If there’s any group of people who have seen and heard everything, it’s flight attendants. Maybe it’s the recycled oxygen, the access to booze, or the cabin pressure, but air passengers say the darnedest things. And they usually say them to flight attendants.
“People don’t have a filter with us,” says veteran flight attendant Emily Witkop. “They have that comfort level with us where they’ll say anything.”
These crazy flight attendant interactions are often funny, but sometimes not so much (in Dubai, a British man recently was convicted of telling an Emirates flight attendant he would chop her into pieces if she didn’t serve him another drink).
Whether rude or outlandish, there’s very little flight attendants haven’t heard. At the risk of forcing them into therapy after accessing a repressed memory, we asked some of our favorite flight attendants to recall the craziest, meanest, or weirdest things ever said to them during a flight.
1. "You obviously don't like going to the gym."
“I’m going to write a [complaint] letter about you! You like to read? Because obviously you don’t like going to the gym.”
Former flight attendant Shawn Kathleen, creator of Passenger Shaming, recalls this bitter response from a male passenger who was mad at her for making him sit down and buckle up while the plane was taking off (because how dare she enforce the rules of every single airline on the planet). “I was upset,” says Shawn Kathleen. “But I didn’t want to give this guy the satisfaction of seeing me upset."
2. "The agent didn't like me because I'm too pretty."
“I’m stuck in coach because the agent didn’t like me because I’m too pretty.”
There are lots of reasons why we may not get our desired upgrade, but this woman blamed the scourge of Flying While Hot. “A blonde girl in her 20s rang her bell, and I could see even before getting to her row that she was angry,” remembers flight attendant “Betty,” an anonymous flight attendant who writes the “ Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant” column in Yahoo Travel. The woman was flying standby on a buddy pass given to her by a pilot friend, who had told her she might get upgraded to first class. And she would have gotten that upgrade, too, the woman reasoned, but for a meddling gate agent with a prejudice against beautiful people. “The agent didn’t like me because I’m too pretty,” the woman railed. “This is bull****! Women hate me because I’m pretty!” Betty says, “I told her it didn’t matter how pretty she was, first class is full.
3. "I want to use my lighter."
“I was … um … using my lighter to see something.”
Shawn Kathleen recalls this dubious excuse offered by a passenger who’d just set off the smoke detector in her plane’s bathroom. As the alarm blared, and with a part of his hair clearly singed, this guy stuck to his story that he was using his Bic for illumination rather than for an illegal cigarette break. “It was a fully lit bathroom,” a suspicious Shawn Kathleen responded.
4. “So am I going to make my connection?”
That same passenger, after Shawn Kathleen and her fellow flight attendants found what had really set off the smoke alarm: the crack pipe the man had been smoking. He didn’t make his connection, but he did have a lengthy layover with the cops.
5. “Do you have children? Would you like some more?”
A flirty cowboy made this unwanted offer to flight attendant Emily Witkop during a flight to Midland, Texas. “I’m busy, but thanks,” was Emily’s reply.
6. “This soup is cold!”
Betty remembers this complaint, lodged by a woman in first class with a “haughty, dismissive voice.” Betty had to tell her that her cold soup was, in fact, yogurt.
7. “You’re a goat!”
Flight attendant Heather Poole had never been insulted in quite this way before. “I’ve been called all kinds of things, good and bad, for things that weren’t even my fault,” Poole says. “But the one that stands out the most was the unaccompanied minor who called me a goat. A GOAT! I was like, “That’s ‘ Mrs.Goat’ to you, dude.”
See more of the crazy things flight attendants hear on duty.
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