Every Friday, Fly book looks back at the week’s most charming individuals. While there are always plenty of contenders for our Worst Passenger of the Week award, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory. Here are this week’s winners.
Third Place – It’s Okay, I’m a Non-rev
One of the perks of working in the airline industry is the privilege of flight benefits – of course, those benefits come with a few important caveats. Employees are very often the last to board the plane and will almost certainly have to give up their seat if a paying customer needs to get out on the very next flight. For an airline worker, a quick flight across the country can often mean spending a day (or more) at the airport before actually boarding an aircraft.
Portland International Airport (PDX) baggage handler Blessing Shallome Ndayishimiye, however, entered a guilty plea this week in federal court to a single count of “entering an aircraft or airport area in violation of security requirements” after he decided to dispense with the normal hassles of flying as a non-revenue-generating-passenger (non-rev) and simply used his airport identification to sneak aboard a JetBlue flight to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). The 19-year-old simply drove his car onto the tarmac, threw his luggage in a bag cart and found a seat in the back row of the plane.
When he was confronted about making himself at home in a seat on the cross-country flight without ever presenting a boarding pass, the airport worker simply told the crew that he believed he was entitled to the seat as an airport employee. Despite his compelling case for hitching a ride, Ndayishimiye was removed from the aircraft before departure.
“I thought I had a free pass, some benefits for working at the airport,” the would-be-stowaway explained to the judge. “I used my badge to get access to the flight because I thought the flight would not be full.”
While he definitely didn’t follow the complicated rules for using his flight benefits, there may just be a very good reason for that. As a contract worker for a third-party company, it isn’t entirely clear that Ndayishimiye was entitled to flight benefits at all.
The Runner-up – Terrible Conduct
A “Terrible Towel” is by no means a sacred relic. In fact, the black-and-gold Pittsburgh Steelers fan favorite memento can be traced back to its humble kitchen dish towel roots, but the actions of a New England Patriots fan on a recent flight from Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) might just have crossed the bounds of good sportsmanship.
According to the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, who tweeted photographic evidence of the now infamous slight, a rival football fan placed a Terrible Towel in the aisle of a BOS-bound flight during boarding only hours after the Patriots controversial victory over the Steelers this week. Presumably, the uncalled-for shenanigans came to an abrupt end when the keepsake souvenir was securely stowed in an overhead bin in preparation for takeoff.
The defiant out-of-town visitor responsible for the mischief is certainly not the first to disrespect the quirky totem of Pittsburgh pride. Television cameras have caught opposing players stepping on, spitting on and even blowing their noses on Terrible Towels on the sidelines. All-and-all, rather than taking offense, the rude behavior is treated like so much trash talk during a game – but placing anything in the grimy, germy aisle of a commercial passenger plane seems a bit too vulgar to be included in any sort of good-natured rivalry. Hopefully, the sports fan from Boston planned to discard the captured towel lest the bubonic plague (or worse) be reintroduced to the people of New England.
Before getting too upset with this gloating Patriots fan, it’s important for sports fans and non-sports fans alike to remember that this rude visitor was unintentionally responsible for a good deed of sorts. Proceeds from the purchase of every Myron Cope Official Terrible Towel benefit the Allegheny Valley School, a worthy non-profit organization based in the Pittsburgh region that provides essential services to individuals with disabilities.
The Winner – Spare the Rod – Spoil the Airline
Sometimes, it can feel as if gate agents aren’t always attuned to the needs and concerns of members of the flying public. A passenger at Nanning Wuxu International Airport (NNG) this week made quite sure airline employees were listening when he rather dramatically aired his customer service grievances.
Security footage shows the disgruntled customer becoming more and more frustrated as he pleads his case to gate agents. Eventually, the irate passenger resorts to picking up a crowd control stanchion and swinging the heavy metal pole at the kiosk, before chasing what appears likely to be an especially unhelpful airline employee with the makeshift bludgeon. The furious flyer then throws the post at the employee who is busily running for his life. Thankfully, a nearby police officer soon steps in and wrestles the dissatisfied air traveller to the ground before any employees are beaten to a pulp.
The flyer’s tirade reportedly started when he arrived late for his flight headed to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) and was told that he would not be allowed to board the aircraft. When the passenger felt that his customer service concerns were not being taken seriously, he quickly escalated his complaint directly to the very real and imminent threat of violence and property destruction.
Although the airline workers held firm and wouldn’t budge from their refusal to reopen the plane door for the tardy flyer, it seems the wretched passenger did manage to catch a huge break following his terrifying outburst. According to media reports, the tyrannical traveler was released from police custody after paying a fine of just under $20 for disturbing the peace.