There are certain behaviours that seem like obvious no-nos when flying: boarding a flight barefoot, showing up intoxicated, not wearing a mask, and threatening the safety of a flight. But chances are, you never thought working on a maths problem or bringing a birthday cake on board could result in you getting the boot. The reality is that there’s plenty of grey area in an airline’s contract of carriage, including the right for a flight crew to kick you off the plane if they find you to be “uncooperative” or a threat to the “safety of other passengers or the crew.” These broad definitions have led to some truly bizarre (and often unreasonable) instances of people getting kicked off planes. By Evie Carrick
If you have an upcoming flight that you really can’t miss (or simply want to be entertained by some real-life in-flight horror stories), it might pay to read up on some of the truly unusual reasons people have gotten kicked off planes.
All three major U.S. airlines — American, United, and Delta — note in their contract of carriage that people who have an offensive odour can be asked to get off a flight. According to Delta, you may be kicked off a plane if your “hygiene or odour creates an unreasonable risk of offence or annoyance to other passengers.” As you’d imagine, what constitutes a scent that is offensive or annoying to other passengers isn’t easily determined.
Weighing Too Much
A man on a 2016 United Airlines flight from Las Vegas to New Jersey was kicked off the plane because of his weight. The passenger, Errol Narvaez, was assigned a new seat after boarding, even though he paid for a pre-board ticket. Then, Narvaez’s new seat-mate said something to a flight attendant, resulting in the flight supervisor asking Narvaez to get off the aircraft. A spokesperson for United Airlines told HuffPost that they have a right to remove people who can’t safely fit in their seat, adding that Narvaez was removed “for the safety and comfort” of other people on the flight.
Kissing Your Girlfriend
The L Word actress Leisha Hailey and her girlfriend were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight in 2011 for kissing. According to the actress and her girlfriend, who released a statement through their band, Uh Huh Her, “It was one, modest kiss.” In response, Southwest released a statement, saying, “Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterising the behaviour as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behaviour and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.”
Bringing a Birthday Cake On Board
A family flying from New York to Las Vegas for a birthday celebration brought along a birthday cake — not knowing that it would lead to their expulsion from a JetBlue flight. When a flight attendant asked that they move the cake out of the overhead compartment and set it under the seat in front of them, the family complied, but then a second flight attendant intervened, confronting the first attendant.
The JetBlue customer, Cameron Burke, told ABC7 News after the 2017 event that, “She was pointing to her, ‘Did you tell him he couldn’t put anything in the overhead compartment?’ I had approached them, and I said everything was fine, and she said, ‘Sir, this does not involve you.’ When she told me I had been non-compliant, then I said ‘Ma’am, had you been drinking?’ Because her behaviour was not normal.”
Eventually, the Port Authority Police Department was called, the entire aircraft de-planed, and the Burke family was not permitted to fly.
Wearing Sagging Pants
Wearing sagging pants may sound like an absurd reason to get booted off a flight, but it was a reality for Billie Joe Armstrong, guitarist for the punk band Green Day. On a 2011 Southwest flight from Oakland to Burbank, California, a flight attendant asked Armstrong to pull up his pants. He responded by saying that she should worry about more important things. In response, Armstrong was kicked off the flight.
Earlier that same year, college football player Deshon Marman was removed from a U.S. Airways flight for refusing to pull up his pyjama bottoms.
Having a Bathroom Emergency
A man on a Delta Air Lines flight was forced to get off the plane after he got up to use the bathroom while the aircraft sat on the runway. According to ABC News, Kima Hamilton asked a flight attendant if he could use the bathroom, and was told no. He waited another 30 minutes while the plane was delayed on the tarmac, before finally getting up to use the restroom. After returning to his seat, a Delta employee kicked him off the plane, even as Hamilton explained it had been a bathroom emergency.
On an American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse, Guido Menzio, an Ivy League economist, was reported to the crew for scribbling in his notepad. According to The Washington Post, Menzio’s seat-mate couldn’t figure out what he was writing, so she reported him to the flight’s staff. As a result, Menzio was asked to leave the plane for questioning where it was discovered that he was an economist and that his “scribblings” were just advanced maths equations.
Showing Too Much Skin
All the major U.S. airlines have a policy around passenger dress — specifically against clothing that is “lewd, obscene, or offensive,” according to United. As a result, there have been instances of people being kicked off the plane for wearing clothing deemed to be inappropriate. In 2016, a JetBlue passenger was removed from the plane for wearing short shorts, and in 2017, a controversy broke out between a woman who claimed she was booted off a Spirit Airlines flight for showing too much cleavage while the airline said it was because she was intoxicated.