Being on a flight can be one of the most stressful parts of any trip, business or leisure. Now imagine having to do it multiple times a week. And imagine if it were your job. Flight attendants tend to get an unfair reputation as nothing more than in-flight servants by some entitled passengers, but they’re highly-trained professionals that (unsurprisingly) have seen their fair share of abusive customers and don’t mind putting the truly unruly ones in their place. We asked a few flight attendants (with names and airlines changed) to give us some of their all-time scariest in-flight horror stories and a few tips on how to avoid becoming one of them.
Emily, a flight attendant based out of Dallas has seen her share of abuse.
“Being a flight attendant is one of the most lusted after, glamorized jobs out there. There are so many things that people from the outside don't see though. Most of the passengers are nice and easy to be around. However, you have those few that make your job so hard.
The craziest passenger I ever had was an older woman who started harassing a fellow crew member. Out of nowhere, she started racially attacking her, and saying horrible things. She was yelling and making everyone on the plane uncomfortable. I walked up to her and tried to figure out what was going on.
The crew member starts crying, and is clearly in shock from the attack. The lady says she didn't say anything wrong, she didn't know what I was talking about. The other crew members and I decide to kick the woman off the flight. That kind of behavior isn't acceptable. The gate agent comes up and asks the woman to get off. She gets off yelling and swearing. She continues to say she hopes we get in a plane crash. After those kind of trips, you have to mentally recover.
What passengers don't realize is that flight attendants have the power to kick them off the plane—for any reason that we see fit.
Another time, I was boarding as usual when a gentleman walked onboard and asked if I would kiss him. I laughed it off and told him I didn't think my boyfriend would like that. I thought he was trying to be funny. I forget about it until I'm going through, doing my service, and he tells me to come close so he can ask me something. 'You don't know the things I would do to you if I was staying with you tonight.' That was just the beginning. I can’t repeat the other things he said. I was in complete shock. I start to walk away and he reaches out and grabs my breast. At this point, I start crying. I call the captain and tell him what has happened. He asks if I want the police to meet the passenger at the gate. I told him no, because I wasn't thinking clearly. Needless to say, after that I didn't let my passengers get close enough to grab me.”
Kelly, based out of New York, had a sickening experience one passenger thought he could just cover up:
“On a 10-hour international flight, we had a passenger who seemed nice enough. He would continuously ask for bottles of liquor, and we didn’t cut him off because he seemed fine the whole time. He would occasionally come back and chat with us during the flight and was a funny, cheerful guy. Seemed totally normal -- until we landed, that is. We discovered that he had stuffed his puke-filled blanket in the seat-back pocket, along with a few leftover adult magazines. I just don’t know why he didn’t just use the sick bags that were right there.”
John, from Seattle, found out just how cranky people can be when they need to sleep:
“We were making a short hop over to San Francisco, and didn’t have any pillows or blankets available. A young woman boarded and immediately demanded pillows for the trip. When we informed her that we had none on board she lost it. Even after we finally got her in her seat she continued to press the call button repeatedly and ask for the “special pillows” we keep. At this point other passengers began getting annoyed at both her and us for not giving the nonexistent pillows to her, but mostly her for making such a big scene over a two-hour flight. Eventually, the decision was made to leave her behind. I do believe she was given a pillow shortly after this back at the gate.”
Kristin will never ignore a buckle-up light again:
“Flight attendants don’t usually have trouble dealing with turbulence on a flight, but there are definitely exceptions to every rule.
We were on a cross country flight and things started to get a bit bumpy -- it turns out we had gotten sucked into an air pocket. The pilot announced over the intercom to buckle up and prepare for the turbulence. The plane suddenly dropped several hundred feet and the oxygen masks were deployed, naturally causing a bit of a panic. Even though they weren't necessary, a few folks were grabbing for them. People were crying and most of the passengers were visibly shaken. The worst part is that when the plane dropped, we were finishing up our drink service, the sudden drop caused a fellow flight attendant to hit the ceiling of the plane. After seeing that, even I try to go get myself buckled in now if the captain ever announces it could be bad.”
Nathan finds that most passengers just need a bit of space, overhead that is:
"On a flight from New York to Miami I had two gentlemen fight over the last two overhead storage spaces. One says the space is his because his bag was there first, and the other because his physical seat was closer to the space. They were both considerably bigger than myself, so there I was between the two of them attempting to help make peace while these two large men fought over a tiny bit of real estate. The whole time both wives/girlfriends have their heads in the hands hoping no one would notice them, but the men are full on screaming at this point. Eventually, we told them both bags would need to be gate checked, and in true King Solomon fashion, the one that was okay with it we let keep his bag, and the other had to check his. Of course neither men said a word during the actual flight, both looking straight ahead while their girlfriends glared at them."
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