A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Flight Attendants Reveal Their Craziest Passenger Stories

Crazy stories go hand in hand with a career in aviation—and none are more shocking than these about unruly passengers.

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Alex Malikov/Shutterstock

Naked guy testing the limits

On a flight to Hong Kong, a flight attendant informed the pilot, Dan Boland, that a passenger had taken off all his clothes and was sitting buck naked in his seat. Boland instructed the flight attendant to tell the passenger he’d be arrested if he didn’t get dressed at once. The passenger called their bluff, waiting until landing to get dressed. Although he wasn’t arrested, we don’t suggest trying this yourselves.

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Boxer shorts

Nice guys, but do we need to see that?

Reddit contributor hubberbubber recalls a story his pilot father told him about the time he was flying an Australian rugby team back to Australia after a championship match. “They rented out the entirety of first class, and the moment the flight reached cruising altitude, stripped down to their boxers.” Apparently, they were some of the most polite passengers hubberbubber’s dad had ever seen—albeit almost naked.

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Miniature poodle in stand on white background

An emotional support slippery slope

A former pilot, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells Reader’s Digest of a passenger who brought his emotional support dog on the plane. So far, so good, right? The thing was, the emotional support dog, a sturdy German Shepherd, required his own emotional support dog: a fluffy toy poodle mix. This was, of course, unprecedented… and, therefore, permissible. Don’t miss these ridiculous requests people have actually made on airplanes.

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Eurasian red squirrel isolated on white background.

Emotional support… squirrel?

Speaking of animals on board, Reddit contributor jbOOgi3 heard from his grandfather, a flight attendant, that one time, a passenger was suspected of having an unauthorized pet in the cabin with him. When Grandpa went to investigate, the passenger was gently petting the small animal, which Grandpa assumed would be a teacup-sized Yorkie or kitten.

Nope. It was a squirrel.

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ambulance stretcher white background
Javier Crespo/Shutterstock

A dubious back-story

Boland, founder of the travel site Holidayers, recalls a passenger who refused to move his seat to the upright position before landing, claiming his back hurt. Although the passenger relented, he cried out in pain as his seat back went up and demanded an ambulance to help him disembark. After all the other passengers were gone, Boland and his crew watched the man being stretchered off the aircraft. Later on, the medics told Boland they suspected the man was attempting to pull an insurance scam.

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Asian middle age woman who gets tired

Sleep-walking passenger

“About two hours into a flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, a passenger came up to a flight attendant in a complete panic because she’d left her husband behind in the airport in L.A.,” Boland tells Reader’s Digest. While the befuddled crew was checking the passenger manifest for the husband’s name, the passenger completely snapped out of her panic. Turned out she’d been sleepwalking. Her husband was right on the plane, thankfully, Boland adds, “because even if it had been true, we couldn’t have turned back for him.” You’ll also want to read these things flight attendants won’t tell you.

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Open toilet bowl isolated on white background. File contains a path to isolation.

Cockpit-toilet confusion

First-time fliers often have no idea where anything is located on the plane, Boland tells Reader’s Digest. Sometimes, when trying to locate the lavatory, they’ll knock on the cockpit door. “The funny part is that we have a camera with multiple angles in the forward galley and in front of the cockpit door that we can watch from the cockpit. So it’s always hilarious to watch them slowly figure out they were knocking on the wrong door instead of the toilet.”

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Bottle of beer with drops isolated on white background

Predictable drunk

Reddit contributor Vrael22 is a ground agent for an airline where he observes first-hand the passengers that are most likely to cause trouble. “We can tell from the moment they check in at the counter if they are going to be an issue and are oftentimes not proven wrong.” In one such case, a passenger who was obviously drunk at the gate, was even drunker when boarding, and before the flight had even taken off, had peed himself in his seat. “We had to deplane him and he was about to have a go at my manager before he saw the port security casually saunter over.”

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Chicken breast sandwich isolated on white

Where’s this guy been for the past 50 years?

Vrael22 also recalls a passenger who seemingly hadn’t flown since the 1970s (when food and beverage service was offered even on the shortest flights), because he asked for a sandwich and a root beer on his 45 minute commuter flight and became belligerent when he was told these items weren’t available on the short hop. In fact, the passenger insisted he was being lied to and threatened to sue the airline if he didn’t get his sandwich and root beer. It wasn’t a pleasant flight for anyone, but at least it was short.

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Magazines isolated on white
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

The logical alternative to a cramped bathroom

When passengers complained of a terrible odor emanating from somewhere near their seats, it turned out that a mom had instructed her son to “go number 2” on the carpet, rather than in the lavatory, and then attempted to conceal the mess with magazines and airsick bags. Turned out the mom felt her son “couldn’t relax” in the tiny airplane bathroom. In the end, the cabin crew had to clean up the mess with saw-dust (normally used for vomit clean-ups) and a full can of bathroom spray.

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Airplane isolated on white background

How you can tell your plane is flying on an angle

Former flight attendant and current Reddit contributor runLikeYerBeingChasd recalls the time she had a school group of young children sitting in the front of the plane. On takeoff, one little boy leaned over into the aisle and threw up. The puke rolled and splashed down the aisle almost all the way to the back galley. Here are some more crazy-but-true stories from aviation professionals.

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This couldn’t happen nowadays, could it?

Reddit contributor how_bout_knope‘s grandma was a flight attendant during the 1960s and ’70s, long before the TSA enacted strict rules about what you can and can’t bring on board an airplane. “About 40 years ago, she had a passenger carry on a large garment bag, which they later discovered had a dead body in it when it fell and partially unzipped.”

It wasn’t a murder victim, which was everyone’s first thought. It was a woman’s body being transported for her funeral. The family apparently was trying to save money by not shipping it in cargo.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest and in a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction, and her first full-length manuscript, "The Trust Game," was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.