Traveling can put people in a pretty sour mood. Flight attendants deal with these people regularly, so they’re rarely surprised by some cranky passengers’ behavior. But sometimes, there’s a passenger that does something so entitled or shady, that they go down in infamy in the flight attendant’s mind.
Sleazy Passengers On Every Flight
“I don’t know if they were shady, as much as they were sleazy.
Back in the day, Northeast Airlines used to have synthetic ‘furry throws’ for the passengers’ use in flight. There wasn’t one for everyone, but there were quite a few per flight. People loved them. So much, that we couldn’t keep them. Passengers were stealing them right and left. One day, I saw a lady deplaning with one over her arm, ‘hidden’ beneath her mink wrap. Keeping my eyes peeled for our throws, I stopped her saying, ‘Oh my! Look at that! Looks like you got one of our furry throws caught beneath your wrap. Here, I’ll just get that for you’, said in a syrupy sweet voice, while flashing a huge fake grin. I hate thieves.
Back then, drinks were $1 each. A few times, in an effort to get free drinks, some wise guy would produce a $100 bill, saying that’s all he had. I learned to quickly snatch it up saying, ‘No problem! I’ll just hold on to it until we’re at the gate where someone will be waiting with your change.’ <SMILE!> One guy was particularly obnoxious, thinking he was so clever and had outsmarted us. Not only did I pull my usual trick, but when I told the flight crew to call ahead to bring change to the flight, I requested they bring it in coins. The crew was only too happy to comply with my request, and so was the guy on the other end. We’d all seen this many times. The sack of loose change was pretty heavy, and the man denied the Station Manager’s offer to count it out.
People are so stupid. They think they’re the only ones who ever tried to scam us. But, we were locked up with a couple hundred people every working day, so there wasn’t much we hadn’t seen before.”
“I was giving out breakfast 2 hours before landing on a night flight. A lot of passengers were sleeping. When they do, and if I can drop the table, I will and put their breakfast tray on it. Otherwise I would go back and forth for ages as passengers slowly wake up one after the other.
So anyway, after breakfast I was picking up the empty tray, when this one passenger asked me for his breakfast. I did put his breakfast on his table, but the guy sitting near him just ate it! I couldn’t believe it! He ate his breakfast and the one belonging to his seat mate!
Fortunately, we had a couple of passengers who didn’t want their breakfast, so I had a couple of extra ones. But wow…. I was lost for words.”
“Flying from Rome to Melbourne there was a family across the isle in Business class with 3 children, the parents promptly fell asleep and left the children to run wild. Later as I was served my meal the smallest child appeared at the side of my seat and it became obvious his nappy was overflowing and stunk to high heaven! I asked the cabin crew to do something about it and was told sorry, there is not much we can do.
So I told the child that through the curtain they were giving away free chocolate (pointing towards 1st class) and he took the bait, moments later the smelly child appeared with a 1st Class member of the crew and was deposited at the parent’s feet who were told to fix the nappy and control the child or be moved to the back of the plane, Problem solved!”
“I was a TWA flight attendant back in the early 70s and I had an experience I would love to tell you about.
This was back in the day when passengers were given a choice for their meal, usually steak or chicken.
The crew, almost always women, were often hit on by male passengers. They didn’t seem to understand that most of us were serious about our jobs. We had a lot to do in a limited amount of time.
Besides, rarely did any of us ever date a passenger.
This particular time, I had spent most of the flight dealing with a stupid playboy. He had become especially fond of patting my rear end as I passed his aisle seat in my section of coach. He had also embarrassed me by pulling me right into his lap.
Shady, yes, but here is what took the grand prize for shady —at least on that flight.
Dinner was over and I was busy picking up the used dinner trays. When I retrieved the trays from playboy and his two seatmates, his tray had a room key to a major San Francisco hotel and a $100 bill was peeking out from under the napkin beside his plate.
I waited until I was halfway back up the aisle toward the galley. Then I turned around, waved the key and the $100 bill high in the air, and shouted:
‘It seems someone lost their hotel key and money! If they’re yours, you can get them from the Captain at the door, once we’ve landed.’
