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.
In recent years, the public has become the first line of defense in efforts to identify smugglers trafficking in human cargo. An ever-growing number of flight attendants around the globe have received special training on how to spot passengers who might be attempting to smuggle their victims on commercial airline flights and in more than one high-profile case, cabin crew members were directly responsible for saving victims from a lifetime as a sex slave.
US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) even has a dedicated tip line for the public to help catch more victims and perpetrators before they fall through the cracks. “ICE encourages you to keep your eyes and ears open to suspicious activity,” the agency implores travelers. “Trafficking victims are often hidden in plain sight, voiceless and scared.”
Regrettably, when a member of the flying public relies on their own biases about what a family should look like to cast suspicion on fellow passengers, the whole system is in danger of breaking down. After a United Airlines flight attendant reported a father and his three-year-old daughter to authorities because an unnamed passenger voiced unwarranted concerns based on the girl having a lighter skin tone than her dad, the end result was a humiliated family and a terrified little girl.
The girl’s mom, Maura Furfey wrote about her family’s experience for the Huffington Post, saying she believes that her husband was targeted purely based on his ethnicity.
“There was no indication whatsoever ― other than the passenger’s racially charged observation ― that my husband had anything but a perfectly normal, loving relationship with his daughter,” Furfey wrote. “There had been no incident. There will always be individuals who make racist remarks ― my husband and I are no strangers to this fact. Again, my husband is Mexican. Therefore, he is a target, and in effect, so is our family.”
Two separate groups of passengers on one flight found themselves left behind at the gate when a Jet2 plane bound from Manchester Airport (MAN) to Václav Havel Airport Prague (PRG) finally departed. The 23 ejected flyers allegedly blew well past Jet2’s strict “zero tolerance” policy for disruptive behavior. Both groups of travel companions were reportedly headed out of town for stag party celebrations this week.
“Flight LS887 from Manchester to Prague had to return to the parking stand after our crew called for police assistance,” an airline spokesperson said in a defiant statement. “We would like to thank Greater Manchester police for their assistance this afternoon and will be fully supporting the investigation, and where required, will prosecute if that is deemed necessary.”
It seems the days in which traveling large groups provide some protection from consequences of disruptive behavior may be coming to an end. This week’s incident comes almost a year to the day after MAN airport police removed a thirty-person bachelor party from a Monarch Airlines flight bound for Tenerife South Airport (TFS). In both cases, it is believed that alcohol was a contributing factor.
Far from providing safety in numbers, the matching custom-made t-shirts and group itineraries likely only ensured that the 23 revelers were all painted with the same brush. The airline’s sweeping decision resulted in two wedding parties missing out on one last chance to cut loose before the nuptials. On the other hand, an even greater number of passengers on the plane, who weren’t necessarily on their way to a lost weekend, are universally applauding the airline’s decision to remove the large contingent of troublemaking flyers.
Very little of an airline pilot’s extensive training is dedicated to leading dispute resolution arbitration between bickering passengers. A cell phone video shows the captain of a FlySafair flight from OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) to Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ) as he patiently listened to passengers each tell their side of the story. Even when the argument degenerates into a racially charged bout of name calling, the crew member remained stoically detached.
The drama unfolded just moments before the plane was scheduled to leave the gate.
“[He] called this gentleman an a**hole and when we proceeded to say to him that’s unacceptable he said to me, ‘You people are all the same,’” a woman on the flight can be heard explaining to the pilot.
For his part, the accused passenger and his travel companion denied both using vulgar language and making bigoted remarks. It wan’t until other passengers jumped into the fracas to confirm the woman’s account of events, that the pair began to consider waiting for a later flight.
At one point, the woman accused the white passenger of threatening her with the words, “I’ll bliksem you.” The term is recognized as a charged South African colloquial idiom generally taken as promise of physical abuse against another person.
When the suspected bigots announced that they were getting off the plane, the news was met with a raucous ovation from passengers on the flight who were much more interested in getting to their final destinations than solving racially tinged disagreements between strangers.
[Photo: The Sun]