Flying, whether for business or for leisure, can be a pretty stressful thing for people. Getting everything packed and trying to get to gates on time can be a huge ordeal, and then there's dealing with strangers in close quarters for an extended period of time. Sometimes we get lucky and have great seat buddies, but sometimes we get the most irritating people in the world. Here are real stories about terrible customers on airplanes.
"I was flying a Greek airline and had to deal with a terrible woman. I am a Management Consultant for a large global firm and I achieve medallion status pretty effortlessly. Anyways, I was waiting in the Premium Line for my flight to board and a middle aged woman came up to me and said that I was in the 'Premium Line' as if I couldn’t read.
I told her I was in the right line and that I was flying first class. She demanded to see my boarding pass. I think she was assuming things about me because I'm part African American. I hadn’t smelled any drinks on her breath but I am assuming she was under the influence of something or just being a complete prick. We start boarding the flight and after I get settled, here she comes demanding to know why I am in first class and asking the flight attendants to check my ticket.
I do also recall her saying something like 'This is unfair, I fly with y’all all the time.'”
"My wife used to be a flight attendant.
They were coming back from Brazil to Dubai and some dude had swallowed a bunch of narcotics to smuggle. They ended up popping inside his stomach and when he realized it, he literally stuck his whole hand down his throat to try and claw it out.
When they found out they had an emergency on board, they normally would do an emergency landing to get a medical crew there to help the guy. At this point, they were flying over Saudi Arabia so if they would’ve landed, the guy would’ve been arrested and given the death penalty there (narcotics are extra illegal in SA), so they chose to finish the flight to Dubai and keep him restrained.
She said she still has nightmares to this day about his eyes and him screaming to save him. They had to restrain him and cover him with a blanket. Unfortunately, he did not make it."
"Know how as soon as you get to the gate and the seatbelt sign turns off, people leap out of their seats to stand around? This takes it to a new level.
A man in his 50s or 60s is at the front of the plane with his elderly mother. As soon as the seatbelt sign turns off, he jumps up, unbuckles his mother and lifts her up.
Man: 'I NEED A WHEELCHAIR NOW!'
Attendant: 'Sir, we just got to the gate, there isn't a wheelchair here yet. Please put your mother down until the wheelchair comes.'
Man: 'I NEED A WHEELCHAIR NOW!'
Attendant: 'Sir, they are bringing the chair to the gate now, but it isn't here.'
Attendant: 'Sir, please put your mother down.'
Man: 'WHERE IS THE WHEELCHAIR!'
This continues on for another minute until the man finally loses his strength and breath."
"One time I had a pair of sisters who started drinking, no big deal. First sister said the other was a nervous flyer. They were behaving so I let them order more drinks. They each had four, but still seemed fine. Come to find out the nervous sister had also taken Xanax before the flight - great. She comes to the back lavatory and has already wet her pants. Oh God. She asks if I can make her another drink, 'But this time it needs to be Christmas tree!' Uhhhh, I think you’ve had enough for now. Rest of the flight is fine. We land and start to deplane and as I’m saying goodbye to passengers I hear a WHOMP. The heck?!
It was her. She totally ate dirt and face planted in the middle of the aisle right before the galley. She gets up and there’s blood on her mouth, so I tell the captain to call medics down. They get her into a straight-back wheelchair and as they’re strapping her in she starts asking, 'Are we in Denver?!' over and over. The medic goes, 'No, we're in Omaha and you need to hold still!' (And no, Denver was not where we left from either.)"
"I had a mother and son who boarded, and our plane had a seat that was MEL’ed (Minimum Equipment List is for things that are broken but not anything that’s bad enough to keep you from flying the plane - so this seat would be fixed when we got back to our base that had maintenance workers.) This seat literally had no seat cushion and had bright green tape over the armrests with a sign saying it was out of order. While I was still boarding passengers, the mother had taken the tape off, sat her son in the seat, and put the tape back on the armrests on top of his arms.
I looked at him, looked at her, and said, 'Ma’am, he can’t sit there, the seat is out of service.' Of course I helped them find seats together somewhere else, but man, that was weird."
"I was working on a return flight from Moscow to New York at the back of the plane. One of the guys smuggled on a 5th of Jack Daniel's and was drinking that along with the free drinks we passed out on international flights. None of us really cared that he had smuggled on the bottle and was drinking it with his friends but we thought it was stupid since we offered free drinks. Everything was fine until he asks the flight attendant for another drink and when she leaned over to put it on his tray, he licked the side of her neck. We confiscated his drinks and shut down drink service for the rest of the flight after that."
"I was on a recent trip from the west coast of the US to east coast. I had one entire row to myself on one side of the plane, and this older gentleman had the entire row on the other side of the aisle from me. Sitting in the plane, as you do, while waiting to push back, taxi, ND take off, he asked the flight attendant if he could use the restroom. The fasten seatbelts sign was already lit, but she said she'd go and check if he could use the bathroom before we started moving. I guess she wanted to see how long until we'd push back.
