Manners & Misdemeanors
Airplane Horror Stories, As Told by Flight Attendants
These flight attendants don't hold back in revealing the annoying things that have happened on a plane.
IMAGE COLLAGE Yzabella Cruz
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With so many passenger horror stories going around recently, we decided to give equal airtime to the other side.

Lizelle, 9 years in service

Worst experience: I am lucky enough to work with an airline that does not serve liquor on board. However, there have been cases when first class passengers have boarded the plane already intoxicated, making them brash, demanding, and flirtatious. It is up to the flight attendants to remain civil and take full control of the situation.

Lessons in flight decorum: We are in the service industry and just like any service-oriented career, we treat others nicely, but we deserve to be treated nicely as well. Passengers, please do not antagonize, irritate, or humiliate us in front of other people. When a passenger is pleasant, we will also be pleasant. When a passenger is rude, we remain professional, but we will remember you.

Jeanette, 16 years in service

Worst experience: One of the passengers wanted to transfer seats during takeoff, which is a critical stage for all passengers and crew members. Everyone needs to be seated with their seatbelts secured. I asked him nicely to take his seat, but when he didn’t listen, I raised my voice. Embarrassed by the scene he was causing, he complied.

Lessons in flight decorum: Passengers should make sure they take their assigned seats and request for transfer only after takeoff. Likewise, they should always comply with the safety rules and regulations in-flight, such as fastening their seatbelts during takeoff and landing.

Nelson, 1 year in service

Worst experience: I hear people belittle what we do all the time. They think that we're only here to pour their drinks and serve them meals, but what most people don't know is that we're highly trained in crisis management. We ensure the aircraft is in tiptop shape and we always prioritize the safety of passengers.

Lessons in flight decorum: It's recommended to keep your shoes on since all sorts of bacteria lurk on the aircraft floors. There are people who clean the aircraft but it isn’t 100 percent germ-free. We also don't appreciate it when passengers hand us bags of vomit or used baby diapers. Please throw them in the restroom bin yourselves. And don't pat or poke us to get our attention; it's very uncomfortable. A simple "excuse me" is enough.

Jack, 15 years in service

Worst experience: It was a domestic flight to Cotabato a few days after the 9/11 tragedy. A Muslim passenger did not want to be seated next to an American tourist during the flight. The flight was full and we had to reshuffle at least 15 passengers just to accommodate everybody without insulting anyone’s beliefs or race.

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Lessons in flight decorum: We are all people. We appreciate that passengers are customers, but every human being must be mindful of their manners when expressing their rights.

Patricia, 3 years in service

Worst experience: Nothing can ruin a flight for us more than rude passengers. We get snapped at, shouted at, and poked almost on a daily basis. Some passengers would even even personally insult us over things we have absolutely no control over such as air traffic, delays in takeoff, and failure to accommodate oversize carry-on luggage.

Lessons in flight decorum: It’s easy to forget that we are people, too. We get tired, hungry, and sick just like the rest of you. Believe me, we dislike delays as much as you do.

Lisa, 3 years in service

Worst experiences: During a flight to San Francisco, I asked a woman seated in the exit row to move her bag to the overhead bin. She wouldn't listen to me. She said, "I have lots of money in this bag. And this is an original Michael Kors bag." 

Lifting carry-on baggage into the overhead compartment is not our responsibility. There is a weight limit for these bags and more often than not, the limit is disregarded by passengers, especially on long-haul flights. We are not required to lift your bags unless you are pregnant, a person with disabilities, a child, or elderly. In some cases, hospitalization due to shoulder injuries occur, and passengers are not held liable for the cost because it was not a flight-related injury. 

Lessons in flight decorum: Always make eye contact with us to show us some respect. Likewise, take off your headphones when we are about to serve you your meal. A simple thank you from passengers goes a long way. Those who show they are grateful make our jobs seem more fulfilling. I admit that I even get teary-eyed at times.

Many of us go out of our way to treat nice passengers well. We have our favorites during a flight. Once, a lovely elderly lady requested green tea, which we had run out of. I willingly offered her the green tea I was bringing from my own packed lunch.

Roxanne, 5 years in service

Worst experience: I was working as an aisle attendant on a full international flight. When a family of four came in and I asked to check their boarding passes, the father just threw them at me. This shocked me, but I kept my cool. Apparently, the family members had been assigned seats that were not next to each other, and the father had been arguing with the ground staff even before they got on board. I was able to move the seating arrangements around and he eventually apologized for his rude behavior.

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Lessons in flight decorum: Passengers should always deal with others—whether fellow passengers or flight attendants—with respect. I’m sure no one nobody boards a plane with the intention of making it the worst flight in history. If things aren’t going your way, please be considerate.

Reese, 11 years in service

Worst experience: Some of the worst things I’ve seen during my 11 years as a flight attendant were mostly hygienic concerns. I’ve seen dirty diapers left in seat pockets, bare feet invading another passenger’s space, snotty tissues being handed to us. All of these nightmares, however, do not compare to one instance when a visibly drunk passenger made passes at us and got rowdy because we refused to serve him more drinks. We had to restrain him in his seat, as he was being quite disruptive not only to us but to other passengers as well. This went on for the entire eight-hour flight and we had him escorted off the plane by airport security as soon as we landed.

Lessons in flight decorum: Passengers should always remember that flight attendants are present primarily to provide them safety. The service aspect comes secondary, which we love to do anyway. Perhaps knowing this will make passengers have more respect for flight attendants.

Hannah, 9 years in service

Worst experience: I had to deal with a male passenger who allegedly slipped his hand under the blanket of a female passenger and touched her inappropriately. We had no proof and it was her word against his so that was difficult. We transferred her to another seat as she was trembling, afraid to return to her original seat. 

Another unforgettable experience was when a passenger took off his shoes and the whole cabin smelled. I had to subtly spray his socks to make it more comfortable for everyone.

Lessons in flight decorum: Passengers should always know the difference between requesting for something and incorrectly insisting on having it. 

Michael, 25 years in service

Worst experiences: A passenger once asked me, “How does it feel to be a glorified waiter?” I simply replied that I've always dreamt of traveling the world and wanted to serve others just as my religion inspires me to. If serving others on a plane allows me to fulfill those two goals, then I am happy to comply.

Arrogance is never becoming of a passenger. On another flight, I overheard a passenger scold a flight attendant for stowing her bag in the overhead bin and asking, "Don't you know that bag is worth more than you?"

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Other instances include dealing with intoxicated passengers during a flight. The pressurized cabin somehow affects the alcohol and makes the drink stronger. We've received complaints of lost valuables, witnessed fights, and at times, needed to have passengers brought out on stretchers.

Lessons in flight decorum: If you do throw up, please use the lavatory and not the sink since it is difficult to drain it. Please ensure the lavatory is serviceable for the next passenger.

It all boils down to respecting your co-passengers and the cabin crew serving you.

The stories of these flight attendants remind us about one thing that's always been true: Good manners are universal. Politeness, respect, and kindness can take you where money won't.

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