On paper, airports should be simple, straightforward and easy to navigate—but as we all know, in practice, it’s never quite so simple. We’ve scoured Reddit for stories from disgruntled airport employees and shocked bystanders who’ve come across the most frustrating people and situations imaginable, and put them into this list for your enjoyment down below. And for anyone traveling in the future, use these stories as guidelines for how not to behave at an airport!
1. Pre-Flight Snack
I don’t work at an airport, but my friend’s dad does, in security. He told me about a heavily pregnant lady who came through wearing a bright pink hoodie. At the airport where he works, they have the new body scanners that take an x-ray like image as you go through. Lady goes through, and my friend’s dad gets waved over by his colleague checking the screen.
She points at the lady and says, “Does that look like a baby to you?” My dad was absolutely stunned. The woman had a full cooked chicken up her hoodie! When questioned on it, she started eating it as fast as possible, whilst covered in pink fluff!
2. Out of Service
We’re coming off a plane at Lagos airport, it’s 1992 and I’m about ten years old. I wander around the baggage hall and find, in a secluded corner, a service lift with a bloody great hole cut out of the door. It’s cordoned off so you can’t use it. I ask my dad about it. A cleaner had been using the service lift one night after a shift to go back up to the departure area where he could stash his trolley, etc.
The lift breaks down between floors. The emergency help button does nothing—this is Nigeria, remember—and of course it’s way before mobile phones were even introduced. He pounds and pounds on the interior of the lift, but it’s in a quiet bit of the airport where no one goes. He’s not scheduled to be on shift the next day.
His colleagues come in and assume the trolley has been stolen as the cupboard is open, and it’s not there. They carry on. When they try to use the service lift, it doesn’t work. They don’t hear their colleague, as he’s trapped closer to the floor below than the one above. The trapped cleaner has now been in there 18 hours or so. He’s desperate. He drinks the water from the mop bucket. He continues pounding on the lift, hoping someone will come.
24 hours pass and his family comes to the airport to find out where he is. Their village has no telephone. At least, not one that works. Colleagues haven’t seen him. Maybe he’s gone into the city to spend his paycheck that was given to him that morning? Eventually, it closes in on nearly 48 hours. Trapped man is feeling sick from drinking mop bucket water. He’s had to use another bucket as a toilet. The smell is unbearable. A technician arrives to try to fix the broken lift. He’s saved!
Or not. The tech manages to get the lift back down to the ground floor, but the doors won’t open. They try prying and jimmying but nothing budges. They even removed the motors and tried by hand. Eventually, they realized they’d have to cut him out. So, they fire up the angle grinder and cut a two foot by two-foot hole in the door. Sparks are flying everywhere. That’s just the outer skin.
They can’t get the angle grinder in further to the inner door. The welding torch comes out—or gas axe, whatever you want to call it. Of course, this is flinging hot metal into the lift. The cleaner is absolutely terrified as he’s been in the dark for 48 hours and now someone is flinging hot metal at him. Eventually, they make a hole all the way through. He crawls out, collapses, and is taken away in an ambulance. He survived, but never returned to his job at the airport.
The broken lift was still there until we left in 1995. When I returned on business in 2001, it had been repaired. I still think about the poor guy whenever I get in a lift.
3. A Dump of a Day
I saw a lady walking a dog on a leash. I think it was a golden retriever or something similar. Anyway, I remember thinking, “Hmm, I didn’t know that dogs were allowed to walk around in airports.” Right after the thought crossed my mind, the dog stopped, the lady started saying, “No, no, no, no, no, no!” and the dog just took the biggest dump I think I will ever see a dog take.
The dog must’ve been holding it in for a solid week or something, because it was just a steady flow that built up into the most incredible poo pile. I didn’t stick around so I’m not sure how they handled the cleanup. I’m guessing a forklift was involved.
4. Calming the Storm
I work at my local airport—I live on a tiny island and this airport is smaller than our library—and just last summer we had a hurricane looming down on us. Everyone is getting packed up to evacuate, we’re renting cars like crazy to people fleeing and we’re trying to get them out of the storm area. I was out checking on the cars we had and when I walked back up there was a man sitting on a bench out front.
With an apocalyptic-looking storm bearing down on us, wind whipping everywhere, he was just soulfully playing the trombone. No idea where he came from or what he was doing, but it was surreal, like something out of a David Lynch film.
5. That’s One Expensive Cigarette
I worked at Perth airport until recently. Most flights in Perth go to Bali and you see some interesting characters—look up Bali bogans. A Jetstar flight was delayed by seven hours so a woman and her husband used the time to get absolutely hammered. The woman fancied a cigarette and rather than go outside and go through security again, lit up in the middle of the duty-free.