Apparently he couldn't wait those couple minutes. He proceeded to grab his air sickness bag, unzip, and pee into it... in full view of me and whoever else was looking his way. Then he closed the bag up and smooshed in down into the seat pocket. I cringed when, at the end of the flight, he finally handed it to a flight attendant to throw away. Definitely something I never wish to see again on a flight."
"Flight attendant here. We had a quick one hour flight; we board, uneventful. We get in the air and this guy is paranoid. Edge of his seat, looking around. He’s either on something or is a schizophrenic who didn’t take his meds. We (the crew) are doing our service thing, but watching this guy. He calls me over several times, points out a different passenger each time and mumbles about them being 'up to something.' I assure the guy everything is fine, make small talk with him, and try to land without incident.
He keeps up the paranoia, this time grabbing a young girl who is trying to walk past him to go to the restroom. Now he has to be supervised non stop since grabbing a teenage girl is a no no. The Captain has been filled in that we’re keeping an eye on this guy, and it’s getting close to landing time. Just prior to touching down, he jumps up and rushes the exit. Me and another passenger, an off duty pilot who is quite buff, rush over to what we assume is a guy trying to pop the exit doors.
All the passengers who have been watching the shenanigans go into eff this stuff mode, and physically restrain the guy, while the plane is landing and taxiing. Meanwhile the guy is yelling about some other passenger having a weapon. We get to the gate, cops come on, and the guy attacks a cop and tries to flee across the tarmac, meanwhile I’m watching this happen from the galley. I google the guy’s name and of course he has a history. The gate agent, I find out later, had a problem with him at the originating airport too but never bothered to inform us about him. The company sent me a $25 gift card for dealing with all of that."
"My fellow flight attendant had the pleasure of kicking Lil Pump off her flight last year (for those of you who are blessed enough to not know him, he is an obnoxious mumble rapper). He and his whole entourage were screaming and throwing money during the flight and were super wasted and taking percs. They diverted the flight and kicked them off. He so thoughtfully dedicated a verse about it in his song Gucci Gang."
"Christmas Day 2010 I'd been flying from Afghanistan to Seattle for my mid-tour leave. The entire 36 hour trip from Khandahar to Seattle was a comedy of errors most of which only those in the Military would understand. The relevant part of this story goes like this:
DFW to Seattle myself and 2 privates are upgraded to 1st Class. The plane is almost empty and there were seats available. I'm in seat 1B (1st row aisle). As we're getting settled, this corpulent neck beard of a dude sitting behind the privates says, 'This is messed up, I had to pay for my tickets,' implying that us plebes should sit in the back, I guess.
The filter between my brain and mouth has huge holes in it at the best of times. Catch me after fighting season and literally flying from the opposite side of the world and that filter is gone. I told him to close his garage and enjoy the flight. Needless to say the flight crew heard the exchange and decided fat boy wasn't going to get served...anything, for the whole flight. He was told to stop hitting the call button after the 3rd or 4th time.
We landed at SEA and I was droning (asleep with my eyes open) as we taxied. I woke up standing behind the idiot, he'd charged up to the cockpit to speak to the pilots. When the pilot came out of the cockpit, he said, 'This is AMERICAN Airlines,' then he pointed to himself and his co-pilot 'Airforce Academy '89, Annapolis '93. Get off my bird.' Fat boy started spluttering about talking to the CEO and his status etc. Then the pilot threatened to put him on the 'No Fly' list and he finally shut up."
"Last Christmas I was flying from Amsterdam to Seattle, and you know how you have to 'Have your window shades open, have your tray tables locked, your seat in an upright position and the arm rests down for take off and landing' spiel? Yeah, well this 50 ish year old grumpy old man literally did the opposite of all those things and was being a complete prick the whole 9-hour flight.
So when the attendant came by to tell him to get his stuff together, he pretended to be asleep and ignored her, so she shoved his seat forward and slammed his tray table up. This guy starts screaming at her, flailing his arms, and STARTS CRYING, yes crying, because she was 'rude.'
I’m literally just staring at this dude in pure disbelief.
Then when we finally land, they were like, 'Please stay seated until the seat belt sign turns off.' This dude stands up while we’re taxiing and starts to get in the overhead bin. So the same flight attendant comes by and in the sternest and most ticked off voice, says 'Sit. Down. Right. Now.' She slams the overhead bin closed and just returns to her seat.
That woman needs a raise."
