Travellers from hell: 8 stories of air rage

People wait inside a flight departure gate holding area at Changi International Airport.
People wait inside a flight departure gate holding area at Changi International Airport. PHOTO: AFP

The number of incidents involving unruly air passengers stood at 10,854 last year, up 17 per cent, the International Air Transport Association said on Wednesday (Sept 28).

The Straits Times takes a look at a few cases of air rage from recent years.

1. HEIRESS GOES NUTS 


Heather Cho Hyun Ah. PHOTO: THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Advocates of a hands-on approach to management probably did not anticipate the actions of Heather Cho Hyun Ah on board a Korean Air (KAL) flight from New York to Seoul in December 2014.

Cho, who was at the time KAL vice-president in charge of in-flight service, became enraged after a flight attendant served her macadamia nuts in a bag when she wanted the nuts on a plate.

She gave the chief steward a tongue-lashing, and forced him to kneel while attacking him with a service manual.

Cho, the KAL chairman's eldest daughter, then ordered the plane to turn back from the runway to the gate, so that she could toss the chief steward out.

Cho eventually received a 10-month suspended sentence and this case prompted South Korea to pass a new law against unruly air passengers. Disturbing the pilot during a flight now carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison or a 50 million won (S$59,400) fine.

2. BOILING MAD 

A Thai AirAsia flight, bound for Nanjing, had to turn back to Bangkok in December 2014 after a passenger flung hot water at a steward.

The Chinese woman was disgruntled at not being given a seat beside one of her travelling companions. Even after other passengers had switched seats, she and her companion ended up exchanging words with each other.

The flight attendant who came to intervene, ended up in the crossfire.

3. BAD HAIR DAY 

A hairstylist was sentenced to five days' jail in August for attacking a flight attendant after a February flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.

The woman became enraged when a crutch fell out of an overhead compartment and landed on her during disembarkation at Changi Airport.

She began declaring that "the cabin crew would answer for this", and blocked other passengers leaving the aircraft before punching a stewardess once on the cheek and once on the shoulder.

4. "WORST PASSENGER" GROUNDED 

A Briton en route from Dubai to Birmingham ended up with a 11-month jail term, after going berserk on an Emirates flight in September 2014.

The 46-year-old became aggressive after he had too much to drink and cabin crew would not serve him more liquor.

 

He threatened a stewardess with physical violence and harassed her by publicly fondling his genitals.

He also damaged the plane's in-flight entertainment system to the tune of £2,500 (S$5,300), unleashed a racist diatribe against Muslims, and bit a police officer while in the police car.

One steward called the man "the worst passenger he had ever encountered".

5. ENRAGED MOTHER 

A passenger on a Cathay Pacific flight from Dubai to Hong Kong lost her temper when she found out that her children's meals had not been pre-prepared.

She threw a fit at the cabin crew - and then pitched orange juice at a flight attendant.

The woman was arrested for common assault when the plane landed in Hong Kong.

6. FIRST-CLASS FISTICUFFS 

After boarding a Chinese domestic flight in June, two men decided that they would rather fly first-class, despite having bought economy-class tickets.

So they headed for the first-class area on the flight and refused to budge.

They also turned down a flight attendant's request to top up the price difference in cash, and punched her instead.

The two men never got off the ground.

Taiyuan police escorted them off the plane, which was headed from Taiyuan to Chongqing.

7. UNWANTED SIDE-EFFECTS 

An American Airlines flight attendant, who had a pre-existing psychiatric condition, attacked fellow crew members and US air marshals on both legs of a flight between Frankfurt and the US city of Charlotte last November.

Other flight attendants had previously raised concerns about her health, but the airline did not take her off the flight.

She faced federal charges for kicking and shoving marshals after hitting her co-workers, and could have been handed a sentence of more than 25 years in prison and a US$500,000 (S$682,000) fine.

It was later established that the flight attendant had a bad reaction to her prescription medication, and a judge found her not guilty by reason of insanity.

8. DRINKING BUDDIES FIGHT 

In July, a Jetstar flight from Sydney to Phuket had to be diverted to Bali after six Australian men fought. They had been travelling together when drink got the better of them.

The men ducked criminal charges in Indonesia but were sent back to Australia on fresh Jetstar flights.

They have since been banned from flying on Jetstar and Qantas.