Flight Attendants Share The Craziest Things That Have Happened Mid-Air
Flight attendants have the best jobs, right? They spend their days traveling the world, meeting new people, and broadening their horizons with different cultures. Of course, no career is perfect. Some of those new people they meet can be rude or downright weird, and there’s no limit to the bizarre things that happen on an airplane.
You know the phrase “you’re more likely to be struck by lightning?” Turns out that planes get jolted far more often than you probably thought, and passengers can get cranky and gross when they’re trapped in the air for hours at a time. Read on as past and present flight attendants share the craziest things they’ve seen happen mid-flight!
A Little Too Comfortable
Some people take off their shoes during a flight, and others take it a bit further. My father is a pilot, and once, when he was flying back to Australia, their champion rugby team was on his flight. They’d rented out all of first class, and the moment the flight reached cruising altitude, they stripped down to their boxers.
Allegedly, they were some of the most polite patrons he had seen, but they were just mostly naked. Reddit user: hubberbubber
Hands Off My Pillow
Well…two Asian men, one in his 30s and the other in his 60s, almost got in a fight on a more than half-empty flight from SFO to Osaka because the 60-year-old man was not happy that the younger guy was using the pillow from the empty seat.
The old man kept yelling “NO! One pillow per passenger! NO!” and trying to take the pillow away. The younger guy just had this “What?” look on his face. Reddit user: NoseDragon
Never Using Plane Bathrooms Again
I was a customer service rep for Southwest Airlines. Probably my favorite story is about a gentleman who went into one of the lavs to relieve himself. As he flushed and opened the gooseneck valve to the tank, the plane hit a pocket of dead air and dropped like 15 feet vertically.
Everything in the tank proceeded upwards at the speed of gravity. He was…covered. They had to hose him off on the tarmac upon arrival. Reddit user: BatMalley
January 2015, flight from MSP to San Francisco. A flight attendant gets on the intercom and says, “Attention passengers, we have a small emergency.” The mic cuts out. Passengers gasp. “We are running low on Sprite, so…” I don’t think anyone even heard what was said after the word “Sprite” in this case.
To all flight attendants: please never use the words “emergency” and “Sprite” in the same sentence while thousands of feet in the air. Reddit user: rob5i
Meet My Friend, Henry
There’s nothing wrong with being an animal lover, but this just seemed a bit extreme, as well as potentially dangerous. My grandpa was a flight attendant back in the day, and he said that he saw someone petting a squirrel that they snuck into the flight in a carry on.
No one knows how he got it through security or why he even wanted it on the plane in the first place. Reddit user: jbOOgi3
A Terrifying Experience
My mom was on a flight from Germany back to South Africa more than twenty years ago, and somewhere over Kenya, the plane flew into a storm, and radar was struck out. After the pilot navigated out of the storm, he flew straight into another, something went wrong mechanically, and the plane just started to drop.
My mom says she recalls sitting in her seat (she was buckled in) and watching babies and people slowly rising, and as soon as the plane caught an air pocket and regained power, everything coming crashing down quickly, orange juice and cutlery strewn all over the plane and the floors.
Along with pin-drop silence all the way to Johannesburg airport, after which cheering broke out. Reddit user: btw12
It’s Raining Maggots
I’m not a flight attendant, but my mom is. She has a load of crazy stories over 30+ years on the job, but there’s one in particular that has always haunted me. It was a transatlantic flight (EU > US), and halfway through near the back of the plane, the overhead bin started raining maggots on the passengers in one row.
One of the other flight attendants on the plane investigated and discovered that a passenger had flown in from Africa and was traveling to the US via Europe, and he had a whole dead fish filled with maggots wrapped inside a newspaper (apparently it’s considered a delicacy in some parts of the world). Reddit user: little_mermarx
One Ginger Ale, Please
There are some moments when you just don’t know what to say, and this was one of them. I parked my cart and asked a guy what he wanted to drink. He started to answer, then held up a finger, puked into a plastic grocery bag, and then went on to ask me for a ginger ale. I was speechless.
Um…at least he was polite about it? I guess I’m glad he didn’t try (and fail) to make it to the bathroom. Reddit user: [redacted]
Let Kids Be Kids
When I was 10, I got up to use the bathroom on the plane. Being my first flight ever, I just found the first door and followed the instructions to open it. I pulled for a few seconds before giving up and getting my dad. I walked him back to the emergency exit and told him the bathroom door wouldn’t open.