My colleagues quickly tried to stop her, but she told them to screw off. Cue airport police, $10,000 fine and no flight to Bali. She should have listened to the staff.
6. All It Takes is a Second
I was cabin crew doing a turnaround from Dubai, UAE to Muscat, Oman and back again. We’re on the ground in Muscat and hear from ground staff to take extra care of a passenger who is about to board. She was an English lady in her fifties, as you can imagine, well turned out but unassuming all the same. However, she looked completely shaken when she boarded.
What happened was, when she had checked in her luggage and gone on to security, she placed her trolley bag on the conveyor belt, went ahead through the metal detector and waited on the other side for her bag. Next thing she knows she’s being detained, placed in handcuffs and taken to a room for questioning. They take in her bag and start questioning her.
Airport police officer, “Did you pack this bag yourself?” Lady, “Yes.” Airport Police, “So you know what’s in the bag?” Lady, “Yes” and goes about describing what’s in the bag. The questioning goes on for a while and is quite aggressive. The police officer then opens up the bag and right on top of everything is this parcel filled with marijuana.
She’s aghast and protests her innocence, as she doesn’t know anything about it. This poor lady is completely distraught. The gravity of it is hitting her and she’s inconsolable. Drug trafficking anywhere is a big no no, but in Middle Eastern countries it can end up giving you the death penalty. The officers reviewed the footage of when her bag was scanned, and when she placed her bag on the belt and turned away, a man standing right behind her, in seconds, undid the zipper and slipped it in.
She had no idea who this man was. So, she was let go and free to continue traveling but her trolley bag was confiscated as evidence. She wasn’t too worried about the bag at that stage. I got her a very big brandy! Lesson to be learned is to not let your bags out of your sight, even for a second!
7. Lending a Helping Howl
Last year, I was working as a contractor in the planning department of a large commercial airport. This airport has a park between the runways where people go to sit and watch planes. I decided to take my two young boys out there one evening because they like to watch the planes take off and land. It starts to get dark and I see a lady stand up and put her arms up and start making a howling sound.
At first, I didn’t know what she was doing or where the sound was coming from. I hear it again and realize it’s her and she might be a little crazy. This continues for a few minutes and I decide to leave. Meanwhile, she’s still standing there, arms up, howling at the planes taking off. A week or so later, I had to ride around the airport with an operations guy and I tell him about my trip to the park and what happened.
He says, “Was there a Lufthansa Airbus leaving while she was doing that?” I tell him, yeah, there was. He proceeds to tell me that she’s pretty well known around there. According to him, she believes that she died on a Lufthansa flight in a previous life and has been reincarnated into her current body. She thinks her soul is still connected to the flight somehow.
She goes there to pray over the same Lufthansa flight every time it departs.
8. Stubborn, Stupid, or Both
Several years ago at about 3 AM at the Pittsburgh international, I watched an older woman tumble down the up escalator. Every time she flipped over she yelled, “I’m OK” like Filburt from Rocko’s Modern Life. Flop—I’m OK. Flop—I’m OK. Flop—I’m OK. She rolled in place for maybe a minute before someone shut the thing off.
9. Bad Business Practices
I used to periodically work security to supplement my income. In 2002, I was assigned, for the first time, to a Spirit Airlines repair facility at Meacham International Airport in Fort Worth, TX. One day, I’m sitting in the guard shack with a coworker, reading a book, when a number of Fort Worth Police Department vehicles swarm the parking lot.
SWAT officers, accompanied by an impressive number of Federal officers, locked the place down at gunpoint. My coworker and I get dragged out of the guard shack, and yes I do mean dragged, and held by law enforcement at gunpoint while they secured the facility. It turns out that Spirit hadn’t been doing proper background checks on the mechanics and a number of them were in the country illegally, using falsified documents.
Many were suspected of having ties to extremist groups in the Philippines. The scuttlebutt around the office is that a C-level executive for Spirit had flown them in privately to cut payroll costs, but this was never confirmed. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my coworker and I were reprimanded for not calling our supervisory staff as soon as the raid occurred.
You know, while we were being held at gunpoint.
10. Everyone was Sleeping on the Job
I worked at a corporate aircraft maintenance place, and we had a situation where this crazy woman somehow got out on the secured ramp area. By the time one of our line service guys saw her she had the main entry door opened up on a Global XRS aircraft. When he pulled up she looked at him and asked if he could help her get her bags onboard.
When he told her he couldn’t, she told him she was going to fly the plane to China and didn’t want to be late. After that occurrence, the security at our airport became insane.
