the Criminal Code and all Acts of Parliament while the aircraft is in flight.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas, Andrew R. (2001). Air Rage: Crisis in the Skies. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.
  2. ^ a b c d e "air rage – Definition from Longman English Dictionary Online". Retrieved 15 May 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "What is air rage? definition and meaning". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "air rage Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  5. ^ "air rage definition – English dictionary for learners – Reverso". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Nyheder 24 timer i døgnet – seneste nyt – jp –". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Flight Stress – How to Beat It – Flight Health". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Definition of AIR RAGE". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d "How often are unruly airline passengers kicked off flights?- The Daily Dose - MSN Living". 14 November 2013. Archived from the original on 14 November 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  10. ^ Hunter, Joyce A (2009). Anger in the Air: Combating the Air Rage Phenomenon. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 9781409485988.
  11. ^ Rolfe, Peter (2000). "Air Rage: Disruptive Passengers. The Causes and Cures" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 December 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Convention on offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft" (PDF). Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  13. ^ Street, Francesca (3 December 2019). "Outrage in the skies: Are airline passengers getting more unruly?". CNN. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  14. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella (1 June 2012). "Air rage: Passengers Quicker to Snap". CNN. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  15. ^ a b Heaver, Stuart (26 May 2019). "Air rage: how it differs in West and East, and why Chinese passengers are in a league of their own". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  16. ^ a b "Air Rage meaning , Definition of air rage, what is air rage". Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  17. ^ Archived 28 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "air rage (noun) definition and synonyms – Macmillan Dictionary". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  19. ^ Bleach, Stephen (16 March 2008). "Ten ways to get kicked off a plane". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  20. ^ "Insider City Guides – The Times and Sunday Times". City Guides. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  21. ^ "Civil Aviation Safety Authority - Documents by type". 1 October 2009. Archived from the original on 1 October 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  22. ^ "Canadian Criminal Law/Peace Officer - Wikibooks, open books for an open world". Retrieved 1 July 2018.

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