2018 was another rough year for already-stressed-out air travelers. In addition to the frustrating delays, computer outages, cramped quarters, fussy crowds and endless fees, there were the unruly fellow passengers, fighting flight attendants and dog poop.
Yes, dog poop. A man flying from Atlanta to Miami this November had to sit in what a service dog had left behind in his seat. "I was literally in it," Matthew Meehan told reporters after his particularly miserable flight. Sadly, that's not all of it. But before we pull away from the gate and fly off into the new year, here were the top airline gaffes of 2018.
Dog dies in overhead bin
One of the most notorious airline gaffes occurred this spring when a dog died on a United flight after being placed in an overhead bin. A French bulldog appeared to have suffocated after a flight attendant placed it in an overhead compartment on a three-hour flight from Houston to New York City in March. A national uproar followed. Congress even got involved. United said it took full responsibility for the bulldog's death. The airline said the flight attendant "did not hear or understand" the dog's owner when she said there was a dog in the carrier.
Michigan man sits in poop on Delta flight
Delta had to apologize after a Michigan man sat in poop left behind by a service dog in November, according to the Detroit Free Press. Matthew Meehan had already sat down on his flight from Atlanta to Miami on November 1 when he realized that feces was all over his seat and the surrounding floor. "I was literally in it," he said. Meehan said he asked flight attendants for help cleaning up, but they only gave him two paper towels and a small bottle of gin. The airline later apologized.
Drunken baggage handler falls asleep on plane
A baggage handler working on an American Airlines flight in Kansas City while allegedly drunk fell asleep in the forward cargo hold of a Boeing 737-800 and flew to Chicago, the Kansas City Star reported. The employee was discovered when the aircraft arrived at the gate in Chicago, according to a statement from American Airlines. The cargo hold is heated and pressurized, so the man was safe during the hourlong flight. Questioned by authorities in Chicago, the worker "replied that ... this was a stupid mistake."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Dozens sick on plane
According to the New York Daily News, it was a 14-hour nightmare at 40,000 feet, packed with dozens of infected passengers who left bathrooms covered in vomit. The 521 passengers of Emirates airline Flight 203 were immediately placed under quarantine after touching down in September, with a plethora of sick customers aboard when the plane reached Kennedy Airport from Dubai. "People were coughing and spreading germs," passenger Erin Sykes, 36, told the Daily News. "It was everywhere. ... I would say a good 50 percent in economy class were sick. The people behind me, I could literally feel (them) coughing." A number of nauseous passengers were vomiting throughout the long trip, and "the bathrooms were totally unusable by the end," said Sykes, who covered her head with a blanket to ward off germs. "The bathrooms were gross. Just gross." A City Hall spokesman told the Daily News that some of the sickened passengers came from Mecca, which was experiencing a flu outbreak.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Drunk Utah man forces airline to make emergency landing
A Delta Airlines flight from Salt Lake City to Orlando was forced to make an emergency landing in Oklahoma City in September after an apparently drunken Utah man became violent and unruly during the flight. A flight attendant said she was head-butted by the drunken passenger, Derek Edward Maas, 28, of Clearview, Utah, after she refused to serve him more alcohol, according to a report in The Oklahoman newspaper. Maas was restrained on the flight with plastic handcuffs, then hauled off by Oklahoma City police once the plane touched down. During the ride to the jail, officers were forced to roll their windows down as the "car began to reek of the odor of alcohol." Maas reportedly told an officer that he had "pre-gamed" before the flight by drinking five shots of 90-proof whiskey, according to The Oklahoman.
Tribune News Service
Flight attendant fight
A flight attendant filed a lawsuit in November against American Airlines, claiming the airline failed to act after she said she was assaulted by a fellow flight attendant during a flight, according to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Kathy Ida Wolfe said in the suit she was attacked in June 2016 by fellow flight attendant Laura Powers. In the suit, Wolfe said Powers "maliciously dug her fingernails into my arm and scratched me in numerous places." Wolfe said Powers slammed the door of a beverage cart into her arm, grabbed her scarf and dragged her down the aisle in front of passengers.
Los Angeles Times
Trump says it's 'OK'
A Florida man accused of groping a woman during a Southwest flight from Houston to New Mexico invoked President Trump in his defense, telling authorities "the President of the United States says it's OK to grab women by their private parts," according to an FBI complaint. Bruce Alexander, 49, was arrested and charged with abusive sexual contact for "touching a passenger's breast without their permission" when his plane touched down at Albuquerque International Sunspot, the New York Daily News reported. A female passenger seated behind Alexander said she fell asleep about 15 minutes after takeoff, but awoke when she "felt movement on the right side of her sweater." She initially brushed it off as a mistake, but the man persisted, according to the Daily News. He touched her "no less than three times," she told officers, recalling that each time she saw "a hand that had thick fingers, were hairy and dirty fingernails."
A Texas man faced federal charges after he played footsie with a fellow flier and interfered with the flight crew, causing his Southwest Airlines flight to make an emergency landing in New Mexico, according to the New York Daily News. Justin Riley Brafford, 29, was arrested by the FBI following his behavior on a flight from Los Angeles to Dallas that was ultimately diverted to Albuquerque. The victim, a passenger who was originally in an aisle seat, alleges Brafford approached her after boarding the plane and asked if he could sit next to her in the middle seat between her and another passenger, according to the criminal complaint. Brafford then leaned closer to her, putting his arm over her armrest and on her leg. The passenger tried to ignore him by leaning away from him and towards the aisle, according to the complaint. But Brafford allegedly moved even closer to her and began "playing footsie" with her to get her attention. When he asked her if he was bothering her, she said yes and asked him to stop kicking her, the Daily News reported.
