Published June 22, 2017
In early April, United Airlines sparked widespread outrage after forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked flight. Footage from the incident showed security officers ripping the man from his seat, slamming his head against an armrest, and dragging him from the aircraft.
The incident has since sparked backlash against the airline on social media, both for the way the security officials conducted the passenger's removal and for United CEO Oscar Munoz’s subsequent response in a company-wide email, in which he seemed to defend the airline’s actions.
“This situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help,” Munoz wrote before explaining that “employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this.”
Munoz has since apologized, and the passenger, David Dao, has reportedly settled with the airline for an undisclosed amount, but the controversy surrounding the airlines and their ability to keep passengers safe is still a major talking point.
And while United’s latest debacle involves some unprecdented circumstances, it certainly wasn't the first time — or the last — that shocking incidents involving passengers aboard planes have been caught on camera.
Here’s five of the most intense instances in recent memory:
1. Woman dragged off Delta flight for skipping check-in
In December, police at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport were forced to remove a woman from her flight to San Diego, Calif., for failing to comply with proper boarding procedures. According to a witness, the woman didn’t bother to check in with gate agents before boarding the aircraft and later refused to leave. Officers eventually dragged her off of the plane by her wrists.
2. Loud boombox leads to brawl on Spirit Airlines flight
Intoxicated passengers on a Spirit Airlines flight from Baltimore, Md., to Los Angeles sparked an all-out rumble in March 2016. According to a spokesman for Spirit, two intoxicated women were listening to their boom box a little too loudly for a couple of fellow passengers, who asked them to turn down the music. They refused and began taunting their fellow passengers by “holding up their boom box in the air.” Things soon got physical, as three other women approached the intoxicated passengers and began pulling hair and throwing punches.
3. Icelandair passengers duct-tape a man to his seat
In January of 2013, a 46-year-old man was duct-taped to his seat by fellow passengers after he reportedly tried to choke a woman in a drunken rage. Passengers aboard the Icelandair flight from Reykjavik, Iceland, to New York City said the man had also been spitting on people and screaming that the plane was going to crash. The man was taken into custody upon landing, but ultimately wasn’t prosecuted because his fellow passengers never came forward to discuss the incident.
4. Fistfight breaks out on All Nippon Airways
In early May, two passengers on an All Nippon Airways flight from Japan to Los Angeles began throwing fists just moments before takeoff. It's not exactly clear what started the altercation, but the airline believed one of the men to be drunk. When the intoxicated man was asked to deplane, All Nippon Airways said he resisted and hit a female passenger. And later, once back in the airport, he reportedly tried to strangle an ANA employee. He was arrested and charged with assault.
5. Couple arrested for getting “aggressive” on Delta flight
In December, a Delta flight headed for Los Angeles was forced to turn around and return to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in order to boot a woman and her boyfriend. According to a witness, the two reportedly “became aggressive” after the woman tried to use the bathroom during takeoff. Upon landing back at MSP, police tried to escort the couple from the plane, but they when the boyfriend took a swing at a passenger on the way down the aisle, officers were forced to restrain the couple. The couple was later charged with disorderly conduct.
6. Richard Marx helps subdue man on Korean Air flight
Also in December, “Right Here Waiting” singer Richard Marx reportedly helped subdue a violent passenger on a Korea Air flight from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Seoul, South Korea. According to Marx and his wife, TV personality Daisy Fuentes, the man became violent and started attacking the female flight attendants, who were “clueless and not trained” in how to subdue the man. Marx then says he and a few other passengers stepped in to restrain the man, tying him to his seat until the plane touched down in Seoul.
7. Delta pilot gets involved on a jetway brawl
After two women began to brawl on a Delta jetway in April, one of the plane's pilots stepped in to defuse the situation — and he ended up getting involved. In the video, the pilot allegedly appeared to slap one of the women on her wrist after telling her to "knock it off." A representative for Delta confirmed to TMZ that the pilot had initially been suspended after the incident, but that he'd "been returned to work" shortly thereafter, as Delta determined that his actions "deescalated" the situation.