According to Wired, there were 20,000 unruly passenger incidents between 2010 and 2013. In-air offenses ranged from physical assault and sexual harassment to failure to follow crew instructions and consumption of illegal narcotics. And then there are the verbal confrontations and threats, the bad behavior that stems from too much alcohol, and bizarre examples of passengers simply going off the deep end at 30,000 feet.
In 2009, a man on a Horizon Airlines flight from Medford, Oregon to Los Angeles ran out of the restroom naked and pushed two crew members, and in 2010, a passenger on a Delta flight was fined $27,500 for referencing Satan and ripping a paper towel bin from the wall of the lavatory. Yes, weird stuff happens up in the air.
Since adopting stiffer penalties and a zero-tolerance approach to hostile passenger behavior, the FAA claims unruly passenger incidents in 2014 were at their lowest since 1995. Airline workers are better trained to deal with drunk and belligerent passengers, penalties for bad behavior are harsh, and pilots are quicker to divert planes before things get out of control. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of high-profile air rage incidents. Here are 10 passengers nobody wants to fly with.
4 Booted for Belting Out Whitney Houston
An American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to New York made an emergency stop in Kansas City to kick off an unruly passenger who wouldn’t stop singing Whitney Houston songs. The aspiring diva was subdued by a federal air marshal and put in cuffs.
In a video captured by another passenger, the woman is heard singing “I Will Always Love You” as she’s being escorted from the plane. The woman was released without charges but was banned from flying American Airlines.
3 Drunk and Duct Taped
In 2013, an intoxicated man went on a rampage on an Iceland Air New Year’s Eve flight from Reykjavik to New York. The event sparked nationwide curiosity when cellphone footage revealed the man was duct tapped and zip tied to his seat.
The unidentified man apparently drank an entire bottle of duty-free liquor and began accosting people. Reports say he choked the man sitting next to him and screamed, “The plane is going to crash.” Passengers and crew then duct tapped him to his seat. The man was taken into custody at JFK.
8. Refusing To Turn Off Cellphone
In 2013, Lindsay Bien-aime was forcibly removed from U.S. Airways flight 906 for not turning off her cellphone. Bien-aime refused to comply with a flight attendant’s instructions to turn off her mobile device and became irate, screaming and yelling obscenities. When the pilot ordered her off the plane, which was bound to Charlotte, N.C. from Fort Lauderdale, Bien aime “scratched, kicked, and violently resisted” officers attempts to remove her.
According to ABC News, the woman was charged with battery, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. Fellow passenger Howard Woods videotaped the ordeal. Bien-aime can be heard saying, “I will hold up this whole (expletive) plane. I don’t care where people got to go.”
Thanks to the efforts of the Association of Flight Attendants, smoking was banned on domestic flights on February 25, 1990. In 2000, smoking was officially prohibited on all international flights. However, that didn’t stop Robin Seymour from Oklahoma City from trying to light up a cigarette on a United Flight from Washington Dulles to Rome in 2010.
When crewmembers tried to stop her, Seymour attacked them and threatened to set a pillow on fire. She was fined $34,000 for her unruliness. Seymour later apologized, claiming her behavior was due to a bad combination of Xanax and alcohol.
6. Threatening and Spitting
“I’m going to f***ing kill you and open the aircraft door,” yelled an intoxicated Kevin Lee Mosele on a British Airways flight to Los Angeles. Mosele became agitated two hours after leaving London’s Heathrow Airport and had to be restrained by flight attendants for spitting, cursing, and threatening people.
Mosele spent six hours in handcuffs and webbing and was later charged with interfering with the flight crew –a federal offense. Mosele later apologized, claiming he “just went crazy.” He admitted to drinking a couple of beers and a few wine beverages. Mosele was released on $10,000 bond.
5. Attempted Suicide
In May 2011, on Flight 546 from Houston to Chicago, Reynel Alcaide got out of his seat and charged the front of the aircraft. When a flight attendant confronted him, Alcaide pinned her against a wall and repeatedly tried to unlatch and open a flight door, yelling “I got to get off this plane.”
Passengers wrestled Alcaide to the ground, and the plane was diverted to St. Louis. Reynel Alcaide was criminally charged and fined $38,500. He spent 10 months in custody for his unruly behavior. It was later discovered Alcaide’s actions stemmed from a mental health issue.
4. Seat Belt Trouble
It’s best not to ignore the fasten seatbelt sign. Zhiming Qu found this lesson out the hard way on a flight from Shanghai to Chicago in 2011. When politely asked by a flight attendant to please buckle up, Qu swore and spit, and if that wasn’t enough, he hit the flight attendant with the buckle of his seat belt.
Qu was duct tapped to his seat, and the United Airlines flight was diverted to Japan. According to FAA’s civil penalty order, Qu was fined $34,125 for his tantrum.
3. Drinking On The Plane
In 2010, Andrey Zherdev was on a flight from Moscow to New York when he was caught drinking from his own supply of booze. When the fight attendant took his bottle away, Zherdev reached into his carry-on luggage and took out another one. The flight attendant confronted him again, and Andrey Zherdev went berserk; he screamed obscenities and hurled the bottle, then took his anger out on his meal try, before finally tossing a piece of luggage.
The plane was diverted to Stockholm. When Zherdev was fined $13,000 for his unruly behavior, he responded with letters denying he had done anything wrong. In fact, Zherdev claimed he was discriminated against because he was a Russian homosexual and wanted to be compensated for “moral damage.”
1 James Beach and the Knee Defender
“Whose right is it?” James Beach asked. “Is that my 4 inches of legroom, or is that her 4 inches of reclining space.”
In August 2014, there were three scuffles in a two-week span about legroom and the use of the now-notorious Knee Defender. James Beach’s story was the first to garner national attention. Beach was on a flight from Newark to Denver when he installed the Knee Defender and began working on his laptop. The woman in front of him complained about not being able to recline, and a fight ensued.
The passengers angrily tousled over the seat, slamming it back and forth. The woman finally responded by tossing her drink at Beach. The plane was diverted to Chicago, where both passengers were kicked off and fined.
1. Slapping A Crying Baby
In 2013, Joe Hundley became the most hated airline passenger in the world when he slapped a crying baby on a Delta Airlines flight. Jessica Bennett was sitting with her 19-month old son, Jonah, on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta.
According to court documents, Jonah started crying because of the pressure in his ears. Using racially derogatory language, Hundley told Bennett to shut the baby up, and then allegedly smacked him in the face. Several passengers witnessed the event, including Todd Wooten, who stepped in to help Jessica Bennett. Joe Hundley was later charged with assault.