Class and air rage

Posted: 6 May 2016 in Uncategorized
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I just finished booking a couple of flights and, I’ll admit, I felt a bit of rage—at the exorbitant prices (notwithstanding low oil costs, because of increasing concentration in the industry) and the additional charges (as airlines find new ways of nickel-and-diming us to achieve even higher profits).

Apparently, I might feel even more rage when I actually got on those flights.

According to a new study by Katherine A. DeCelles and Michael I. Norton, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

the modern airplane is a social microcosm of class-based society, and that the increasing incidence of “air rage” can be understood through the lens of inequality. . .Physical inequality on airplanes—that is, the presence of a first class cabin—is associated with more frequent air rage incidents in economy class. Situational inequality—boarding from the front (requiring walking through the first class cabin) versus the middle of the plane—also significantly increases the odds of air rage in both economy and first class. We show that physical design that highlights inequality can trigger antisocial behavior on airplanes.

That’s one way of looking at the problem of class, as an issue of physical and situational design.

An alternative is to see growing class differences themselves as a problem, which pervade all dimensions of society, including the modern airplane. And they simply can’t be designed away.

Yes, those class differences might cause incidents of rage. But, even more important, they can lead—within “economy class”—to radical criticism and the demand for real economic and social alternatives, in airplanes and in the wider society.

  1. […] couple of weeks ago, I discussed a recent study about class and air rage. In the meantime, things have only gotten worse—on the […]

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