Limited leg room is harder to bear when passengers know others are comfortably sipping bubbly nearby. That's the takeaway from a University of Toronto study that examined 1,500 "air rage" incidents from a single airline and found incidents rise on flights with a first-class cabin, particularly if economy passengers have to walk through the area to get to their seat. "When they close the curtains between the cabins or they remind economy passengers to not go into (the) forward cabin … it reminds people that they've paid hundreds of dollars for this experience" yet are still deprived of certain services and comforts, lead author Katherine DeCelles tells ABC News. "When people feel a sense of deprivation and inequality, they are more likely to act out," she adds, per CNN.
Air rage incidents including emotional outbursts or aggressive behavior typically occur 1.58 times per 1,000 flights in economy class, reports the Los Angeles Times. But passengers were 3.84 times more likely to have an incident with a first-class cabin on board; a similar increase accompanied a 9.5-hour flight delay. Those passengers who had to travel through the first-class area while boarding were 2.18 times more likely to get angry, a rate that mimics the effects of a 15-hour delay, say researchers. The rate of incidents also spiked for first-class passengers when economy passengers tromped through their space, perhaps because they were "more aware of their higher status" and thus more likely "to have entitled attitudes and to be less compassionate," DeCelles says. One psychologist suggests passengers board planes in the middle to avoid first-class envy. (Just hope your pilot remembers how to fly.)