In Air Rage, aviation expert witness Capt. Bob Norris writes:
Air rage. It’s a catchy name to encompass a wide variety of behaviors from passengers that pose a serious threat to safety of flight. It is becoming an unfortunate reality that passenger assaults on airline employees have increased significantly over the last several years. Cathy phrase or not, air rage is becoming an unfortunate reality for flight crewmembers to deal with. Thankfully, the vast majority are relatively simple acts of defiance, but sometimes the interference escalates to truly obnoxious behavior or even brutal violence it can have a significant safety of flight issue. With the majority of aircraft being flown by two-pilot cockpit crews, having one of the pilots going into the cabin to assist in resolving a dispute or an altercation can have a significant impact, if the pilot is subsequently incapacitated. With the 9/11 incidents, pilots are no longer allowed to leave the cockpit to assist in an altercation.
Fear mongering reports in the media and popular films frequently leave the impression that the main safety threats to commercial air carrier operations involve bombs, terrorist hijackings, and hazardous cargo. However, the reality belies some of these notions. Pilot and flight attendant reports indicate that passengers themselves are an unexpected source of many inflight safety problems, ranging from the merely annoying, to those that pose serious interference with crew duties and a potential risk to aircraft structural integrity.