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What Causes Air Rage? Ron Bartsch on A Current Affair

What causes air rage, i.e. unruly and even violent passengers on flights? Avlaw Aviation Consulting Managing Director Ron Bartsch appeared on Channel Nine’s A Current Affair to discuss unruly passengers.

When you are relaxing on a peaceful flight, and then somebody ruins it by getting angry and lashing out violently at other passengers and cabin crew.

It is not a common occurrence, but it does happen. The International Air Transport Association reported that, from 2007 to 2015, there were over 49,000 reported cases of unruly passengers. And when it happens, passengers aren’t always sure what to do about it.

What causes air rage includes a range of factors, including:

  • Intoxication;
  • Cramped space;
  • Shrinking seats;
  • Lack of amenities;
  • Increased airplane security;
  • Travel fatigue; and
  • Travel anxiety

Some suggest, however, that the causes of air rage stem much deeper than that. Psychology Today suggests that ‘class distinctions’ may foster a perceived inequality among passengers. They cite research suggesting that aircraft with a first class cabin have an increased risk of air rage incidents in economy class. This is because economy passengers need to walk through first class when they board the plane, increasing the change of them becoming angry later.

How to manage air rage?

On A Current Affair, Ron Bartsch argued that it was best to leave instances of air rage to cabin crew and for passengers not to get involved.

Source: A Current Affair, Channel Nine

“Don’t take the law into your own hands because even in that, and quite inadvertently, you may even be committing an offence in doing so”, he said.

Although, no doubt, this can be very difficult for cabin crew who may be up against incredibly physically strong passengers. Sometimes other stronger passengers might practically be the only hope. However, they should exercise caution.

Ultimately it is the captain of the aircraft is in charge of safety. He or she has the power to decide what to do with an unruly passenger, which may include detaining them until they can land safety.

Punishments for unruly passengers

The punishments can be quite severe for violent passengers. This includes ten years in prison if a person “assaults, threatens with violence or intimidates another person”.

Travel bans may also be a punishment. Qantas banned a New Zealand man from their flights (including Jetstar flights) in December 2017. He had become extremely intoxicated on an international flight, launched into a ‘tirade’ and refused to return to his seat when the seatbelt light came on. He also screamed abuse at passengers and cabin crew.

Passengers may even be made to compensate the airline for any damage caused if the plane has to divert. This can include fuel and reimbursing all the passengers.

“Amounts of $10,000 and even more is quite likely if an aircraft’s got to divert,” Ron Bartsch told A Current Affair. “It could get even about to $100,000”,

You can watch the A Current Affair piece here.