“Years ago, I sat next to a flight attendant on a Boston-LAX flight. There was an empty seat next to me in first-class and when there was no one left on the upgrade list, the airline put one of their own in the seat as she was heading to LA to staff another flight.
She was a veteran flight attendant and super nice. In response to my ‘what are some of the weirdest things you’ve seen?’ question, she proceeded to tell me a series of awesome stories for about two hours…
Back in the halcyon pre-9/11 days, she was a rookie flight attendant on a flight from the US to another country. Boarding the flight were several citizens of said country — clearly a family traveling together — and they were having real trouble putting a rather large duffle bag in the overhead bin. It was just too long and bulky/heavy to fit. They’d hoist it and then it would fall. Or, once hoisted, they couldn’t stuff it in the bin. And, when the flight attendant went to try to help, the family started shouting and waving their hands to move away, don’t touch the bag, etc., etc. The closer she got, the louder they screamed, men and women included.
So, the flight attendant stood watching, knowing at some point the family would have to give up and check the darn mega-duffel. When, all of a sudden, the duffel fell to the aisle (again) but this time a HUMAN ARM popped out of the zipper!
Yep, it was a DEAD BODY.
Made even more obvious when the head and neck popped out onto the lap of an already-seated passenger! She then proceeded to scream in panic at the top of her lungs.
Pandemonium ensued. Shrieking passengers, wailing and crying family members…in short, total chaos.
Apparently, in the family’s home country it was customary to bury loved ones within 24 hours of death, and they were trying to take grandpa home with them for burial. It was too expensive and time-consuming to ship the body, and hey, they weren’t going to relegate gramps to the cargo hold, so……
And no, the plane never took off. The ensuing brouhaha brought aboard customs officials, medical inspectors, airport police, and of course airline staff to handle the (understandably) freaked-out passengers.
I then asked the flight attendant how the heck a family of four could lug a super heavy dead-body-duffle-bag past the gate agents??
Her answer: ‘Back in those days, the gate agents rarely did anything. They let the flight attendants on board deal with all the problems. Would never happen in the TSA era we are in now.'”
First In Line
“I am not a flight attendant, but I did witness something extremely stupid and risky.
I was recently on a Pegasus Airlines flight from London to Istanbul. On approach to Istanbul airport, and I mean when the plane was about 30 feet from landing on the runway, a lady who was sitting at the back suddenly decided to open the overhead luggage bin, grab two heavy bags (one of which was a wheelie), and leg it up the aisle. Since the plane was so close to landing, the flight attendants were already strapped in. All they could do was yell at the woman through the PA system, to sit the heck down. So she sat down in the seat in front of me on row 4, leaving the big wheelie bag in the aisle! A few of us had to stick our legs out onto the aisle to stop that bag from flying and hitting a child who was seated nearby. As if that wasn’t bad enough, as soon as the plane touched down and was still at high speed on the runway, a man also ran up the aisle with his bags. Before we knew it, half the passengers were stood up, opening the baggage bins and trying to claw their bags out! The flight attendants again yelled for them to at least wait until the plane came to a halt.
Anyway, the universe gave the couple their just desserts. The couple managed to get off the plane first and run super-fast to the terminal building, so they could be first in line for border control. Anyway, the idiots forgot to apply for the e-visa online and were subsequently sent to a long queue for a manual visa.
Served them right. Idiots.”
Where Was His Wife?
“Not a flight attendant, but I was flying from Texas to Sri Lanka. On the first leg, which was about 14 hours, I was happy to be in a seat near the exit door because there were no seats in front of me. Beyond the void space was the lavatory and a corridor to the other section of the plane.
About an hour into the flight, an old person carrying an inhaler was walking towards the lavatory from the front section. Instead of going in, he just lay down on the floor in front of us, in the relatively large area next to the emergency exit door. One of the flight attendants saw this and came to tell him that he can’t stay there and that he has to go back to his seat. However, to make things worse, he couldn’t speak any English and no one could understand what he spoke.
From what I could observe, he didn’t like being cramped in his seat and probably felt a bit claustrophobic, so he came here to breathe a little easy. The seat next to me was empty, so I told the flight attendant it’s OK with me to have him sit next to me if he wants, which she managed to convey to him, finally.
