Top five reasons passengers are getting nastier

As much as passengers complain about airline employees (and we do), we give them reason to complain about us. And, we complain about each other. There’s clearly no risk of a love-fest breaking out in the gate area, and if you look closely, you can see how the situation will only get worse. There are all kinds of conditions set to make air travel miserable (well … more so), and that means everyone involved will wind up getting a little nastier. Here are the top five reasons why:

1. We have no space, and there will be more of us on the plane: the lack of legroom isn’t exactly new, but everything around it is going to get worse. In the wake of the financial crisis, airlines cut flights to shave expenses and boost revenue per available seat-mile (RASM). This means the odds of having an empty next to you have dropped.

2. There will be more of us in the air, too: the economy is turning the corner, and businesses are starting to spend some money again. Look for more business travelers on the road, which will make flights even more crowded.3. We’re thinking about value: because of economic conditions (including high unemployment), we’re now acutely aware of what every dollar we spend means. A reclining passenger translates to the erosion of a purchase – “That’s my space!” We want as much for our money as possible. So do the people next to us, in front of us and behind us. Elbow room is a zero-sum game: there will be losers.

Want to make the situation worse? The coming increase in passengers will likely bring with it an increase in fares. So, an economic recovery means we’ll effectively be paying more for less. I don’t know who fails to crack a smile over that!

4. Let’s not forget about the service: beyond economic conditions and market drivers (e.g., RASM), there is another airline factor at play. We need to be realistic, here: this industry has a long-standing reputation for delivering abysmal service. Passengers know this and expect an uncomfortable experience, so they get primed for it. Remedying this will take concerted effort by airlines – and it will require years of unrequited love.

5. There’s no shortage of blame, and it’s everywhere: airline employees think passengers are unreasonable, demanding and often inappropriate. Passengers think airline employees feel (and act like they’re) entitled, self-obsessed and controlling to an unwarranted degree. Our zeal to point fingers only makes the situation worse for everyone. Passengers are getting nastier because we expect the worst, and crews expect nastier passengers. We’d all rather win than fix the situation.

[photo by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr]