Got through check-in smoothly? Check. Breezed through airport security? Check. Guaranteed to be sipping Pina Coladas by the beach in no time? Not necessarily. There are certain behaviors that turn you into a nightmare passenger when flying. So if you can help it, you may want to curb them once you get on board as there’s a good chance that you could get taken off the plane.
For the respect of your fellow travelers and the crew on board, it’s always wise to follow simple codes of conduct when flying, like keeping your feet in your shoes or keeping quiet about trivial complaints and annoyances until you land. In some cases, of course, passengers may not be deliberately disobeying air travel rules but may be removed from the plane anyway for the purposes of health and safety.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to research your airline’s restrictions beforehand to avoid disappointment such as weight limits or whether the plane can guarantee a nut-free environment for those with severe allergies. As for the rest of you, good plane etiquette is just good common sense—don’t yell at the crew, don’t get hammered, and definitely don’t try to bring a snake on the plane! Here are the top 20 reasons why you could be kicked off your next flight...
20 Turning Up
Air travel is one of the few modes of transportation where drinking alcohol is pretty common. Enjoying a little tipple on a flight can be relaxing for many flyers. And whether it’s 8 o’clock in the evening or 8 am, flight attendants will usually be on hand to serve you drinks without judgment. Like most things, though, drinking on a plane should only be done in moderation and when passengers go beyond their limit and then some, this can start to cause problems.
We’re naturally less aware of ourselves when we’re three sheets to the wind. And while it might be tolerable to be near this person in a bar or club, it’s certainly no fun when you’re up 35,000 ft with no immediate escape. In one especially weird case of drunk flying on a flight to Scotland, one woman attacked a flight attendant with her own prosthetic leg while intoxicated, so no, getting hammered on a plane never ends well!
19 Wearing Overly Provocative Clothing
It’s one thing to dress minimally in prep for your holiday, but boarding the plane wearing next to nothing will see you quickly de-boarding again. Many women in particular have been turned away from a flight for wearing mini skirts and short shorts. In July of 2011, a Jetblue passenger was barred from a flight since her long shirt and Daisy Dukes combo made it look like she was wearing a night dress.
Dressing provocatively isn't just about revealing too much skin. It also goes for wearing something overly political or in-your-face too such as clothing emblazoned with offensive language or overly political sentiment. If nothing else, it could cause offense or stir up conflict with another passenger on board, and this could mean a half hour of mediating an argument for one poor flight attendant. So, it's best to save the hot pants and aggressive tees for another time.
18 Going Barefoot
So you’re gearing up for your vacay and want to kick off your heels in celebration? Well, kindly don’t. For one thing, it’s a good idea to keep your shoes on in case of an emergency and the cabin crew needs all passengers to move quickly. But as this rarely happens, you should always keep your tootsies covered up for an equally important second reason: feet smell. Sharing a pressurized steel tube with circulated air for 4 hours quickly becomes quite hellish when someone introduces foot odor into the mix.
Not only do bare feet make for an unpleasant smell on the plane, but they can also have a way of invading our personal space (which most passengers don’t have much of, to begin with!). You’ll have probably seen the social media posts of feet creeping into view and resting on someone else’s armchair in front? In a word, gross.
17 Using A Knee Defender
it’s a fact universally known that leg room is not the best when you travel by plane, especially if you fly in economy class. But, most of us learn to grin and bear it for the duration of the flight or upgrade to better seating if we’re traveling for longer periods. Each passenger has the right to recline their seat if they choose to, but some disgruntled passengers are making sure this doesn’t happen, with the use of a ‘knee defender’ gadget.
Nope, this isn’t a pair of knee pads you’d wear for soccer, but a device that can be attached to the tray table in front of you on a plane to make sure your fellow passenger in front can’t lie back. When a male passenger tried this on a flight from Newark to Denver in 2014, the disruption to the female flyer in front caused the plane to be diverted to Chicago to let the guy (and his sneaky legroom gadget) off board.
16 Bringing A Musical Instrument On Board
As a general rule, large objects are usually not cool to bring on to a flight with you—fishing rods, surfboards, javelins, etc. Basically, things that have no use until you actually get to your destination and could potentially cause someone injury on the way. Unfortunately, the same also goes for musical instruments that could be considered too large for a flight. For example, a guitar? Yes. A harp or a cello? No chance.
If you’re the official harpist for a friend’s wedding or are meeting up with your steel drum band overseas, don't panic as you’ll still be allowed to travel with a large instrument as long as it’s in the cargo hold and not as part of your carry-on, since you will be left entertaining travelers back at the airport.
15 Tweeting Negatively About The Airline
It seems that venting your opinions on social media is no longer the harmless or funny pastime it used to be because one false move–or in this instance, one false tweet–could actually result in you being banned from catching your flight particularly if you happen to curse its name like one guy did. In July of 2014, ticket holder Duff Watson argued with a gate agent about pre-boarding the flight with his kids. When he was refused, he wasted no time in tweeting about the “rudest agent” in Denver and even used the staff member’s first name and initials.
