10/31/2014 10:35 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Do Aggressive Passengers Need to Take a Chill Pill?

Is uncertainty the hardest part of travel?


I have a lot of unsettling questions when I travel with my kids these days.

Will I miss my train? Will I sit next to an offensive person who smells bad or uses foul language? Will I get scammed?

What will happen to the pet I leave behind?


Will the bus driver get into a fist fight with a fellow passenger? Will my child anger a flight attendant and get us kicked off a flight?

Will my seat recline?

Will my plane be diverted because of someone else's actions?

Why am I so worried about, what really amounts to, the actions of the people around me?

Well, I read the news.

You've probably guessed that this site, Away Is Home, is about talking and communicating opposing perspectives so all sides can understand and explain their views. We pick stories that start with conflict and give voice to the feelings of customers, businesses, and fellow travelers.


Because, in the end, sharing our opinions and being able to communicate our feelings is the only way we can improve the travel experience.

But this week, with the red hot story of the passengers on Pakistan International Airlines Flight 370 shaming politicians, recent knee defenders debates, and the barroom-style brawl earlier this year on a regional bus, we had to ask ourselves, "What's really making travelers act so crazy?"

Passengers behaving badly

There are common names for these aggressive: road rage or air rage. But really why is this happening now?

I've read a number of travel industry articles that try to explain this phenomenon and they always say the same things.

Most disappointingly, if anything, they blame the traveler.


Are you a holidaymaker? Do you want to be treated special because of the occasion, so your expectations are too high when compared to the discounted ticket you purchased? Or do you simply want to extend the party, drinking through the travel experience?

Bad passenger!

Now let's worry about the poor business travelers who are under too much stress and feel they need a drink to take the edge off. Perhaps they just require a little special treatment because their jobs are so hard.

Should we give them a free pass? They can't help that they're inebriated, it's really just the job they're responding to.

Disclaimer: Before you shoot the messenger, I am getting these descriptions from industry sites. This is what they think. Not all of them, but it seems to be part of the training.

Continuing on. There are three more traveler types that are known to cause trouble:

Entitleds or club members, also known as "Do you know who I am" passengers. These folks join the elite club so they will get deferential treatment when they fly. If they don't get what they want they hit the forums or twitter and try to sully your name. Best to just smile and use your soothing voice.

Smokers. I'm guessing you can figure out on your own what make up this group, but the idea is that they can't help that they need that next nicotine fix. Sooner rather than later. They're already stressed so try to keep them calm and relaxed so they don't have an issue en route.

Nervous or medicated travelers. This includes people taking medicine to combat illness or travel-related illness. They can't help that the antibiotic when mixed with travel creates a toxic cocktail that makes them irrational or delusional.

Go ahead, blame the passengers.


A better explanation

But is this really addressing why travelers are misbehaving?

I think not.

On closer inspection, there are a number of other things setting off passengers, starting with uncertainty, compounded by a lack of compassion by travel companies and further aggravated by a decline in the understanding of what is personal space.

When even the Transportation Secretary weighs in on the legroom fights to say, "Traveler's aren't sardines," perhaps industry decision makers should take note.

Yet these incidents still feel like they're being spun as a problem between two aggressive passengers, not simply people responding to their environment.

What is the truth?