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Worst Passenger of the Week

Worst Passenger of the Week: An Entirely Different United Airlines Incident

Worst Passenger of the Week: An Entirely Different United Airlines Incident
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 – A Strange Brew

Even on a commercial airline flight, being a weirdo is not necessarily a crime. But one passenger’s behavior this week was odd enough that the pilot refused to take off until police arrived on the taxiway and removed him. The pilot of a Manchester Airport (MAN) to Tenerife South-Reina Sofia Airport (TFS)-bound flight alerted authorities just before takeoff because the passenger was “acting strangely.”

According to reports, the unidentified 35-year-old was removed from the flight after picking arguments with other passengers and disturbing fellow travelers on the 6:30 a.m. flight. As might be expected, it seems that alcohol likely played a part in the passenger’s “strange” early morning behavior.

“Male removed from aircraft by Airport Police Officers this morning due to being drunk/argumentative on board,” Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirmed in a statement on Twitter. “Refused flight by captain.”

A spokesman for the GMP made the episode sound almost routine. “We were called at about 6:20 a.m. to reports of a problem on the flight,” an Inspector Riley, who is based at the airport, told reporters. “The man was acting rather strangely and was causing a disturbance to other passengers.The captain wasn’t happy with the passenger’s behavior and didn’t want him to fly.”

After the allegedly strange stranger was removed from the flight, authorities began to consider the flyer’s disruptive performance to be a bit more than just a run-of-the-mill case of odd behavior. The passenger was arrested for “suspicion of breaching the peace.”

The Runners-up – Keeping up with the Kinahans

The very best of the very worst passengers tend to be quite proud of their misbehavior. A woman who allegedly caused the captain to divert a Marrakesh Menara Airport (RAK) to London Gatwick Airport (LGW)-bound British Airways flight because of her outlandish behavior was not an exception. Video this week emerged of the passenger’s desperate plea for attention during her quintessential “Do you know who I am?” moment.

During a clamorous rant that reportedly saw the woman and her male companion fighting with crew members and fellow passengers alike, she felt compelled to make certain everyone knew exactly who she was. Eyewitnesses report that the woman became even more agitated when her name-dropping failed to adequately strike terror into the hearts of crew members and cabin mates.

“You’re messing with the Kinahans here!” the woman is said to have screamed repeatedly as an off-duty policeman helped flight attendants restrain her travel companion. It isn’t clear if the woman was indeed identifying herself, or rather, if she was invoking the name of a reputed Irish crime family purely for shock value. The male passenger involved in the incident declined to offer his name when authorities later arrived to remove him from the plane in handcuffs following an unscheduled stop at Porto Airport (OPO).

Like most inflight dramas, witnesses on the plane say the trouble started with alcohol. After sharing a bottle of vodka, the couple apparently went berserk for no discernible reason.

“The man got really abusive, started banging the overhead compartment and flailing things around,” one passenger later told reporters. “It got so dangerous the pilot decided to divert the plane to Porto in Portugal. Police arrived on to the plane and it took several of them to physically thrown the guy off the plane. The woman was escorted off as well, but she was very angry.”

The Winner – The Dirty Old Man with an Open Bar Tab

Being sexually harassed in a public space is bad enough, but in the cabin of a passenger plane there is, quite terrifyingly, often no chance of escape. This is just the situation that United Airlines (they’ve had a very bad week) passenger Jennifer Rafieyan says she found herself in during a recent flight from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) accompanied by her 12-year-old daughter.

Rafieyan told the Huffington Post this week that she knew she was in trouble even before she and her daughter took their seats on the plane. She noted that flight attendants warned her in advance about the creepy seatmate who was waiting there for her.

“She made some comment to me like, ‘This is going to be an interesting flight,’ and looked at him,” the 47-year-old mom recounted. “And then the other flight attendant came up and said, ‘Let me know if you need anything. I mean it’― and she looked at him.”

Rafieyan said the warning wasn’t at all a false alarm or overstated in the least. During the course of the flight, she says that the elderly flyer next to her rubbed her legs, groped her, put his head on her shoulder and even attempted to kiss her several times. At one point during the nearly five-hour journey, Rafieyan claims the allegedly aggressive and seriously creepy seatmate took a pen from her hand and wrote “PASIONAT NITE XX” (sic) on a document she was reading.

Rafieyan says she was unwilling to change seats because it would have meant being separated from her 12-year-old daughter on the same plane as the man. The concerned mother claims she was left with no choice but to endure the abuse.

Far from helping, Rafieyan claims that flight attendants instead continued to ply her obviously intoxicated tormentor with drinks – allowing the increasingly bold seatmate three additional whiskeys and a glass of wine. The traumatized woman says that her pleas for help from the crew “fell on deaf ears.”

Once on the ground, Rafieyan complained to the airline about her experience. She says officials responded with unasked-for travel vouchers and a generic reply that read, in part, “I am sorry for your family’s disappointing and uncomfortable flight to Phoenix. As a gesture of goodwill, a separate email with four electronic travel certificates will arrive soon to make amends.”

Fortunately, the FAA took her complaints a bit more seriously. The agency added the incident to a sexual assault database and encouraged Rafieyan to report the incident to the FBI.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (2)


  1. bikesonaplane

    April 19, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    I’m really surprised that the crew didn’t try asking some people to switch, I’ve been asked and even gave up my window for a middle seat when a parent and child were separated. It’s not that big of a deal from time to time.

    Of course I also think that the crew should carry stun guns and be able to use them.

  2. Grog

    April 25, 2017 at 3:31 am

    In the second situation, in the passenger’s own statement, the FA clearly reassured in advance “Let me know if you need anything. I mean it”. Sounds like she didn’t act on that proactive gesture, so the crew thinks they’ve over-judged and that all is actually fine and dandy. The crew shouldn’t be switching anyone’s seats until a true problem is recognized. And if the crew isn’t made aware of an actual problem, how is it their fault in any way?

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