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Freaking out passenger forces plane back to gate

Freaking out passenger forces plane back to gate

Old Feb 11, 13, 10:52 am
  #1  
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Freaking out passenger forces plane back to gate

Was leaving PHI last night and we were taxiing for takeoff. Suddenly the pilot stomps on the brakes and gets on the PA, "Sorry folks, someone has decided they don't want to fly with us tonight. We're going back to the gate." It was a huge pain. They had to unload nearly all the luggage while they looked for this woman's luggage. We were late to our destination, people missed connecting flights, it was a mess. While most of us didn't hear any commotion, the pilot told me afterwards that the woman had a panic attack and was "freaking out." He just decided to take her back to the gate to avoid further problems.

I've flown a lot over the years, and I've never seen this happen before. Maybe while still at the gate when the door is open, but nothing like this. Is this a common occurrence witnessed by others? I'm hopeful they have some blacklist system for banning people like this from flying again.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 11:03 am
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Why ban the PAX? Sure it was a pain in the butt for many, but at least it was on the ground and not in the air where they might of had to divert. Bottom line it was basically a medical emergency which happen regularly and most folks learn to deal with it like other PITA parts of air travel.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 11:21 am
  #3  
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Panic attacks are generally involuntary and nasty when triggered.

Who are 'people like this'? People who get ill on board planes? People who inconvenience you? While it is a shame that no-one on board was able to help her through the attack, if it was caused by being on board, you may find she bans herself, so she doesn't need to go through that again.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 11:22 am
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I don't know, maybe I'm just still raw from last night and I'm being unreasonable. I got the impression from talking to a couple of people sitting next to her that if she wasn't let off the airplane immediately she was going to start running up and down the aisle screaming, "we're all going to die!" That's certainly not preferable either I know. But to me I guess it's like a disruptive passenger, bordering on being a threat. I would think airlines have the ability to ban those kinds of passengers if they want. I just wasn't sure if they'd consider somebody like this in the same category. I do know the FAs did a good job of trying to shield her because some people were going to have words with her on her way out.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 11:23 am
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Just be glad it wasn't you who felt this way....
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Old Feb 11, 13, 11:38 am
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If it was up me I would have let the woman off the airplane as per what occurred but left her luggage on board. Her luggage could have been returned to her at a later date.

The delay in searching for her luggage afterwards clearly caused further disruption to countless passengers / staff. Or am I being too harsh?
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Old Feb 11, 13, 11:47 am
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Originally Posted by nautilus View Post
If it was up me I would have let the woman off the airplane as per what occurred but left her luggage on board. Her luggage could have been returned to her at a later date.

The delay in searching for her luggage afterwards clearly caused further disruption to countless passengers / staff. Or am I being too harsh?
I believe that it is a security measure that if the passenger is removed from the flight, so are their luggage.

I don't know what airport PHI is supposed to be (PHL?), but if this was an international flight, there would have been a positive baggage match requirement for flight.

My understanding is that domestic flights are no longer subjected to that requirement, but without knowing the details its hard to say.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 11:50 am
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As someone who has had panic attacks (not on planes thank goodness), no you can't control how or when you react - my problem spot is heights and I work in a tall building. I'll go months being okay and then all of a sudden I can't handle being on the 4th floor of a building - unable to breathe, feel like I'm going to pass out, I usually get very quiet as I'm trying to focus and calm myself (doesn't always work). A friend though starts hyperventilating, then screaming, grabbing other people, and gets very demanding - she is a very quiet person normally; her reactions during panic attacks are completely different than her normal personality. Very probable this woman either had no idea she would react this way or thought she had worked through the problem (there are lots of fear of flying courses/therapy programs out there).

As to the luggage, I don't know about you but if somebody is to the point of screaming "we're all going to die" and forces her way off the plane, then I definitely DON'T want her luggage remaining onboard with me. For an international flight, it would be required to remove her luggage, for a domestic flight it would be the smart thing to do as well.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 11:55 am
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Originally Posted by RTW1 View Post
Just be glad it wasn't you who felt this way....
No kidding. I've had panic attacks and I can't think of many things that are worse. Thankfully it's never happened to me in a metal tube 30,000 feet in the air but that exact scenario is probably one of my greatest fears. I feel for the passengers who were inconvenienced but I feel even worse for the woman.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 12:06 pm
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Originally Posted by wrp96 View Post
As someone who has had panic attacks (not on planes thank goodness), no you can't control how or when you react - my problem spot is heights and I work in a tall building.
I have the same problem re: heights and it took me a long time to get over the fear of flying (I still don't like the 'taking off' experience). Similarly, I can't stand on narrow train platforms so tend to take buses /cabs instead of using underground systems. I've just had to learn from past experience and try and mitigate the risk of a panic attack. Takes me so much longer to get to work as a result.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 12:47 pm
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And planes might be a trigger for some - e.g. let's assume a few years back the women heard her husband died in an accident right before boarding a plane and it created a near phobia for flying.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 12:49 pm
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Originally Posted by ckpeter View Post
I believe that it is a security measure that if the passenger is removed from the flight, so are their luggage.

I don't know what airport PHI is supposed to be (PHL?), but if this was an international flight, there would have been a positive baggage match requirement for flight.
I think that rule has been abolished given that all luggage is (should be) screened before loading. I asked to be offloaded* from a flight from Chicago to Dublin about 18 months ago. My luggage traveled on my original flight and was waiting for me when I arrived the next day.

* We'd sat on the plane (at the gate) on a very hot day for a couple hours without AC, then sat on the tarmac for more than an hour as a severe storm pummeled the area, then spent about an hour taxiing around waiting for a gate so the plane could be inspected because the winds were so strong, then spent time waiting for the mechanics and refueling trucks to arrive. Once I'd sat on the plane for 7 hours without going anywhere, I'd had enough. Another 7 hours on that plane would have caused me to run up and down the aisles screaming.
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Old Feb 11, 13, 1:41 pm
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Im sure the passenger isn't flying anytime soon
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Old Feb 11, 13, 2:12 pm
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Sorry, typo. It was Philly. Maybe the luggage thing was at the request of the pax and not by rules.

I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, because I'm not. Following a serious car accident a few years ago, I also struggled with anxiety attacks for over two years that required medication to get under control. That being said, I also worked over twenty years in the medical field and I can tell you that then, as well as now, anxiety attacks are not considered a medical emergency. Yes, it's something that can seriously suck for the person having it, but there has never been a documented medical case of someone dying from one. Yeah, if you have one and freeze up behind the wheel of your car, you could die in an accident, but the attack itself does not kill. On an enclosed airplane, a passenger spinning out of control could create safety issues for other pax. Maybe that's why the pilot decided to let her off.

Here's a follow up question: What if this woman had demanded to get off 10 minutes after wheels up? Do you turn around, or do you physically restrain her (if necessary) for the duration of the normally scheduled flight?

Last edited by Medic1; Feb 11, 13 at 3:37 pm
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Old Feb 12, 13, 6:51 am
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I was once on a Continental flt. from ORLY (Paris) to Newark, the plane was building up speed on the take-off runway and came to an abrupt stop. There were a few FA's going back to NY but they "suddenly realized" they were needed in Paris. [We got to the gate, they disembarked and we then took off--there was NO delay unloading luggage. Most FA's (know) to have carry-on only.]
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