Flight Freak Outs

February 28, 2010

in Non-Stories

What is it about flying that makes seemingly normal people go bonkers? There are countless news stories, including some on our site, about passengers who turn belligerent, become violent, or commit bizarre acts. Transgressions aren’t limited solely to passengers. Recently a Delta flight was canceled because two female flight attendants reportedly got into a fistfight, and even pilots have gotten into physical altercations.

One of the most notorious cases occurred on a United Airlines flight from Buenos Aires to New York in 1995. According to accounts, Gerald Finneran, who was a successful president of an investment banking company, a former Citicorp and Drexel Burnham Lambert executive, and a member of the Air Force Academy’s first graduating class, became intoxicated during a flight. When he was refused any more beverages, he decided to help himself. After being told to stop, he became abusive, threatening a FA, delaying a FA from helping a sick passenger, and pushing a FA. Finneran’s grand finale was to defecate on a food cart in the first class section in front of passengers and crew. He used linen napkins as toilet paper, wiped his hands on service counters and service implements, and tracked feces throughout the plane. One of the passengers on the flight was the president of Portugal.

Finneran was arrested when the plane landed in New York. His ignominious actions attracted widespread media attention, including being the subject of a David Letteman Top Ten List. Finneran plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge. He was sentenced to probation and fined $5,000 dollars. He was also ordered to serve community service and 2 years probation, attend alcohol counseling, not drink alcohol on flights, and pay $50,000 for airplane clean-up costs plus reimbursement of passenger’s ticket costs. Mr. Finneran died at the age of 67 in 2005 from, according to his obituary, complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Click here for the actual complaint filed in federal court for the Finneran case, and here for a description of outrageous airplane incidents including Finneran’s.

What do you think causes normally respectable people to become berserk on planes? Is it the altitude, alcohol, stresses associated with air travel, fear of flying, confinement, latent mental instability, or something else?

ps February 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Easy- Yet another WallStreet self important shmuck. Too bad more aren't in is same situation. I'm also sure this WallStreet scum turned a nice crispy brown on his descent.. Citi? Drexel? Yeah, a guy of utmost integrity. Rot in hell.

Jody March 1, 2010 at 1:55 am

Why do I think bozos like this guy go berzerk? They can't have things *their* way and throw a little kid-type temper tantrum. These guys need to learn to grow up and realize the world doesn't revolve around them.

the logger March 1, 2010 at 4:30 am

Why do folks go insane on planes:

Let's see:

1)Two people working at check in, processing 200+ passengers, or kiosks that do not work.

2) TSA moron smurfs who scream at you, treat gramma like a terrorista,

and force you to shuffle shoeless (soon to be underwearless) like a bunch of refugees through inmate processing. Osama would walk through unhindered if he was wearing bermuda shorts and headed to nazi-world in Orlando.

3) Underpaid, passive aggressive GA's that will deliberately steer you wrong at every opportunity.

4) Sitting on the tarmac for hrs. w/no information, food, water or toilets.

5) A stinky porker for a seatmate, dressed in a tanktop with tufts of matted hair protruding who waddles to his seat, sits on you and proceeds to comsume a bag of Fatsoburgers.

6) A screaming brat seat kicker w/a perent in denial or on prozac.

Who wouldn't snap?

ps March 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm

yeah but the story was from was 15 years ago in the high rent district of the people carrier. Even United had good Business Class amenities and service all those years ago. And I knew the subject of the story. And I truly hope he is rotting in hell.

Aaron March 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

Given the airlines and their employees tend to act like they have no morals or compassion, why should the folks being lied to, herded like cattle, bumped off a flight booked 4 months ago because it's over sold, etc., behave like their delighted with the service.

Jason March 8, 2010 at 8:02 am

Or, in this case, given that he died of it ten years later, it could be that he had early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Kad March 14, 2010 at 9:52 am

maybe so Jason. Or maybe karma really is a force to be reckoned with.

Maggie May 15, 2015 at 9:16 pm

I don't think they have the air flow/oxygen levels right yet on planes.

imperfectworld75 December 2, 2016 at 11:53 pm

My local oldies station did a "Knuckleheads In The News" segment twenty-some years ago (and still does to this day), and this was one of the stories. Finneran was said to have "vigorously denied the charges". The DJ's response was priceless: "HOW can you deny the charges?! Either you crapped in a service cart, or you DIDN'T." He mentioned that some passengers' felt that the incident was better than the in-flight movie.

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