AIR RAGE, like road rage, is the inability to cope with the challenges of congested traffic. Just like aggressive driving and road rage, air rage is so common that most travelers are unaware that they have it. It's just part of the background feeling that goes along with the stress of travel and transportation.

This background below the surface simmering feeling of anger explodes into rage at unpredictable moments. What can the air lines do about it, and what can we do as travelers to reduce the risk of being an air rage perpetrator?


1) Provide a continuous stream of accurate updated information. No five minutes should go by without an update. This should be provided in a variety of formats and media: electric board, signs, announcements, and face to face telling.

2) Elevate the importance of the travelers' comfort. Show that you care about it. Apologize if you can't provide decent seating. Make up for it by giving something else in return so the traveler doesn't feel cheated or neglected.

3) Manage lines better. People should not stand in line when they can sit and wait. People shouldn't have to compete physically with each other for a seat by where they stand. Do not make people start forming a line until you're ready to board them.

4) Follow community building principles to create a social group out of the anonymous people in the waiting room or on the airplane. Encourage discussion among the waiting people. Form a support group out of them so they can assist each other and give each other help, ideas, support.

5) More and better security in waiting rooms so travelers can take a nap without worrying their bags are going to be stolen.


1) Bring things with you to take care of your comfort--warm
clothes, pillow, blanket, reading material, snacks, games, etc.

2) Form a mini-support group with one or more fellow travelers. Share and consult with each other on whatever problems are encountered.

3) Come prepared with the right attitude and coping tricks. See our travel emotions education cards for ideas.

4) Have alternate scenarios worked out in case you don't arrive when expected.


These workshops teach positive techniques for managing passenger rage through community-building forces using Compassionate Crowd Management Techniques delivered through Community Crowd Management Workshops for flight crews and airline ground personnel.


There is increasing evidence that crowded spaces become occasions for some people to express violent rage against others present, whether directly responsible or not. Road rage incidents have grown about 12% per year in the past decade. Metro rage and elevator rage are now on the increase. So is air rage in airplanes and at airports. Airlines and authorities are concerned.

There are two approaches available in crowd control and crowd management, one negative, the other positive. Both are essential, and where only one is used, there is less effectiveness. Negative crowd control is what security personnel are now trained for. It is based on law enforcement threat: "You should know that if you do this or that, you can be arrested. We are watching you." When this type of system is in place, it needs to be supplemented with positive crowd management techniques, or else people resist the regulations, and a certain percent can be predicted to openly rebel by creating a "scene" and engaging in aggressive, hostile, and sometimes violent, behavior called "rage."

We are the first to offer positive crowd management techniques, also known as Compassionate Crowd Management in our Community Crowd Management Workshops for flight crews and airline ground personnel. These techniques have been developed for teachers several years ago and are now being applied to this new venue.


Live Demography
Shared Feedback Form
Flying Partner Agreement
Flight Alumni Activities


1. Live Demography

An airline official or other designated person in authority, stands before a crowd in a waiting hall, or on the plane, while waiting or in the air, and announces the activity. This is followed with a series of questions that allow individuals in the crowd to raise the hand or to speak up. Some sample questions:

*How many here are going home and how many are going someplace else?
*How many people here have children traveling with them?
*How many people here have never been on an airplane?
*How many people here have other people waiting for them?
*How many people haven't had a decent meal in more than 24 hours?
*How many people here feel that this has been their worst trip of the year?

Etc. Each time the leader would count and announce the number of hands out loud. After doing this for a few minutes the entire crowd will have released some frustration and feel better because they are no longer an anonymous mass and they've had an occasion to react to each other and to get to trust each other more.

2. Shared Feedback Form

An airline official or other authorized person distributes a Shared Feedback Form explaining that it has to be filled out by two people together. The official should encourage strangers sitting next to each other to fill it out together. This can be done while waiting or in the air, as needed and depending on circumstances. One individual enters the ratings after discussing each item with the other individual and the two agreeing on a compromise answer.

By doing this activity strangers not only become known to each other, thus releasing some of the stress, but their reactions and emotions to annoying or scary events can be discussed together as a legitimate part of answering the Shared Feedback Form.

3. Designated Flying Partner Agreement

This activity can follow the Shared Feedback Form and is especially helpful if the two travelers did well with each other, or see each other as a potential resource for support. This form helps the two make the "designated flying partner" relationship their next step. It lists the various ways they can share thoughts, support each other emotions, and look after one another for the duration of that flight. It helps they sit next to each other on the plane but this is not a necessity since there are other ways of interacting.

4. Flight Alumni Activities

The airline official designates the flight by Name (not just flight number--e.g., Flight 345 Feather Sky, etc.) and informs all travelers that they are Alumni of that unique historical flight when these particular individuals were brought together by fate and risk their lives together, and their comfort and emotions. Everyone receives a flight symbol to keep (button, diploma, gifts, shirt, flag, toy, etc.) as a memory of the event. People can also hand in a form to indicate their interest in an annual Virtual Reunion on the Internet.


