This year may go down as the year service animals finally got a little too extra. Though we’d tolerated dogs, cats, and even the occasional mini-horse onboard planes to help keep people sane, this year’s abundance of ridiculous emotional support animals culminated with Delta banning them on long-haul flights and Popeyes offering emotional support fried chicken. But ridiculous animals weren’t the only crazy travel stories to emerge from 2018. There was also a human heart erroneously left on a plane, human ashes all over Disneyland, a flight attendant suspended after he was videoed with a porn star in a lavatory, and other airborne insanity. Crazy a year as it’s been, here are our picks for the 18 wildest travel stories of 2018.
In January, Norwegian Airlines saw fit to pull a mid-air U-turn on a flight from Oslo to Munich because a toilet was broken. The kicker: The plane held 85 plumbers who could have easily fixed the problem midair if fixing it didn’t involve stepping outside the aircraft. After deciding that sending a plumber outside at 30,000 feet was a bit risky, pilots returned to Oslo. The toilet was repaired quickly and arrived in Munch three hours late.
Give Lanice Powless credit: She never tried to pass Cassie, her pink betta fish, off as an emotional support fish. But when Southwest Airlines told her she couldn’t board her flight from Denver home to California with her pet, she was left no choice but to give the fish a tearful goodbye. That is, until Cassie was found by an airport employee, who turned it into lost and found. There, fellow employees kept Cassie as their temporary pet until Powless returned home, going so far as to tweet a “letter” from Cassie saying, “Everyone has been really nice to me.”
Being overly-litigious isn’t just for Americans anymore! Stephen Prosser — who stands all of 5’3” — was seated next to a man weighing over 300 pounds on a 12-hour British Airways flight from Bangkok to London. Though he complained to the flight crew that he was being effectively smooshed beyond recognition by his rowmate, the crew informed him the plane had no empty seats. After the half-day ordeal, Prosser claims he was left with back spasms and a pelvic injury, unable to work overtime at his job, losing interest in his romantic partner, and forced to give up mountain biking. For this seeming complete destruction of his life, Prosser sued BA for the epic sum of $12,000.
Adult film star Austin Wolf — often known for tweeting his videotaped escapades out to the Twitterverse — engaged in a little lavatory loving with an off-duty Delta flight attendant in October. The video went viral, and despite the FA not consenting to the recording, he was immediately suspended from duty pending an investigation. Though not on duty, the flight attendant was in uniform, and when Delta learned of the incident it immediately issued a statement saying, “This video does not reflect the standards of professionalism expected of our employees.” Twitter, after repeated requests, took the tweet down.
If you’ve ever met a Disney-obsessed individual, you know they’re a special breed of human that lives and dies with the mouse. Sometimes literally. This year, several Disney employees disclosed to the Wall Street Journal that Disneyland and Walt Disney World frequently have to close popular attractions for “technical difficulties,” which actually means they are vacuuming up the fine ashes of people whose families have spread their ashes inside. Though the practice, like anything eccentric, is strictly against park rules, families are not deterred using everything from pill bottles to makeup compacts. One longtime custodian told WSJ, “The Haunted Mansion probably has so much human ashes in it that it’s not even funny.”
We know that doing a little exercise on a long-haul flight is crucially important in maintaining circulation and staving off deep vein thrombosis. What is not crucially important is grabbing onto the overhead bins and doing pull-ups while verbally berating other passengers and anyone else who asks you to stop. We’d like to imagine the man who did this on an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to Boston did so with a Boston-proud Southie accent, until the pilot effectively said, “We get it, bro. You’re yoked,” and made an emergency landing in Kansas City so the man could be escorted off.
A big part of why 2018 may be the beginning of the end for emotional support animals was Cindy Torok. She delayed a Frontier Airlines flight from Orlando to Cleveland nearly two hours when she was removed after boarding the plane with her emotional support squirrel, Daisy. When the flight crew discovered the emotional support animal, they politely asked her to deplane. When she refused, Orlando police were called and yet another “Florida Woman” story was etched in history.
Another big contributor to the support animal tipping point was the emotional support peacock one United Airlines passenger tried to bring onboard in January in Newark. Though the passenger had purchased a ticket for the peacock, he was not allowed onboard per airline and FAA policy. And probably because he couldn’t produce photo ID at TSA.
Trained service dogs are among the most disciplined animals on the planet, but sometimes even they get sick — as was evidenced in November when poor Matthew Meehan of Bay City, Michigan, stepped in a pile of leftover feces from a dog on his flight from Atlanta to Miami; it was also on his seat. Flight attendants handed him a couple of paper towels and a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, though it’s unclear if the gin was meant for cleaning or coping. Delta apologized, claimed it was from an incident with an “ill service animal” from a previous flight, and gave Meehan a full refund and “additional compensation.”
