Crowded conditions on airplanes induce stress, and sometimes altercations

June 2017

A record 234 million people are expected to fly this summer -- crammed into aluminum cylinders with uncomfortable seats and a host of strangers. The crowded conditions on commercial airplane flights contribute to stress that can lead to altercations and dysfunctional behavior, according to Dan Stokols, Chancellor's professor emeritus.

"People are like cattle being squished together, to get as many people on that plane," Stokols told the Washington Post. "And so tempers can flare. It’s a situation where people feel vulnerable."

But crowded conditions don't always induce misery. Think a rock concert or a party, where dense crowds are a good thing. Other factors worsen the crowding: disagreeable fellow passengers, cramped seating, dirty bathrooms.

"It’s a much more fraught situation." Stokols said. "[W]hen you feel like the airlines are against you and you feel they’re trying to exploit your comfort for their profit, and others on the plane are in your way and you don’t know them, the situation is more ripe for conflict."

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