We may not tend to think of it this way, but being on a plane is really just a bunch of strangers spending a period of several hours stuck in a little, confined box with no way out until the time is up. That can make for a pretty awful experience if one or more of the people inside that box is someone unhinged, angry, or otherwise awful to be around. Unfortunately, flight attendants, pilots, and frequent flyers have found themselves in this exact predicament many times. Here are 32 stories about some of the most memorable passengers to ever fly the skies.
32. A Dangerous Combo
My girlfriend is cabin crew.
One of her favorite stories is about a passenger who mixed sleeping pills and alcohol, which caused the passenger to freak out and attack another passenger.
31. Weird at Any Altitude
My aunt’s friend saw a woman breastfeeding a cat.
30. Keeping It in the Family
As a private pilot of a small aircraft (therefore meaning I have to also act as the flight attendant), I luckily only take my friends and family as passengers. The worst incident was when I disengaged the aircraft’s autopilot. To the unknowing ear, it sounds like an emergency alert, so that caused a panic attack. Ever since then, I always mention it during the preflight briefing after teaching them to open and close the door and fasten and unfasten the seatbelt. So I guess that makes myself the worst passenger I’ve had?
29. If You Act Like a Princess, You Get Princess Yogurt
Former flight attendant here. I’m no longer a flight attendant for too many reasons to count.
Worked for a private charter company for two years. Lots of oil riggers, miners, and private tours. It was pretty much just a bunch of man-children and entitled jerks. Used to fly a bunch of 30 days on/7 days off type guys up in northern BC. These guys were notoriously bad, they just didn’t give a hoot and the company we subcontracted out of didn’t help by letting them basically do whatever they felt like. They really had that “I don’t care about your petty rules” mentality about everything, which translated oh so well to being told what to do by a measly flight attendant.
Middle of December, I get put on a 4-day pairing to unload these guys, which has me up at 5 am to board the plane, which takes off at 6:30AM, then does an 11 hour loop going south with 3 stops and back up to park, and then repeat, putting me back at the hotel at 6:00 PM each night.
Crew Sched had scheduled in absolute minimum crew rest, meaning any minor delay screws the whole pairing. Literally 20 minutes before first day’s takeoff, one of the NAV units blows (Airplanes have two but must fly with both for this very reason). This delayed us considerably because another plane had to fly in with a whole other crew and a replacement piece.
By the time we take off it’s 10 am, and another crew takes half our leg. The guys have been talking to the delayed passengers so we’re getting a ton of “Your planes are pieces of junk,” “you guys are a total joke,” and tons of other abuse hurled at us. And of course it’s only the first day. On top of this, fellow F/A gets deathly ill and gets sent home after day 1, right alongside our mechanic who is sleep-deprived and blows the slide trying to rush off the plane. Pretty much the worst day and we still have 3 more to go.
Fast forward to final day and we are WIPED out and just needing to get out of there. I’ve slept in and gone without a morning cigarette, which has put me a little on the edgy side. We’re in the middle of taxiing to the runway and doing our safety demonstration when the In-Charge calls me via interphone, her voice is shot from doing announcements for the past 4 days straight and she asks me to do them. I finish my checks in the back and start up the demo, keep in mind this is an extremely short taxi (small BC airport).
As I’m doing the demo and the pilots are waiting for us to give the clear, some idiot jumps out of the seat. Since they’ve been told 3 times since boarding to remain seated with seatbelts fastened as we’re about to take off, I assume it’s an emergency and he bee-lines it to me right in the middle of me speaking the demo, which I promptly stop. I ask him if he’s ok and am met with:
“Get me a pillow”.
Mustering all my calmness, I explain to him that I can get one for him the second we get in the air as we’re about to take off and the pillows are located near the OW exits, and I can’t interrupt our safety checks and procedures.
“JUST GET ME A PILLOW”
I swear, there are only a small number of times I can say I’ve visibly seen red, and this was one of them. I can’t remember exactly what I said but I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of “I’m not your freaking slave” and “sit the heck down.” He saunters off to his seat where he starts arguing with another passenger. I immediately regret it, and continue the demo while keeping an eye on him.
