It’s bad enough to sit next to someone on a plane who talks too much, doesn’t smell that great, or fidgets in their seat – especially on a long flight.
Add in the long lines at security, the constant delays, and the general pervasive inconveniences of flying, it’s best to expect the unexpected.
In fact, there have already been some doozies reported this year and we’re not even a quarter of the way through 2020 yet.
Last call for Jim Wilson…
From passengers clipping their toenails over the armrest, to leaving dirty diapers on the floor, to getting drunk and vomiting all over their seatmate, airline horror stories are nothing new.
But some are more horrific than others.
Perhaps the most traumatic thing next to dying on a plane is witnessing someone else dying on a plane – and then being trapped with them until you land.
Until I looked into it a bit, I always assumed that if someone died onboard a commercial airliner, the flight would immediately be diverted to land as soon as possible.
All commercial airlines have procedures in place for health emergencies like childbirth, heart attacks and strokes. Flight crews are trained in basic first aid and CPR along with their emergency flight training.
So you’d think there’d be a sensible plan for dealing with someone who dies mid-flight, right?
Apparently, the “Standard Operating Procedure” is that the dead person is covered with a blanket and strapped back into their seat—although sometimes, on larger planes, flight attendants are able to place a curtain around the person in question. Sometimes.
If – a big if – there are empty seats, flight attendants will move other passengers away from the seats directly next to the body. But this doesn’t always happen.
In fact, it seems that more often than not, passengers have had to sit in horror just inches away from the deceased.
Can you imagine?!
I can’t. Yes, I know, death is a natural part of life, but I would never, ever be able to get that picture out of my mind.
It would be difficult enough having to sit near a dead body or pass by it on the way to the bathroom even if it was covered up.
But in February, a Spirit Airlines crew didn’t even exhibit the decency of covering the deceased.
A woman on board the plane told news outlets that an 83-year-old woman died suddenly during the flight.
Once the crew examined the situation and determined there was nothing to be done, they strapped the poor woman back into her seat and continued on with the flight—but no blanket this time.
Fellow passengers asked for something to cover her with. They asked that the body be moved to another seat. They were told they were following procedure by keeping the deceased in her original seat.
Of course, this is Spirit Airlines – the Tin Can of the Skies.
Sure, your ticket prices may be a hundred bucks cheaper than other carriers, but that’s because there are no snacks, no sodas, very little padding in the seats, one-ply toilet paper, and no blankets for passengers — dead or alive.
The seatmates sitting next the deceased lady were shocked and, out of common human decency, covered the woman’s face with her own sweater.
Not only are airlines supposed to continue on to their destination, the body cannot be removed until medical personnel can board – so everyone else has to walk past a dead corpse when leaving the plane.
Passengers were rightfully disgusted at the indignity, thinking of their own mothers and grandmothers being treated in such a manner.
But this is far from the first time this has happened.
On New Year’s Day, an EasyJet passenger died in flight and his seatmates were forced to remain right by his side for the more than two hours of flight time remaining.
In 2017, on a long flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, Australia, a passenger called the crew for help when she could not wake up her husband.
He died during the flight and was left in his seat – next to his shocked and grieving wife! – for more than four hours.
And passengers on a flight last year reported that a man died suddenly while sitting in a middle seat between two family members.
He was covered with a blanket but left in place for the duration of the flight.
Fellow passengers described how surreal the scene was as people walked past the family on the way to the restroom and as flight attendants served lunch as usual, wheeling their carts up and down the aisle, as if the man were only asleep.
I’m dead serious. There’s got to be a better way.
While it’s likely impossible to miss the fact that someone is experiencing a medical emergency and then passes away, flight attendants are trained to keep things on the down-low.
So while some say it’s an urban legend, if you hear the pilot call for “Jim Wilson,” there may be a recently-departed traveler sharing the skies with you.
The New Road-Rage
Yep, Air-Rage is the new Road-Rage, and who can blame us, really?
