Flying the friendly skies as a flight attendant may sound cushy at first, but trust us when we say the air is full of crazies too. These flight attendants share the most bizarre thing they've seen on the job.
“This Is An Airline…Not FedEx.”
“Oh man, one of the weirdest things I’ve seen on the job was on a flight out of an Asian country.
We had almost finished boarding and I handed an extension seatbelt to another flight attendant to give to a couple with a baby. The FA came back a few minutes later saying they didn’t have a baby. I looked on the manifest and it showed Mr. and Mrs. X, seat 32D and E plus infant. Well, that certainly raised a few eyebrows. I walked back to enquire about the error on the manifest when the father stood up and opened the overhead and there sleeping peacefully was a beautiful baby girl! They had never flown before and thought it was a bassinet!
They were of course a lovely couple and I’m sure perfectly fine parents! We all had a good chuckle though and they couldn’t stop laughing for 9 hours once they realized their mistake!
But this other incident still baffles me to this day.
Being lead FA (Cabin Service Director) I was in charge of greeting passengers as they entered the aircraft. This flight we were flying on a gigantic Boeing 747. Massive aircraft. So anyway, almost everyone was on board and we were waiting for the last dozen or so passengers. In the jetway, I could hear the slow rumble of a dolly which was unusual because passengers don’t generally bring them to the aircraft door. If something is that big it’s usually just loaded into the cargo bay.
I just stood at the door curiously waiting what was in store. The dolly turned the corner and lo and behold there it was! I had to do a double-take but there was this little old lady wheeling a FULL SIZED WASHING MACHINE INTO OUR PLANE!
I had to ask the FA standing beside me to pinch me, I thought I was dreaming. This is an airline…not FedEx ma’am.
I tried to explain to the elderly woman that it wasn’t coming on board and things got heated so I called the captain to come down and give his verdict. Needless to say, it was loaded on another flight.
To this day nobody knows how on earth this bulky washing machine through security, passed the boarding gate checks and to the aircraft door…. That one was a real head-scratcher! All of these people in and security in the terminal and nobody stopped her? Amazing.”
Prepare For Turbulence!
“I was an airline pilot, but I can tell you the weirdest thing any flight attendant flying with me ever saw. It was for the pilots as well.
We were cruising at 37,000 over the eastern seaboard on a flight from PBI to JFK. It was one of the most perfectly clear and calm nights I had ever experienced. It was so still it was surreal, with absolutely no weather and it was at night, so we could see cities hundreds of miles away. Sitting there was like sitting in my living room—rock solid with no sense of motion at all.
This was in 1987, and a dinner flight (how many of you are old enough to remember those!?), so the FAs were serving dinner. The senior FA was in the forward galley in first-class mixing drinks. Th,e other three were patrolling the aisle in economy, refreshing drinks and serving extra rolls, etc. (It sounds like a fairy tale even to me as I write this, but those were the good old days when flight attendants actually attended during flight. Sigh!
Anyways! With no warning whatsoever, we suddenly encountered the worst turbulence any of us had ever experienced, this includes a captain with about 25 years, me with 15, and plenty of years between all the FAs. For 30 seconds we were slammed up and down like a little toy plane. The captain and I were terrified, the plane sounded like it was coming apart—and this was a Boeing 727, not a small plane.
It stopped as suddenly as it started and went right back to rock-solid stillness. The captain and I locked eyes and he said I’d better go back and check on everyone.
I opened the cockpit door to what looked like a garbage dump. Imagine 120 meals and all the place settings, plates, glasses, trays, drinks, and food slamming up to the ceiling then back down to the floor four to five times. Walk down the aisle was like conquering an obstacle course.
The senior flight attendant was on the floor in the first-class galley, but she said she was okay and got up on her own. So I went back to economy, where the other three ladies weren’t moving. The passengers were horrified, of course. I walked across a carpet of food and bread, soaked with Coke and coffee.
The three economy FAs were hurt when they (and all the food and drinks and carts and trays and glasses and utensils) were splattered against the ceiling then back down, then back to the ceiling, etc, etc. One broke some ribs when she crashed down onto an armrest. Two were on the floor near the aft galley and I moved them because the soda cans were SPONTANEOUSLY EXPLODING from being shaken so bad. Imagine shaking a sealed soda can until it explodes! That’s how bad it was.
I brought home one can as a reminder of that night—the side is just split open like a firecracker had been inside, except the pop-top is still sealed.
Amazingly, EVERY passenger was wearing a seat belt, which meant that not a single passenger did the ceiling-to-floor two-step. Also amazingly, they were all very cool. No one panicked and not one complaint. Indeed, they helped get the F/As belted into open seats, and they helped clean up. Everyone was awesome. When we landed at JFK, the passengers all stayed seated while a few helped the three FAs get off first because we had three ambulances waiting.