Thankfully nothing really came of it, only the hilarious karma of telling a passenger I wasn’t their freaking slave and realizing soon thereafter that the commissary they packed for us to give out was mini-cupcakes and Disney princess yogurt that I had to serve him…..
28. Pick Your Battles, Buddy
Not a flight attendant, but I’m a ground agent so I hear plenty from our FAs. I do want to note, however, that it’s not just in the air that the passengers are trouble. We can tell from the moment they check in at the counter if they are going to be an issue and are oftentimes not proven wrong.
We had just finished boarding a flight and the FA pulled me into the cabin for a second. A passenger had gotten so drunk at the bar that he peed himself in his seat. We had to deplane him and he was about to have a go at my manager before he saw the port security casually saunter over.
To be honest, the worst flights I’ve worked were the ones with lousy coworkers. We deal with 50 crabby people all the time but at least we have each other’s backs and are all going through the same thing. It’s the worst when one of the crew is unsupportive or unaware of what the others are feeling.
26. That’ll Do the Trick
Not a flight attendant but I fly a lot.
I was on a flight to Boston about 7 years ago, flying in first class. There was a lady sitting across the aisle from me. Halfway into the flight she started tweaking really bad and kept begging me for a Xanax that I didn’t even have. She ended up getting out of her seat and banging on the cockpit door and screaming. She was arrested by US Marshals when we touched down.
25. Starstruck, Literally!
My former roommate’s mother had ice thrown in her face by Chevy Chase.
24. Double Entendre
My wife used to be a flight attendant for Air Canada. It’s not really a bad story but the one she likes to tell was about an elderly man whose first language was not English, who button holed her as she walked by (not her section) and said, “Excuse me miss, for twenty minutes I have been fingering the stewardess and still she has not come.”
23. We All Have Something to Be Thankful For
I’m a pilot. Thank God for that lovely door to keep you buggers out of my hair.
22. Hey, I Know You!
This doctor wouldn’t get off the flight even though we had to remove him to make room for our airline’s employees who were traveling, so security came and forcibly removed him. All the other passengers videoed it and it went viral, and the passenger won like $140 M in a settlement just for being a pain in the butt.
21. Representing The Good Old US of A
Not a flight attendant, but I was on a flight last night and the only Americans on the plane were playing beer pong with each other from across the aisle.
20. So This Is What It’s Come Down to…
This passenger was being a huge nuisance, to the point where a security guard had to get physical and kick him off the plane.
19. Another Satisfied Customer
Not me, but my friend said a guy died of cardiac arrest during a flight from Tokyo to San Francisco. They were right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when it happened and they had to bag up the body, and since there wasn’t any space in the galleys or anywhere else, they put him in his original seat, next to people who were very much alive.
18. Getting Even
Not a flight attendant, but one time on a flight, I had a slight cold and the air was pretty dry and I was coughing a lot. I was sitting in a middle seat so I didn’t want to drink too much water and have to constantly get up to pee, so I resolved to just keep coughing into my scarf, trying to keep the noise and disturbance to a minimum. Two rows in front of me, I see a gentleman staring at me every single time I cough.
Now, I understand that you don’t want to be stuck in a limited space with someone who is sick…but if you’re flying in the winter, sick passengers is something you’re going to have to risk. And again, I was being very careful to cough into my scarf or suppress it so as to not disturb the people around me.
He spends the whole 3-hour flight staring at me and muttering at me but I just ignore it. When the plane finally lands and we are getting off, I see him up ahead, standing to the side, talking to a flight attendant.
And as he is talking to the flight attendant, he is glancing at me and saying, “How can you let those type of people on the plane? They could have SARS or something (I’m Asian).” The flight attendant is just smiling and nodding but I can tell she’s just ignoring him like I was.
I was pretty offended he thought I had SARS just because I was Asian and coughing. At baggage claims, I made sure to stand near him and cough without covering my mouth.
