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Worst Passenger of the Week

Worst Passenger of the Week: the Hidden Risks of Finger Pointing

Worst Passenger of the Week: the Hidden Risks of Finger Pointing
Jeff Edwards

Every Friday, FlyerTalk looks back at the week’s most charming individuals. While there are always plenty of contenders for our Worst Passenger of the Week award, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory. Here are this week’s winners.

Third Place – Tomorrow Never Dies

Beijing and Washington, DC are the capitals of the world’s last two remaining rival super powers; so, when the crew of a United Airlines flight bound from Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) triggered a clandestine distress code near the Russian border this week, it seemed as if some international intrigue might be afoot in the skies above China. Alas, the cause of the security alert turned out to be an intoxicated passenger causing trouble rather than the high adventure of a callback to the era of cold war espionage.

The captain reportedly transmitted the emergency code about two hours into the flight, after an out-of -control passenger involved in an altercation with a seat mate turned his aggression towards a flight attendant. It soon became clear that what at first looked like classic spy craft, just days before the US President was due to arrive in China for an official state visit, was simply established protocol for incidents in which a passenger becomes physically abusive in flight.

Although the episode appears to be a simple case of a flyer who had one too many Bloody Marys in the airport lounge rather than an incident involving weighty matters of national security, the unfortunate situation managed to cause some serious headaches for the 212 passengers aboard the Boeing 787.

“Flight 808 from Beijing to Washington Dulles returned to Beijing after a customer initiated an altercation with a member of the flight crew, causing a safety concern,” a United Airlines spokesperson said in the most anticlimactic press release ever. “Law enforcement met the aircraft at the gate and the customer voluntarily deplaned without incident.”

The Runner-up – Catch Me If You Can

TSA Pre-Check doesn’t have anything on the passenger who found a novel way to skip the long security lines at Miami International Airport (MIA) this week. The inventive passenger’s ill-advised security checkpoint hack didn’t exactly allow him to make it on to a flight but the unorthodox technique got him uncomfortably close to the aircraft on the tarmac.

Security footage shows the unidentified passenger pretending to talk on his cell phone, before suddenly clambering onto a baggage conveyor belt behind a vacant American Airlines ticket counter. The camera catches the sneaky trespasser slowly disappearing into the bowels of the terminal building without so much as a luggage tag on his wrist.

When the conveyor belt joyrider emerged, his plan started to unravel quickly. Subsequent security images capture orange vest clad ramp workers converging on the uninvited visitor. Later footage shows the man on the ground in handcuffs surrounded by police.

“Had there been a plane at that gate, this individual could have entered the plane or had access to the aircraft,” an unnamed airport source told the Miami Herald.“This is a very restricted area, only accessible to some with very limited access, and he was able to gain access. Very concerning,”

In this case, at least, an unlikely adventure that got off to such a promising start ended behind bars. Once again, it seems that it’s all fun and games for a Worst Passenger until an airport terminal is evacuated, hundreds of passengers are re-screened by the TSA, a potentially serious security incident is narrowly avoided and federal charges are filed.

The Winner – An Affair to Remember

A passenger’s ingenious plan to snoop through her husband’s phone backfired big time this week. The curious spouse didn’t much care for what she found on the device and the cabin of the plane soon became the scene of a serious domestic incident. The Qatar Airways flight from Hamad International Airport (DOH) to Bali Denpasar International Airport (DPS) was eventually forced to make an unscheduled stop at Chennai International Airport (MAA) after the cabin crew became unable to control the inconsolable woman.

The passenger, said to be from Iran, reportedly used her husband’s own finger to access his mobile phone as he dozed during the flight. It seems that when she found evidence of an extra-marital affair on the phone, a rather heated argument soon ensued during which the scorned spouse allegedly struck her cheating husband repeatedly. Apparently more than just a simple marital spat, the escalating squabble caused the crew to decide that it was not safe to continue on to the final destination even after separating the couple.

The husband and wife, along with their child, were escorted form the plane when it landed at MAA. Once cooler heads prevailed, the family was eventually able to complete their journey on another airline.

“The family spent the day at Chennai airport and was sent to Kuala Lumpur by a Batik Air flight,” authorities in India told reporters. “No police action was taken.”

Although no criminal charges were filed over the in-flight incident, it is safe to assume that not everyone involved in the highly publicized fracas will be let off the hook quite so easily.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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