Your next flight might have an emergency onboard!
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Unbelievable Airline Incidents Through the Years

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Your next flight might have an emergency onboard!
Mario Hagen/shutterstock

from onboard brawls to deploying the emergency chute

Inflight entertainment used to just mean watching the latest out-of-theaters rom-com, but lately, it seems like airline passengers are witnessing more attention-grabbing events in the aisles than onscreen. Each week seems to bring news of another fight breaking out onboard a flight or a passenger being ejected from the plane after a tense encounter with the flight crew. There are plenty of reasons for airline rage — cramped seats, crowded terminals, extensive delays — and we're hearing more about them lately thanks to viral videos of incidents shared on social media. Let's all put our chairs in the upright position and take a look at the most unbelievable airline incidents over the years.

Drunk man urinates on fellow passenger
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drunk man urinates on fellow passenger

August 17, 2018

After downing four flutes of champagne and sake on a Nippon Airways flight from Chicago to Japan, a 24-year-old American man urinated on the 50-year-old Japanese passenger sitting two rows behind him. The crew restrained the younger man, who was arrested when the plane landed in Japan. He allegedly had no memory of the incident. 

United Airlines

man masturbates on united flight

June 4, 2018
After a woman on a United Airlines flight from London to Chicago complained to flight attendants about a man masturbating under a blanket in the seat next to her, she claimed the attendants made jokes and allowed the man to, um, finish without interruption. While the woman was moved to another seat during the flight, her request for a refund afterward was denied. After she posted her story on social media where it was picked up by several websites, United Airlines issued a partial refund for her flight.

Courtesy of

unruly passenger tased ten times by police

April 22, 2018
After a man on an American Airlines flight from Miami to Chicago allegedly touched a female passenger inappropriately without her permission, he began arguing with the woman and her boyfriend, even after he was moved to another seat. When flight attendants asked Jacob Garcia to deplane, as the flight had yet to leave the gate, he refused. Following protocol, the crew began deplaning all passengers, and when Miami-Dade Police requested Garcia leave as well,  he locked his legs around a seat and refused to go. The police report states that the officer deployed his taser 10 times in the struggle to remove him from the plane. He was eventually carried out, while still yelling at the officers and other passengers. Garcia was arrested, and the plane left one hour late without him. 

Man befouls United Airlines bathroom
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man befouls united airlines bathroom

January 4, 2018
Passengers on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Hong Kong were forced to make an emergency landing in Anchorage after a man was found to have smeared "feces everywhere" in several of the plane's lavatories, according to police officials. The man also tried to cram his shirt down one of the toilets. The passenger was met by authorities in Anchorage, and was said to be cooperative. 

Your Go-To Budget Airline Might Let You Down

fistfight erupts between passengers on southwest

May 7, 2017
During a layover at Hollywood Burbank Airport, a fistfight broke out between two passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight bound for Oakland, California, from Dallas. While the initial cause of the brawl wasn't released, cellphone video shows two men wrestling over the seats as fellow passengers attempt to pull them apart. The two men then flip over the seats, bringing the passengers down with them, as one man viciously punches the other. Members of the flight crew eventually were able to separate the two men, one of whom continued on to Oakland, while the other was detained at the gate and arrested for misdemeanor battery.

Happy Birthday?
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family kicked off jetblue flight over birthday cake

May 3, 2017
Passenger Cameron Burke, his wife, and his two kids settled into their seats in the last row of a JetBlue Airways flight to Las Vegas from JFK in New York after placing a birthday cake in an overhead bin. When a flight attendant asked Burke to remove the cake from the bin, he complied and placed the cake beneath a seat. Soon after, another attendant began arguing with her colleague and then Burke over the placement of the cake, and the family was asked to leave the plane. They refused to leave until Port Authority police arrived, although the police failed to find any wrongdoing. The airline claims that Burke refused multiple requests to move the cake and became belligerent, but a video shot by a very calm Burke — with his upset family — suggests a different story. After being booted from the flight, the family claimed a refund, booked a flight on United Airlines the next day, and plans to sue JetBlue.

Family kicked off delta flight over toddler's seat

family kicked off delta flight over toddler's seat

April 23, 2017
Delta Air Lines passengers Brian and Brittany Schear and their two children were booted from a red-eye flight from Maui to Los Angeles for refusing to give up a seat for their 2-year-old. The family initially bought the seat for their teenage son but instead sent him home on an earlier flight, so the younger child could spend the overnight flight in a car seat instead of in the mother's lap. A video she shot shows Delta officials arguing with the husband about giving the seat to a standby passenger, insisting that the ticketed passenger must be the one in the seat and that Federal Aviation Administration regulations say the child must be in an adult's lap. One employee even threatened the family with jail time and suggested that their children would be put in foster care if they refused to comply. The family eventually left the flight and flew home the next day.

