Last week, in preparation for Halloween, the Well-Mannered Traveler column was filled with scary travel stories “ripped from the headlines.” Unfortunately, there was no room for the unnerving story about the pilot sidelined by United Airlines for failing a breathalyzer test just before joining a crew flying from London to San Francisco. Or for the saga of the inebriated passenger who earlier this month tried to hijack a Turkish Airlines flight with what turned out to be an imaginary bomb.
There’s still no room here for those stories.
You see, this week’s column is devoted to spooky stories sent in by readers. Because there were so many stories to choose from, I asked Gregg Rottler, captain of the scary-all-the-time Flights from Hell Web site, to help me choose the kookiest and most unpredictable tales to share. Here’s what we came up with:
Trick or treat?
To start things off on a light note, Kevin-665253 shared this “not creepy, but certainly crazy, and very funny” story about a classic and very Halloween-worthy trick he watched a group of college kids play on other travelers while waiting out a long flight delay at Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport:
“They tied some fishing line to a $10 bill and tossed it out in the middle of the concourse. Of course, numerous passers-by attempted to retrieve it and chased it all over the concourse as it got tugged away by the invisible string: business men in suits, women in dresses, kids, older folks; the lot of them. Certainly not the most original joke in the world, but it kept the entire gate howling for hours. It even got so everyone in the gate area would get really quiet until the next victim came along, at which time the fun would begin anew.”
Terrifying in any language
Lee Miller wrote to tell about a flight that went very wrong for at least one passenger:
“... [W]e were moving down the runway, taking off, [and] had just started to gain speed [when] a woman got out of her seat and was running toward the front, yelling something at the top of her lungs. The flight attendants tackled her and the pilot aborted the takeoff using maximum brakes and thrust reversers. Then a voice from the cockpit asked, ‘Can anybody translate Italian?’ We went back to the gate and she was escorted off ... but we all wondered if she knew something we all didn't know.”
First-class cabin; last-class manners
J. Burman’s family is still talking about a flight they took home on a 747 from Hawaii back in 1973. They’d upgraded to first class and were delighted to have the cozy cabin pretty much to themselves, save for “an elderly couple several rows behind us and a drunk man stretched out in his own row at the very front.” But somewhere over the Pacific, writes Burman, “the drunk rolled to his side and we heard the sound of water hitting the carpet. ... Apparently, he'd been too drunk to get up and go to the bathroom so he just unzipped and relieved himself there on the floor!”
Another “sauced and scary” first-class cabin story rolled in from Peter Keller, who writes, “We were sitting in the back of the first-class cabin on our way home to NYC, and sitting across the isle was what appeared to be a comatose passenger. That was until the plane took off. Once we got off the ground he perked up, found the mike to plane’s PA system ... and announced to all aboard ... ‘This is your captain, we've lost all engines, please prepare for crash landing. ...’ The good news was that most of us in first class knew what was going on. But the rest of the passengers had years taken off their lives from the thought of hurdling earthward vertically and ending up as a lawn dart in the backyard of someone’s house in Arizona ... ”
Dressed for success?
FormerFieldServiceEng is still concerned about the fate of a fellow passenger from a flight on which “soon after takeoff, we dropped about 700 feet in an ‘air pocket’ ... [T]he flight attendant who was holding a flat tray filled with cups of soda and juice was now weightless and unable to control the tray. He attempted to fling the tray back into the galley but hit the only passenger on that side of the plane, dousing him with all the contents. That young passenger was on his way to a job interview and not carrying any change of clothing. I still wonder about that interviewee and the story he told the prospective company ...”
Scary, but with a sweet ending
Our favorite story comes from Kommonsense, who told of being on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles and noticing “about an hour and a half into the flight ... that we were still flying [with] the nose of the plane higher than the back of the plane, like when you are climbing ...” The flight attendant insisted that everything was completely normal but, Kommonsense reports, “Finally the pilot announced, ‘Awhile back we lost an engine. Don't be alarmed, but they are foaming the runway for our arrival. The flight attendants will be bringing free ice cream sundaes for everyone.’ I guess they thought impending death would be easier to take over an ice cream sundae. Needless to say, we landed safely, but that last hour was very scary.”
Thanks, everyone for sharing your stories. Here’s hoping you have a well-mannered and not-too-scary Halloween. Try not to eat all the candy before the Trick-or-Treaters get there. But if you do, consider serving up some ice-cream sundaes.
Harriet Baskas writes msnbc.com's popular weekly column, The Well-Mannered Traveler. She is the author of the “Stuck at the Airport” blog, a contributor to National Public Radio and a columnist for USATODAY.com.
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