11. There’s Two Sides to Every Story
I am in management for a large airline here in the States. While wrapping flights up for the night, we had a flight going to a small regional airport the next state over. While waiting for these super tight connecting passengers, the gate had to close the door. Shortly after the door closed, passengers came running up as the ground crew was about to push the plane out.
I was doing my rounds of the gates to make sure everything was wrapped up properly and saw these people getting upset at the gate agent, so I decided to go upstairs in case something happened. At that time, the gate agent’s supervisor was there to take over. He basically told the passengers that since they were there for two hours—the tight connection passengers never showed up—they couldn’t do anything for them since it was their mistake and not an error or situation controllable by the airline.
After a while of a male passenger screaming and yelling, the supervisor offered him many things to help—hotel, car rental discount, food vouchers, etc. He kept turning them down. I then hear him yell, “THIS IS RIDICULOUS. YOU BETTER GET US A DAMN PRIVATE PLANE AND FLY US TO—blank.” At that point, the supervisor basically laughed and told the gentleman there was nothing else he could do if he didn’t want to take the other offers that were on the table.
He started to walk away and the passenger had the nerve to take his phone out and record the supervisor walking away. “I’m at—blank—with—blank. They refuse to do anything for me after I missed my flight. The supervisor told me to go screw myself and then just walked away. Blah, blah, blah, blah.” It was absolutely ridiculous.
12. Read Before Use
A school friend’s father worked on passport control at Gatwick in the mid-80s. In those days, passports were often handwritten and had spaces for things like distinguishing features. One day, a young woman presented her passport to him, and he opened it and compared the photo, and then paused before saying, “this is a bit unusual.”
He showed her the open passport, which read in part, “Distinguishing Features—BIG TITS.” She exclaimed, “My bloody brother, I’ll kill him!”
13. More Like a Zoo Than an Airport
Finally, my time to shine! A kangaroo being transported escaped and ran around the ramp area. That was quite the sight to see. I just found a news article about it, but it fails to mention how it kicked an employee. I don’t think people realize how many interesting things are loaded onto planes. I’ve loaded chickens, snakes—on a plane!—dead bodies.
My favorite might be the baby penguins we loaded in the main cabin, though.
14. What’s in the Bag?
Not me, but a friend. He used to refuel planes. Most days during lunch he would sit in the airport and do some people watching. Anyway, a cart with a bunch of baggage rolls by and the bag on the end falls off without anyone noticing, except for him. After some time, security is notified of the unknown bag. Taking all necessary precautions, security brings in the bomb-sniffing dog to check it out.
The dog sniffs it for a second and then all of a sudden begins to dry hump the bag.
15. What Not to Bring
Not an airport employee, but this is my hobby! Whenever I fly, I find a bored-looking TSA agent and ask them what is the weirdest thing that they’ve had come through security. Answers are as follows. SFO repeatedly gave the same story. A woman came through with a carry-on bag that when placed through the x-ray machine, revealed a snake. She was confronted about it and she started explaining that it was her dead pet snake, and she was just bringing it to a friend’s place who had a backyard where she could give her snake a proper burial.
And then the bag moved.
SJC commented that it’s more about what is allowed because there’s no rule against it. Some guy flew with a sink as his carry-on—a full sink. It fit, and there was no rule against it, so he got to fly with his sink. PDX was really friendly and gave me a bunch of stories about the really weird things that come through checked-in luggage. They’ve had to stop luggage completely packed full of butchered rabbit meat, or bleach/other highly corrosive chemicals. Apparently any international airport gets some really strange stuff going through their checked-in baggage.
ORD told me about drugs and some guy who had strapped endangered birds to his legs and tried to board a flight. Also turtles—plural—in a carry-on.
16. Handle With Care
My mom worked for British Airways for years, dealing with special freight cases for import/export. Much of the freight was offloaded and put in a holding warehouse for customers to collect. It wasn’t your typical suitcases and luggage of traveling passengers. One shipment came in from Africa, a large wooden crate that didn’t actually weigh very much.
Her client came in, opened the crate to check the contents and immediately became hugely irate to the warehouse staff. He barges into her office holding a frozen, venomous snake. She said it looked like a jagged lightning bolt—all zigs and zags. He’s screaming at her in the office, gesturing wildly with this dead snake, demanding compensation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Turns out he didn’t declare them as animals—probably to get around any customs laws—and there were dozens, if not hundreds of various venomous snakes in the crate. The cargo area of most planes isn’t heated, so the poor snakes had frozen to death in transit. He couldn’t sue and had to answer some interesting questions from the Treasury Department once all was said and done.