"I was sitting in the back row next to some lady and her baby on a flight to Dallas about a year ago. Around mid-flight, it became evident to everyone that the baby had dropped a deuce in their diaper, as a foul scent began to arise from my row. Not a big deal, it happens, but things took a turn for the horrifying when this young lady proceeded to take out the diaper bag, place the tray table in the down position, and start changing her spawn's diaper right there in her seat. I was so floored by the combination of foul smells and her shocking lack of consideration for the innocent civilians sitting around her that I didn't know what to do. I was frozen in my seat, not knowing what to do. I briefly made eye contact with the person across the aisle from me (I was in the aisle seat) and we both had the same wide-eyed expression on our face.
Soon after, a flight attendant thankfully came by and noticed the absurdity happening in Row 36. He swiftly told this woman that she absolutely was not allowed to change a poop loaded diaper right there in her seat, and that she obviously had to do that stuff in the dang lavatory. (He was much more polite of course, I'm just placing my thoughts at the time in his mouth). I prepared to remove my seatbelt to get up and allow her to go by to the bathroom with her child. However, much to my surprise, she began to argue with the kind flight attendant, stating she had no idea she was supposed to change a poop-filled diaper in a bathroom. He, like the rest of civilized society, was taken aback and repeated that she could not change a diaper in the middle of a crowded airplane and that there was a table in the lavatory for that explicit purpose.
She somehow takes offense to this, and says that he has no right to speak to her like that, (although I'm pretty sure he does at this point). She demanded to see his supervisor, which was impossible at the time due to that person being at the front of the airplane and occupied. As you could guess, she did not like this and got more hostile with our friendly flight attendant, all while still changing this smelly diaper. She demanded to know the flight attendant's name, and said that she would be filing a complaint with his supervisor at the end of the flight. At this point, the guy gave up and basically said, 'Do it, I don't care.' (paraphrasing again). She finished changing the diaper and got up to throw away the refuse. How kind of her. Everyone around us, including myself, were just so surprised by the events that had transpired that no one could say anything.
We continued in this silence until the flight ended, and after we landed, this lady did indeed make good on her threats to complain to the lead flight attendant. I witnessed this as we disembarked, though I truly cannot imagine the lead took her seriously at all. I left that flight shaken and am still haunted to this day by the events of that day. To the flight attendant who had to deal with that literal and metaphorical poop, I am so sorry. You are a saint, keep on keeping on."
"SO! My other flight attendant rings me saying a passenger refused to use the aft lavatory. (There are only two flight attendants on this airplane, ERJ175) I go up and see what’s the problem. Well I figure out one, this lady isn’t even in first class. And two, I think she’s being prejudice because my lovely coworker is black. MIND YOU, the aft lavatory is open. We also don’t care unless we’re being watched or you’re a butthole. So I calmly tell her in my ‘Speaking to a 5 year old' voice that both lavatories are EXACTLY the same and that she wasn't first class anyways. She’s ticked off because we’re the same age. She complies and rudely asks for a cranberry juice. I go to the aft waiting for her and hand her a whole can of cranberry juice. Once she was done, she got out of the bathroom saw my 'eff you' face with ice and cranberry in hand, rolled her eyes and went back to her seat.
Oh, and another time I had this guy that was so annoyed that I was checking on a woman with high blood pressure on which I had to administrate oxygen. I checked on her every 10 minutes and her seat mate was ticked I was so involved."
"I was getting ready to board a flight from California to Las Vegas (Vegas flights were notorious for being 'eventful') and we didn’t have a jetway. So this was a flight that had passengers come outside the terminal and board up the stairs. This lady comes out the door, puts down her bag, and starts pretending to be an airplane zooming around with her arms outstretched. Mmmmkay, interesting... I started keeping an eye on her at this point. She comes on board, and has a cat with her in its carrier.
While we’re taking a seat count (for weight and balance before takeoff), the other flight attendant and I notice she took the cat out, which isn’t allowed. We tell her to put the cat back and keep it secure for the flight. She complies, we take off, and before we’re even at 10,000 feet, I see a cat head poke out into the aisle from her seat area. You effing kidding me? I have to get up, while still in a very steep angled takeoff, and tell her to put the stupid cat back in its crate. Poor kitty was clawing at the seat and terrified. Luckily she behaved after that."
"Had a flight get messed up so the airline upgraded my next flight to first class. It was a pretty long flight, so sweet. I happen to sit next to a retired flight attendant and, being the pro she is, she orders us a bottle of Champaign. I didn’t know you could get the bottle on a flight but I’m not asking any questions.
Obviously I ask her for her horror stories. She’s like, 'I can’t tell you names, but I’ve seen some very famous people get banned from airlines.' Not off the flight, from the whole airline. I had a blast that flight, she was lovely.
She told me about all of the things people have done to get kicked off a flight. So, this is how to get banned from an airline (narcotics and drinks help, but apparently some people don’t need those):
Incite a riot mid-flight.
DIY medical emergency via narcotic / overdrinking.
Let your kids climb on other passengers and blame the other passengers.
Accost flight staff repeatedly.
Climb on the food and beverage cart while it’s in use."