A broken bone automatically makes an incident an accident, so there was an accident investigation, but I never got a report. No other aircraft experienced so much as a ripple that night. Just us. A total mystery.
Also, it was the last time that two of the FAs ever flew professionally—they just couldn’t be on a plane after that without being belted in.
So, ALWAYS keep that belt fastened while you’re in your seat. There’s no such thing as the air that can’t produce horrendous turbulence.”
He Made Sure This Flight Would Be His Last
“A guy hanged himself on my transcontinental flight. Yes. This incident happened shortly after 9/11. I was the greeter on a flight between Washington DC and Los Angeles. It was my job to greet the passengers on this early morning flight so I was trying to be as cheerful as I could by engaging in conversation with everyone coming into the door. Among all the half-asleep passengers, I noticed this muscular 40ish man who has his right arm in a dirty cast. I curiously asked him what happened to his arm. He replied without emotion ‘I burnt my arm.’ Without missing a beat, I jokily said ‘Next time, don’t play with matches.’ He didn’t laugh at my comment so I thought nothing of him until mealtime during the flight.
It was a full flight that day and there were two other businessmen sitting next to this man with an arm cast. While the other two were busy typing away on their laptops, this quiet guy sitting by the aisle was using a pencil to write his letters on ordinary stationery. I was thinking to myself how old fashion of him to write pages of a letter on paper when everyone these days are using emails to communicate.
It was around 20 minutes after our plane flew past Denver, my purser and I noticed the long line of passengers waiting to use the rear lavatories in the back of this Airbus 320. After observing the situation my purser noticed one of the lavatory doors was bulging out. He immediately asked me to peek through the door seam to check out the scene in the lav. All I could see at the time was a person’s back leaning again the door.
My purser thought this might be a medical emergency because he had several similar experiences in the past. We released the two pins that holding the lavatory door but the man’s weight prevented the door from being dislodged. We then enlisted help from other passengers to push the bi-folding door open. Next all we could hear was the gasping from other passengers in the aisle who saw the scene inside the lav. As I looked in I noticed it was the man with a cast who was hanging by a belt on his neck. There was a huge amount of blood coming from his mouth and dripping all over the front of his white T-shirt. He was literally attached to the door with his belt and we couldn’t get him down.
I called the cockpit about the situation and made an announcement in the cabin for medical assistance. An off-duty federal agent and a nurse answered our call. The FBI agent had a knife on him so he tried but wasn’t able to cut the belt off because it was wrapped so tightly around the guy’s neck. We ended up taking the whole door down with the guy still strapped on the metal rod of the door.
While others tried to revive the man with a defibrillator in the back of the galley floor, I called the cockpit back to relay the situation.
For the next 20min as the Captain turning the plane around back to Denver, we took turns to perform CPR on the man. Meanwhile, I was frantically looking for the guy’s carry-on bag on board. I wanted to be sure he was not a suicide bomber trying to carry out a mission. Sadly the only things I found were two suicide letters, the man’s New Zealand passport, and a toothbrush.
We landed back in Denver and the man was taken off the plane by EMT through the back galley door as everyone else deplaned from the front of the plane.
The company found another plane for the rest of the passengers with a new cockpit and cabin crew while the original crew stayed in Denver for debriefing.
Later we found out that the man died in the hospital and his letters were addressed to his girlfriend and sister.
The next day our first officer told us about the man’s run-in with the law. Apparently, he had bought a brand new pickup truck from a car dealership in Orlando, Florida a week before but he was unhappy with the deal he got. He went back to the car dealership and ran his truck into the showroom and torched the place with gasoline. Apparently, he injured his arm during the process. He caused over a million dollars in damage and was released on bail but decided to fly back to New Zealand to avoid his legal trouble. Somehow he changed his mind about escaping right before he got on my flight.
Ever since that incident, I have never look at a lavatory door the same way again.”
“With over 30 years as a flight attendant on a mainline carrier, this was just one of the so many unusual things I have seen at work. But there was one flight that I will never forget. I was seated on the back jumpseat where my view of the passenger cabin was restricted. We had started to taxi out for takeoff when I was surprised to hear the chime sequence informing me the cockpit wanted to talk to me on the interphone. ‘How strange,’ I thought.
I answered the phone right beside my seat stating my first name. To my disbelieving ear I the captain stated, ‘The tower just informed me that I have a man on the right-wing. Would you please quickly investigate and advise?’
My eyes bulged from my head. A man…on the wing? Now, this I had to see.
