Some people think they can get away with things on an airplane. These flight attendants reveal the most absurd behavior they’ve seen on a flight. Content has been edited for clarity purposes.
Not Today, Scammer
“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, so 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.’
I said it in a syrupy sweet voice while flashing a huge fake grin. I hate thieves.
Back then, drinks were one buck each. A few times, in an effort to get free drinks, some wise guy would produce a $100 bill, saying that was 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.’
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 of hundred people every working day, so there wasn’t much we hadn’t seen before.”
“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 collapsed and needed immediate oxygen. We acted quickly but ten seconds later, we realized he had stopped breathing so we started 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 started shouting, complaining, and demanding to know why the plane was not taking off because he had to go to a business meeting and he would 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, the 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 forever 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.”
“Flying from Rome to Melbourne, there was a family across the aisle in Business class with three 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 through the curtain they were giving away free chocolate (pointing towards first class) and he took the bait. Moments later, the smelly child appeared with a first 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!”
“Do You Know Who I Am?”
“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 the 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?’ I asked.
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.”
This Couldn’t Wait Until They Landed?
“First class suites with closed doors usually require a knock on the door to notify them their ‘alone time’ is being disruptive to other passengers. The worst scenario I ever encountered was when two separate passengers, traveling alone (a man and a lady), struck up a conversation in the back row of economy. It was ‘just to be polite’ sounding at first and they both seemed like average passengers, nothing stood out.
Mind you, this was a long overnight flight from DXB-SYD (Dubai to Sydney).
Halfway through the night, as I was walking through the dark aisles to visit the economy crew, the cabin was dead quiet with most people sleeping. Except that, as I approached the back of the cabin, I heard some noises. I initially thought someone sounded unwell so I scanned the cabin. Well, that was when I saw a lady sitting on a man’s lap, making out. They clearly just thought everyone else was asleep so ‘Who cares, let’s do it.’
They were so into it as I passed through that they really didn’t notice me until I cleared my throat and asked them to stop.
Back In The Day
“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 Los Angeles 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 United States to another country. Boarding the flight were several citizens of the 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.'”
“I was a TWA (Trans World Airlines) flight attendant back in the early 70s. 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.'”
Sir, Calm 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 (the 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 the 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.”
“There Wasn’t Enough Time To Investigate”
“One time, I witnessed on a flight was a man stealing from an older woman after she fell asleep on a relatively short flight. I reported it to the senior flight attendant, but the flight was so short there wasn’t enough time to ‘investigate’, and the idiot was able to get off without the police being able to handle it.
But he did however know I had witnessed the theft. You know that expression, ‘If looks could kill,’ he slithered off the plane like the snake he was, and I could never forget his ugly, nasty face.
As I had done in the past, I warned him to never darken any door I was in charge of again.
Then I have the woman my personal information and informed the airline of the incident and the name of the creep.
I witnessed a lot of crazy incidents back in those days, which is why I don’t fly all that much anymore. Sad, human behavior can be abhorrent, but I make a Herculean effort to believe in the best in humankind. It’s never been easy, but without hope and Faith, what else have I got! Karma can and will catch up with anyone at any time, and I believe it surely will!”
He Tried Everything To Not Be A Bother
“I was (still am, but working on it) a large guy. My new employer sent me out to the United Kingdom. Admittedly, I understand that being large makes flying with me 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, or 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 United Kingdom 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. I’m pretty sure a few people were taking pictures to laugh at. It is what it is.”
Can’t Trust No One
“I was giving out breakfast two 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 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 seatmate.
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.”
“One year our holiday was over and we were queuing to board the plane, I was with my wife and three children and it was hot, everyone was tired and irritable but there was some sort of delay in boarding.
About seven people in front of me some middle-aged guy started moaning loudly about the hold-up, to no-one in particular, just to all those around him, then he started to use profanity and expletives which understandably shocked his co-travelers around him, someone asked him to refrain from using such language but this made him worse, he got all chest puffy and replied ‘Make me stop’ and continued using bad language, he was a big guy and an obvious bully.
As I was with my children I didn’t wish them to hear this sort of language, so I asked him sternly to stop and that there were young children in the vicinity, again he refused and said, ‘I don’t care! Whatcha gonna do about it!’
At this point I was certain that things were going to get physical, my wife sensing my building rage gripped my arm tightly and whispered, ‘Please don’t, just leave it,’ she was worried there would be fisticuffs and the pair of us would be removed from the flight.
Luckily the holdup was over before a fight could commence but I was still seething, the guy sat up front with his wife but to my delight, a couple with a young baby sat near him and he had to endure the cries of a baby for most of the flight, I had to endure it too but I did with a smile on me face.
We landed back in London and as I was leaving the plane I whispered to him, ‘I’ll see you in arrivals,’ he looked nervous and didn’t reply but I noticed how quickly he retrieved his luggage and scurried off to avoid any confrontation.
I doubt I would have done anything either, I was with my wife and kids and we were all tired and just wanted to get back home, however, I just wanted to teach this bully a lesson.”
“Our jobs entailed bringing the aircraft in, and offloading and loading the bags. When the aircraft is parked overnight (called ‘RON,’ which means ‘Remain Overnight’), we are required to clean the entire plane.
During my time with the airline, we found used Trojans in the airplane seat backs, toe/fingernail clippings, food, jewelry, money, electronics, cameras, and iPods/iPads.
One night, we were cleaning this Embraer 145, and my friend went to clean the lavatory. As soon as she opened the door, we heard a loud scream. She then ran up the aisle and out of the airplane. Curious, we both walked back to the lavatory and were shocked at what we saw. Someone had taken a baby diaper filled with poop, and smeared it over the lavatory mirror. The diaper was still attached to the mirror. Who does things like that?”