A Bizarre Experience on American Airlines

Passenger shaming has become a hot topic on social media these days. For those unfamiliar with the term, passenger shaming is when someone snaps a photo or a video of someone doing something outlandish on a plane. We’ve seen countless things go viral in recent years from silly to just plain gross. Things like the emotional support mini horse, a passenger using their feet to change the in-flight entertainment, and the woman who dried her underwear using the overhead vent come to mind.

Let me start out by saying that I’m not a huge fan of passenger shaming. It’s one thing to make a comment or laugh about it later with family and friends. It’s another to plaster an unsuspecting person all over social media. Travel can be an unfamiliar and unsettling experience for a lot of people, so I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. That being said, there are some things that are just common sense.

I recently had an experience on an international flight that came across as…odd. I’ve flown a good bit in my life, from premium cabins to Ryanair. I’d like to think I’ve seen most of the weird passenger behaviors, but this was a first. For the sake of the passenger though, I won’t be sharing any photos or names.

A Normal Start

American Airlines 787-9 in Dallas

A few weeks ago, I was flying premium economy on American from Shanghai to Dallas. It was my first time flying Premium Economy on AA, so I was excited to see what it was like. Things were pretty uneventful to start out. Boarding went as expected and within about 40 minutes, we were pushing back with a full cabin.

We had a pretty lengthy, but uneventful taxi before reaching the runway. However, as the plane turned onto the runway, things just got downright weird. If you’ve flown enough, you know that once the plane turns on the runway, the takeoff roll follows within seconds. Flight attendants are seated and strapped in for takeoff. This is all completely normal. What followed next was not.

Things Get Weird

Seconds before starting our roll down the runway, an elderly woman in the Premium Economy cabin got up and started walking to the restroom. The flight attendants rushed to get her back to her seat while her grandson frantically tried to grab her. At this point, the engines were at full thrust and we had started heading down the runway. A flight attendant was able to get her into her seat and belted just seconds before lift-off.

For the next ten minutes, her grandson kept pointing to the seatbelt sign trying to explain that she couldn’t get up until the light went off. Apparently, she wasn’t having any of it. The language speaker on the flight then came by to explain the same thing. Shortly after, the lead flight attendant came on the PA system to “remind passengers that they need to remain seated while the seatbelt sign is illuminated. Like the captain mentioned, it’s against FAA rules to ignore these instructions.” Hmm… wonder if that could be directed at anyone specific.

At this point, it might not surprise you to hear that that didn’t work either. I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go. The woman’s grandson continued to try to explain the whole seatbelt concept for another five minutes after, continuously point to the seatbelt sign. Finally, the woman won. A flight attendant came by and escorted the woman to the restroom, thus ending the in-flight entertainment.

Final Thoughts

This was definitely one of the more bizarre situations I’d seen unfold on a plane. It’s one thing for a passenger to get up while the plane is taxiing. It’s another to get up during takeoff. I understand that language and infrequency of travel probably had a role to play here, but how many times does someone have to explain something to you before you get it?

Have you ever been on a flight where someone got up during takeoff?

Author: Stephen Hoechst

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5 Comments

  1. Best guess, dementia. The mind is anywhere but here.

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  2. It’s obvious to anyone that has had a parent with dementia, that this is what the situation was. When my mother broke her hip she repeatedly tried to go to the bathroom, how most falls occur, because she didn’t believe she had a broken hip.

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  3. A few weeks ago I was on a flight from ATL to CDG. I had an aisle seat and a woman in her late 20s was seated by the window. She was very friendly, but also quite afraid of flying. As we were just about to land, about a minute before we touched down, she suddenly insisted that she HAD to go to the lavatory and asked me to let her out. I said that she should probably wait til we landed at this point, but she absolutely insisted and crawled over me as we the wheels hit the runway. That was interesting.

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  4. What the heck does any of that have to do with passenger shaming? And what the hell is weird about it? You were in China and have obviously have also traveled in Asia where they frequently disregard rules in situations like this. What a garbage post, you could have framed this so much more interestingly and not come off as a rube.

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    • Thanks for the kind words and reading, Willy.

      Post a Reply

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