Air rage appears to occur more often when a flight has a first-class cabin, according to University of Toronto researchers.

At one point or another, anyone who has ever traveled on a plane will have witnessed or experienced some form of air rage. Delayed flights and cramped seating can make anyone lose their cool but the researchers have found that simply the presence of a first-class cabin in a flight can be a trigger.

For a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers evaluated more than 1,500 flights from a single airline and discovered that making economy passengers walk through a first-class cabin to get to their section was 11 times likelier to result in an incident of air rage.

However, they also saw that simply having a first-class section gave a flight the same chances of an air rage incident as a 9.5-hour delay.

Katherine DeCelles, lead author for the study and organizational behavior associate professor at the University of Toronto, shared a personal experience that helps explain the frustrations of an economy passenger toward the first-class section.

"They were baking cookies in the first-class cabin and it's like they will never have that in economy," she said.

Air rage actually encompasses a range of behaviors, including belligerence, noncompliance, emotional outbursts and incidents involving sex, smoking, alcohol or drugs. According to DeCelles and colleagues, intoxication and belligerent behavior are common in first class while emotional outbursts are more common in the economy section.

While air rage cases do put a damper on anyone's flying experience, they are actually rare, with 0.31 incidents in first class and 1.58 incidents in economy for every 1,000 flights. That totals to just a few thousand cases over the course of several years. The researchers warn, however, that real figures might be higher because flight crews might not be reporting every case of air rage they encounter.

To help in reducing cases of air rage, the researchers suggest allowing economy passengers to board in the middle of the plane so they can avoid passing through the first-class section. This also speeds up boarding, meaning the flight can take off sooner and put passengers at ease.

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