Dumb move. The agent saw the tweet and told Watson to delete the tweet or else he would not be allowed to board. As with calling out your boss or your workplace in a rant-filled tweet, posting your frustrations about the airline you’re planning to travel with probably isn’t the smartest idea, especially before you’ve even left the airport. #Notworthit #Breathe
14 Smelling Too Pungent
Navigating your way through a stuffy airport terminal is bound to make any passenger feel sweaty and gross, but there are natural pheromones and then there’s the pungent smell of body odor filling the cabin. Unfortunately, the latter will see you taken off the flight (if enough people complain). Airlines don’t expect their passengers to smell of roses, but the minimum you should do on the day you travel is take a shower or at least freshen up in the restroom before you board.
And by ‘freshen up’, we don’t mean drowning yourself in the duty-free perfume or aftershave you picked up to disguise the smell, as this will probably get you the same result. One passenger to be kicked off for his overpowering scent was a German man departing for Hawaii. Fellow passengers had noted his funky stench, and before long, the crew on British Airways politely told him he wouldn’t be flying today.
13 Complaining About A Crying Baby
We’ve all been there—about to settle down for a long flight by catching up on some important work or grabbing some shut-eye when a baby starts crying in a way that makes us wish we had a magic mute button. We all know that the sound of a baby’s endless cries is unpleasant, but guess what? It’s natural and, most of the time, can’t be helped. However, this doesn’t stop some obnoxious passengers from throwing a tantrum of their own in a fruitless bid to fix it.
In some cases, people have complained about the mere idea of being seated next to a mother and baby, whether they were crying or not, and if they persist with their complaint, you better believe they’re catching a different flight. Earlier this year, in fact, a woman was removed from a Delta Airlines flight after screaming and cursing at a mother and her 8-month-old son (who was making no noise). The incident was filmed and went viral, which also caused her to lose her job!
12 Having A Nut Allergy
Unlike most of the reasons for being kicked off a flight, this is perhaps the most serious and justified reasoning there is. Though it can be frustrating to be turned away from any fight, passengers with allergies must understand that airlines take their health and well-being extremely seriously. And if that means banning them from a flight, then they won’t hesitate to do so.
The main allergy that airlines have to deal with on a regular basis is unsurprisingly passengers who are moderately and severely allergic to nuts, since this is usually the plane snack food of choice, and there can never be a guarantee that a fellow passenger won’t have snuck a packet of their own with them. One angry mother was booted off an Emirates flight because of her son’s life-threatening nut allergy, but in the pilot’s defense, he didn't wish to have "a death on his flight" or on his conscience, presumably.
11 Being Overly Disruptive
Flights can be nerve-wracking enough for some people without sharing a cabin with someone yelling the entire time, so it’s no surprise that deliberate troublemakers will get a plane grounded faster than a teenager on their third strike. We get that planes can disappoint sometimes, but unless your issue is life-threatening, it’s probably not worth the aggravation to scream about the in-flight meal at the top of your lungs.
Case in point, one woman flying from New York to San Diego in 2013 was enraged to learn that her fellow passenger had been given a free upgrade (when she paid an extra $65 for hers). The plane was diverted to Denver after hours of shouting matches between her and the flight crew, proving that, however frustrated you might be, you should probably wait 'til you land to complain directly to the airline.
10 Taking Snakes On The Plane
Sharing a plane with slithering serpents might be something Samuel L Jackson can handle in a cheesy blockbuster flick, but they’re not okay in reality even if there only happens to be one. Back in 2013, a Qantas flight from Sydney to Tokyo had the entire plane freaked out and evacuated after a Mandarin rat snake was discovered on board. Yikes!
In this particular instance, nobody brought the snake on board, so if you were planning to deliberately bring your slithering pal with you in your holdall, say goodbye to your flight (and possibly your freedom for a while) as being in possession of one could get you arrested too. As long as owners have the right paperwork, lots of animals are actually permitted on board, but if your ‘emotional support’ creature happens to be of the windy slithering variety, good luck trying to fly.
9 Joining The ‘Club’
Indulging in a bit of high altitude fun with your partner might sound like a steamy idea, but it might kill the romance a little when you’re both caught and asked to leave the plane on the next stopover. Despite how much movies and music videos might romanticize the idea of joining the mile-high club, this doesn’t actually happen as often as you might think, and the act itself is not technically illegal.
Still, don’t take this as a green light for attempting to join the club on your next flight, as even though the airline won’t be able to take any legal action (in the States at least), you will likely face an embarrassing lecture from the flight crew and be asked to de-board at the nearest airport. Hubba hubba.
8 Using Your Phone During Takeoff/Landing
Whether you’ve only flown once or you’re a veteran flyer, you’ll be aware that this is plane safety 101. Using your phone or most electronic devices while the plane is in the process of either taking off or landing is strictly prohibited, and if you’re the kind of passenger who will insist on using yours regardless, then you could be kicked off the flight.
In recent years, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has begun to relax its laws on the use of personal electronics on a flight, but using cellphones is a big no-no since they emit strong electromagnetic radiation that may affect a plane’s navigation system. Even celebs have been guilty of this and faced the consequences. Alec Baldwin was booted off a flight from LAX in 2011 when he refused to turn off his phone and even hid in the bathroom to play a gaming app during take-off. Not cool.
