Worst Airline Passengers of 2020
We could call 2020 the year of misbehaving passengers. As the number of flights has dropped during the coronavirus pandemic, reports of air rage and mean passengers seemed to skyrocket. And while the majority of incidents involved passengers rebelling against mask policies, there were plenty of absurd moments like people crawling on airplane wings and passengers stripping naked.
Sure, air rage is nothing new. It has become such a problem that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) started tracking data on disruptive passengers in 2007. According to the latest data available in 2017, there was on average one incident per 1,053 flights worldwide. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is also tracking unruly passenger reports and has found that there were 108 incidents on U.S. flights as of November 30, which is down from 2019 – where there were 142 incidents in total – but a much higher percentage when you consider the reduction in air travel in 2020.
According to Andrew Robert Thomas, author of the book Air rage, In-flight incidents usually stem from the fact that so many passengers are crammed into a small space, which has worsened over time. “You put more people in a more stressful environment” Thomas told CNN. “I think you really put a burden on the flight crews.”
But the pandemic has added a whole new set of pressures, with passenger tensions soar and frontline flight attendants trying to enforce new rules. (Things got so bad that Delta, United, and Alaska Airlines have banned more than 900 passengers so as not to wear masks.)
Here, we recap some of the most outrageous examples of bad behavior in 2020.
A New Year’s assault: The year started badly on a January United Airlines flight from Washington Dulles to Newark. There are reports that a 28-year-old passenger assaulted a flight attendant. Then, to make matters worse, he instructed the police to intervene when the plane’s doors opened, causing the police to fall down a staircase and land on the sidewalk.
Masks: After the start of the pandemic, there have been a myriad of stories of passengers revolting against mask policies, of a woman who refused to wear a face mask to Las Vegas Southwest Airlines flight – causing the flight to disembark in Nashville – to the passenger who slapped a flight attendant on Delta’s mask policy to the easyJet passenger who coughed on other passengers and shouted “everyone is dying”.
Who is wrong here? A A TikTok user posted a video of a passenger draping her long blonde hair over her seat back and blocking the television screen. The TikTok-er responded by sticking a wad of chewing gum and a lollipop in the offending passenger’s hair, cutting off some of his hair with a nail clipper, and dipping the woman’s hair in a coffee cup.
There’s a man on the wing of this plane: In the category “what was he thinking?” Featured the 41-year-old who slipped onto the tarmac at McCarran International Airport and climbed on the wing of an Alaska Airlines flight. He stayed there for nearly 45 minutes before hitting the tarmac.
She needed air: The Las Vegas winger wasn’t alone. In September, a woman on a flight operated by Ukraine International Airlines claimed she was too hot and needed some fresh air, so she opened the emergency exit and crawled onto the wing of the plane.
Smoke alert: The situation was indeed very heated when the smoke detector went off. United Airlines flights from Washington Dulles in Frankfurt. After being escorted back to her seat, a 27-year-old woman from North Carolina was caught lighting a flame as she tried to return to the bathroom. A crew member and an air marshal attempted to restrain her, so she threatened to stab everyone on the plane and kill herself.
No smoking: Take it up a notch, an unruly 59-year-old on a WestJet flight from Vancouver to Toronto not only took off his face mask, he took it off to smoke. After the flight attendants tried to stop him, he assaulted one of the flight attendants.
Spit crazy: Things got out of hand– to say the least – on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Chicago O’Hare when a drunk passenger assaulted a flight attendant, began kicking seats, took off his pants, spat chewing gum on a passenger who was filming him and threatened to kill everyone on the flight.
Nudist on board: 25-year-old drunk woman on United Express flight from Jacksonville to Houston down to her underwear after fighting with another passenger. The flight made an emergency landing in Mobile, Alabama.
No, you cannot have another drink: At an American Airlines flight from Miami to Guayaquil, Ecuador, a drunk passenger thought it was okay to steal alcohol from the galley, then proceeded to yell at flight attendants and urinate in the aisle.
Snakes on the plane: No, a snake is not an emotional support animal. This snake from a passenger tried to sneak in 200 live poisonous scorpions in his luggage on a flight from Sri Lanka to China.
This guy wants to fly: Then there was American Airlines passenger on an Orlando flight in Philadelphia who started to climb into the seats and ask the other passengers, “Where’s my parachute?” (In case you were wondering, he was arrested.)
Bad pilots: There have even been stories of pilots behaving badly in 2020. Two Russian pilots are said to have gone out of class during their flight to create a naughty image that would appear on radar and flight tracking sites.
Broken! There was even a story of a bad US customs officer who was smuggled out of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. 40 pounds of cocaine in his hand luggage.
The absolute worst: But the most egregious passenger incident of all must be the man who boarded a United flight from Miami to Los Angeles knowing he was positive for Covid. The husband died of in-flight cardiac arrest and now other passengers on the same flight are showing symptoms.