The Why #60: Why do we hate flying when it’s actually a modern miracle?

3 min readMar 23, 2023


Question submitted by Cam, Bonbeach

Fair point Cam. We spent millions of years anchored to the earth, gazing wistfully at pterodactyls, birds and butterflies. And now, just 120 years since the Wright brothers’ maiden flight, we whine and moan about the seats, snacks and limited WiFi, all while jetting around the globe for the price of a (very) nice bottle of wine.

If our dear cave ancestors could see us now, they’d wonder how it all went so wrong. They may also wonder why nobody had told them about Reactance.


Reactance refers to the psychological discomfort we feel when our freedom is limited or threatened. This discomfort can lead people to resist or push back against whatever is causing the threat.

In 2015, Stijn Van Petegem conducted a study on how parenting styles impact teenage rebelliousness. He observed the way over 200 teenagers reacted to being asked to study harder in a manner that was either controlling, neutral or supportive.

Not surprising, the study found that participants felt far more frustration when directed in a controlling way. Not only that, but they were also more likely to take the exact opposite route and avoid studying altogether. Oh the joys!

Back to you Cam. Whether you’re an average Joe boarding a red eye to Bali or Richard Branson himself, catching any flight comes with a long list of unavoidable dos and don’ts. Do stand in this line. Now that one. Walk through this machine. Place your hands like so. Fasten your seatbelt. Put away your laptop. Return to your seat. Do not use the bathroom. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

For Brands, Reactance is a good reminder to avoid leaving customers feeling restricted, forced or without options. Rather than direct instructions, consider more subtle or indirect techniques like providing a small set of thoughtful recommendations. Beyond this, customers can respond positively to being given extra autonomy and control, which is where customisation, personalisation and opportunities for providing direct feedback can make a meaningful difference.

Behaviourally Yours,

Dan Monheit

PS If you missed the last edition, you can still check out why we sweat over rubbish like MAFS when there are bigger issues happening in the world here.

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One thing sure to please even the most ‘reactant’ of travellers is the beautiful new website we’ve launched for Melbourne Airport. Check it out here.




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