With the system straining to accommodate everyone, no wonder many fliers are flipping out. Here is a sample of some of the recent incidents:
In mid-July, a group of passengers angry over being delayed by bad weather broke through security and stormed the runway at Nanchang airport, The Telegraph reported.
A few weeks earlier, a passenger furious over a delay was recorded smashing phones and computers at a gate at the same airport.
Then, there was the fracas at the airport in Beijing in May, where an argument over a delayed China Eastern Airlines flight quickly turned into a screaming match.
When a passenger threw a plastic water bottle at the staff, an airline manager tried to fling a metal stool into the crowd of fliers before being subdued.
Sheehan, who recorded the incident, believes an "immature awareness of consumer rights" is one of the reasons why travelers are resorting to violence.
"Chinese people have just begun waking up to this idea that as a consumer you're entitled to certain protections, but they don't have any of the institutions like consumer rights groups that do this professionally," he said.
"So what ends up happening is people take a vigilante approach to punishing airlines, usually taking it out on who or whatever is in front of them."
Flight attendants learn self-defense
A British businessman on board a Hong Kong Airlines flight recently described how an elderly passenger lost it when the plane was delayed for six hours at Sanya Airport in Hainan province.
"He went completely mental and stormed up the plane and into the business class. I heard a punch and looked up and he was attacking the stewardess," Graham Fewkes told the South China Morning Post in March.
"What surprised me was that passengers were applauding as the man was hitting her."
Hong Kong Airlines is training its crews to be prepared for such incidents. Since 2011, the carrier has included a class on Wing Chun – a martial art -- as part of the basic training courses for all of its flight attendants.
The class is offered to "boost health and improve body strength" and give flight attendants "more confidence in dealing with emergencies on planes," the airline said, in a statement to NBC News.
Sheehan, who spends lots of time on Chinese airlines, doesn't believe the situation will improve any time soon. His best hope is that with more high-speed rail lines connecting China's cities, airlines will start feeling the heat.
"When you factor in security and delays, high speed is just as fast and more comfortable than flying here," he said.
--By NBC News