The birth of a child by a Taiwanese woman aboard a flight to the United States is the latest in a long line of unexpected events aboard commercial airliners featuring the scary, dangerous and just plain bizarre. Here are some of the more noteworthy.
A still unidentified woman forced an emergency landing in Alaska on Oct 8 after giving birth during a flight from Taiwan to Los Angeles. Local media reported that the woman appeared to be seeking to give birth in the US in order to obtain American citizenship for her child and repeatedly asked the cabin crew, “Are we in US air space?” She could now be stuck with a bill of $33,000 for lying to airline staff about how far along her pregnancy was and forcing the plane to divert. The child was granted US citizenship upon landing in Alaska per US law.
A Korean Air flight preparing to depart from New York’s JFK International Airport returned to the gate after an airline executive traveling in first class became enraged after being offered macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a dish. Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of Korean Air’s chairman and one of the richest women in South Korea, had ordered the chief flight attendant off the Dec 5, 2014, flight, winning herself worldwide notoriety and, ultimately, a one-year prison sentence for obstructing flight duties and assault. The incident became a lightning rod for anger in South Korea where the economy is dominated by family-run conglomerates known as chaebol that often lord it over their fellow citizens.
Opening emergency doors
A Chinese woman identified only by her surname, Piao, opened an emergency door on an Asiana Airlines flight on Feb 12, 2015, as the plane was taxiing down the runway in the Chinese city of Yanji, causing the emergency slide to deploy and forcing the aircraft to stop abruptly. The incident led to revelations that Chinese passengers had opened one or more airplane emergency doors without authorization at least 12 times in the first half of 2015 alone, prompting the imposition of harsher penalties. While some of the incidents were dismissed as accidents, others were blamed on passengers venting their frustration over delayed flights or simply trying to exit the plane ahead of the crowd, underscoring ongoing problems with unruly passengers.
Sliding away to glory
In 2010, angry flight attendant Steven Slater cranked open the emergency door on a JetBlue flight that had just landed in New York, exiting via the evacuation slide after announcing over the public address system that he was quitting and grabbing a pair of beers from the refrigerator. While Slater said he had been abused by passengers, those claims were never corroborated and investigators determined that Slater had been drinking and was suffering from stress. Initially cheered as a folk hero, Slater was later criticized for acting recklessly and sentenced to a year of probation for criminal mischief.
Drunken passengers are a common scourge, but business class passenger Gerard B Finneran set a new low with his antics aboard a United Airlines flight from Brazil to New York in 1995. After being reprimanded for helping himself to the airline’s booze, the investment banker reportedly shoved and threatened flight attendants, then rushed into the first class cabin where he dropped his trousers and defecated on a food-service cart. Finneran pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in New York and agreed to pay $50,000 in restitution for the disturbance and the cost of cleaning the airplane.
A 2011 flight from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport was forced to turn around just 15 minutes after takeoff when an apparently drunk passenger began accosting other fliers, removing their glasses and “attempting erotic dances,” according to an airport spokesman. The woman, identified only as a native of the Tatarstan region, was kicked off the flight and taken to a hospital for medical checks. The incident came one year after a flight to the far-eastern Russian city of Vladivostok was forced to land after a young male passenger stripped bare and began running around the aircraft. He was also taken in for medical checks.