The sucky thing is he was importing them to make anti-venom. If he’d only declared them and paid for them to be shipped correctly he would have made a healthy profit and probably saved some lives.
17. Not All Heroes Wear Capes
I used to work for TSA and intercepted a human trafficking situation. There was a guy with a lady and a little boy, but the lady wasn’t allowed to speak. The little boy looked scared but didn’t say anything. He wouldn’t even look at me. It freaked me out. I told my supervisor and she called the airport PD. As soon as the man saw me go talk to my supervisor, he looked sort of agitated.
He sent the lady and the little boy down the terminal and he was trying to grab all of their things to go meet them. The police showed up and asked me for a description. Since the airport wasn’t big, he found them and brought them back to the checkpoint. As they got closer to the checkpoint, he tried to send the lady to the exit instead of having her come back to the checkpoint.
Eventually, the police were able to separate the man from the lady and the little boy. She told them everything. They walked the man out in cuffs. I didn’t get to see what happened to her because my shift was ending, but when I grabbed my stuff from the back, we made eye contact and she nodded at me. I took that as a thank you.
It was a scary situation but I’d do it again any day. There’s no telling what would’ve happened to that lady and little boy if I didn’t follow my instincts.
18. Not the Brightest Bulbs
A grown woman fell asleep while waiting for her flight to board. They called her name several times—this was a small airport, so it was quiet, and she was in the area—she just slept through it. She woke up and realized this after the gate agent had already pulled back the ramp and the plane was backing up to begin its taxi.
She was screaming at the top of her lungs, cursing, crying, and then get on her phone with her “mommy” and kept screaming that her mom had to do something for her because the jerk ticketing agent wouldn’t let her on the flight. Again, this was a grown woman. She ended up running into the airport bathroom in full hysterics and had to be dragged out by half a dozen TSA employees.
Not as weird, but still funny to me—a guy came to tell me that someone had left their luggage in the boarding area. There’s constantly an announcement about telling someone if they see abandoned luggage or something suspicious. I tell him OK, I’ll call TSA. He’s clearly freaking out and going on about how there’s probably a bomb in the bag.
I calm him down and he goes back to his seat. About 10 minutes later I go over to him with the TSA agent and ask him where the bag is. He points to a bag RIGHT NEXT to him and starts rambling again about how there’s probably a bomb in it, etc. So I just ask him, “If you’re so sure there’s a bomb in the bag, why are you sitting right next to it?”
You could just see the lightbulb go on in his head.
19. Wrong Time to Show Off
Airports employ falconers. The birds are used to keep other birds away from aircraft because a bird in an engine can really mess up someone’s day. So this falconer had come into the airport with his bird to grab a cup of coffee. He decided to try to impress some ladies by taking the hawk’s hood off and doing a little demonstration.
What he failed to notice was the starlings resting outside on a steel beam. The hawk flew after the starlings, smoked the glass and broke its neck. Thousands of dollars worth of a highly trained bird gone, just like that.
20. Parent of the Year
Twice I had mothers try to x-ray their babies. They were too lazy to take them out of the car seat and both times I was alerted by passengers screaming and swearing at the mother. I educated them by yelling and thanked the crowd. I also x-rayed a dog because the owner didn’t want to pay so they stuffed it in a regular duffel. Cops had a talk with him about animal cruelty.
21. A Scene Straight Out of Top Gun
I was not an airport employee but was shadowing employees as part of a pilot training program. One of our rotations was to spend a few days with the fire department. Not much action, fortunately, but the fire station was in the middle of the airfield, so the view was epic. The Virginia Air National Guard operated F-16s from the airport at the time.
They would go out three jets a time and would land, 1-2-3, in quick succession. I was in the fire station when three F-16s were on short final to land. The tower asked a biz jet to hold short of their arrival runway. The biz jet either didn’t hear or misunderstood and rolled out onto the runway. The tower told the F-16s to go around.
The lead jet banked a hard left, followed by the number two jet, but number three kept coming, gear down, landing light on. The tower called to the number three jet to go around. ANG radios are encrypted, so we could only hear the tower talking, not the F-16. The number three jet was still coming, the biz jet had nowhere to go and the firefighters started getting antsy.
The number three F-16 flew directly over the top of the biz jet, simultaneously pulled up his gear and hit the afterburner, barreled half the length of the runway, then pulled up hard left to join his buddies. The F-16 probably cleared the biz jet by 100 feet, but it seemed a lot closer to us in the fire station, and I’m sure even closer to the knob biz jet pilot.
The firefighters found it hilarious.