You can't stroll your way onto American Airlines!

mother left sobbing after flight attendant yanks away stroller

April 21, 2017
American Airlines suspended an employee and apologized to a female passenger after a video went viral showing a mother sobbing after a clash with a flight attendant over a stroller. Witnesses say the flight attendant violently wrested a stroller from the mother, who was holding one child while another was in a car seat. In the video, the woman is seen crying and asking for her stroller back, while a male passenger intervenes on behalf of the woman, yelling at the attendant, who challenges the man in return. The man ultimately returned to his seat, and the woman was taken to another flight where she was upgraded to first class.

United Airlines

giant rabbit destined for world record dies in united cargo hold

April 19, 2017
Simon, a 10-month-old, 20-pound, 3.5-foot Continental Giant rabbit, was being flown on United Airlines from London's Heathrow Airport to Chicago's aptly named O'Hare Airport to be given to a new owner by the breeders. But while waiting for a connecting flight, the giant rabbit mysteriously died in the cargo hold. The breeders say the rabbit was healthy before the flight, but the body was cremated before a necropsy could be performed to determine the cause of death. Simon was expected to be the longest rabbit in the world, potentially surpassing his father, Darius, who holds the Guinness world record.

What's up doc?
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doctor injured and dragged off united flight to make room for crew

April 9, 2017
In one of the most high-profile onboard incidents in recent history, a doctor was violently removed from his seat and dragged down the aisle of a Kentucky-bound United flight at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. David Dao, a Vietnamese-American doctor, was one of four passengers selected by computer to disembark after having been seated, to make room for United employees on the overbooked flight. When Dao refused to comply, saying he had patients to see, police were called in to forcibly remove the doctor from the flight. The violent incident, as a bleeding Dao was dragged from the flight, was caught on video by several passengers and sparked widespread outrage. After a lackluster initial response, United reached a settlement with Dao, who suffered a concussion and a broken nose and lost two teeth. The incident has also motivated Congress to move toward new industry regulations, and the airline is creating a new rules for overbooked flights.

But aren't leggings, pants?

girls banned from united flight for wearing leggings

March 26, 2017
United Airlines faced fierce public backlash after two girls were blocked from boarding a Minneapolis-bound flight at Denver International Airport for wearing leggings, which a gate agent deemed improper attire. United defended the decision to prevent the girls from flying as they were "pass travelers" — relatives of United employees who fly for free and are therefore held to a stricter dress code, which bans form-fitting spandex pants and tops. When the incident was shared on social media, United was widely criticized for a policy deemed by some to be sexist and body shaming.

Thank goodness for Richard Marx!
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singer richard marx helps subdue violent passenger on korean air

December 20, 2016
While Richard Marx is best known for soft-rock jams like "Right Here Waiting," he gained some inflight cred when he helped subdue an unruly passenger on a Korean Air flight from Vietnam to South Korea. A passenger seated near Marx reportedly become violent and attacked other passengers and crew members, who Marx said were unprepared to deal with the passenger. One crew member was said to have aimed a stun gun at the passenger but ultimately didn't use it, thanks in part to Marx's help. Guess the passenger "Should've Known Better" than to mess with Marx.

Check in or else!

woman dragged off delta flight after refusing to check in

December 12, 2016
After reportedly refusing to comply with boarding and baggage procedures in Detroit, a woman was dragged down the narrow aisle of a Delta flight by police. The uncomfortable incident was caught on video as the woman was removed from the plane. Witnesses say she blew past the gate agent without checking in and refused to leave the aircraft when asked.

Spirit Airlines
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brawl breaks out over boombox volume aboard spirit airlines

March 9, 2016
Five women violently clashed in the aisle of a Spirit Airlines flight when it arrived in Los Angeles from Baltimore, in a fight that started over the volume of a boombox. Two of the women were reportedly intoxicated on the flight and refused to turn down their music when asked by other passengers. When the plane landed, a brawl broke out between the two parties, with punches thrown and hair pulled, while fellow passengers recorded the incident for social media. All five women were removed from the flight for questioning by the FBI.

Taking the seat back too far?
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man chokes woman for tilting her seat back on southwest

October 19, 2015
A Southwest Airlines flight headed for San Francisco had to return to Los Angeles after a man was said to have choked a woman seated in front of him after she reclined her seat. The incident took place mid-air, and the crew decided to return to LAX after only 13 minutes in the air. When the flight landed, law enforcement removed the man from the flight, while the rest of the passengers and crew switched planes and eventually flew to SFO.

O, Conrad Hilton...

conrad hilton hits flight attendants, calls passengers 'peasants'

February 4, 2015
Conrad Hilton, hotel heir and younger brother of Paris, had to be restrained by a British Airways flight crew during a flight from London to Los Angeles after he allegedly threatened the crew and smoked in the bathroom. Flight attendants believed Hilton was under the influence of drugs and were monitoring his erratic behavior when Hilton shouted, "I am going to f------ kill you!" along with other obscenities. He also reportedly yelled, "I will f------ own anyone on this flight; they are f------ peasants." Hilton is also said to have punched the bulkhead, missing a flight attendant's head by inches, and disabled a smoke detector in the bathroom in order to smoke. The crew managed to restrain and handcuff the hotel heir until they landed.