An "unruly" passenger who forced an unscheduled landing at Kansas City International Airport was apparently intoxicated and refused to stop using the aircraft's overhead compartments to do pull-ups, according to Boston-area news outlets and the Kansas City Star. The flight - American Airlines flight 2763 - was en route from Phoenix to Boston when it made an unscheduled landing in Kansas City because of the passenger's behavior, according to a KCI spokesman. Boston's local CBS affiliate, WBZ-TV, reported the man was already intoxicated when he boarded the flight with a woman and two dogs. "He was leaning up against where you put the bags overhead and a passenger came by and said 'What are you going to do, some pull-ups?' and the guy actually grabbed on to it and started doing some pull-ups on the plane in front of everybody," one passenger told WBZ-TV. The man then reportedly ordered more beer and alcohol while continuing to do pull-ups. Flight attendants eventually asked him "three or four times" to sit down, the Star reported.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Refused booze, man threatened to put worker 'in a body bag'
When crew members refused to serve him a fourth drink on a flight to New Orleans, a Southwest Airlines passenger threatened to put one of them "in a body bag," punched two policemen in the face after landing, and was shocked with stun guns before he was arrested, The New Orleans Advocate reported. The trouble began on October 13, when the man consumed three drinks on a flight from Chicago to Louis Armstrong International Airport. Shortly before the plane was to land, he walked toward the front of the plane and asked flight attendants for another drink, prosecutors wrote in a summary of the case, according to the paper. The flight attendants told the man they couldn't serve any more booze so late in the flight, and one of them told him to sit down. But he grew angry, refused to sit and threatened to put one flight attendant "in a body bag," according to the summary.
Los Angeles Times
Grisly photo AirDropped onto passengers' iPhones
A 15-year-old girl sharing a grisly mock crime scene photo from one of her high school classes with her mother caused a Hawaii-bound Hawaiian Airlines flight to return to the gate in Oakland when the photo went out to other passengers, the East Bay Times reported. Authorities said the girl used her phone's AirDrop app to send a mock crime scene photo of a body used in her biology class to her mom sitting next to her. AirDrop is a feature that allows Macs and iOS devices to share files. But the files also ended up on the phones of other passengers. Those passengers alerted flight attendants, who showed the image to the pilots. The captain made the decision to notify authorities and return to the gate, authorities told the East Bay Times.
Half-naked man climbs onto wing
A half-naked man reportedly ran around Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport tarmac and even climbed on the wing of a Delta Air Lines flight from Miami that had just landed. Jhyrin Jones, 19, scaled a fence at the busy airport, causing havoc around the property, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was charged with criminal trespassing, public indecency and obstruction of law enforcement officers, the paper reported. The man "is mostly naked, running across Runway 27-Right at Tango," the pilot alerted the air traffic control tower. "He's got his hands up. He's walking across the runway right now." "Boy that's a new one," one pilot said. "First time for us too," another said.
Man punches a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog
A man was accused of attacking a deaf couple and their service dog on a plane, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Matthew Silvay, 30, and Hazel Ramirez, 21, were on Frontier Flight 1752 as it left Colorado Springs on its way to Orlando on May 17, according to an Orlando Police Department incident report. Ramirez, who was 20 weeks pregnant, and Silvay were also traveling with their service dog, a Great Dane named Zariel. When the plane was descending, Petrini Manley, 56, complained to her husband Timothy Manley, 59, that she was allergic to dogs, the arrest report read, according to the newspaper. And as the plane landed and headed toward the gate, Zariel woke up and stood up. "The larger service animal took up more space than Timothy felt it deserved and punched it with a closed fist, causing it to yelp," the arrest report read. The couple yelled at Manley, who police say punched Ramirez in the belly as the conflict spilled into the terminal.
Los Angeles Times
Duct-taped passenger bites flight attendant
An American Airlines passenger set off a brawl when she dashed up the center aisle just before touch-down in Charlotte, the Charlotte Observer reported. The FBI says Charlene Sarieann Harriott, 36, was speeding toward the cockpit of Flight 1033 on January 31 before three American attendants ran her down, then used duct tape and zip ties to restrain her ankles and wrists in a first-class seat. Rather than succumb, Harriott became even more aggressive, an FBI affidavit says. She drew blood after biting one attendant on the forearm, punched another, and kicked a third in the leg and stomach. All three required medical attention before leaving Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the Observer reported.
Woman 'screams' about seat near baby
A woman was kicked off a plane to Syracuse in February for complaining about being seated near a mother and her baby, according to a report from Syracuse Media Group. Marissa Rundell said she was traveling with her 8-month-old son. "This lady thought she was going to be rude to me and Mason now she has no way home today. Thank you to the lovely Delta flight attendant for not letting this women bully us," Rundell wrote in an online post. "Karma is a b----."
Pope marries couple on plane
It wasn't all bad news up in the air in 2018. This story warmed hearts around the world: Pope Francis married flight attendants Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi in an impromptu ceremony on his papal plane high over Chile, the New York Daily News reported. It came about after the pair walked to the front of the aircraft for a photo with Francis. He learned that their planned wedding in 2010 was derailed when an earthquake demolished their church. They had a civil service but had never been formally married in the church. Without hesitating, Francis asked if they would like him to marry them. The couple said yes, leading to what will hopefully be a long and happy life.
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