22. Those Teeth Are Too Dangerous
My time to shine! Most of the airport work is mundane but you will get the odd passenger that leaves an impression on you. There was a group of people coming through for a business trip and their boss had never flown before. One of his employees came in and explained that they told him he needed dental records for TSA and wanted us to play along.
So, the boss comes in and hands me his ID and an x-ray from his dentist to check in for his flight. Trying not to laugh, I show it to my coworker, who points at it and says, “Well, TSA might have an issue with that.” Dude’s face went white as a sheet until his employees busted up laughing. He got super red in the face and eventually started laughing at himself.
Never let it be said that airports are humorless places.
23. Nerves of Steel
I was a project manager for a renovation project at my city’s airport. We were building new ticketing kiosks and offices for the airlines, so eventually we had to move all the stuff from the old offices to the new ones. As some of the guys are moving stuff, a grenade rolls onto the floor. I get a call and meet up with the superintendent to figure out what to do.
Most likely the entire airport is about to get shut down for a bomb sweep. The superintendent—an ex-Marine—approaches the grenade to get a look at it, picks it up and says, “it’s a fake.” It was a prop used to test TSA’s searches. We were seconds away from having to ruin A TON of people’s days if it weren’t for the bit of luck that the superintendent had knowledge of explosives.
24. Of All the Places to Sit
I was at the airport one day, waiting for my girlfriend to come pick me after my flight. She was about 20 minutes away, so I sat down by a window ledge to look at Reddit—obviously—and like normal, there were various airport employees, security people, passengers, etc. wandering around. After about five minutes, I notice a couple cops with a dog eyeing me up.
They go to walk by, and all of a sudden the dog gets really close to me and then sits down. The cops give me an intense look and reach under the ledge where I was sitting. All of a sudden, they pull out a bag with a few grams of weed in it. This is not my weed, and I start freaking out internally, like any normal person. One of the cops goes, “What’s this all about”?
Then, the other cop bursts out laughing and explains that they are doing K9 training and I happened to sit down right over the exact spot they had previously hidden the bag of weed for the dog to find. The cops were laughing so hard they had to take a break from their training, and after my blood pressure kind of returned to normal, I thought it was pretty funny, too.
25. Playing the Right Card
Not me but a guy I once met. He works at the counter for a big local airline. There was a lady, about mid to late 50s, about to board with four big suitcases. This was a time when you normally could bring up to two suitcases or 23 kg (51 lbs). He notices this and tells the lady she would have to pay for the extra two suitcases.
The lady nonchalantly says, “Oh, my husband is carrying those.” He asks about her husband and again, completely relaxed and in a natural voice she points at the plane and answers, “That’s him in the coffin.” After that, he apologized and let the lady board.
26. Deadly Shortcut
My parents worked in airports and told me this story that happened sometime in the late 70s. They noticed a patch of purple on the marble floor near the check-in queue. Thinking someone had spilled their red wine on the floor, a cleaner came over and cleaned it up. About half an hour later, there’s another pool of purple. A different cleaner comes along and clears it up.
Eventually, the original cleaner comes back and notices the same pool he cleared up is back. He doesn’t know what’s going on. He looks up. There’s an air vent dripping something. Maybe it’s air conditioning coolant or something? He reports it to his supervisor. Nothing happens for a day or two, they just keep mopping up this coolant.
Eventually, they send an aircon tech into the roof. He comes back down the ladder, white as a sheet. It’s a body. Turns out someone had tried to break past security by climbing through the air ducts. This is pre-Die Hard, remember, so quite clever. What wasn’t so clever was taking a wrong turn in the dark and falling 30 feet into a fan mechanism drop. Smoosh.
27. It’s Exactly What It Looks Like
On the way back through TSA from a class trip to Germany, one of my classmates got pulled aside from the group because he bought gummy bears in bulk from a Haribo store and they thought he was smuggling something in them. Dude just really liked gummies.
28. There’s Always a Loophole
I worked at an airline over the summer as an intern. I was assisting in the check-in area and helping passengers use the kiosks to check-in. Now, this was the time when many airlines introduced basic economy and many people didn’t know about the new baggage rules, which wouldn’t allow you to bring a carry on bag, just one personal item.
This family of five comes along, returning home, and they seemed to know about the rule—maybe they encountered it on the way here—but they all had a backpack, and a couple of them more than one, actually. So I go and kindly remind them about the basic economy baggage rules and they snapped back at me and said they knew.
They had about nine, relatively small bags. In order to save money on their checked bags, the father took out a big roll of tape and just sat down in the check-in area, taping their bags together so it would only be one. Everyone looked at them, but it worked.
