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Worst Passenger of the Week: It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

Worst Passenger of the Week: It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again
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 – Don’t Tell Me This Flight Ain’t Got No Seoul

On Wednesday, after nearly eight hours in the air, passengers on a Hawaiian Airlines Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN)-bound flight finally arrived right back where they started, at Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). The 263 passengers and 13 crew members on the eight-hour-long flight to nowhere, appeared to have a single unruly flyer to blame for losing nearly an entire day of their lives going in a circle.

According to a local media report, citing unnamed sources, an out-of-control flyer attempted to punch a flight attendant about four hours into the journey to South Korea, forcing the captain to turn the plane around and head back to the island of Oahu. According to the report, the unnamed troublemaker involved is a “convicted felon” who brought his own whiskey onto the plane with him to enjoy during the scheduled 11-hour, 25-minute flight.

The violent onboard incident is said to have come to an abrupt end when active duty service members who happened to be on the plane “helped restrain the suspect.” The passenger accused of aggressive behavior reportedly lunged at a cabin crew member but stumbled and missed his target. According to Hawaii News Now, “Sheriffs, FBI and Customs along with Border Protection agents were set to meet the plane and arrest the passenger.”

In August of 2016, an HNL to ICN-bound Hawaiian Airlines flight returned to the airport after nearly six hours in the air. According to the airline, in this case, the flight was forced back to Oahu when a flight attendant reported a passenger exhibiting “suspicious behavior.

The Runner-up – Third Time is a Lucky Charm

A passenger’s pre-flight good luck ritual brought nothing but trouble for himself and 162 fellow passengers ticketed on an Anqing Tianzhushan Airport (AQG) to Kunming Changshui International Airport (KMG) flight. According to a report this week in the Independent, the superstitious flyer attempted to throw coins into the engine cowling of the plane before boarding the flight operated by the aptly named budget carrier Lucky Airlines.

For obvious reasons, when airline officials are confronted with evidence that a passenger has been throwing foreign objects at a jet engine, a maintenance delay is all but inevitable. In this case, the flight was delayed until the following day so the engines could be taken apart and thoroughly inspected.

At this point, the passenger’s luck turned from bad to worse. After being taken into custody by police, the 28-year-old soon learned the airline would be pursuing damages for the delay and the cost of returning the aircraft to service. According to an airline spokesperson, the bizarre incident might have cost the company as much as $20,000.

It isn’t hard to understand why the Yunnan, China-based carrier came down so hard on the irrational flyer. In June of 2017, a China Southern Airlines flight was forced to cancel a Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) flight when an elderly passenger was caught attempting to toss coins into a jet engine to create “blessings” and “good luck.” In October of 2017, a 76-year-old passenger was spotted throwing coins at the engine of a Lucky Air flight she was boarding as a “wish for a safe flight.”

The Winner – Take This Bag and Stowe It

A pair of Delta Airlines passengers claim that wild exaggerations by airline employees led to their arrests on a jetway at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport (FLL). According to Ida Shafir and Nick Bogomolsky, a simple customer service complaint resulted in a violent confrontation with police after Delta agents incorrectly and unfairly reported the travel companions as a security threat.

“We didn’t do anything,” Shafir told reporters after her release from Broward County jail on Wednesday. “Just because of the luggage?”

According to police, on the other hand, the 67-year-old school teacher was arrested soon after she and Bogomolsky not only refused to gate-check their carry-on bags at the request of gate agents (prior to a flight in which the overhead bins were already filled), but the pair also refused to leave the jetway and reacted violently when cops intervened. Authorities say Shafir bit an officer and Bogomolsky attempted to grab an officer’s gun. Police say the incident was unavoidable.

“They got into an argument with the staff,” Broward County Sheriffs spokesperson Gina Carter said. “The staff explained to them that there was no other way.”

If Shafir’s allegations are true and airline employees did indeed turn a customer service complaint regarding the need to gate-check carry-on items into a security emergency, then the pair may have still gotten off easy. A federal lawsuit filed over an incident in March of 2017, in which a passenger was arrested (and later acquitted of terrorism charges), accused an American Airlines baggage handler of falsely reporting that the passenger had made a bomb threat after an eerily similar jetway dispute. In this case, the airline employee was allegedly upset because a supervisor made him retrieve a bag the customer was required to gate-check after the flyer realized he had left his medication in his carry-on bag.

[Source: Hawaiian Airlines]

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