So for the remainder of the journey, he just sat there and asked for my help for things like making tea to serving his meal. I tried my best to help but wondered whoever thought it would be a good idea to send someone like him alone in such a long flight.
Then once we landed and were getting ready to deboard, I asked the flight attendant how he would manage himself from this point onward. She said, his wife is on the flight too. I was astonished. She was there all this time and never bothered to even check where her husband was. I hope they flew safely!”
“The flight was taking off at 4:45 AM and the boarding was continuing normally. About five minutes before we close the doors for take-off, a guest suddenly collapses and needs immediate oxygen. We act quickly but ten seconds later we realize that he has stopped breathing so we start rescue procedures and CPR. In the meantime, while three of the crew were trying to keep the man alive, on the other side of the cabin a guest starts shouting and complaining and demanding to know why the plane is not taking off because he has to go to a business meeting and he will miss his meeting. This created even more drama and stress in the current situation as we then had to calm down the crowds and the noisy guest.
I understand that in such critical moments, while time has virtually stopped for the one person trying to stay alive and for the other three people that were trying to save his life. Those involved in that hard life scenario at that moment for those four people some scenes will be stuck in their memories for ever and the seconds and minutes will seem like years, but for the rest of the world that was at the same exact place, time was continuing normally and will continue as if nothing happened.
This is one aspect of human nature that I will never understand in life.”
It’s Not Like He Could Have Fixed His Condition Mid-Air
“I was (still am, but working on it) a large guy. My new employer sent me out to the UK. Admittedly, I understand that being large makes flying with me a pain to deal with. To my benefit though I do try and squeeze myself into a corner or out into the aisle. I do whatever I can to minimize the frustration of my neighbor. I don’t put the seat back. I don’t use the table. I ask if they want the window raised or lowered (if I’m a window seat). I don’t talk, fart, eat, get up to use the restroom (I’m actually too scared I would get stuck). Essentially, I understand I suck to fly with and I do my absolute best to minimize your hatred of me, which I admittedly deserve.
To that end, however, I remember flying out to Heathrow, and about 20 minutes into the air, the guy looks over at me and says, ‘This isn’t going to work.’ I looked at him back and said, ‘I’m sorry?’
He stated, ‘Look, this isn’t going to be a comfortable flight for either of us, one of us needs to move,’ and looked pointedly at me.
I told him, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t fix this right now.’
So he hit the light and called out, ‘Excuse me, ma’am,’ to the flight attendant at the front of the class cabin. She came back and he said as loudly as he could without actually shouting, ‘Look, I have a problem with this guy here, one of us needs to move, and it should be him.’
To her credit, she surveyed the cabin and saw only middle row seats were available and seemed to understand the situation. ‘Sir, you may move to any of these open seats,’ looking at him.
I don’t enjoy being ‘that guy.’ I won’t lie, I took up more than my fair share and couldn’t pay for the second seat: it was a business trip. The company would only buy one ticket. It was international and I had just switched jobs and couldn’t afford an international flight ticket. Had I refused I’d have lost the job.
I’m working on the whole health thing. As for being treated with respect: One thing I learned is that no one deserves anything. Got to the UK and I swear it felt like I was the fattest dude in all of Reading. You could feel the animosity of some of the Brits as they saw my fat American self walking around London. LOL, I’m pretty sure a few people were taking pictures to laugh at. It is what it is.”
Don’t Name Drop Unless You Want This Happening
“I had the opportunity to help out a couple back in the day. A fellow passenger across the aisle pretty much thought he was flying private instead of being on a commercial carrier. He was constantly pressing the overhead button and making demands…no ‘pleases,’ not a ‘thank you,’ just a constant barrage of orders. The end came when he pressed the button and shouted, ‘Get me a drink now!’
The flight attendant was very accommodating in spite of this person acting like a total prick. She brought the drink, handed it to him and he bellowed, ‘There is too much ice in this drink, make me another!’ She was dumbfounded, and at this point, very flustered. She turned around and headed to the galley at the front of the plane. The lead flight attendant came back and proceeded to tell this ‘man’ that he needed to behave.