29. Goose Who’s Coming to Dinner?
I work the cargo ramp. We’re at the very edge of the main runway, and there’s a marshy area about 200 ft from the end of the runway. One day, we saw a pickup roll out on the service road near the marsh, and hear several shotgun blasts. A couple minutes later, the airport guys in the truck roll up and ask if anyone wants some free geese.
One of our crew took two dead geese home and smoked them for us—delicious. Apparently, the geese were just coming right back to that spot if they were forcibly relocated, so they had to be permanently removed.
30. Try a Nickname Next Time
An Indian friend of mine’s name is pronounced the same as Shoe-Bomb—his name is Shubham. One time when he was with his extended family as a young child, he had walked off somewhere, and his uncle called out his name. Of course, that led to him being tackled by TSA.
31. Tales From an Airport Bookstore
I worked at a little bookstore in Orlando International—MCO—about a decade ago. We sold only books and book-related items—place keepers, reading glasses, book lights, etc.—because there was an actual newsstand a little ways across the terminal that we didn’t bother competing with. One day, a very tall, angular, and frankly intimidating bald man came rushing up to the counter and straight-up yelled into my bewildered face, “Where the hell are your newspapers?!”
I stuttered out my canned apology and pointed across the way to the other shop. He growled and hauled ass in that direction without a word. Another customer, who’d heard the shout, approached me exclaiming, “Don’t you know who that was?!” I did not. It was a fellow called James Carville, a well-known political commentator and media personality.
I once had a coffee with a fully costumed and very convincing Abraham Lincoln at the Starbucks next to our shop. I also had a pleasant, if somewhat morbid in light of her profession, run-in with Dr. G. Jan Garavaglia. The worst near miss though came when my best friend worked in the same store and was working a shift while I had my day off.
I came back the next day to an amazing gift from her—James Earl Jones had graced our little shop and signed a few of the Star Wars pop-up books we had in stock. My best friend hadn’t recognized him at all, and wasn’t even familiar with his career until our manager approached him. She was shocked that he’d voiced Vader and gushed to me about getting to meet Simba’s dad. Sigh.
32. The Worse of the Two
I worked at the airport in Melbourne, Florida. A family arrived from Spain for vacation. Apparently, their travel agent screwed up the flight reservations. They were supposed to go to Melbourne, Australia. I later heard they made the most of it and ended up going to Disney, I think.
33. What are Three Things You Can’t Take on an Airplane?
I’m not an airport employee but my dad is. I’m sure he’s got many stories, but my favorite is one I also experienced. We’re in the TSA line as a family, on our way to visit family across the country. The line is its regular slow self, but we’re nearing the point where we have to take off our shoes and belts and whatnot.
Suddenly, there’s a commotion in front of us where people pick up their bags after scanning. A woman had packed the following things into her carry on and refused to listen to TSA when they told her she couldn’t take them on: a full-size Costco double pack of peanut butter, a toaster (the kind that flings your toast in the air), and a blender with a blade.
I’m sure there were other things too, but I have never forgotten those three things being slowly pulled out of her bag.
34. Terrible Line Etiquette
My mom worked as a TSA agent for years. Most days were pretty calm and people were usually polite and understanding. The worst treatment she got on a day-to-day basis was the occasional scoff and snobby attitude. One day though, people were in a really bad mood and she couldn’t figure out why until this old lady came through.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but I think someone’s dog might have relieved itself nearby.” My mom said it would be taken care of soon enough and checked the lady’s bag. Service animals are everywhere and some of the emotional support ones can be less trained than their handicap counterparts. It wasn’t until, like a few minutes later, that the smell finally hit her. It wasn’t dog poop.
Apparently, this happens every so often. Someone waiting in line just can’t hold it but doesn’t want to lose their spot so they drop trousers and go. This person somehow managed to get away with it without anybody seeing.
35. Too Close for Comfort
My father worked as a ground crewmember at a large airport in the 90s. Sometimes, he would have to take my brother and me to work with him, and on a very rare occasion, we were in one of the vehicles out on the tarmac. It was an older station wagon. Dad had left to do some work on the tarmac, and explicitly told my brother and I not to touch anything in the car.
So of course my brother, being the antsy-pants he was, at some point decides he wants to roll down the back window in the station wagon. He climbs into the driver’s seat and starts pulling random levers. If I remember correctly, the gear shifter on this vehicle was on the steering column, and of course, this is what he grabs.
The car starts to roll towards a fairly large airplane. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but as my dad remembers it, much of the ground crew began chasing after the car as it rolled closer and closer to this large airplane. Finally, one of the crew manages to jump into the car and stop it, just a few feet short of the plane—not too sure of the distance, but it was pretty close!