Don't drink too much alcohol!

icelandair passenger duct-taped to seat after attempting to grope others

January 5, 2013
An Icelandair passenger on a flight from Reykjavik to JFK had to be restrained after he consumed copious amounts of alcohol and began behaving violently. According to fellow passengers, Gudmundur Karl Arthorsson drank an entire bottle of alcohol from the duty-free shop, followed by mini-bottles of Grand Marnier, whiskey, and schnapps. He became verbally abusive toward the flight crew and shouted that the plane was going down. After he attempted to grope and choke other passengers, an off-duty pilot and two passengers restrained and gagged Arthorsson with duct tape and flex cuffs for the remainder of the flight. When police eventually removed him from the plan, he reportedly shouted, "There's a snake on my leg!" before he was taken to a hospital for alcohol poisoning.

When you gotta play Words, you gotta play!

alec baldwin kicked off american airlines for playing words with friends

December 6, 2011
While onboard an American Airlines flight awaiting departure at JFK, actor Alec Baldwin was ejected from the flight after he reportedly refused to turn off his cellphone while playing the game Words with Friends. Baldwin claims he was unfairly singled out by a flight attendant -- a notion supported by fellow passenger and professional boxer Oscar De La Hoya -- and refused to turn off the phone when requested. He then went to the lavatory with his phone while the seatbelt sign was on and slammed the door, according to the flight attendant. The plane returned to the gate, and Baldwin was removed before the flight took off. He later apologized to fellow passengers for the delay but had harsh words for the flight crew.

Now that's a way to make an exit!
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jetblue flight attendant quits, drinks beer, and slides out of plane

August 9th, 2010
JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater decided to quit his job with a flourish that many people only dream about. After landing at JFK from Pittsburgh, a passenger on Slater's flight reportedly stood up while the plane was still taxiing on the runway. When Slater told the passenger to sit down, the two got in an argument and Slater was hit in the head with a suitcase. Finally fed up, Slater got on the PA, cussed out the entire cabin, grabbed a beer from the galley, deployed the emergency chute, and slid off the plane. He then ran to the terminal, retrieved his car from employee parking, and drove home. Later he was arrested by Port Authority police and charged with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.

O dear, the defecating was a bit much.
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banker threatens flight attendant, defecates on food-service cart

October 20, 1996
Investment banker Gerard B. Finneran probably holds the title for most dramatic display of airline rage. While onboard a United Airlines flight from Buenos Aires to New York, Finneran allegedly made the most of the free alcohol available on the flight and became very intoxicated. When a flight attendant refused to serve him more, he began serving himself. Informed this was against regulations, he told the attendant he was going to "bust [his] ass." He then reportedly began terrifying other passengers, knocking over crew members, and pouring drinks on himself. Afterward he jumped on top of the food-service cart, proceeded to defecate, and then tracked the mess through the rest of the plane. He later pled guilty to a judge and agreed to 300 hours of community service and a fine of $50,000.

Let's take it for a joy ride!
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mechanic and customer service agent take delta's 737 for a joyride

August 8, 1994
While some people only dream of being pilots, a mechanic and a customer service agent with Delta Air Lines decided to take matters into their own hands. At 3 a.m., the duo took an empty Boeing 737 for a mile-long cruise around the taxiway in Tucson, Arizona. The joyride didn't last long, though. The mechanic was arrested for suspicion of driving an aircraft under the influence, unlawful use of transportation, and theft, while the agent was charged with unlawful use of transportation, theft, and criminal trespass.

Wow, the entertainment on this flight is incredible!

passengers think actual hijacking is a prank show stunt

February 3, 1969
"Candid Camera" is considered one of the first reality shows and an inspiration for modern pranks shows like "Punk'd" and "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment." But when the show's host, Allen Funt, and his family were flying from Newark to Miami in 1969 aboard Eastern Airlines, the joke became all too real. Hijackers took a flight attendant at knife point and demanded that the pilots reroute the flight to Cuba. Everyone on the flight remained motionless until someone recognized Funt and told everyone that it must be a staged "Candid Camera" stunt. Despite Funt's insistence that the hijacking was real, everyone continued to laugh off the incident, cheering for the hijackers, who they thought were actors, and asking Funt to sign their air-sickness bags. When the plane landed in Havana, greeted by Cuban military, the passengers finally realized it wasn't a prank, and most became furious with Funt for "tricking" them.

It seems we are in lighting!

ball lightning appears onboard flight and travels down aisle

March 19, 1963
Ball lightning is a glowing sphere of electrical light that can appear during a storm. It's been mistaken for UFOs, caused serious destruction, and perplexed and eluded scientists over the years. But on a late-night route from New York to Washington in 1963, scientists onboard the flight claim to have witnessed the strange phenomenon. While passing through an electrical storm, the plane was surrounded by a bright, electrical discharge. Soon after, a glowing orb of light, roughly 8 inches in diameter, appeared from the pilot's cabin and drifted down the length of the plane. The incident was later documented in a study in the journal "Nature."