Boxed in with no leg room, surrounded by annoying strangers, suffering from jet-lag and crappy snacks.
And then, there are those evil reclining seats. https://proudamericantraveler.com/to-recline-or-not-to-recline-lets-settle-this-argument-once-and-for-all/
Some try to dull the often-unenjoyable experience of flying with a drink or two. And this is a major reason for all that conflict we’re seeing on our flights.
Several airlines have already reported fights occurring the first couple months of this year – loud arguing, fist-fights in the aisles, even the grabbing and punching of an annoying passenger.
Then there are the really scary instances of assault on board commercial airliners.
Flight attendants are no strangers to being verbally – and even physically – assaulted. They have the unfortunate job of hoping passengers don’t shoot the messenger when they have to deliver news of delays and diversions.
But in January, one man took things to dangerous levels when he stormed the cockpit of a United Airlines flight from Washington, D.C. to Newark as it was landing.
Matthew Dingley had apparently had enough – of what, we don’t know.
As he banged on the door of the cockpit, a petite female flight attendant tried to stop him, and he started swinging. She was hospitalized, but she kept him from entering the cockpit. You go, girl.
Once the flight landed, officers boarded, and Dingley didn’t give up the fight. They all plunged down the stairs used to disembark, breaking one officer’s ribs and causing injuries to the others.
Dingley was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and several other charges – and still no one knows what made this passenger behave so badly.
From One Assault to Another
Physical assaults aren’t the only bad behavior increasing on planes.
A 2018 survey of flight attendants found that two-thirds have reported being sexually harassed in the line of duty. From groping to attempted rape, things are going from bad to worse.
Nearly a quarter of flight attendants say they have been called on by passengers to report sexually-aggressive behaviors.
In January, a young woman in the middle seat of a Spirit Airlines reported that a man touched her “bare ass,” according to CNN. After initially thinking the man just bumped into her accidentally, she found him trying to stick his hand down the back of her pants.
He continued, despite her protests, and she called a flight attendant, who offered to move her to another seat.
But this would have left her best friend in the other seat alone in the row with this jerk, so she asked that he be moved.
They refused, as if it were her fault for causing a disruption.
I don’t know, Spirit Airlines – I’m seeing you mentioned a little too often lately. In addition to my list of your shortcomings above, you make us pay for carry-on bags.
The woman stayed seated until they landed in Detroit, where she contacted police and airline execs, who said they “take this claim seriously and are in direct contact with the guest. We thank our crew for their quick and professional assistance to address the situation.”
Not enough to move the offender, though. What’s up with that?
It appears there are multiple reports of sexual assault on board planes each month, something that former kidnapping victim and advocate Elizabeth Smart wants to bring to the public’s attention.
She says she never thought about being sexually assaulted on a plane until she woke up to a man groping her on a Delta Airlines flight.
This girl knows a predator when she sees one and is working with the FBI on investigating incidents of this type.
Since crimes on flights fall into their jurisdiction, groping, fondling, or any other type of assault of this nature are felony offenses.
Reports to the FBI of sexual assault on planes doubled from 2014 to 2018 – especially on overnight flights.
It seems people just can’t keep their hands to themselves while flying.
Southwest Airlines is one of the first to make an announcement in that regard as part of their pre-flight emergency presentation.
Now, on top of learning how to use an oxygen mask and how to use your seat cushion as a floatation device, passengers are now told to report “any unwanted behavior” on their flight.
Now, that’s a pretty broad statement. Does that include the guy who’s clipping his toenails in the seat right next to mine?
Whether it’s fighting or being obnoxious — being stuck next to a huge jerk or a dead body — it’s becoming harder and harder to “fly the friendly skies.”
Alcohol, fatigue, and the stress of traveling doesn’t help these situations, and agents bank on the fact that things are just going to get worse as we have less and less space – and more and more people behaving badly on planes.