People sometimes complain that flight attendants aren’t as polite as they used to be, but Philippine Airlines’ Patrisha Organo did enough good for the entire industry in November. When she heard a baby screeching on her flight, she approached the mother and learned she had run out of formula. Either out of compassion or consideration for the planeload of people who’d have to listen to said starving baby, she took mother and child to a secluded section of the plane and breastfed the baby herself. Her Facebook post about the event was shared 35,000 times and received 145,000 likes.
When quirky Southwest Airlines announced, “Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, we have a heart left onboard that needs to be returned to Seattle,” one might have thought it was another classic Southwest story leading to an in-flight proposal. Not so in December when Southwest realized it had an actual human heart mistakenly left onboard, meant for use in a Seattle-area hospital. Unfortunately, the arriving flight to Sea-Tac had failed to unload the heart, and as the plane was on its way to Dallas, the airline realized the heart was onboard and turned around. It ultimately arrived at the hospital 12 hours before it would have expired, though it had no specific recipient.
We all get a little antsy when we put our phones, wallets, and jewelry in the TSA X-ray tray, hoping some unscrupulous individual who gets to the other end first doesn’t swipe them before we get body-scanned. Those fears were realized this December in Rome when a passenger was spotted stealing envelopes full of cash from the security line. He hid in the bathroom with the estimated $9,000, where he was cornered and arrested by Polizia di Stato, an Italian national police force. They returned the money to its owner and per Italian custom wisely didn’t ask why they were traveling with envelopes full of $9,000 in cash.
Nick Burchill, like many of us, wasn’t aware what pepperoni can do to a seagull. He learned this lesson the hard way back in 2001 when he left an entire suitcase of Brothers Pepperoni open in his room at the Fairmont Empress hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. Lacking an in-room fridge, he also left his window open so the cool Canadian air would chill his cured meat. What he didn’t realize was they he’d return to over 40 seagulls in the room, their digestive systems demolished by the pepperoni they’d found, completely destroying the room. Burchill was banned from the Empress for life. He wrote a polite letter asking for reinstatement this year and his request was granted, which Burchill credits to the Brothers Pepperoni he sent as a bribe.
Imagine this: You show up for your morning commute in Paris, look up at the train schedule, and see your train is delayed due to an “unexpected baby.” This is what happened in June when a Paris woman went into labor and, after several fellow passengers ignored her, was helped through delivery by a couple of good Samaritans. The train was delayed 45 minutes — with the reason listed on the schedule screen — and the child has been given free rides until age 25.
The friends we make on cruises are, more often than not, lost as soon as we leave the gangplank, which is part of the appeal of the floating city vacation. But 19-year-old Brianna Cry saw it differently. After making what she described as “basically best friends for that night” on a cruise to Hawaii in 2006, she posted a picture of them on Twitter in November asking her followers to find her long lost pal. It took all over 11 hours for the picture to find Heidi Tran, who tweeted back, “Heard you were looking for me,” with a family photo from the cruise.
Firing it up early for your buddy’s stag party in Ibiza is nothing to be ashamed of. Neither is dragging a blow-up doll along with you on your flight. However, when you and your inflatable friend drink so much you begin screaming profanity and getting unruly with fellow passengers, well, then it’s time to go. Which is what happened on a Jet2 flight from Belfast to Ibiza in June, when the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in France so the man and his plastic pal could be removed. The flight was delayed three hours, not exactly what one expects when boarding a flight set to leave just after 7:00 AM.
There are always “those guys” on a cruise ship who seem to wake up six shots deep and aside from embarrassing themselves are generally harmless. Then there was the September voyage of Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas from Sydney, where 1,300 Indian tobacco company employees took over the family-friendly ship, complete with scantily clad ‘burlesque” dancers. Families hid inside while the men raged for the week, filming unwitting female passengers with their phones and leaving their stateroom doors open intentionally. Royal Caribbean announced after the cruise they would offer full refunds to all offended passengers.
You really can learn anything online, just ask Tia Freeman. As she arrived in Istanbul for a 17-hour layover en route to Germany, she began going into labor while waiting in line at customs and immigration, a pain she attributed to a bad in-flight meal. Once at her hotel, she realized this was much more than some bad chicken, got in the bathtub, and pulled up a YouTube video on how to deliver a baby. Using her online education, she birthed the kid in the tub, cleaned up the room, and went to sleep. After some serious interrogation from Turkish officials at the airport, who wondered why she was leaving the country with an infant she didn’t have when she got there, Freeman was taken to the US consulate and given a birth certificate. The pair returned home with the most unusual birthing story of the year.