We’ve surely all seen the program Airline. If you haven’t, it’s on YouTube. People turning up late for their flight and then going mad at the airline stuff for not letting them board.
Or how about the passengershaming accounts across social media? Another site for tales of bad behaviour is the yearly DYKWIA thread on FlyerTalk.
There’s something about air travel that makes people behave in strange ways. In my nearly 800 flights, I’ve seen a few interesting moments involving other passengers. Admittedly, none quite as extreme as featured on passengershaming or Airline, but some have been pretty close.
Here I’ll share my top ten experiences that spring to mind of other people behaving questionably either in airports or on planes.
The Incident: A guy point blank refusing to scan his boarding pass.
The location: Heathrow Airport
The Date: January 2016
The Story: It was me! I figured if i’m going to shame other people here, I really should start out with myself. If you’ll allow me to explain: At Heathrow Terminal 5 security, there is a main boarding pass scan for conformance. Further along the line, there’s a secondary scan. Which is purely there to keep an eye on the security staff and how they’re performing. This is all well and good if they use it every time. And if it was placed at the exit of the security channel. But instead it’s placed halfway along the line, and they only seem to insist on it being used when it’s busy. Which is why I refused to use it. Maybe I did come across as a bit of an arse, but then again so did the security officer who was so insistent that I scanned my boarding pass for the second time.
The Incident: A group almost missing their flight.
The location: Heathrow Airport
The Date: March 2015
The Story: Boarding a Virgin Atlantic Little Red flight to Manchester. It wasn’t overly busy (like every Little Red flight) and we appeared to be ready to go. Yet for some reason, we sat and sat and sat. I figured we couldn’t get an earlier slot, yet for some reason the doors remained open. Then a group of four get on, out of breath and looking confused. They sat down in the row in front and started saying how they didn’t understand why the airline was calling their names – the flight wasn’t due to take off for another ten minutes. Oh, it was that kind of person. Just because your boarding pass/itinerary says 14:00 doesn’t mean you can pitch up at 14:00 and still expect to get on. This isn’t a train.
I could also mention the couple that were on the coach to the airport due to arrive at 16:00 with a 16:30 flight, but as I was heading to a different terminal, I didn’t get to see how that worked out for them. Badly I suspect.
The Incident: Oi, we were first!
The location: Faro
The Date: January 2014
The Story: Heading through security at Faro many years back. It was the off season, so not overly busy. A couple of guys pass through just ahead of me. As I had access to the fast track, I was signalled in that direction by the staff. Not particularly needed on this occasion as there was just the three of us. As it wasn’t a real fast track lane, an just one that lets you jump the queue the other two see that I was taking a shortcut. Seeing that I would likely arrive at the X-ray first, a loud “EH” comes from one of them. They then proceed to duck and dive over the tensa barriers in order to beat me to the X-ray.
It didn’t work, as I had the more direct route.
The Incident: Fetch me a pen!
The location: Somewhere between Sydney and Hong Kong
The Date: April 2014
The Story: About an hour after departure on one of the final Virgin Atlantic flights out of Sydney, the meal service began. First off, the wine choices were brought around, and the guy sat behind me started becoming a little vocal with the cabin crew. Apparently he didn’t like that Virgin Atlantic only offered five choices of wine, when Qantas offer far more in their first class cabin. Then came the food. Again, more complaining that he didn’t like what he’d been given. The crew offered to get him the other option, but all he wanted was a pen. To write a letter to Richard Branson. Despite the crew trying their best, he was determined to behave like a spoiled brat.
The Incident: How can you sleep for that long???
The location: MH4, KUL-LHR
The Date: September 2013
The Story: Upon boarding the flight back to Heathrow, the guy in the middle of the three fell fast asleep. Fair enough, maybe he’d just had an overnight flight from elsewhere.
The main issue wasn’t the fact he didn’t wake up for the circa 14 hours we were on board though. Or even the fact he would occasionally would rest his head on either mine or the guy in the aisle seat’s shoulder. The main issue was the fact he completely spread himself out and didn’t give a damn! Not only was his foot under the seat in front of me, both myself and the guy in the aisle seat had the pleasure of his elbows in our ribs for the entire flight. Including the meal service. We both took attempts to wake him up and tell him to shift, but he was out of it. I couldn’t even sleep for that long in my own bed, let alone on a plane.
The Incident: You can take my (worse) seat instead
The location: Swiss European RJ100, London City Airport
The Date: October 2013
The Story: Long before I had any sort of Star Alliance status. On the RJ100, I wanted a specific seat – towards the front, but avoiding the row which was missing a window. Therefore the second online check in opened, I was there to grab the seat I wanted. And it worked.
When it came to boarding, I approached my desired seat to find someone already sat in it. Figuring it was a mistake on his part, things started off well enough. But then he mentioned that his friend was in the adjacent seat. So? He then insisted I moved to his original seat, stating it was just the same. It wasn’t. His seat was in the windowless row that I made a point of avoiding. After a bit of huffing and puffing on his part, he finally moved to his assigned seat.