7 Being Excessively Overweight
It’s a touchy subject for flight crew members to address, but in certain cases, a particularly heavy passenger may not be able to fly. As embarrassing as it might sound at first, airlines are only wishing to put the passenger’s safety first, and if they can’t be seated comfortably on the aircraft, then it’s neither pleasant for the traveler nor the people in their row.
So how do you know if you’re too far on the large side to be able to fly safely? Well, most airlines will usually stipulate that a passenger may not be able to fly with them if they are “unable to sit in an airplane seat with the seatbelt fastened.” In certain circumstances, some airlines have shown extra kindness and understanding. In 2010, a petite woman on a Southwest flight was asked to give up her seat so that an overweight teen traveling on his own could use both.
6 If You Appear Too Sick
There might be times when you travel feeling less than your best, and despite all your efforts to perk yourself up, your airline could ultimately decide how sick you are and may not allow you on board. To make things more comfortable for yourself and your fellow passengers, it’s best to avoid traveling when you’re ill with the flu or something. You can always get another flight out, but you can’t guarantee that people on board won’t catch it too.
Removing ill-looking passengers happens more often than you think, and it’s especially common during some of the biggest worldwide scares of recent years, such as the H1N1 or “swine flu” pandemic in 2009. Because a passenger on a United Airlines flight had shown similar symptoms to the swine flu that year, she was promptly ordered off the plane to avoid any risks of infection.
5 Disobeying Crew Instructions
This is a pretty quick way to not only piss off the flight crew but to also get you hauled off the plane if, when prompted, you refuse to follow the basic rules of plane safety. Veteran flyers may zone out when the flight attendants launch into their pre-flight safety demonstration before take-off, but even longtime flyers listened to them once, so it’s important that you pay attention since you’ll never know when you need it.
It’s in the job description of a flight attendant to cater to the needs of each passenger and assist them in any way they can, but if you’re the kind of passenger who needs to be asked five times to buckle up their seatbelt before takeoff or sit down, you could be seen as being disruptive and that'll get you kicked off pronto.
4 Improperly Transporting Ashes
While this may sound like a cruel reason to deny you boarding under the circumstances, airlines have pretty strict rules when it comes to what you can and can’t bring on to the plane with you and especially how you choose to bring certain items on board. As carry-on luggage goes, human ashes aren’t such an uncommon thing, but before you decide to bring some with you, just make sure you’re aware of the safe transportation rules to avoid any further upset.
First of all, most airlines will state that if you’re flying with either human or animal ashes, you must ensure that you have a copy of the death certificate with you. Secondly, you should make sure that the ashes are packaged in a secure airtight container and the airline may get to decide how appropriately ‘air-tight’ your urn of choice is. After all, you don’t want a beloved pet or family member accidentally scattered across seat 42B.
3 Complaining About The In-Flight Movie
If you complain about something enough (even an incredibly trivial matter) it can potentially get you taken off a plane. Take the in-flight movie for instance. The movie choices may not be your favorite or may not be the most up-to-date flicks you were hoping to see, but at the end of the day, the airline is in charge of the entertainment options on board. The flight crew won’t be the ones behind the decision to show a certain film either, so yelling at them will get you nowhere other than out of the plane.
One incident back in 2013 saw a couple chucked off a United Airlines flight to Denver because of an argument about the in-flight movie. The flight had screened the PG-13 action movie Alex Cross which featured mild s*x and violence references, but the parents complained that this was inappropriate viewing for the 8 and 4-year-old kids. After arguing back and forth with the crew and even asking to speak to the captain, the family got their wish of no in-flight movie because they were eventually sent packing.
2 If The Flight Is Overbooked
One of the most infuriating realities about flying is the fact that airlines can overbook your flight, leaving you with no other option but to take the next available flight (no matter how early you arrived at the airport). Airlines often oversell their tickets to anticipate no-show passengers and ensure that each flight will be as full as possible. And even as you’re seated on board, some airlines can decide to de-board certain passengers based on how urgent their flight is or the cost of their ticket.
As recent events have shown, this can take a particularly ugly turn sometimes and passengers can be ‘involuntarily deboarded’. The most shocking example of this happened in April of 2017, when a man was dragged violently from his seat on a United Airlines plane in Chicago. Passengers caught the incident on video and it has since made airlines and passengers question how overbooking could be better handled.
1 Cursing Loudly (And Frequently)
If you want to keep your plane seat, take our advice and watch that potty mouth once you’re on board. If you realize you left something behind on your dresser that morning, then a quiet curse to yourself is fine, but we’re talking about passengers who like to turn the air blue with their repeated cursing (especially if it's loud enough for the entire cabin to hear!).
While on board an Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight, Brooklyn man Robert Sayegh was overheard dropping the F-bomb more than a few times in a conversation with his fellow passenger. Unfortunately, the airline didn’t look too kindly upon it and the guy was actually escorted off the plane by police at Detroit’s Metro Airport! Sayegh later defended his actions by admitting to being hungover, so knowing the air safety rules about drinking, he may have been kicked off anyway.