At the time, it was pretty scary, but looking back on it now, we all find it pretty hilarious. My dad tells us other stories on occasion as well. Another favorite of mine is how when he was working arrivals on the tarmac, if he saw people standing before the plane stopped moving, he’d very sharply give the stop signal to the pilots so they’d push on the brakes a little harder!
36. Couldn’t Be More Obvious
I’ve got a buddy who has done a bunch of security work, meaning he tested the security of government entities. Back in the 80s, he did a lot of testing of airport security. They managed to sneak guns, ammo, knives, and explosives past security and onto a plane dozens of times at dozens of airports. Airport security fail rate was 100% for his team.
The sad thing was, they actually provided the airport with intelligence ahead of time that there was a high risk of an airplane getting hijacked on the day they did the test. Not a “Hey, some security guys are going to come through today so let’s bring our A-game,” but actually, “Hey the FBI/CIA/XYZ called and they have reason to believe terrorists are planning an attack on our airport for Tuesday.”
Even with that advanced knowledge, 100% fail rate at MULTIPLE airports. Security theater is no joke. To me, that is the scariest thing that can happen at an airport, and it’s happening right now every day.
37. On Ramp Entertainment
I’d just gotten into work and was having breakfast with my coworkers. Outside the hanger, we heard some shouting going on. Not normal for a Sunday. We all decided to walk to the ramp and check it out. On the other side of the chain-link fence—the UPS parking lot—three very overweight airport cops were chasing a slightly overweight guy around all the cars, on foot.
Straight up Benny Hill-style chase going on. A fire truck from the airport was shadowing this from the ramp. The chase had been going on for a long time at this point. Everyone was barely running. The parking lot has a fence on three sides with one side open. One of the three cops stopped his chase and went back to block the exit.
The suspect realized he was trapped and just straight up charged the exit. The cop started yelling, “STOP NOW OR I’M GOING TO TAZER YOU!” The suspect, in a full sprit screamed, “TAZZZZZE MEEEEEEEEE!” The guy got about five feet away from the cop and he shot him with the taser gun, square in the chest. It didn’t stop this guy at all. He just kept on running.
He literally passed the cop about three feet to his left and ran out of our sight. The cop looked at his taser gun and started swearing at it. The other two caught up with him and, completely winded, just stopped and looked at each other. Then, the three of them walked out of our sight as well. The fire truck took off like hell to the other side of the ramp.
Coworkers and myself decide to go through the hanger to the front office so we can get a better look at where the guy went. Out front, there were three cop cars parked on the road. One cop was in one car and the other two were empty. The three cops from before were walking down from the parking lot. No suspect was with them.
Then, across the street, a few people ran out of the UPS office and were screaming and waving at the cops. The suspect was in their closed parking lot trying to get into one of the cars. The fire truck was back in the UPS/FedEx ramp. The four cops now chase in after him. One in a car and three still on foot. The guy tried to run again but he was trapped.
He turned and ran up the airport fence and jumped into the secured area. This was a 10-foot fence with barbed wire. He made it look easy. The cops didn’t even try to jump the fence. The suspect, running along the UPS building, finally met his match—a fire truck. Not any fire truck, but a first response airport fire with a water cannon.
The truck chased him down and blasted him with the water cannon. It picked him out and threw him into the building. This guy rag-dolled along the building from the water. It was awesome. I forgot to mention it was February and about 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside. It was really cold. The guy got back up and they blasted him again.
He got up again but didn’t run, he just turned and started limping away. He turned a corner and we lost sight again. The truck very slowly went around the corner as well. From what I learned later, the guy was picked up shortly after this. He willingly walked to the security guys at UPS and gave up. The suspect and an accomplice were breaking into cars at the fuel farm at the airport.
They robbed two earlier in the week. That Sunday, they were caught in the act. The accomplice getaway driver left the other guy behind and rolled his car over on the other side of town in a high-speed chase. The fuel farm was about a half a mile away. The cops chased this guy on foot a half mile before we even started watching.
38. Poor Choice of Words
A few weeks ago, I was walking out at the end of my shift and passing through baggage claim. It’s about 10:30 PM and there are about 100 people in the area I was in. I hear someone yell, “He’s got my gun!” Everyone froze for two seconds. Finally, someone started to run and we all followed suit. Being amidst a large crowd of people scrambling away from a potential shooter is the most terrifying thing I’ve been a part of.
The reported details of what happened are murky. The official story was that a cop was arresting a guy and the guy reached for the cop’s gun. The guy never successfully secured the cop’s gun. No danger. If that’s the case, why was he yelling, “He’s got my gun!” repeatedly?
