Nursing Home In The Sky

October 3, 2007

in Senior Stories

In the high-flying, heady days of the Internet, I was working at a firm in Boston, MA and was attending a conference in San Jose, CA. I was flying back to Boston on a flight with one stop in Denver.

The flight to Denver was uneventful, but there we picked up a large group of elderly passengers who were traveling with caregivers. Getting these folks settled was difficult, and some of them were in the early stages of dementia, as they clearly didn’t know why they were on a plane. After MANY demands from the flight crew to sit down and buckle their seat belts, we finally were able to take off.

This leg of the flight was a nightmare. I was seated mid-cabin, near the center lavatories. As soon as the Fasten Seat Belts light was off, the migration of the elderly to the restrooms began. Some people used walkers, some canes, some refuse to be assisted to the restroom, only to call the Flight Attendant to help them clean themselves. The most difficult cases wore adult diapers that needed to be changed, and the caregivers needed to help them. This meant that the door to the lavatory had to remain open. Several people fell either on their way to the lavatory or back to their seat. Throughout the flight, I could hear many of them moaning, groaning, burping, slurping, etc.

Finally, we approached Boston’s Logan airport. Again, the flight crew had to work hard to get these passengers in their seats and prepared for landing. The nervous twitters of pre-landing died down and I breathed a sigh of relief that I would soon be off the plane. Looking out of the window, I could see the tops of houses.

Then the Call Flight Attendant button was pushed behind me. A Flight Attendant came over the intercom and explained that we would be landing shortly. The button was pushed again. And again. And again. An agitated flight attendant came from behind me and began speaking with a woman. The woman explained that her husband had to use the restroom. NOW. The attendant explained that he couldn’t get up from his seat. I looked down to see the tops of the houses and I could almost read the license plates of the cars parked in the driveways.

And then the man let go. Not number one. And he wasn’t wearing a diaper.

The stench was unbearable. People began to vomit – loudly. The man in the soiled pants began to cry, the woman with him began to sob.

We landed. Then we taxied. Then we stopped. The Flight Attendants were on the intercom begging for calm and for people to remain in their seats. Those of us closest to the scene ignored them and moved to the front of the plane.

We were trapped on the plane for nearly 20 minutes waiting for a gate before we finally got off the plane.

I, and others, went to the gate agent to complain to the airline. We were basically told to choose another airline if we were disappointed with the service.

I never found out why those people were flying to Boston, but it must have been as bad a flight for them as it was for us.

Signed, No Flight of Fancy

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Shakinthefat October 14, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Try buying a 1st Class seat, they don't let "Old" people up there.


Mike R. December 15, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Dear Shakinthefat,

If you have the money for a First Class Ticket, you get one. There are no age restrictions, they can be sued for what you suggest. True you don't see many other than execs flying up front. But, that doesn't serve as any basis for your invalid advice.

Your advice of course is free so……

Mike R.


Michael January 22, 2009 at 8:35 am

Shakinthefat was making a joke – read his/her other posts. He/She is scolding the complainer for events that can't be controlled.


Belleweather April 2, 2009 at 10:59 am

Unless you're planning to do away with yerself, you're gonna be old one day, too. So tattoo instructions for them to put you in a closet where you won't disgust any first-class human beings.

I'm not saying that the flight was pleasant for anyone. But I don't know why you'd post it here looking for sympathy, like you were so put upon.



Max Power April 2, 2009 at 11:00 am

What was the basis of the complaint? That a guy shit his pants? That the airline didn't want to risk what might happen if one of these fragile people gets up and uses the bathroom during the turbulent landing procedure?


Liz April 2, 2009 at 11:24 am

Laughing out loud – your recount is hysterical. What a dreadful, dreadful experience. I may never fly again. Gag me.


Liz April 2, 2009 at 11:27 am

People, this site IS called "flights from hell" after all–jiminy christmas, lighten up!

