It’s not an easy job working as a flight attendant, flying from country to country. Sometimes, they encounter all kinds of problems from problematic passengers to technical failures. We’ve compiled a list of some of their most memorable stories.
Source list available at the end.
My mom was a flight attendant. One time, lightning struck the plane, and the engine just stopped working for a few seconds (which, of course, felt like an eternity). The 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 some serious props! They have to think quickly, act accordingly, and stay calm in situations like that.
A flight was delayed because a woman traveling with her 30-year-old son didn’t want to take to their separated seats during a two hour flight. They ended up occupying a seat that was for a mother traveling with her kid of 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 using the excuse that she couldn’t be separated from her grown-up son as well. We explained to her that she made a mistake on the reservation, and she could try to find seats after takeoff (the other passengers tried to explain this to her as well but decided not to move). The flight supervisor ended up asking people to swap seats and trying to find her two seats while the aircraft was still on the ground. 189 passengers were waiting for this lady who couldn’t handle being seated a few rows away from her adult son for a short amount of time.
My wife is a flight attendant. She says this happens to her rather frequently. People will blow their noses and try to hand her their used tissues when she has no gloves on or trash bag in hand. It blows my mind a bit that people actually think this is acceptable.
I’m a flight dispatcher. One time, I got an ACARS message (basically, a text message) from one of my birds requesting law enforcement meet them on arrival because some one decided it would be a good idea to start doing lines of drugs on the tray table.
I interviewed a woman who worked as a flight attendant for 15 years, and she told me the ‘mile high club’ was on a lot of people’s bucket list. The worst one she had seen was two teenagers trying to do it in the bathroom and coming out with obvious bruises. The best one was this couple that had experience in the mile high club. She was also propositioned to several times so that was flattering.
I was a flight attendant for Delta back in the ’80s. Once, I noticed a passenger with an unusually shaped packages strapped to his chest. I told one of my fellow flight attendants, who correctly deduced that he was probably a drug mule. We alerted the pilot, who contacted the DEA to be ready for when we landed.
After we landed, the gentleman seemed to realize that something was off. He bolted and locked himself in the plane’s bathroom. The DEA came aboard, but after they busted into the bathroom, he was just sitting there with his pants around his ankles, acting as if nothing was wrong.
Here’s the kicker though, the DEA tested the contents of the plane’s waste tanks. They couldn’t find a trace of anything. No drugs. So, where did the drugs go? Also, maybe it was just me, but I swear his eyes were a different color every time I looked at him.
My aunt was a flight attendant onboard one of the airplanes destined to hit the Pentagon. They kept her flight grounded when they heard about the attacks. It was confirmed that plane was supposed to be hijacked.
I was in-training on a small aircraft. Normally, there is only one flight attendant, but luckily it wasn’t just me. A passenger of size boarded our plane and tried to use the lavatory before we left. He couldn’t get all the way in (to be fair, it is really small). The pilots offered to hold the plane a couple of minute so that he could head back into the terminal and use that bathroom. He said no, and after checking a couple more times with him, we took off. About 45 mins in, I was walking by and he asked how much longer the flight was. I told him 45 more mins, and we would be on the ground. He said he didn’t think he could wait. I didn’t really know what to say. He decided to give the lavatory another shot. My trainer was super professional and handled the whole thing. She closed the curtain and asked me to hand her newspapers and some sick bags. Basically, he took a dump in the galley into some bags. I just tried to chat with some of the other people and hope that they didn’t notice what was going on. When he was done, we had to sanitize the galley and throw away all the food and drinks that were out. We had another leg with this guy, and he was joking around and talking like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.
One time, a guy tried to bribe me with 20 USD to smoke on the plane. I obviously said no and kept a close eye on him the entire flight.
I’m not a flight attendant, but my uncle was one at Trans World Airlines for 35 years.
When someone dies overseas, there are a lot of steps that are taken to get the body back to the States. You have the preferred option of going through this long process, or you can put them in a coat bag, hang them on a very strong hanger, and place said coat bag into the coat closet.
Someone on my uncle’s flight decided to choose that latter option.
The plan would have worked had another flight attendant not opened the coat bag, which caused her to scream loud enough to cause a minor panic in the first class cabin.
The U.S. Customs was not thrilled.
I did a short stay in the brig with a guy. He was the only person I ever heard of being charged with “aggravated” UA (meaning AWOL). He was on restriction for something else and went to the smoke deck of the aircraft carrier and jumped to a buoy/pier since he couldn’t leave the quarterdeck. When he got caught back home, marshals brought him back through the airport in orange coveralls and leg chains. So, he started growling and barking at people.
Not a hardened criminal., more like your average class clown, but anyone who came near him in that airport probably thought he was.
My girlfriend’s mom was a flight attendant. Someone once tried to ask her to change their baby’s diaper.
I’m an ex travel agent, so I get to hear a lot of plane stories. The one is the one that sticks with me the most. It was about a man who was booked on a first class ticket. The flight was very full and, unfortunately, the plane had run out of “first class pyjamas”. Well now, that just wasn’t good enough, was it? This man made a HUGE fuss and absolutely refused to board the plane. He was very kindly offered a pair of “business class pyjamas,” but he outright refused them by saying they were “poor quality.” (It’s like comparing Calvin Klein to Armani, who really cares!) Anyway, in the end, the take off was delayed by 4 hours due to this man absolute refusal to board until the plane sourced him for the proper first class pyjamas.
