Newspaper article International New York Times

Flight Rage? It Happens, but It's Rare

Newspaper article International New York Times

Flight Rage? It Happens, but It's Rare

Article excerpt

Cramped conditions in the back of a plane can severely test passenger equanimity. But such incidents are actually not common.

Recent stories about angry disputes over reclining coach seats and crimped personal space are often accompanied by assertions that episodes of air rage are increasing. But are they really?

No, at least not in the United States. In fact, they are on the decline, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration. Last year, when airlines carried 826 million passengers in the country, there were 167 reports of unruly passengers, the agency says. That is down from 211 the previous year, and 330 in 2004. This year, the rate is tracking even lower, with 59 such reports as of June 30, the agency says.

"You hear stupid things about passengers behaving badly," said Temple Grandin, a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University who travels frequently as an expert on the livestock industry and as a best-selling author and speaker on the subject of overcoming autism. "I don't agree. For the most part, people are really well-behaved on airplanes."

Airplanes are ever more crowded, and space for coach seats is tighter than ever. So cramped conditions in the back of a plane can severely test passenger equanimity, as we have seen in recent episodes in which pilots have made emergency landings when a few passengers have fought over seat-reclining.

Dr. Grandin, an industry expert on matters like humane and stress- reducing treatment of livestock in transportation, has had her own unhappy experiences as a human.

"Usually, I have enough status to not have to go in the back of the plane, where you're really jammed in tight. But I've flown back there plenty of times," she said from Vermont the other day, where she was traveling for a speaking engagement. "It's just awfully uncomfortable to be jammed in there so tight, and then someone reclines the seat back into your knees and you get your laptop suddenly shoved closed and you can't work. I do not like that."

I will not risk drawing too fine an analogy over the actual cattle car for livestock versus the metaphorical cattle car for humans. …

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