When it comes to being on airplanes, we’re often not on our best behavior. But we should be. We’re trapped in a tiny metal cage thousands of feet in the air. We’re surrounded by people. Hell, we’re practically on top of our neighbors. You would think that it would call for behaving better than normal. And yet, we act like total jerks. Why?
It’s tempting to blame it on the alcohol. Arrests for drunken behavior on flights and at airports in the UK have gone up by 50 percent. And that’s in just the past year. Ryanair is speaking out, calling for the curbing of alcohol at airports. But when you look at the severity of the behavior, it’s hard to think just a few drinks are enough to make us act so badly.
A flight attendant recently reported on her experience. “I have been sworn at, threatened, vomited on, touched inappropriately, had hands up my skirt, and physically pulled into an upper-class seat by an enamoured drunken young man,” she said. “For too long, cabin crew have put up with such incidents because our culture promotes the maxim that the customer is always right. Even if the customer has just technically broken the law.” It’s completely unacceptable— and sounds more like Lord of the Flies than a few extra cocktails. So what can push us to such extreme behavior?
A Lack Of Control
We all know that flying if frustrating. You wait around, you’re cramped, you’re desperate to get to your destination. And sometimes you’re stuck in limbo for hours. And, more than drinking, some experts think that this lack of agency might be the problem. “Few things can leave you feeling less in control than flying — someone else is driving, you can only get up when you have permission, there’s a lot of noise, you’re often left in the dark”, clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula told Thrillist. “When we feel out of control, our emotions get out of control too, and anger and frustration are going to lead the fray. It’s a recipe for rage”. It makes sense— so many of us feel ourselves bubble up and ready to boil over. Especially if you’ve been delayed for hours. Many of us feel like it… and a few of us actually do.
But that doesn’t make it OK. Flying in some ways is a really vulnerable position. If someone on the plane is misbehaving, everyone else is stuck in an enclosed space with them. There’s nowhere to go, there’s no respite, there’s just four inches of legroom and a watered-down drink. And for the crew, it’s their job to try to be nice to you— so they often end up putting up with far more than they should have to. So fight your primal urges and learn to contain yourself. Because a few drinks and being frustrated is no excuse for horrible behavior.