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.
Sometimes, Americans with the means to travel the world aren’t always the best cultural ambassadors for the country. In the U.S., we generally like our bacon cut from pork-belly, our coffee served in styrofoam cups and our pets in the airplane cabin with us – not every American traveling abroad is equipped to enjoy Guanciale bacon or chug espresso while standing at a bar and if you tell us we can’t bring our cat on board, then we might very well lose our minds.
This week, a Yankee traveling on a British Airways flight from Glasgow Airport (GLA) to London Heathrow (LHR) took extreme measures to smuggle a feline companion on the plane with her. Unfortunately for her, a pesky rule about blocking the emergency exit row foiled the ad hoc plan to keep her cat nearby. Rather than placing the furry companion in an overhead bin, the pet smuggling passenger fessed up and was removed from the plane along with her four-legged travel mate.
The disembarked flyer still had one last card to play however. She patiently explained to British Airways staff that her cat was an authorized emotional support animal and therefore entitled to remain at her side. Airline officials then reminded her that she wasn’t in the States anymore in the most British manner possible.
“Cats cannot travel in the cabin, but recognized assistance dogs are always very welcome and travel completely free of charge alongside their owners on board,” a British Airways spokesperson told reporters in a statement. “Other animals will need to travel in the hold but will be just as comfortable in a carefully controlled environment. The transportation of pets is handled by our sister company, IAG Cargo. They have decades of experience flying animals and will look after our customers’ pets as if they are their own.”
A flyer arrested at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) had this week’s second-worst excuse for misbehavior at the airport. The Worst Passenger, who was reportedly caught attempting to smuggle a collapsible assault-style rifle through an airport security checkpoint, told police “he did not know that he was carrying a rifle because his mother packed his bag.” The man claimed to have only become aware of the gun in his possession when TSA screeners discovered the firearm in his carry-on bag after it was sent through an x-ray scanner.
Whether his mother was indeed responsible for packing the unloaded rifle in her son’s bag is a matter for the courts to decide. It seems, however, that she neglected to write a note to TSA giving her adult son permission to board a plane with small arms on his person.
Despite the air traveler’s ironclad excuse for attempting to bring a military-style weapon onto a commercial flight, police were apparently not moved. The Maryland resident was arrested on firearms charges. Perhaps worst of all, his mother’s favorite rifle was sized by Maryland Transportation Authority Police.
An allegedly intoxicated JetBlue passenger insisted on turning a bad situation into a cautionary tale of the human condition this week at Orlando International Airport (MCO). According to press reports, this Worst Passenger, who became frustrated over a delayed flight to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) escalated the situation until he ended up being pepper-sprayed and handcuffed at the gate after assaulting airline employees, fellow passengers and police officers who responded to the melee.
To make matters worse, Brandon Strong was traveling with his eight-year-old son at the time. While the child’s father was taken to jail, the youngster was supervised by JetBlue workers until he could be reunited with his mother who was waiting at SLC.
“I could detect the strong odor of the impurities of alcohol on his [Strong’s] breath,” police noted in an arrest report. “The customer was clearly intoxicated and the alcohol could be smelled from five feet away … Strong intentionally ripped my radio microphone from my shoulder with such force that it also removed the radio itself from a secured holster. Strong then forcibly removed both of my extra magazines from their secured holsters on my external ballistic vest carrier, causing it to slide on the tile floor out of my reach.”
In addition to wrestling with police, The Worst Father of the Week is also accused of attacking a female gate agent after first calling her a “vulgar name.” The 45-year-old is also said to have scuffled with fellow passengers who attempted to intervene when he turned violent after being told that he would be barred from boarding his flight.
A Southwest Airlines passenger, who was arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a seatmate this week, came up with a novel and perhaps inevitable defense for his vulgar behavior. The 49-year-old was taken into custody at Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) after a fellow passenger accused him of repeatedly grabbing her breasts during a flight from Houston William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) on Sunday.
According to charging documents, the handsy air traveler told police, “The president of the United States said it’s OK to grab women by their private parts.”
The inferred presidential pardon did not sway police who arrested Florida man Bruce Alexander on a charge of “abusive sexual contact.” A federal judge, ignoring the desperate claim that the inflight groping was blessed by the White House, later found probable cause to support the charge.
According to the arrest report, Alexander twice leaned forward and touched the breasts of an unidentified female passenger sitting in the row in front of him. The woman later told authorities that she at first believed the contact may have been an accident, but the second time was “clearly on purpose.” At this point, she confronted Alexander before alerting cabin crew members and moving to another seat.
“She rose from her seat, turned around and told the passenger behind her that she didn’t know why he thought it was OK and he needed to stop,” according to probable cause documents filed with the court.