Community Crowd Management Techniques follow these principles of community-classroom:

Principle A: Crowdedness can be turned into a community resource.

The external imposition of enforced regulations, called negative crowd control techniques, cannot eliminate resistance, sabotage, and rebellion when the climate includes cynicism and alienation. Alienation and cynicism prevent positive feelings and mutual contact. When people are crowded together and forced into close quarters for hours, they can be led to the right type of positive interactions which can release community-building forces. Under these social forces, individuals change the way they react emotionally and evaluate the situation.

The very condition of being crowded together makes these community-building forces available, similarly to what happens in a natural disaster that unites a town or nation and motivates it to rebuild. Managed collective activities can help release these community-building forces when they create a joint and collective group focus, so that all individuals who are present are focusing jointly on the same item. Size and diversity add to this effect, and so they are turned into an advantage, rather than a burden. MINING CULTURAL DIVERSITY is one of the techniques taught.

Principle B: Community-building forces in a crowd can be released through managed activities.

Positive crowd management techniques are humane and compassionate. They are designed to create a social climate that relieves stress and suspicion in a climate of cynicism and alienation. People are able to handle an unexpected negative experience when the social environment is perceived as favorable or friendly to them. Managed community activities can be viewed as a user-friendly bonus that releases positive feelings of hope and security. These feelings can be expected to transfer to the authorities or airlines, promoting respect and loyalty.

Principle C: Collective decision making is emotionally more intelligent.

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. When left alone in a crowd, the individual becomes vulnerable to standardized imaginings. These are culturally acquired norms of expressing dissatisfaction (e.g., "They're taking advantage of me." or "I'm a wimp if I let them get away with it." or "If they hurt me, I'm going to hurt them." etc.). When people in a crowd turn to one another and share a focus, the solutions they come up with is superior and tends to avoid the pitfalls one individual can fall into (e.g., "attribution bias" "level of adaptation" "schemas and scripts" etc. -- see this chapter).

Principle D: Expressing rage in public places is a learned "culture tantrum" or norm.

1) generational upbringing (observing parents behave that way; observing TV characters behave that way). "That way" means without civility, or suspending the normal rules of civility. "Normal" in the sense of what we usually and normally do. Another way of saying this: We give ourselves permission to suspend the normal rules of civility. When that happens, rage behavior is being performed.

a) a social philosophy of cynicism must already exist.

b) a sense of alienation or being dis-entitled in some way.

For instance,

lines that are unusually long
or unusually slow
or when we have to sit in the airplane on the ground when it's not moving
or expecting a window seat and not getting one, etc.

People in these types of situations have their expectations violated. They feel they've been robbed of what they are entitled to, and what they have been promised. An elevator that gets stuck, or too crowded for comfort, or takes too long to come, etc.: these are the violations of one's expectations leading to a sense of dis-entitlement, hence alienation.

Now combine (a) and (b) to get dynamite rage: cynicism and disentitlement. People whose social inhibition against violence has been weakened, experience this combination of cynicism and disentitlement as a legitimate opportunity for suspending the rules of civility to which they normally adhere.

This type of LEARNED RAGE can be managed through social forces of community.

To Ease Air Rage Stress
Use a Take-a-Number system for seat arrangement (reduces passenger's anxiety about seating, and avoids long lines at boarding.

Put up a Flip Sign in the immediate boarding area for Count Down to Actual Boarding. This is more accurate than what the electronic signs indicate and calms passengers as they wait.

Create Happenings while people are waiting in the boarding area: A raffle; Hula dancing; Clown walking around; Take Photo sessions; Quiz Board, etc. This distracts passengers from their troubles, keeps them entertained, makes them feel pampered and cooperative.
Principle E: Anonymity is anti-social and interferes with community-building forces.

Strangers can be crowded together in small spaces yet not know what others are thinking or how they are interpreting the situation. This is because the norm is to refrain from communicating except in very limited ways. However, this norm does not apply when a recognized official person addresses the crowd. At that point social energy is released and several individuals suddenly wish to express publicly their opinion or need. However, when the official leaves, the norm of enduring silently takes over again. This has unpredictable consequences because individuals are trapped in their suspicions, standardized imaginings, and attribution errors.

Instead of merely departing, or being a silently present, airline officials have the opportunity of starting group activities that dissolve anonymity. Live Demography, described above, has that desired effect. Once begun, the official can depart for other duties and the group cohesion that was created will continue for some minutes afterwards.

Principles of CCM Compassionate Crowd Management

1 Orienting Officials are to give frequent updates on how long the delay is expected to continue in specific terms (minutes, hours), and what's being done about it.

2 Giving Advice Officials are to give elaborated explanations that cover the consequences and implications of the delay or lack of service as expected.

3 Providing Reassurances Officials are to demonstrate sympathy and compassion by showing that they are recognizing our distressed emotions and are willing to so something about it: e.g., offering compensation, awards, raffles, entertainment, food, etc.


Author's Bio: 

Dr. Leon James is Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii. Dr. Diane Nahl is Professor Library and Information Science at the University of Hawaii.