So many crusaders! It's starting to get really, really boring.


Countrygirl April 2, 2009 at 11:44 am

If Southwest can stop a passenger that has had one to many beers from boarding a flight claiming that he/she may not be safe on board, why can't they insist that all passengers be in physical conditon to navigate the aircraft safely, and this should include the ability to use the lav unattended.


Matt April 2, 2009 at 2:10 pm

I work in the medical field and encounter elderly people all the time. Yes, some of them have issues. Some of the issues are unpleasant for the rest of us. That being said, most of them are good people and have no intention to harm or inconvenience anyone else.

We'll all be there one day. Of course, if you know you have an issue like loss of bowel or bladder control, you need to either wear a diaper or travel by another method, too.


Andrea September 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Agreed…on all counts. Certainly not a pleasant flight but we need to have some compassion. My only concern in a situation like this is safety in the event of an evacuation…just how is everyone going to get off that plane in time if there is an emergency involving fire? I think I'd want to make sure and be IN the exit row on that flight, or at most one row away–that is one traffic jam I would never want to be stuck in!


NomdeVoyage August 15, 2013 at 2:30 am

I agree – It should be a rule in the industry : If one is so young, so old, or otherwise incapacitated that there is a better-than-average chance defecation could occur – They haven't any business in such an intensive, enclosed atmosphere, and should choose a more suitable mode of transport. Or don't go.


CC April 2, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Haha.. thanks for the story. Sounds awful.


jag April 2, 2009 at 4:27 pm

I'm debating whether we should a) KILL THE OLD BASTARDS. b) prohibit them from airplanes c)place them in cargo d) all the above. Does this bitch think she's never going to get old or subsribes to the Greek adage, die young and have a beautiful corpse. Do her parents know she hates old people? d) all the above.


Big D April 2, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Those elderly were wiping your shitty ass when your were a baby, and smelling your nasty shit stained drawers. It’s now your turn.


Nita April 2, 2009 at 7:28 pm

How sad and humiliating for that couple. Any of you who feel differently will learn by example one day. That's karma for ya.


Collin April 2, 2009 at 7:53 pm

They were on their way to: 1. An 'Oops I crapped my pants' convention. 2. The 'happy trails' assisted suicide living center.

I think it is time for that old man to 'go to sleep'.


Annie April 2, 2009 at 10:01 pm

That poor couple!


MJ April 3, 2009 at 3:48 pm

This sounds fake.

Even if it's real, how exactly is this the airline's fault? Poor guy probably should have been wearing an adult diaper if he couldn't hold it for 20 minutes.


AL April 5, 2009 at 6:17 am

That poor old man! I feel worse for him than for the rest of you, I would still barf but I would feel sorry for the old guy who was aware enough to be humiliated.


TB April 5, 2009 at 12:26 pm

You sound like a bitch. I hope your sphincter loses all control when you are old. Keep riding a bike without a seat.


DRS April 5, 2009 at 11:22 pm

I agree that the poster is cruel and hearless. It might not be pleasant when the guy lets fly in his pants, but it's certainly not the fault of the airline for not letting him totter about during the landing. After all, this could have consequences much worse than an offense to your virgin nose.

It's sad when things happen to people that they cannot control and embarrassing for them. No, it wasn't a bed of roses for you, but you should respond with more charity in your heart.


Curtis April 9, 2009 at 9:16 am

The site is called Flights from hell. This sounded like a Flight from Hell, this story completly belongs here.


Mike April 10, 2009 at 10:14 am

"Those elderly were wiping your shitty ass when your were a baby, and smelling your nasty shit stained drawers. It's now your turn."