‘Yes sir!’ I said while removing my seat harness and attempting to explain what I heard to my very curious flying partner seated beside me. I ran to the cabin, where to my disbelief eyes I saw the window exit open on the right side and passengers, with their faces glued to their windows in the area watching…..a passenger with his briefcase crouched down on the wing, trying to desperately remain there as the plane continued to slowly taxi.
I ran to the phone and breathlessly said, ‘Affirmative, that’s AFFIRMATIVE! Stop this thing! Will advise!’ It turned out that we were on a narrow-body aircraft that could occasionally exhibit a condition known as torching on the right-wing engine. Torching is when the engine burns up any extra fuel or has too rich of an air-fuel mixture. It’s completely safe but it can be scary to watch because it results in a giant plume of orange flame flying out of the exhaust.
My guess is that the gentleman had seen the bright jet of flame and thought the aircraft was on fire! He must have panicked at the sight and was frightened enough to exit the aircraft. But even in his panicked state, the man remembered to take his briefcase with him!
He certainly took those P.A. instructions in the terminal that said, ‘You must have your belongings with you and in sight at all times,’ to heart. You would think instead of going ballistic and jumping on the wing of the plane he would’ve asked somebody for an explanation or even alerted his fellow passengers but no! It seemed like it was every man for himself to this guy. But there I go again, thinking I can predict the behavior of the general public.
Now for the cherry on top, after stopping and carefully getting my passenger back into the plane, he continued on with us to his destination. My professionalism was tested each time I passed him in the aisle to keep from laughing. Seriously though, it could have ended in tragedy. Oh well, another day at work.”
“My Husband! My Husband!”
“I was once on a domestic U.S. flight and an 80-year old Italian couple sat behind me. While we were at the gate the man asked the stewardess, in very broken ‘Italianglish’ ‘Scusi, where e lavatorio?’ (‘Excuse me, where is the lavatory?’) The stewardess pointed towards the front of the cabin. The man said ‘Grazie’ and walked up towards it.
About 5-10 minutes later the plane started backing out from the gate and taxied, and took off. After we reached 10,000 feet the Italian woman behind me rang her button and, when the stewardess came, asked ‘Dove my husband? He non e qui.’ (‘Where is my husband? He is not here.’)
The stewardess looked up front- he wasn’t there. She asked the other stewardesses- nothing. They couldn’t find him! After about 5-10 minutes they told the Captain and he radioed the gate at the airport.
Well….it turns out that when the first stewardess pointed out the lav at the front of the plane, the man thought she meant in the airport! So he got off the plane…went into the airport into the bathroom…and by the time he returned the plane had left!!
When the stewardess heard this from the Captain and came back and told the stewardess about the woman, they both wanted to die from laughing but couldn’t because they were with his wife. (I was holding back also). So I listened as the stewardess patiently explained to the woman that her husband was back at the airport. When the woman finally understood she let out a yell that was equal to an operatic soprano in Milan! “My husband! My husband!”
She eventually calmed down when told he would be on the next flight and was o.k. But I still can’t get over the scene of this poor 80-year-old man walking out of the bathroom, fixing up his trousers, looking up, and seeing his plane gone!
The Smell Of Justice
“This one is disgusting!
A flight attendant friend of mine told me this story a couple of years back. I did not see it myself, nor have I encountered such an incident from all my flights but I am not surprised at all. Because similar incidents have occurred and it’s all over the news and/or captured on video and posted on the internet.
My friend told me that during a short-haul flight, the mother told her kid to just take a number two (yes, a mud pie) in the walkway/space in front of the seat.
Apparently, the mother was too lazy to take the son to the toilet on the plane, which quite literally was only a few feet away. After the kid did his thing, the mother pressed the call button. My flight attendant friend was the one that approached and was like ‘What the heck is this?’
The mother casually said to my friend as if it’s a normal thing and told her that she needs to clean up the poop on the floor because the kid had just gone.
My friend looked at her like she was crazy and told her SHE needs to clean that up because it was her fault (obviously). There are toilets on the plane and she could have easily used any one of them. Not only that, she just broke a whole bunch of health codes and regulations. Not to mention how disgusting it was.
The mom tried to give the excuse that it happened because the kid couldn’t wait and kids being kids. But once other passengers around the area started realizing why it smelled so bad and heard the conversation, they started calling out the mom and said they all wanted to move to other areas.
My friend came back to the seat with all the paper towels she could hold, some gloves, bags, and wipes …. she just dropped them into the mom’s lap. She and a bunch of other attendants basically stood there and made sure she cleaned up the area.”