39. Making a Problem Worse
This happened in Manila, which had the notorious distinction of having the worst airport in the world for several years in a row. While we were waiting for our baggage, the conveyor belt stalled. Instead of calling a technician to fix the belt, the idiots running the belt tried to jump start it, and instead sent a section of the rubber parts of the conveyor flying.
Luckily no one was hurt, thank God. It did cause a big scene though and took about an hour for the conveyor to start working again. Now you’re asking, couldn’t they just reassign you to another baggage claim? Nope. Remember, this is the Manila Airport we’re talking about. We don’t go the extra mile for our travelers, no sir.
But that wasn’t the best part of the whole experience. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, people were finally getting their bags and whatnot. A particular box comes out of the magic hole of the conveyor and an excited passenger reaches for it. Happy as he is that the box, clearly labeled fragile, survived intact, he goes and grabs it from the conveyor.
Said contents of the box, which looked like fine China to me, promptly came crashing onto the conveyor and surrounding floor, which caused another delay in the baggage while the airport employees cleaned up the mess. The man, clearly exasperated, just couldn’t help but laugh at how terrible his day was going. Good for him.
40. Think Before You Speak
I worked at an airport for 15 years. I was supervising the departure of a flight to Paris but we had a mechanical problem. The engine change required resulted in a 24-hour delay. It was a Sunday night and we sent all the passengers to the airport Hilton. The following day, the aircraft was ready to go and this lady asked to speak to a supervisor because she was unhappy about this delay.
So I go to meet her and her husband and listen to her complaint. She claimed that her husband and her had spent the previous evening calculating the cost of grounding the aircraft, sending everyone off to a hotel with meals, and that it came out cheaper than letting a half-full flight travel across the Atlantic. Combining both flights—Sunday and Monday’s—would save the company loads of cash, she says.
So, I stay calm and I politely explain to her that the aircraft hit a couple of birds during take off and that the engine was severely damaged and that we needed 24 hours to change it, which is pretty standard for an L-1011. That’s when it got weird. She poked her husband in the ribs and started to laugh. “Oh honey, he’s trying to make me believe that planes need engines to fly!”
The conversation lasted another 10 minutes, during which she insulted me for taking her for a dummy because everyone knows that planes don’t fly with engines. She promised me that once back home in Paris, she was going to tell all her friends about this airline and get a lawyer. To this day, I imagine this French lady in a Chanel suit, sitting at a typical snotty French dinner and telling her snotty friends the story of the crazy Canadian airline worker who tried to convince her planes flew with engines.
41. Not a Playground
Flying out of BWI for Thanksgiving, I was in the Airtran/Southwest Terminal. Three Southwest employees—two guys and a girl—were playing keep-away with a radio. One of the guys shouts, “Go long” and the girl backs up onto a moving walkway, crashing into an old lady in a wheelchair. The radio lands about two feet behind her and breaks on the moving walkway.
The pieces eventually jam the walkway as the three employees wander off sheepishly.
42. Off by a Letter
Not an employee but a passenger. I got flagged for a random TSA pat-down and the agent asked me if I had any metal in my body, to which I said, “I have an IUD.” The agent freaked out and started flagging other agents over. She musters all her calm and says, “Please repeat that you have an IED on you,” to which I had to say, “No, an IUD, a copper intrauterine device, for birth control.”
She didn’t know what an IUD was. I bet she’ll remember now!
43. Literally Full of Crap
I no longer work at the airport but I did when I was in college. One of the tasks of the ramp crew is to empty a plane’s lavatory when it’s full. The airplane in question was, I think, a 747 or something like that—maybe an airbus, but think big jumbo jet. To get rid of the poop and pee, you need to go up in a lavatory truck with a cherry picker bucket.
One guy drives, one guy goes in the bucket and gets lifted to the poop valves. The guy in the bucket hooks up a hose and opens the valve to drain. You’re supposed to wear a face shield when you’re up in the bucket and the guy driving is supposed to watch you. Well, this day neither happened. Then, for whatever reason, the hose failed to stay connected to the port.
When the valve was opened the hose popped off and excrement rained down on the dude up in the bucket. Guy on the ground was slow to react and guy in the bucket was essentially stuck as the contents from one set of lavatory’s rained on him for a good 15 seconds before the dude on the ground moved the truck out of the poo storm.
They sat him on the tarmac while a hazmat crew hosed him down. He was then sent to get tests for pretty much everything. He didn’t work for the same airline company so I don’t know what happened to him other than that he had quite a crappy day.