No, it isn't. All those, "Have some charity" in your heart types can all piss off (pardon the pun). Frankly, ticketing and boarding a bunch of dementia-riddled seniors with bowel issues shouldn't be tolerated by anyone. Why on earth are they even on a plane? A Depends Convention or something? Paying passengers have just as much right to be unassaulted by poop, children screaming, and all these other events as the alleged right claimed by all you do-gooders to have anyone and everyone gain access to "public" transportation. How am I getting what I paid for if crap is literally being thrown at me? I'm not saying the old guy that crapped himself is a bad person, but neither is someone not wishing to have to deal with it, either.


Demotage April 19, 2009 at 6:16 pm

you know what? When you buy and airline ticket, you have the "right" to be delivered safely from point A to point B. You do not have the "right" to be free from interacting with the travelling public. Grow up.


Anonymous May 21, 2009 at 7:30 pm

well said demotage.

besides, this was a flight from hell for everyone. at least, the poster was able to walk away and wasn't left in tears and humiliation.

btw, transport regs say they can't land unless everyone is in their seats. that means no washroom.


Atari May 30, 2009 at 10:10 pm


If by "So many crusaders," you mean, 'obnoxious people complaining about the fact that people are complaining about their flights on a website DEDICATED TO COMPLAINING ABOUT THEIR FLIGHTS,' then I agree.

It's getting really bloody trite having to hear people complaining that people are doing what the site is made for.


the dominator July 23, 2009 at 4:33 pm

wow, this holier than thou super preachy jerk demotage is at it again. bashing people who complain about loud annoying kids to people who complain about old farts who shit themselves.

hey buddy, people have a right to complain and i too would complain if something that awful happend to me.

don't like it? tough shit!

this person had every right to complain about how awful an experience and i applaud them for doing so.


Isolda August 6, 2009 at 7:59 am

This story is really chilling because it could happen to just about anyone, even though it is more common in elderly people. I'm sure if the guy knew he had a bowel problem, he would have worn a diaper, but anyone could develop bad diarrhea quite suddenly, even if everything usually functions right, and I'm guessing that's probably what happened here.

I feel bad for everyone on that plane. Witnessing humiliation can be pretty awful, too.


Alex August 17, 2009 at 8:27 am

If it's anyone's "fault," it's the caregivers who didn't prepare their patients for the flight. The poor old bastards have dementia, what are they going to do? In fact, where the hell WERE the caregivers, anyway? It sounds like they just kicked back and let the flight attendants deal with all the ruckus.

It obviously sounds like a flight from hell, but the OP should be blaming his fellow passengers for causing it, not the airline. If there's anyone I really feel sorry for it's the flight attendants.


20lorraine June 15, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Graphic and full of drama but to complain to the airline ???

What do you expect airlines to do, run an age and health check (physical and mental) on every passenger that boards ? How are they to blame for this poor soul who lost control of his bowels ? It's terrifically sad. There but for the Grace of God go you or one of your parents. Have some compassion and pity.


Eloise August 16, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Since when did it become a flight attendants duty to wipe an old persons ass?


R "Bob" McRobert October 20, 2019 at 7:57 pm

They should be doing something.


College Kid November 3, 2010 at 9:19 am

All old people should be killed off at 85, period

there is no reason to live longer than that


rerere November 3, 2010 at 11:00 am

Take your hate and trolling elsewhere. Good day to you sir.


Thi Halpern January 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm

College Kid, not all disabled people are 85 years or older. Many disabled people are in their teens, 20s, 30s, or even younger. Imagine that.


Thi Halpern January 2, 2013 at 3:42 pm

While you were in a difficult situation, this is probably something that as a fellow human being living in society (not living in isolation) you're going to have to deal with. Have you been a caregiver to someone who has dementia, or someone who is unable to take care of their physical needs, etc.? I have. I took care of a woman who could not feed herself, could not move her body properly, and could not bathe or brush her teeth. When these people need to go far distances, they take the plane just like everyone else does. It's unfortunate that any of us can lose physical or mental capacity, but it is real. Short of banning these kinds of people from the airplane–something that is not advisable and immoral–there isn't much you can do about it.


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