Flight Attendants Share Horror Stories About Nightmare Passengers

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Last week a passenger aboard an EVA Air flight forced a female flight attendant to remove his pants so he could use the bathroom, then coerced her into wiping his bottom. At first, she demurred, but his complaints began to affect other passengers. Eventually, she put on three pairs of surgical gloves and complied.

When it was over, she went into another bathroom, vomited and cried.

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According to two veteran flight attendants, abusive behavior toward them is not as unusual as you would hope. Getty

This may seem like a bizarre one-off incident, but is the abuse of flight attendants really that uncommon? According to two veteran flight attendants, it's not as unusual as you would hope.

"I remember being told in my initial flight-attendant training that passengers leave their brains at home," said Dan Air, the nom de plume of a flight attendant who's worked for a major British airline for over 14 years. "My trainees and I giggled and thought no more of it, but once we gained our wings it didn't take long to realize that there's NOTHING our beloved passengers won't do when traveling. We have literally seen it all."

Air, who runs the site Confessions of a Trolley Dolly, recalls one time a few years ago when a female passenger asked him for an enema. "I told her that, unfortunately, we didn't have any on board. She replied, 'Oh that's okay, I've brought my own.' She wanted me to give her the enema." (He didn't comply). Another passenger on a flight to Manchester changed her tampon while sitting in her seat. "She had no shame or dignity," says Air. "She then proceeded to hand over the used one to the crew as if it were an empty crisp packet."

Heather Poole, author of Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crash Pads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet, has worked as an American Airlines flight attendant for 21 years, and has seen her share of foul behavior from passengers. "People will hand you dirty diapers or bags of vomit without telling you what it is," she says. "There's nothing quite like walking through the aisle and having a passenger hand you something warm and squishy and OHMYGOD."

While some hideous behavior is done while sober, most incidents can be directly tied to the amount of alcohol a passenger has consumed.

Some hideous behavior were done while sober, but most incidents could be directly tied to the amount of alcohol a passenger has consumed. Universal Pictures

"The worst behavior I have witnessed personally onboard a flight has to involve passengers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sadly here in the U.K. it's becoming a very common occurrence," Air said. "Passengers under the influence can also be very abusive towards crew. I have been verbally attacked on numerous occasions and know many flight attendants who have also been physically attacked."

Just before Christmas, a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Dallas was diverted after a passenger drank an entire bottle of Bacardi rum he'd brought on board with him and became aggressive and abusive. When flight attendants tried to diffuse the situation, the passenger, 21-year-old Jeffrey Libby began "scratching and striking them and even biting one of the passenger's fingers."

Libby was arrested after the flight returned to London and, last week, was fined $125 and sentenced to six months in jail.

According to a 2017 BBC report, one in five British cabin crew members say they've suffered physical abuse at the hands of travelers.

"People just see us as barmaids in the sky…. They would touch your breasts, or they'd touch your bum or your legs," Former Virgin crew manager Ally Murphy told the BBC. I've had hands going up my skirt before." After 14 years on the job, Murphy quit in 2017.

Poole recalled the time a man "who probably had one too many drinks" kept reaching into a cart full of dirty meal trays to eat food off of the plates. She's lucky—it could have been messier.

"I remember being in the rear galley one morning when a passenger pressed the call bell," recalls Dan Air. "As I approached the seat row I was immediately struck by an overpowering smell of vomit. When I arrived, the passenger who had pressed the call light was in the window seat pointing to the passenger in the aisle seat. He was sitting with his head on the tray table, which was covered in vomit. My initial reaction was concern for the passenger, thinking that he was unwell. But it quickly turned to anger when I began to ask him some questions and he proceeded to tell me to 'f**k off.' It turned out he had been on a weekend away with his friends and had somewhat overindulged."

Air asked the young man to clean himself up in the bathroom, but he was too far gone to move. "All we could do was move the poor passengers seated around them and give the guy some wipes and tell himself to clean himself up. He didn't of course."

Why do flight attendants put up with such abuse? "Because I love my job," says Poole.

So the next time you ask a flight attendant for extra pillows or a new headset, remember to ask nicely. They have to put up with a lot more than most of us ever would—all day, every day.