Robin The Witch
“In 1989 I flew with this girl who was an evil witch. It was on a flight that had been very bumpy with mild turbulence. This was from PIT to LAX (guess the airline). The pilots kept the seatbelt sign-on. Several passengers were ignoring the seatbelt signs and using the bathrooms. As flight attendants we cannot force passengers to obey the signs….but we are required by law to remind them. But Robin went further! She was yelling at passengers calling them foolish and risky! Finally, she grabbed the PA mic and made this announcement. (Swear to God this is true),
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, federal law requires all passengers to observe all lighted passenger signs and crew member instructions. Federal law provides for a personal fine of up to $2,000 for disobeying a flight attendant’s instructions. So, the captain has the seatbelt sign-on, and for those of you who insist on coming back here to use the lavatory had better bring YOUR CHECKBOOK!’
I gasped as did half the plane. I dove for Robins’s hand and tore that mic from her witchy fingers and told her to shut up and stay off the PA the rest of the trip.
About 30 minutes later, a pregnant woman I had been talking to during boarding had her face to the window and was shaking. I reached over touching her shoulder. ‘Ma’am, are you okay?’ She just shook her head. ‘Ma’am, would you look at me and tell me what’s wrong?’
She turned, makeup running down her face, sobbing. I was surprised and asked what was wrong. She looked at me and cried out, ‘I am pregnant and my bladder hurts so bad…I have to pee’
‘Oh my God ma’am let me help you up,’ I said. ‘Why haven’t you gone?’
I helped her out of her row. She looked at Robin standing in the aft galley, pointed at her, and sobbed, ‘SHE WON’T LET ME!’ Robin had her arms crossed in defiance, ‘She said if I took my seatbelt off I would kill my baby’
I looked at Robin, and that’s when I decided that some people are truly evil. I waited for the passenger and when she came out of the lavatory, I walked her back to her seat.
Robin was the devil!”
“I’ve done FA, check-in agent, and ramp agent. The most bizarre thing to happen was when I worked as a ramp agent (basically loading / unloading bags) sometimes people die on their holiday and fly home in a casket along with the bags.
Now the general procedure is that we have to be extra careful and respectful when something like this happens since relatives usually want to look on from the terminal when something like this happens. But this was my first time handling something like this and we didn’t have ANY information that the airline was carrying a dead body.
The plane came in for a rough landing and apparently, the casket hadn’t been properly secured. So when I opened up the compartment and started unloading bags I saw something that looked like a pile of clothes in the back, to my horror it turned out to be the corpse of a dead guy and I freaked the heck out because I’d never seen something like that before and I’ve never had to handle a casket before either. And the fact that the corpse had flung out of the casket was just too much for me so I had to get out.
That one still haunts me. It was horrible.
Another example was also from the ramp but from one of my colleagues (I saw everything from a safe distance) he was going to empty the lavatories, which is done by a huge vacuum truck basically. You open up a hatch, attach a hose and THEN pull a lever. He did that but in the wrong order and got doused with the excrement of a 300+ passenger 10-hour flight.
I stopped working at the ramp a bit later.”
A Peculiar In-Flight Birthday Present
“I’m not a flight attendant but it’s very much a lovely/weird fun story about a couple of flight attendants that made my night.
Many years ago I was flying home from college to go to a dear friend’s wedding. It was just an hour-long flight (Southwest) from San Jose to San Diego. It also happened to be my birthday.
When I was boarding, the person checking my ticket/ID saw on my ID that it was my birthday. ‘Happy Birthday!’ they said, ‘We’ll be sure to let the flight crew know it’s your Birthday.’ I laughed, sort of thinking they were joking.
Well as the flight attendant went through your typical “and the exits are here and here…” speech over the PA they ended it with ‘…And Happy Birthday to Lisa Klein!’ I smiled and giggled and waved to them. They brought me a free glass of bubbly and treated me like royalty for the entire flight. Then when we were landing the captain also wished me a happy birthday after his announcement that we’d be landing soon.
Then the icing was that the flight crew had made me a little gift out of things they had around the plane. They wrote HAPPY BIRTHDAY on the side of a roll of toilet paper and the entire crew including the captain signed the toilet paper roll and stuck the Southwest stir-sticks (with the hearts) on the top of the roll to make it like a cake with candles. Then they handed me an air sickness bag (unused, of course) and urged me to open it up. They had assembled four maxi pads into little slippers (also unused, of course). I laughed and thanked them profusely. It was by far one of the funniest and best flight experiences I’d ever had. It really warmed my heart that this flight crew came together and really just made this ordinary girl feel like a queen for an hour.
Just know, flight attendants of the world, you are appreciated and when you go out of your way to help make flights great for passengers it’s not forgotten.
I still have the toilet paper birthday cake to this day.”