He froze for a second, grabbed my arm, and ushered me to the obviously labeled restroom and never mentioned it again. What I’m curious about is why all the other passengers around the door didn’t question why I was vigorously jiggling the emergency exit handle at altitude, just slowly waiting for fate to work its magic. Reddit user: CoolRunner
A Big Russian Party
Moscow to Bangkok. The flight was 90% Russians, which was to be expected, with the rest connecting. Anyway, there was a large crowd traveling together: mostly burly men, but also a few ladies and some elders. I’m guessing it was a wedding group possibly? As always, duty-free was very popular on the flight, and multiple bottles of vodka were bought.
Things progressed from shots of vodka to bottles being finished to asking them to keep the noise down to people openly smoking on the flight. They had music through a portable speaker that was very loud. It was full party mode, and nothing could be done, as they were all much bigger than all staff on board.
Three men had a fist fight, and one of the old ladies was vomiting. It’s the craziest flight I’ve ever witnessed. Total of 7 arrests upon landing. Reddit user: smegly87
“Do You Love Me?”
Once, there was a man with long hair and a beard sitting in his seat and minding his own business. The little girl in the seat in front of him, maybe 6, kept looking back at him. Finally, she turns around and asks the man, “Are you a boy or a girl?”
The guy was nice about it and told her that he was a boy, he just had long hair. She said okay, then proceeded to ask him, “Do you love me? about six times in a row until he finally said yes. Reddit user: [redacted]
I had a passenger who came back multiple times to the galley to chat. Nothing new, of course; people want to stretch or stave off some boredom. The thing was, the stuff this guy starting talking about weirded me out. He once was in charge of holding the nuclear codes for the US military, and more.
His family owned Wyoming and sold it to the government. He hadn’t been in the US for 16 years because the CIA was after him, but he was returning because his father had died, but he had to be careful because his brother was out to get him. Just frightening things.
So much more, but I wasn’t writing it down. It was just weird, and after a while, a bit unnerving. Reddit user: RedLegend619
I Got Out Alive
Being a flight attendant is a much harder job than people think. I was on the plane that the underpants bomber tried to blow up. I saw and smelled the smoke, but it happened way behind me in the plane, and I didn’t really see anything until the aftermath. For those who don’t know, just Google this close call that happened in 2009.
I’m so glad people made it out safely! Once I realized what was happening, it was scary. Reddit user: NSAimSCAREDofU
Get a Room
When it comes to personal urges, it’s probably best to save it for when you get off the plane and avoid a lot of awkward conversations, like this one woman. A lady pulled her life-sized-blow-up doll of Eminem out of the overhead compartment and started making out with it. The cabin wasn’t even dark.
Why Eminem, though? You could own a life-size version of Ryan Reynolds or Gosling, or any of the Chrises…and you choose Eminem? Reddit user: jps98
She’s Passed On
A woman died during a flight, and her daughter was totally fine about it. She had her mom’s head in her lap and was stroking her hair. I asked if the mom was okay, as she obviously didn’t look well, and the woman was just like “Oh no, she’s passed on.” Alright then.
Well, they do say that everybody handles grief differently. Still can’t decide if this is more sweet or spooky. Reddit user: modelgado
My mom was a flight attendant, and one time lightning struck the plane and the engine just stopped for a few seconds (which of course felt like an eternity). Lights went out, cabin pressure dropped, and the little ceiling bags popped out. The plane dropped in altitude very rapidly and then…it was over and everything went back to normal.
Flight attendants deserve serious props! They have to think quickly, act accordingly, and stay calm in situations like that. Reddit user: [redacted]
Technology Kills…Your Wallet
After the plane had been boarded, they shut the doors and gave the typical ‘door has been shut, please turn off all electronic devices’ etc. speech. Well, this woman was still talking on her phone, and the flight attendant came up to her and asked her to turn off her phone. Usually, that’s enough, but apparently not for this particular lady.
The flight attendant again comes up to her and tells her she needs to turn her phone off, but she holds up her finger like a hold on/just a minute gesture. This is when the gentleman behind her stands up, shows her his badge, and hands her a $9,500 fine. He was an undercover federal air marshal. Reddit user: Scantron007
A Whale Problem
I am an airline pilot, and I flew up in Alaska for just about three years. I was doing one of my usual routes, Fairbanks to Barter Island, AK. One of my passengers left their muktuk on the plane while we had about a four-hour layover, and here’s what happened next….
We had the ground crew put a heater in the cabin to keep the flight instruments warm. Well, little did we know it heated up the muktuk as well. It smelled a lot like garbage and rotting flesh. I kept my oxygen mask on the entire flight back to Fairbanks. Reddit user: packersfan333
One flight was delayed because a woman traveling with her 30-year-old son didn’t want to take their separate seats during a 2-hour flight. They ended up occupying the seat of a mother traveling with her 5-year-old. The flight was full, and the woman refused to give up the seats that were allocated for the mother with a kid.
She kept using the excuse that she could not be separated from her grown son as well. We kept explaining that she had made a mistake on the reservation and that she could try to find seats after take-off. Other passengers tried to explain to her too, but she decided not to move.