17. Have You No Shame??
My mom was a flight attendant for 15+ years. Her favorite story comes from a summer in the 90s when ticket prices plummeted. She was walking in the aisle when she saw someone drying their toddler’s dirty underwear by holding it up to the air vent. She still refers to that flight as the Clampett Family Vacation.
16. Leading a Mutiny
Passenger here, and I was probably that guy. I was flying back from an overseas vacation, as were most of the other people on the plane. Very early flight. Over international waters, they try to sell you all sorts of duty-free stuff like perfume and liquor. And also credit cards. They’d turn the PA system on blast and every 15-20 minutes or so would bother the whole plane by trying to sell this stuff.
Now, it’s about 6:30 am and I’m rocking the worst hangover of my life and running on about 3 hours of sleep. All I wanted to do was sleep on the flight on the way home, and looking around the plane, I can assume that most everyone else was in a similar situation.
After about the 5th or 6th time of being woken up by these loud flight attendants, I called one over and said something like “okay, you’ve already advertised the duty-free perfume and liquor 3 times and already told us about the credit card deal three times. Can you please knock it off so we can get some rest?” They kept doing it. I asked again. They kept doing it.
Finally, I hit my breaking point when they tried to sign us up for a credit card for the 5th freaking time and yelled “SHUT THE HECK UP ALREADY!” Then the rest of the plane chimed in… “Yeah, shut the heck up!” and “we’re trying to sleep” and “nobody wants the darn credit card.” For the rest of the flight, every time they said anything over the PA system, more and more people joined in telling them to shut the heck up. Toward the end of the flight, they tried the credit card thing one last time. The PA system made a “ding” noise every time they turned it on before they started speaking. So the PA goes “DING” and this dude in the back of the plane says “ONE, TWO, THREE” then the whole plane yells “SHUT THE HECK UP!”
A drunken man got up when we were waiting to exit the plane and then tried to grope me and a couple of the other girls.
14. Little White Lie
My good friend from grade school’s dad is a private pilot. He flies everyone from rich people to celebrities. One time he had this ridiculously obnoxious woman and her (many years her senior) rich husband who slept through the whole flight. This woman would NOT stop pestering my friend’s dad about stupid things, so my friend’s dad decides to have some fun. He convinces the woman that there is an ejector-seat button that he can press that will throw her out of the plane. The look on her face was priceless, he said she genuinely believed him. Anyways, this shut the old witch up and the flight was quiet after that.
13. Because He Can
On my flight back in March I was sitting catty-corner from this guy who was fine-ish when we boarded but through the flight got more and more drunk and belligerent, which escalated to yelling and cursing, and then after the flight landed, to showing the flight attendant a small pocket knife, at that point just because he “could” and he was a belligerent jerk. He gave the flight attendant the knife and then stood up and started yelling at everyone as he was blocking the aisle. Security was called and he was escorted off the plane.
This is the only severe incident that I’ve ever seen in the 20+ times I’ve flown.
I was the bad passenger on my flight and didn’t realize it.
I was really sick, but it was with asthmatic bronchitis, nothing contagious. But if you heard me, I sounded like I was going to cough my guts out onto the floor.
I do recall the flight attendant asking me once or twice if I needed anything. But, overall, I was really out of it because I had been coughing so much that I had barely slept in days.
Afterward, my brother told me that everyone on the plane had been staring at me. I felt bad because they probably thought I was contagious and if I had known they were staring I would have told them they didn’t have anything to worry about.
11. Quite the Boo Boo…
My mom’s coworker mixed up a guy’s laptop and gun cases once, and he only discovered this when he went to do some computer work on the plane. Stuff happens, things get missed. TSA is not mistake-proof. But needless to say, the passenger who pulled out a gun on the plane was not exactly popular with the flight staff…
10. At Least They Tried to Right Their Wrongs
Former FA. Grossest story I have is the time someone smeared poop all over one of the bathrooms during a 14 hour flight to China. It smelled putrid. We put up an out of order sign, but then a couple hours later someone had gone in and cleaned it up! We figured it was a kid and one of the parents had snuck in after.
