As 2017 draws to a close, Fly book looks back on the most charming passengers of the year. While there was a bumper crop of unpleasant individuals to choose from, only one flyer can take home the title of Worst Passenger of the Year.
Retired Categories – Just Stop it Already
There now exist a number of examples of bad passenger behavior that was at one time a rare occurrence, but has now become so commonplace that such incidents hardly deserve mention at all any longer. While obnoxious air travelers still have the ability to shock on a regular basis, the flying public may just be starting to become desensitized to what once seemed like appalling conduct.
Once upon a time, political arguments almost never resulted in emergency landings. Lately, it seems as if angry passengers who lean left, right and everywhere in between, aren’t able to control themselves.
For the last time, it is impossible to open the emergency exit door while a commercial aircraft is in flight. Of course, a few flyers, like this United Airlines passenger, this Wizz Air passenger and this American Airlines passenger didn’t get the memo.
Maybe it’s because there are more people crammed into planes than ever before, but lewd behavior in the sky seems to have become an almost everyday occurrence. A stunning number of inflight masturbators, sexual harassers and potential predators prove that it might be impossible to escape creepy men – even high, high above the clouds.
Honorable Mentions – Fifteen Minutes of Fame at 39,000 Feet
In February, who could have guessed that a Virgin Atlantic passenger who ended a violent mid-flight tirade by biting a flight attendant, spitting at fellow passengers and repeatedly chanting, “Heil Hitler!” would have failed to make the cut as Worst Passenger of the Year? This year, an alleged drug runner/Delta Airlines pilot impersonator even failed to win, place or show when it mattered most. Also left out of the award ceremony is the woman who explained how she managed to get into three separate physical altercations with fellow Ryanair passengers (on the flight, while disembarking on the jetway and finally in baggage claim) by telling the judge, “I had had a drink, but all I’d had was two pints and two shots of vodka.”
The “Cash me outside – howbow dah” teen of reality television fame proved on a Spirit Airlines flight that she could be every bit as incorrigible when the cameras aren’t rolling. A Southwest Airlines passenger unexpectedly announced to his seat mate, “After we’re done taking off, I’m going to beat the f*** out of you,” – and followed through on the unprovoked threat.
This year, airline employees were once again left to bear the brunt of passengers’ most outrageous behavior. A Delta Airlines Sky Lounge attendant at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) was allegedly told “You did nothing but I am going to kick your F***ing ass,” before she was attacked in a vicious hate crime in which the violent passenger reportedly shouted “Trump is here now, he will get rid of all of you.” Meanwhile, a “prince” of a man famously filmed himself reducing a Ryanair gate agent to tears. More recently, a passenger at Nanning Wuxu International Airport (NNG) with some serious customer service issues, picked up a nearby, heavy, metal stanchion and came out swinging.
Flying has become so accessible to people of all walks of life that both an escaped criminally-insane mental patient and an indecent assault suspect on the run from the police, chose commercial passenger planes as getaway vehicles. Smugglers have taken advantage of a new golden age of aviation to try their hands at trafficking new and exciting categories of contraband, including baby eels, live king cobra snakes, the horns of endangered rhinos, cruelly concealed exotic birds and even a dead cougar.
Futile attempts to escape a commercial flight by means of the emergency exit might no longer capture our attention, but a teenager who successfully broke free from a Copa Airlines flight just moments after it touched down at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), impressed with a feat of remarkable speed, agility and audacity. The 17-year-old passenger who was flying unaccompanied to SFO from Panama City Tocumen International Airport (PTY) managed to open the exit door of the aircraft, jump from the plane and disappear on the tarmac before anyone caught on to his plan.
“It was as if he was like flying out, like it was really fast,” one eyewitness on the flight recounted to local television reporters.
Despite pulling off what many before him have attempted and few have accomplished, the teenager’s gambit was perhaps a bit too ambitious. The runway runaway was eventually apprehended and arrested by airport police.
After interviewing other passengers on the flight, authorities were convinced that the unaccompanied minor’s actions were inspired by something closer to a panic attack than adolescent rebellion. Prosecutors declined to file charges against the unlikely escape artist.
Twice this year, passengers aboard flights were saved from potential disaster by a fellow air traveler’s pre-flight “good luck” ceremony. Perhaps it was because two different elderly Chinese passengers took time before boarding their flights to throw coins at the jet engines, that good fortune smiled on these flights and in both cases crew members quite luckily noticed that elderly passengers had been tossing lucky coins at the planes’ engines. After all, if either plane had taken off with even a single metal coin in the engine, then catastrophic mechanical problems would be a possibility.
The first charmed flight was a China Southern Airlines flight due to depart Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) for Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) when calamity was nearly avoided. Not so lucky was the fact that the unasked-for “blessing ceremony” resulted in a delay of more than five hours while mechanics took apart the jet engines to look for stray coins.
The second fortuitous flight occurred almost exactly four months later when a different superstitious passenger at a different airport had a remarkably similar and equally ill-advised pre-fight ritual in mind. This time, a 76-year-old Lucky Air (honestly) passenger was serendipitously spotted tossing coins at the plane’s engine as the flight boarded at Anqing Tianzhushan Airport (AQG). Fortunately, the potential foreign object damage from the metal coins was identified while the aircraft was on the ground. Unfortunately, the plane was then forced to remain on the ground for several hours while airline workers throughly inspected the engines.
Few people would fault the Worst Passenger of 2017 for attempting to confirm a nagging suspicion that her husband was keeping a secret, but when her mid-flight snooping led to an unwelcome discovery, her marital issues became a problem for every passenger aboard a Qatar Airways flight from Hamad International Airport (DOH) to Bali Denpasar International Airport (DPS) which would eventually be forced to divert to Chennai International Airport (MAA).
The Iranian woman’s ad hoc detective work was ingenious. Unfortunately, once she used her husband’s own finger to unlock his mobile phone, the incriminating communications she discovered between her spouse and his mistress caused her to lose sight of whatever endgame she had planned.
A bitter argument soon ensued, during which the scorned wife reportedly struck her cheating husband repeatedly. Apparently, the escalating squabble soon became much more than just a simple marital spat, because the captain decided that it would not be safe to continue on to the final destination even after the couple had been separated.
The husband and wife, along with their child, were escorted form the plane when it landed in India. According to officials, once an icy détente was reached, the family was permitted to complete their journey on another airline.
“The family spent the day at Chennai airport and was sent to Kuala Lumpur by a Batik Air flight,” airport officials told reporters.“No police action was taken.”
It seems the family managed the unlikely feat of both being responsible for causing an international flight to make an emergency landing and at the same time avoiding serious legal repercussions. It seems highly unlikely, however, that anyone involved will be counting their blessings anytime soon.