Flight attendant here. For one, some people seem to shut off their brains when entering an airplane. Strange things I have dealt with include: people handing me over their baby’s used diapers, people trying to hand me their rubbish while I’m giving out food (Hello, hygiene?), people asking me after a long haul flight if I’m directly returning (of course, I’m flying twelve hour flights back and forth until I collapse), people not closing bathroom doors, parents changing baby’s diapers on the table in front of them, people demanding three drinks on a 25 minute flight, people taking off their shoes and going to the bathroom barefoot. There are so many more, I could go on and on.
I used to clean the planes that stayed overnight in my station. You wouldn’t believe the amount of snotty tissues we would find in the seat backs. Passengers are animals.
Not a flight attendant, but as someone with zero medical training, I never thought I would be called upon to assist in an actual medical emergency onboard a flight. I was flying back home when a call came over the PA system, “Does anyone on this plane speak French?” Well, I kind of did (for a very generous definition of what it means to speak French), so I tentatively raised my hand when the flight attendant came by, but emphasized that if anyone more competent was on board, they should get them to help instead. Well, there wasn’t. So, I was asked to come back to an aisle where a West African lady had collapsed in the aisle. She was somewhat lucid at that point but only spoke French. Luckily, there was an actual doctor onboard, so my job was just to try and translate his questions to her and her responses back. Eventually, we managed to figure out that her daughter lived in the city we were flying to. Someone sitting nearby, who had paid for the in-flight WiFi, called her daughter up, and she was able to translate better than I had been. The plane ended up making an emergency landing, and some paramedics came on board and got her.
Not a flight attendant, but on the flip side, I was the cause of a disturbance once. Flying over to China (about 11.5 hours) from the UK, I would usually get quite dehydrated on longer haul flights, so I would always ask for water.
I put on my call button, but most of the attendants ignored me as they were going past. I was trying to get their attention for a good 30 minutes, as my nostrils dried out, I started to think that I was about to have a nose bleed. So, I decided to switch up my strategy and turn off the call and turn on the call button, repeatedly.
After a few minutes, I had picked up the pace and I suddenly got a tap on my shoulder. A very passive aggressive flight attendant informed me that every time a call button is pressed, they got a beep. They were in a panic at the back of the plane because they couldn’t figure out which alarm was going of. Still got my water though!
Not a flight attendant, but a guy on my flight crapped his pants in his seat, and then tried to take them off while still in his seat. someone complained both about the nudity and the smell. he defended it by saying that he didn’t want to smell the bathroom up. He got defensive and threw the soiled pants at the flight attendant. We had to make a pitstop at the nearest airport and he was removed from the flight and arrested for assault.
My girlfriend was a flight attendant. She found a heavy set Creole lady dropping a poop with the door wide open. When my girlfriend attempted to correct the situation, she was received with a lot of shouting not in English. When leaving the plane, her son clarified the woman placed a curse on her.
A mushroom cloud of vomit.
We were flying over the Atlantic with Air India and the plane hit a major air pocket, dropping rapidly. The drinks trolley actually rose a couple of inches off the floor, there was a scream from the toilet, but around three seat rows in front of me I saw this cloud of vomit rise up above the headrests for a few seconds before splashing down as we levelled off.
Moral of the story is keep your seat belt on and know where the sick bag is.
The first time I rode on a plane I rode first class. For some reason it was just me and one other person, so people from business got moved up. Obviously first class gets a full meal. After being served the meal and relaxing, I look over to see my aisle mate eating a brown tortilla. Just the tortilla. Going ham on it too. Nothing with a tortilla was an option.
A woman died during one of our flights 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, and the woman was just like, “Oh no, she’s passed on.”
I once had a passenger who came back multiple times to the galley to chat. Nothing new, of course, sometimes people want to stretch or stave off some boredom. The thing is, the stuff this guy started talking about was freaking me out.
He said how he was once was in charge of holding the nuclear codes for the US military. His family owned Wyoming and sold it to the government. He hadn’t been in the US for 16 years because the CIA were after him, but he was returning back because his father had died, and he had to be careful because his brother was out to get him. There was so much more, but I wasn’t writing it all down. It was just strange, and after a while, a bit unnerving. The guy was serious and intense.
After the plane had been boarded, they shut the doors and give the typical “This door has been shut, please turn off all electronic devices, etc.” speech. Well, this woman was still talking on her phone. So, the flight attendant approached her and asked her to turn off her phone. Now, usually this should be enough- but, apparently, not for this particular lady. The flight attendant goes up to her again and tells her that she needs to turn off her phone, but she holds up her finger in a hold on/just a minute gesture. That’s when the gentleman behind her finally stands up, shows her his badge, and hands her a $9,500 fine. He was an undercover federal air-marshal.
I am in 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 lay over… 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…
Muktuk is the traditional Inuit/Eskimo meal of frozen whale skin and blubber.
The weirdest thing I’ve found was a wet cucumber in the seat pocket, with half of the cucumber still wrapped in plastic wrap.