Causes and Consequences of Air Rage in Canada: Cases in Newspapers

Article excerpt


Objectives: To outline the causes and consequences of air rage, describe victims and perpetrators, suggest hypotheses for further study and compare road rage to air rage cases.

Method: We analyzed 29 air rage cases reported in the Canadian Press for the time period 1998 to 2000.

Results: It was found that excessive alcohol use and tobacco smoking were the most important precipitating factors. Physical aggression was common in air rage but serious injuries were not. The psychological stress of air rage for passengers must be considerable but it has not been assessed. Air rage and road rage are predominantly attributable to young males. However, alcohol and tobacco use are not important factors in road rage.

Discussion: Preventing air rage will be difficult and will depend on better training for airline staff. More research is needed on air rage, especially the role of mental illness and prescription drug use. Prospective studies of air rage cases are needed.

La traduction du resume se trouve a la fin de l'article.

"Air rage" usually refers to dangerous, aggressive or disruptive behaviour by passengers on airplanes, although there is no accepted definition.1,2 It has been estimated that there is "more than a 400% increase in air rage internationally but it is recognized that most air rage cases are not reported and there is no accurate measure of the numbers. Scientific information about air rage is inadequate at present. A recent search of the scientific literature found only two scientific papers dealing with the topic, describing cases in the USA and Australia, respectively. One Canadian unpublished review1 describes some cases of alcohol-related air rage. The paper by Fine2 describes cases in the USA and finds many causative factors such as alcohol, tobacco and mental illness, among others. However, in spite of the paucity of scientific information, air rage may be common; a survey of Australian airline staff found that more than 70% frequently dealt with angiy passengers, although the reasons for anger were not described.3

Air rage seems to be increasing at the same time as road rage and may have similar origins and perpetrators. This study of air rage in Canada is compared with a similar one of road rage cases drawn from the same source, i.e., Canadian newspaper reports.4 Newspaper reports represent one of the few sources about air rage cases since neither health care facilities nor police routinely collect information on air rage. Canadian airlines do not distribute information on air rage cases. We examine reports for three recent years from the Canadian Press, the largest news-gathering resource in Canada.

The purposes of this report are to: i) outline the main apparent causes and consequences in Canadian reports of air rage cases, ii) describe the characteristics of air rage perpetrators and victims, iii) suggest hypotheses about air rage which could be examined in more systematic studies, and iv) compare air rage cases with road rage cases. Newspaper reports will not indicate how many air rage cases occur, as only the most serious will be reported, probably those resulting in court appearances or serious injuries or diversion of flights to unscheduled cities.


The cases examined come from reported air rage cases in the Canadian Press (CP) archives. It contains reports from 102 Canadian newspapers and its own reporters in most Canadian cities. We used air rage as the key search words. We obtained all archive reports in which air rage was mentioned in the title or text for the years 1998 to 2000. There were 63 reports and about half involved reviews of the air rage phenomenon, surveys of air rage behaviour, or cases described earlier. However, there were 29 unique air rage cases and they are the focus of this paper. We included each case only once, although several were reported when criminal charges were laid and again with court appearances. …