9. Taking Trolling to a New Level
Not me but my mom. She told me about this one time that she had to do the safety demonstration, like how to fasten your seatbelts, where your nearest exit is, etc. This one woman, sitting somewhere to the left of my mom, started taking off all her clothes, while making eye contact with my mom the whole time, and just sat there naked for the duration of it. Then when the safety demonstration was over, she put back on her clothes and gave my mom the most smug smile ever.
8. Mile High Vendetta
Not a flight attendant, but I remember one time a guy took a dump on his tray table in protest of his flight attendant’s attitude. I think it was like 20 years ago!
I would have hated to be on that flight!
7. A Work of Art
A friend of my dad’s worked in the airline industry for years. He said that there were a lot of awful passengers when prices in the 90s dropped. A lot of people could suddenly afford to fly, and that’s when graffiti in the toilets became a regular thing.
6. Ending off on a High Note
I am an ex-flight attendant. Worked for a small regional airline where there was only 1 flight attendant per flight (50-seater planes). There was a notorious passenger who would line up first to ensure he sat in the front row in the aisle seat. He purposely wore baggy shorts and no underwear with his foot up giving allllll the FAs a shot of his old saggy balls. Towards the end of my reign as an FA I got the pleasure of having his company on my flight. He was a total scumbag!
5. Nasty People
Two passengers took their elderly father/father-in-law who had dementia or alzheimer’s to Asheville, NC from Charlotte, dropped him off in the terminal, and got back on the plane without him.
4. Not Going Down Without a Fight
One passenger asked an FA for root beer and a sandwich on a 45 minute commuter flight. We don’t serve those on the short hops, and so he told the fellow that and offered him the menu card. The passenger insisted the FA was lying to him and told him he wanted a sandwich and a root beer. Our FA said he’d come back and check with him after helping the row behind him. Passenger still insisted on the sandwich and threatened to sue the airline if he didn’t get one. The FA repeated that we don’t serve sandwiches and he eventually just gave up and glowered the rest of the flight.
3. Sounds Like Someone Still Needs to Be Potty Trained
My friend is dating a flight attendant. She told us that this one really fat guy took a dump in a vomit bag so he didn’t have to wobble down to the bathroom. They couldn’t find what was causing the horrific smell and considered landing the plane but the pilot noted they were only about 30-45 minutes from their destination and landing, unboarding and all would take longer.
They found the bag after everyone got up and left. There was some splatter on the seat, floor, and wall too. They had to use a different plane and hazmat this one.
2. You Can’t Hide From the Truth
I’m not cabin crew, but I used to work as an aircraft mechanic a couple of years ago.
I was doing some work for my friend’s handling company at the local airport servicing the private jets that came through. There was this one guy who’d fly through twice a week, 1x Monday and 1x Friday. Typical business guy and never said much. The aircraft had just come back from a lengthy flight and the toilets needed servicing as it had been a few days since it’d been done on the log book.
An item had become stuck in the pipes, normally what I’d do would be to pressurize the system on the ground with the ramp guys and just flush it, but this guy didn’t want us to do that for some reason. He was being really sketchy and telling us to “just leave it” as his “guys” we’re gonna sort it out. So naturally I thought, screw you, I’m the engineer here and I’m gonna do it my way.
So with the gentle persuasion of a giant hoover, the blockage came out into the truck. We fished it out the other end, and it was at least 10 condoms. Instead of this guy putting them in the bin, he’d been flushing them down the toilet, so they were just getting more and more clogged to the point where the system wouldn’t pressurize and it was unusable.
I mean, it’s none of my business what he does on his plane but he complained about me, said I’d put them there, and called me everything under the sun. If you don’t wanna feel embarrassed then don’t do it.
1. You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get
There was this one passenger who didn’t have his belt over his blanket when the fasten seatbelt sign was lit. He looked asleep and didn’t respond to crew when they tried to wake him. So they decided to move the blanket in order to check. Turns out he was masturbating.