The flight supervisor ended up asking people to swap seats and tried to find her two seats while the aircraft was on the ground. 189 passengers were waiting for this lady who couldn’t handle her adult son being seated some rows behind her for a short amount of time. Reddit user: vos52
She Placed a Curse on Me
My girlfriend was a flight attendant. She found a heavy set Creole lady going to the restroom with the lav door wide open. When my GF attempted to correct the situation, she received a lot of shouting not in English. When deboarding the plane, her son clarified that the woman placed a curse on her.
Sounds like the plot of the movie Drag Me to Hell, except way less cool and exciting. Reddit user: boatloadoffunk
Punching Above His Weight Class
Is this real life or a comedy sketch? A sumo wrestler was in first class, and his seat broke. He then got moved to another seat in first class, and that proceeded to break. The gentleman ended up in coach. All of this happened after he was served a leftover second meal.
As I’m sure you probably could have guessed, he didn’t really fit into the regular coach seats very well. Reddit user: susahn
Well, this was just foul. I’m a former flight attendant. The grossest story I have is when someone smeared poop all over one of the bathrooms during a 14-hour flight to China. It smelled putrid. We put up an out of order sign, but then a couple hours later, someone had gone in and cleaned it up!
We figured it was a kid, and one of the parents had snuck in after. Honestly that was really thoughtful. Reddit user: [redacted]
Infidelity on a Plane
Not a flight attendant, but this is pretty terrible. I was on crutches, and they called a flight attendant who was scheduled for a different flight later to wheel me onto the plane since she was just waiting around. She’s helping me get in my seat when she sees her husband. With another woman sucking on his face. Sitting together on the plane. In matching shirts.
What I could tell from the screaming match that erupted was that he’d told her he was going away on business to some other place than where this plane was headed. The cheapskate didn’t even pony up for a different airline because he could fly for free on his wife’s.
The worst part? Her supervisor led her off the plane, and as he was chastising her, he told her she would likely lose her job over the “public display.” I really hope she didn’t. I spoke to the supervisor on her behalf to try and explain, but who knows. Reddit user: ligamentary
It’s Just a Little Lightning
One time, on approach to Denver, we were struck by lightning. It was the loudest sound I’ve ever heard on a flight. I was on a Boeing 727 with a flight attendant friend on the back jumpseat, and all passengers turned to look at us. We were hugging each other and crying, clearly terrified.
This, as it turns out, only makes the passenger panic 1000x worse. The plane was fine, and we landed safely. Reddit user: runLikeYerBeingChasd
Not So Magic Conch Shell
I once witnessed a woman who, interested in retrieving a souvenir from her vacation, packed a conch shell in her carry on luggage. Unbeknownst to her, however, there was still a conch living in it, and the smell was unbearable. The woman and her bag were removed from the flight.
Guess you could say she was in a fishy situation, because she definitely did not find the magic conch shell from Spongebob Squarepants. Reddit user: [redacted]
Over My Dead Body
Can’t 100% validate (as it was a story my grandpa told me about my grandma’s flight attendant days), but this was about 40 years ago. She had a passenger bring on a large garment bag, which they later discovered had a dead body in it when it fell and partially unzipped.
It was a very tiny woman’s body that was being brought back for a funeral, but the family couldn’t afford to send it a different way. I can’t even imagine. Reddit user: how_bout_knope
The Planes Almost Collided
One time (before I was born), my mom was in a plane that almost collided with another plane mid-air. She was sitting in her flight attendant seat (not by a window) at the time, so she didn’t see it, but passengers said they could literally see the faces of the other people in the plane going by.
The two planes were set for a head-on collision, but luckily, the oncoming plane decided to divert to the side at the last second. Reddit user: cappuccino47
Sorry, Mr. Shatner
Oh man, another celebrity story here. My cousin was on a flight with William Shatner, and his assistant flipped out because they got first class tickets but not for the assistant. My cousin thought she might have to go back there, but the flight attendants got the situation calmed down.
What is it about flying that turns celebrities into even bigger divas? Calm down, Mr. Shatner’s assistant…you’re not an A-lister. Reddit user: StarKiller99
Eyes Wide Open
Not a flight attendant, but one time when I was pretty young, a lady fell asleep with her eyes open, and her head was cocked to the side so she was kind of just staring at me. I asked the flight attendant if she could do something, and she tapped her to wake her up.
When she tapped her, the lady kind of spazzed and yelled, “TURN IT OFF!!!” so that was kind of a bad experience I guess. Reddit user: loveplumber
A Terrifying Mission
My cousin is a flight attendant, and she said the craziest moment was when another flight attendant died in the bathroom. They then had to sneak her body out of the bathroom, close it down, and lay the body down with a blanket over it like she was sleeping in the flight attendant area.
