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Worst Passenger of the Week: It’s Not a Revolt, It’s a Revolution

Worst Passenger of the Week: It’s Not a Revolt, It’s a Revolution
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 column, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory.

Third Place: Hairdo Don’t

It is bad enough for a passenger to take care of personal grooming in a packed airplane cabin, but one flyer managed to grab headlines after taking things a step further. Images of air travelers who very publicly file their fingernails, clip their toenails and/or pick their noses, have become so common they barely grab our attention anymore, but when a passenger was caught employing the tray table (a necessary onboard convenience sometimes used for eating food) to hold the wig she had removed from her head to brush, the flying public was treated to a fresh new version of repulsive inflight behavior.

The photographic documentation of this clever, but less than hygienic, use of onboard amenities soon went viral on social media after being posted on the Instagram page Passenger Shaming. It wasn’t long before cable news outlets and wire services picked up the story this week. The passenger earned her moment in the spotlight through sheer originality. Those who follow in this trailblazer’s footsteps will likely be relegated to the bin of commonplace occurrences along with your everyday in-seat-flossers, onboard-pimple-poppers and the occasional inflight-sock-wringer.

The Runner-Up: Next Time Just Roll Down the Window

Meanwhile, in China, domestic air travel still has something of a Wild West feel to it. This week, police confirmed that a Xiamen Airlines flight was delayed for hours after a passenger opened the emergency door prior to departure because the cabin was “too stuffy.” The overheated passenger was not aboard the flight from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (WUH) to Lanzhou Zhongchuan International Airport (LHW) when it eventually departed; instead, she was taken into custody. According to eyewitnesses, the passenger matter-of-factly told police that she simply wanted to “let some fresh air in.”

Passengers in China have a long and storied history of defiantly airing out muggy plane cabins. In 2014, one of the very first Worst Passenger of the Week winners ever was a Xiamen Airlines passenger who not only opened an emergency exit so he could enjoy the breeze while his fellow passengers found their seats, but when the unrepentant flyer was questioned by crew members, he denied being responsible. In fact, he later insisted that the emergency door hadn’t even been opened at all. In May of 2018, another Worst Passenger of the Week at least had the good sense to feel instant regret after realizing his error in judgement.

“Because it was so stuffy, so hot on the plane, I just pushed down on the window handle beside me,” the embarrassed 25-year-old flyer told police at the time. “When the door fell out, I panicked.”

Of course, the fact that the emergency slide deployed when he attempted to crack the window open also helped the inexperienced passenger to realize his mistake. In the end, authorities decided to make an example of this confused passenger, sentencing the young man to $15,000 and 15 days in jail (based on this week’s news, however, it looks like a few air travelers still haven’t gotten the message).

The Winner: Let Them Eat (Urinal) Cake!

Not since Billy Zane’s character had to lock steerage passengers in the bowels of the Titanic to preserve lifeboats for first-class passengers, has a lower-class passenger caused so much trouble by insisting on access to basic human needs while traveling. News comes this week that an Alaska Airlines passenger flying cross-country in economy class, forgot himself and believed that he had the right to use an unoccupied lavatory in the first class cabin just because all of the other lavatories on the plane were unavailable.

Fortunately, the captain and his crew weren’t about to let this man’s impolite insistence on standing up for his dignity and humanity to go unanswered. The flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was diverted to Kansas City International Airport (MCI) so that the rabble-rouser could be removed before more passengers were inspired to join his cause.

To be clear, this protesting passenger wasn’t asking for a first class snack or a ceramic coffee cup. Nope, this grown man was being denied permission to use the only available toilet within 40,000 feet.

To find the actual Worst Passengers of the Week, one need not look any further than the comment section of any news story covering this shameful event. The assorted demands for law and order in the comments read like the aristocracy’s increasingly frantic demands to put down dissent prior to the French Revolution (but let’s not lose our heads).

“Everyone thinks there is an ‘exception’ and everyone thinks it applies to them,” one commenter writes.“The guy should use the lav in his class of service and get over himself.”

In predictable fashion, other ruling-class commenters called for a crackdown on passengers who might think to relieve themselves in a location above their station in life.

“I honestly don’t have an answer as to how to handle these morons but to me, diverting a flight and disrupting it for the other 200+ people onboard – is that really necessary???” one especially angry commenter replied. “Why do a planeload of people have to become involuntary victims? It would almost be worth it if the offender was truly punished but this seems never to happen – they are let go with a slap on the wrist and then allowed to fly on the next available flight. Disgusting. More severe penalties/arrest/imprisonment/job loss etc needs to be enforced.”

The irony of this tale of the man who was just looking to go to the toilet, is that the first class cabin was very likely filled with airline employees who paid little or nothing for their tickets. A dirty secret of the airline industry is that first-class seats are priced nowhere near what the market demands. Airlines would rather give those seats away free of charge to employees and select frequent flyers in order to keep prices for paying customers artificially high – this makes it much easier to charge $1,400 for a one-way first class fare from Newark to Cleveland.

When King Louis XVI asked if the storming of the Bastille was a revolt, François Alexandre Frédéric de La Rochefoucauld famously replied, “No sire, it’s not a revolt; it’s a revolution.” Non-rev employee passengers, cabin crew members and Platinum Gold Diamond Elites might want to keep this in mind when valuing frequent flyer status above the dignity of their fellow travelers.


[Featured Image: Flickr/Richard Moross]

View Comments (2)


  1. strickerj

    October 4, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    So the “Worst Passenger of the Week” is anyone on the forum who didn’t side with the disruptive Alaska Airlines flyer? That’s… frankly absurd. Besides the fact that none of those commenters actually qualify as “passengers” (you know, the people this article is supposed to be about), no one really knows at this point whether the coach lavatories really were occupied or what the passenger did to escalate the situation. “Passenger booted for using bathroom” makes a great headline but may not reflect the reality.

  2. dliesse

    October 6, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    And if you’d learn more about the incident, you’d know the flight was diverted after the passenger threatened the flight crew. The diversion itself had nothing to do with his using the first class lav.

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