Air Rage
Disruptive Passenger Behaviour and its Causes

Dsruptive Passenger Behaviour or Air Rage can be defined as aberrant, abnormal, or abusive behaviour on the part of passengers either at airports or onboard commercial flights. Unruly and violent passengers create a massive safety risk to the aircraft and its passengers. They can also prove to be very expensive to airlines. In some cases, captains have been forced to divert a flight to eject the violent passenger. British Airways has said that the average cost of an unscheduled landing is 40,000 pounds stirling.

Disruptive Passenger Behaviour can have many causes ranging from the stress of travel and the banning of smoking to the side effects of prescription drugs. However many of the incidents that we see reported have one thing in common - alcohol. Most airline passengers are either going on or coming from a holiday; or are travelling on business. The holiday makers are often in the party mood, in good spirits, and want to continue partying on board. The business man/woman is often tired and stressed, and considers themselves in need of a stiff drink.

Disruptive Passenger Behaviour Situations Include:

Overly Happy Holiday Maker

Even on early morning flights many holiday makers have started drinking well before they get on an aircraft. They will continue to drink once on board and as with any situation where there are drunk people minor incidents such as a perceived slight, a long queue for the toilets or being refused any further alcohol by a flight attendant can lead to abusive and even violent behaviour.

Dont You Know Who I Am

These cases often hit the headlines but this not only applies to celebrities but also to people who are used to other people doing what they tell them to, e.g. senior businesspeople and politicians. When such a person is refused service or not treated with the deference they consider they deserve then can, especially it intoxicated, get verbally or physically abusive.

Let Me Out of Here

Surprising as it may seem many Air Rage situations involve someone either opening or attempting to open an external aircraft door. Reasons for this vary, most occurring during taxiing when a passenger either decides they need to exit the plane early on landing or decide they no longer wish to fly on departure. However, occasionally due to a disturbed mental state someone will try to open an door during flight, reasons given include needing some fresh air and wanting a cigarette but on very rare occasions these are suicide attempts.


An adverse reaction to prescription medication or alternatively when someone has failed to take their prescription medication can lead to disorientation and abnormal behaviour. These can be particularly difficult situations for cabin crew to handle as other passenger may find the behaviour disturbing even if there is no actual threat.


The general ban on smoking on flights can lead to irritability by smokers having an enforced abstinence and in extreme cases problems when someone is caught having a cigarette in the aircraft s toilets.

The vast majority of people can deal with the uncomfortable aspects of flying, but when under the influence of alcohol, medication (or the lack of it) some people become volatile. and a minority, become violent.

So how do we deal with Disruptive Passenger Behaviour?

Airlines could provide larger, more spacious seats, with more leg room and wider aisles, and they could let the passengers smoke again. Airlines can, and are beginning to, limit the amount of alcohol that passengers drink on board, and to refuse admittance onto an aircraft if they turn up at the gate drunk. This may seem extreme, but the problems seen in flight are similar to the problems seen in city centres all over the world on a Friday night. Only in these instances, the problems occur at 35,000 feet, in congested airspace, and could have a life threatening effect on 200 - 300 other passengers. Unlike the Friday night reveller, the air rage assailant can not be thrown out of the door.

Surveillance cameras have been extremely effective in as a deterrent to crime. If airline passengers are made aware that the cabins are fitted with cameras that will record the whole flight, they will be less likely to become disruptive. The FlightVu internal cameras not only deter criminals, if an incident did occur in-flight the indelibly stamped recorded images (registering the time, date and location) would be admissible as evidence in court. This would aid and speed up prosecution of the offender.