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“Front boarding of planes predicted 2.18 times greater odds of an economy-cabin incident than middle boarding,” they write, “an effect equivalent to an additional five-hour and 58-minute flight delay.”
Intriguingly, the odds of an air-rage incident among first-class passengers were far greater in planes where everyone boarded from the front. It seems watching the less-wealthy pass by increased certain first-class passengers’ sense of entitlement, leading to an explosion when their expectations were, for whatever reason, not met.

There is a much simpler explanation here. Front boarding increases boarding time regardless of what “class” is up front. Further that time is spent standing in the cramped passageway. This is very similar to traffic delayd. You stand there waiting for someone to pick an overhead area for their carry-on, to file in to the cramped seating area, and to finally get out of your way. Only to sit right behind them and do this to the people behind you.

Boarding is very much a “hurry up and wait” — while standing in a cramped area — when front boarding is used. Board from the back to avoid the congestion that happens and I wouldn’t be surprise to see these incidents decrease. Hurry up and wait produces annoyance at best and aggravation quite commonly. This predisposes everyone involved to be less cooperative and possibly belligerent. Middle-boarding only decreases the effect of front-boarding because you aren’t blocked right at the front of the plane.

The fact that in controls were cited for boarding sequence without class distinctions is suggestive that there were none. Anyone who has experienced this problem of standing around waiting for people would know to look for that. When I was flying as a child decades ago most airlines boarded back to front. They also boarded a section and waited for it to be past the next section before lining up the next group. How about controlling for those?