A similar thing could have occurred on a recent flight with Austrian. When the occupant of the middle seat turned up, the first thing they said was if I wanted the window seat. Yes, I did.
The Incident: I’ll just sit here, nobody will notice.
The location: British Airways 767, Stockholm Arlanda
The Date: June 2017
The Story: At Stockholm Arlanda, they boarded the 767 from door 1L. This meant that everyone made their way through the Club Europe (Business Class) cabin no matter how small it was.
On this particular flight, it was 4 rows. Around halfway through boarding, a guy turns up with a full sized keyboard (the musical variety, not the computer variety). He dumps it in the overhead above 2K (there were no 1 A/C, J/K on the BA 767), and then lingers around the Club cabin.
During this time, I overhead the CSD mention to the guy in 2A that 4D/F would be empty – as he had a leg in a cast, it would be better for him there as there would be more room to spread out.
As boarding was ending, the lingering guy decided to plonk himself down in 4F. This caused a bit of a confusing look from the guy with the broken leg, as he was told the row was empty. I logged on to expert flyer out of curiosity and this confirmed that 4D/F was indeed empty. So I sat back and waited.
The chancer immediately put his headphones on and buried his head in a magazine. Luckily the CSD was on the ball. She approached him and he was keen to ignore her – as he couldn’t see or hear her. Apparently. Although it was a little harder for him to ignore the tap on the shoulder. Surprise surprise, after showing his boarding pass, he was allocated seat 9something. He protested a bit but the CSD was insistent – and rightly so. The keyboard remained in the Club cabin however.
Another honourable mention
Another incident of self upgrading of note was on a Virgin Atlantic flight back from Miami in 2006. Back in those days the upper deck of the 747 was a 50/50 split of premium economy and Upper Class. Once boarding was complete, an older guy takes himself forward from premium and takes up residence in one of the free Upper seats further forward. He lasted the grand total of about 30 seconds before being sent back to his rightful place.
The Incident: DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MY COMPANY SPENDS WITH YOU???
The location: British Airways Galleries First Lounge, T5, Heathrow
The Date: Most summer holidays
The Story: This is something I witness most summers at Heathrow T5. A middle aged man trying to beg the lounge staff to let him, his wife and three teenagers into the lounge on a single gold card. One incident springs to mind in particular though.
I forget the date exactly, but this was in the days before the First Wing. As I was heading up the escalator to the lounge complex, I could hear someone getting quite heated. As usual, it was a middle aged guy trying to bully his way into the lounge. He had his wife and kids in tow – the official rule is one guest. He had four. And wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer. The entire conversation wasn’t heard, but as I was passing through to enter myself, he was making the point that his boss (so not him) spends so much money with BA every year. I also heard the words “outrageous” and “ridiculous” mentioned as I made my way through.
I guess if you don’t earn your status yourself and you travel solo for most of the year, you might not be totally clued up on the rules. But at least take the answer given by the staff and don’t stand there and act like a spoiled brat. Especially if you don’t even know the entry rules.
The Incident: I’m more important than you. Move.
The location: Swiss Senator Lounge, Zurich
The Date: September 2019.
The Story: Weekday afternoon in a lounge. It was busy. I managed to find one of the few spare seats in a work cubicle. Not my preferred choice, but it was a seat and a table with power nearby. And as I could kill the time on my layover with updating this very website and making a few YouTube videos, it worked well enough.
After around 30 minutes of having my head down, an older guy in a suit bounded over.
“HOW LONG WILL YOU BE, I NEED TO WORK”
Erm… excuse me? Whilst I wasn’t making anywhere near as much money as he was I suspect, I guess you could argue that I was working too.
I replied that I would be a couple of hours, and got back to what I was doing. He walked off in a huff.
The Incident: Toilet, aircraft, it’s the same thing.
The location: TAP A320, between Lisbon and Geneva
The Date: September 2019
The Story: In the three seats across the aisle, there were a couple with their young baby. Around half way between Lisbon and Geneva, the baby needs changing. Rather than take it off to the washroom, like most people would do, the mother decides she was going to use the seat as a changing station. Lovely. I couldn’t help but think what she was going to do with the used article that was removed from the baby – surely she would then get up and dispose of it in the washroom? Nope, it was just folded over and put in the seat back pocket. Surely people can’t be like that? There must be some reasonable explanation as to why she didn’t get up and use the washroom. Maybe the trolley was in the aisle? Nope. Seatbelt sign was on? Nope. From what I could see, it was just pure laziness. Maybe they would remove it from the seat pocket and find somewhere to dispose of it when we arrive? Again, nope.
A lovely surprise for either the cleaner or the next passenger that decides they want to take a look at the inflight mag.
And as a final note, I feel I should give a special mention to all the people I’ve seen over the years who have decided that the bulkhead/the seat in front is their own personal footrest.