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 – Proper Pests Plague Passengers
There is perhaps no creepier a nightmare scenario imaginable than the prospect of being buckled in to a seat on a plane only to slowly discover that the cabin is infested with cockroaches, but this is the all-too-real situation passengers on at least two flights to Kunming Changshui International Airport (KMG) found themselves in over the past week. According to the South China Morning Post, the name of the airline involved was withheld by authorities who ordered the carrier to “improve hygiene on planes.”
Pest exterminators report finding over 100 examples of Blattella germanica, better known as German Cockroaches, during an extensive fumigation process. Officials were quick to point out that both of the affected flights originated outside the country.
Of course, things could always be worse – much worse.
Cockroaches tend to remain hidden until weakness affords an opportunity to harmlessly feast on leftover food. Cimex pipistrelli or common bedbugs, on the other hand, are known to make frequent sorties from hidden crevasses in search of human blood.
Heather Szilagyi says that the bloodsucking insects caused quite an unpleasant British Airways flight from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) for her and her seven-year-old-daughter this week.
“It was about half-an-hour to an hour into the flight I saw one,” Szilagyi later recounted in media accounts. “It was coming out of the back of the TV screen. It came out of that and I wanted to get it with a Kleenex but it crawled back in. Our food came out and I went to put the tray down on my lap. I saw what was maybe a flax seed, but it started moving. It was a bug.”
Responding to photographic evidence of the passengers’ gnarly-looking bedbug bites, the international airline issued a statement that was equal parts mea culpa and c’est la vie.
“We have said sorry to our customers for their experience,” a British Airways spokesperson said in a statement. “British Airways operates more than 280,000 flights every year, and reports of bed bugs on board are extremely rare. Nevertheless, we are vigilant and continually monitor our aircraft. The presence of bed bugs is an issue faced occasionally by hotels and airlines all over the world.”
The Runners-up – Feuding Flugdolgurs Frustrate Flyers
In the Icelandic language, there is a very special word for passengers who make asses of themselves on passenger planes. According to linguists, the term “flugdolgur” loosely translates to mean “air hooligan.” This week, two flugdolgurs in a tempestuous relationship managed to stop a flight about to depart Reykjavík–Keflavík International Airport (KEF).
According to eyewitnesses, the quarreling and allegedly intoxicated couple aboard the Denver International Airport-bound Iceland Air flight were involved in more than just a run-of-the-mill lovers’ spat. Fellow passengers say the pair had been loudly bickering since the first leg of the flight departed Paris Orly Airport (ORY) earlier in the day.
When the transatlantic bickering escalated during a brief layover, the second leg of the trip never even got off the ground. The captain instead summoned police who escorted the lovebirds from the aircraft. According to authorities, a female passenger who was being removed from the flight compounded her problems by refusing to obey officers’ instructions as she “continued to make trouble and noise.”
Police say the detained passenger was extremely intoxicated after consuming a substantial amount of alcohol during the emotionally heated trip from Paris. According to a statement from officials, her behavior earned a night’s accommodation in a jail cell where, rather than visiting the famed Blue Lagoon, “she got the opportunity to sleep off her intoxication.”
The Winner – Geriatric Jokester Justifiably Jailed
The incident this week at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) was by no means the first time a passenger made an inappropriate joke about having a bomb in their carry-on bag. Normally, however, there is at least the sense that there is some measure of instant regret after the wisecracking flyer is faced with the consequences of their actions. In this case, John Park, the 70-year-old who allegedly threatened a Spirit Airlines gate agent with a bomb, remained defiant even in the face of the evacuation of one of the busiest airports in the world, the arrival of police, first-responders and news vans in the lead-up to his eventual arrest.
“They just overreacted,” Park was later quoted in local media reports. “I’m Asian, have a different culture – making jokes here and there, but they overreacted. That’s all.”
His theory that Americans can’t take a joke is mildly insulting and even jesting threats to aviation are not at all amusing in this day and age. Still, it’s easy to have at least some empathy for the geriatric passenger now charged with “making a terroristic threat.” It was, after all, Spirit Airlines’ $50 bag fee that reportedly drove him to utter the empty threats that he was unable to take back.
Believe it or not, this unique and ill-advised form of customer service complaint escalation isn’t all that uncommon. In 2015, world-renowned Neurosurgeon Dr. Manuel Alberto Alvarado agreed to pay $90,000 in civil penalties after “joking” that he had a bomb in his luggage after he became upset with a gate agent at Miami international Airport (MIA). In 2014, a church choir director also earned criminal charges after allegedly threatening to “blow up” a Spirit Airlines flight at LGA soon after being informed of the airline’s steep carry-on bag fee schedule.