Then they only had to make sure no one saw and step over her when grabbing stuff. I bet she was watching the clock like a hawk on that flight. Reddit user: Beitlgeuse
People Are Just Rude
Former FA here. I love to travel. Being a flight attendant is how I fulfilled that passion. But thanks to people being the absolute worst they could be and blaming me, personally, for ruining their travel plans when it was quite obviously the foot of ice outside, I quit.
No one deserves to be screamed and cursed at, especially if that person’s job has so little to do with the entire operation of the flight overall. Reddit user: [redacted]
One Sharp Turn
I was on a plane just chilling, and a man stood up with a beer and a knife he got onto the plane somehow. Of course, I totally thought he was gonna try to hijack the plane. Instead, he used the knife to open his beer and sat back down.
Another flight attendant came and politely asked him for the knife until the end of the flight, and he obliged. It was terrifying for about 2 minutes. Reddit user: [redacted]
Behind the Scenes Danger
I have a co-worker who used to be a flight attendant in one of the local fleets here in Asia. She recounted one incident where the airplane lost control and descended fast. Nobody but the pilots and crew knew what was going on. She was almost sure it was going to crash.
Thankfully the pilot gained control, and they went back to work as if nothing had happened. Reddit user: jedainz
You may have seen the famously terrible movie Snakes on a Plane, but a few unfortunate passengers got to witness giant king crabs crawling up and down the aisle. It was awesome. Somehow a box of live king crabs busted open. And there were crabs running around in the bins.
Would you rather be terrorized by creatures with no legs or creatures with too many legs? It’s not a trick question, really. Reddit user: mattieohya
I work as a flight attendant in a pretty high profile airport where lots of celebrities come through, and one day we had a C-list celebrity onboard in first class. One of his superfans spent the entire 6-hour flight trying to craft ways to get over to him, including disguises like hats, fake mustaches, and changing outfits.
Yes, he had all that on him. He only stopped when we threatened to literally stop the plane and kick him off. Could that have actually happened? Probably not, but he didn’t have to know. Reddit user: [redacted]
Don’t Make Me Throw You into the Ocean
Let me set the scene for you: it is 9 at night on Hawaiian Airlines, and the flight attendants have just finished their coffee service. I’m sitting down, trying to get some sleep. The in-flight entertainment, however, has just begun: about three rows in front of me, a couple is having an argument.
The girlfriend is screaming at the boyfriend about how everything is awful. Favorite quotes for the girlfriend (the boyfriend said about three words during this time): “I AM LITERALLY WHISPERING RIGHT NOW” (heard from 10 rows forward and back). “Look what you’ve done. Everybody is looking at us, and you’re making a scene.”
During this argument, the flight attendants come over and ask her to calm down. Finally, one flight attendant walks to her row and says, “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to remain quiet or I will escort you off this plane.” Woman: (laughing) “We’re over the Pacific Ocean.” Flight attendant: “Yep.” Reddit user: SirCharlesofUSA
An Absolute Savior
We had a pretty intense event heading into Newark. A guy had a massive seizure in the aisle seat. I and a few others jumped up, and we got him out of the seat and laid down in the aisle. I was really happy that someone was a little more up to date on CPR (an Army medic and a nurse).
I helped where I could. The nurse was an absolute savior. They usually are. He was vomiting. She was trying to keep the airway clear and give him mouth to mouth, while the medic was doing compressions. His heart stopped and he didn’t breathe for about 5 minutes before they brought him back.
One flight attendant was totally freaking out. The other was amazing. When she had to get around the mass of people, she was walking on hand rests and leaning against the upper luggage storage. (737-sized aircraft. I forget if it was a 737 or Airbus.) That was the fastest I’ve ever gotten into Newark.
We were definitely close to VNE (speed never to exceed) on powered descent and had a straight-in approach. We didn’t hit a gate; the EMS met us just off the runway and came upstairs to get him boarded and off. We stabilized him as well as we could in the aisle for landing.
It’s the only time I’ve ever landed in an airliner without a belt. It was an intense and totally amazing outcome. I really thought we were going to be supporting a dead body during landing for a while. There were some heroes on the flight, and that kid lived because of it.
I felt totally unprepared and was glad those people were there. It made me go out and re-up my CPR certifications and practice. Reddit user: joesacher
Losing the Magic
I had to remove a mother and her two kids from the plane on a flight to Disney World after the mom had a few too many drinks and got into a fist fight with another passenger. I just felt so bad for those kids, but we did what we needed to do.
If you can’t get through a flight or trip to Disney with your kids without getting thrown off a commercial airline, there may be a problem. Reddit user: [redacted]