Boarding JetBlue recently, a gracious gentleman offered to let me move in front of him. Embarrassed, I refused and explained that my boarding group was “D.” And he was a “B.”
When I fly on jetBlue to visit my daughter in Florida, for an extra $50 or so, I can upgrade to EvenMore. With Group A on my boarding pass, I am called right after the elite Mosaic travelers.
Several weeks ago, though, a last minute reservation got me a “Group D.” As they called the As, the Bs, the Cs, I was increasingly demoralized.
It appears I am not alone. Explained economically, we are really talking about our response to inequality.
Air Rage and Air Inequality
When air rage is in the news, we think of an abusive passenger. The reason for the bad behavior could be delays, the cramped conditions, and the rush to find bin space. However, a recent study disagrees. It might just be inequality.
Classic studies have looked at the physical and emotional impact of inequality. Typically considering social class and income, they analyze our reaction to a lower rung on the social ladder. They focus on education and jobs–the big decisions.
Instead though, two researchers suggest we look at an airplane. Because of its unavoidable inequality (unless you fly Southwest), we can consider the impact of when we board and where we sit. The data indicate that airplanes with first class cabins have more air rage incidents, especially if fliers walk past first class when they board.
The key here is that the have-nots see what they are missing. And, the privileged see the amenities that only they receive. As a result, both groups display more antisocial behavior. As you might expect, the most air rage erupts in economy class on airplanes that board from the front. However, researchers also observed an elevated number of anger incidents among higher status individuals.
The incidents listed below came from the data base of a large international airline:
Our Bottom Line: Inequality
Knowing that a physical design can diminish or enhance the impact of inequality returns us to incentives. First though, we should recognize there is good inequality that inspires us to work harder and bad inequality that demoralizes us.
The question for airlines is which incentives they want to create. I suspect that jetBlue knows that inequality inspires me to spend an extra $50 for EvenMore.
My sources and more: Yesterday’s walk was more pleasant because of this Hidden Brain podcast on inequality and air rage. My next stop was this paper. And finally, if you want to take the leap to income inequality, do go here.
Our featured image was from Pixabay.