Well, that just made him amp it up. He belted out, ‘Do you know who I am? I am a very good longtime friend of Mr. X. You know him, he’s one of the executives at your terrible airline. He’s a personal friend whom I’ve known for years. Give me your name and the name of the idiot who can’t make a decent drink.’
I chimed in at that point with, ‘Sir, if Mr. X is a longtime personal friend, what is his nickname? His very good friends address him with his nickname, not his surname.’ He looked perplexed and then told me to ‘mind my business.’ The flight attendant told me very nicely to not involve myself as she would handle the situation. He said, ‘You’re right, you’d better handle this.’ I reached into my wallet and pulled out a picture taken on my wedding day that had me in my suit….the new wife in her wedding dress…and my new in-laws, one of whom is Mr. X. I handed it to the flight attendant and said that I would call the office when we landed and let him know that one of his very good friends is dropping his name and treating members of the flight crew in a very unprofessional manner. ‘Sir, may I have your name, so I can tell my father-in-law that you are going to make a formal complaint against members of the cabin crew?’ Crickets. Nay but a peep.
The lead FA handed me back my picture and told the guy if he touched the button again or even spoke to any of the flight crew, the police would be waiting for him when we landed.
I called the father-in-law after we landed to fill him in, just in case. I found out much later that he pulled the passenger manifest and wrote the guy a letter banning him from traveling on the airline.”
So Now He Backs Down?
“I once got stranded at Newark for 22 hours after our flight had an unfixable issue and was canceled late at night. We got put up in a hotel, but understandably, by the time the new flight rolled around (earliest they could fit in a new flight), everyone was quite tired and agitated.
As we are waiting to board the new plane, the flight attendant announced they would be boarding people with additional needs and families with young children first, followed by first class, then premium economy, then coach. All pretty standard stuff. Obviously, it can take a bit longer for people in wheelchairs to board so makes sense for them to go on first – it’s common on most airlines.
This businessman raced to the front of the crowd and started yelling at the attendant, saying it was already DISGUSTING that he had lost a day due to their INCOMPETENCE and now he had to WAIT even longer despite being a first-class passenger and paying big bucks every year to fly with them!
The worst part was he was looking at others in the crowd to back him up as if it was perfectly reasonable to scream at this woman, who like us, had also been stranded and had most likely had very little sleep, and was doing her best to do her job in this difficult situation.
But she was awesome. Without missing a beat, she smiled and nodded and said ‘ok sir,’ then made a big point of leaning into her mic and telling the waiting line of people in wheelchairs and mothers with babies that this gentleman needed to board before them and could they please wait.
Literally, every single person at the gate was looking at this guy with disgust as he tried to backtrack and say he didn’t mind waiting for the first group, but the attendant said, ‘No, no, you made yourself quite clear – let’s get you boarded, the others will have to wait.’
He was humiliated as he sheepishly walked by all of the other passengers. The flight attendant handled it perfectly.”
He Was Willing To Help A Family In Need Until The Father Did This
“I am a college student, and thus naturally, people (especially couples with babies) think that it would be much easier to force me into switching seats.
There was this one time I was on a really long flight from Chicago to India. I usually never haggle much about seats and am pretty cool about switching if people ask me to. This time I was fortunate enough to get one of those front seats with a lot of legroom. I knew this seemed too good to be true, and at any moment, a couple with a baby would ‘request’ the seat.
Needless to say, minutes later, this couple came up to me (with the flight attendant) asking me to switch because they had a baby and the father was sitting next to me. The mother had a middle seat way back into the plane for a very long flight. I was hesitant, but with three people awkwardly waiting for me to say yes, I eventually caved.
As I was moving my stuff, one of my small empty plastic bottles fell from my bag and nearly hit the father. Now, you have to understand this was one of those light plastic water bottles that could barely hurt if you tried to hit someone with it let alone when it falls from the bag. But for some reason, that angered the father into believing that it could have somehow seriously injured their baby. Even after apologizing to him for a solid minute, he kept shouting at me about how careless I was and that I need to learn plane etiquette.
That just did it for me. I told him that I was no longer comfortable with the switch and just went back to my seat and pretended to fall asleep. He tried his best to annoy me (fighting me on the hand rest and making it hard for me to move around), but I never felt so good about my ‘plane etiquette.'”