In Air Rage, aviation expert witness Capt. Bob Norris writes:
What are some of the reasons for the increase in passenger disturbances? Serving unlimited alcohol on flights, particularly in first and business class is encouraged by many airlines. With the decrease in cabin pressure at normal cruising altitudes, boarding the flight on an empty stomach can cause inebriation much more quickly. Additionally with airlines prohibiting smoking on their flights, smokers tend to substitute alcohol for cigarettes. Arriving early for a flight and the long delays experienced at most airports, therefore boarding the aircraft already inebriated. It is often difficult for the passenger agent with the brief contact they have with the passenger’s prior and during boarding to detect that a passenger has had too much to drink.
Paying several hundred or even thousands of dollars for an airline ticket seems to give some people the sense they can do whatever they please on an airplane. Many of the passengers are successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, or even professional athletes or entertainers who are use to being in control of their personal and professional lives and resent giving up control to airline employees. They may resent obeying safety rules, fastening seat belts, returning to their seats during expected turbulence, and turning off devices like cell phones or laptop computers.