Mr. Crazy

April 25, 2013

in Weird People Stories

I was flying back to Boston from a whirlwind week in Southeast Asia for a destination wedding in the Philippines– a four flight journey, including three consecutive nights on airplanes. On my way to the tropical island for the wedding, one of the plane’s two turboprop engines failed (over water) – leading to an emergency landing over an hour and a half from the original airport. I figured since I had survived engine failure, getting back to Boston would be comparatively easy.

Boy was I wrong.

The first two legs of my journey (Boracay to Manila, and Manila to Seoul) went smoothly enough – on the flight to Seoul I even got upgraded to business class for a much-needed powernap full reclined! The third and longest leg (from Seoul to SFO) on Korean Air I expected to be a cinch after some sightseeing in Seoul and a relaxing (free!) shower in Incheon International (travelers to Asia: take note!). I boarded the plane without incident, sitting on the window in coach next to a polite Chinese-American couple.

After liftoff, the gentleman seated on my aisle reclined his seat to settle into the 11 hours to San Francisco. Suddenly, the male passenger behind him violently SLAMS the seat forward. My rowmate tries again – same response, but even more furiously! The man behind us gets up and begins screaming “F— you!” right in my neighbor’s face. Everyone around us is now staring at the altercation unfolding, and the female passenger next to me is visibly scared. Two female flight attendants come over, but every time they try to speak, the agitated passenger screams “NO, F— YOU!” at them, inches from their faces, and hits the overhead compartments and seats around us hard, repeatedly. This goes on for about 5 minutes. Stunningly, an elderly couple (whom I can only assume were relatives) next to the screaming man are calmly watching him, completely unfazed by this. Only one of them (an elderly woman) attempts to have any dialogue with the FAs. I wasn’t able to hear what she said, but at no point did she attempt to calm the crazy guy.

At this point on an American flight, we’d be turning around and heading back to Seoul – I can’t imagine any American airline FAs tolerating crazy, violent behavior. The man refused to sit down for about 10 minutes, yelling obscenities at the crew and other passengers. The FAs disappear for 10 minutes – I am secretly hoping they will relocate all of us, especially as I had spied an empty business class seat – but alas, they come back with two teenage Korean girls to swap seats. The FAs (ever so polite – their professionalism was commendable!) explain to my new seatmates about the situation and they agree not to recline their seats (poor girls!), although they do not escape the ensuing hours of torment. Meanwhile, the man behind mutters to himself, counting four numbers over and over (which continues for hours) peppered with profanities and garbled English. The rest of the flight was a cacophony of random screaming, yelling, muttering, laughing uncontrollably, kicking, and occasionally running around the cabin. Everyone pretends it’s not happening – but definitely kept everyone on edge. I saw few sleeping people around me. Thankfully, a friend from the wedding was also on the flight, away from the melee – we spent quite a bit of time talking to escape Mr. Crazy

It occurred to me this man may very likely have a mental illness – he was even carted off in something like a makeshift straightjacket at the end of the flight. I reserved most of my frustration at his flying companions, who either couldn’t or wouldn’t intervene. Had my seatmates retaliated against the agitated flyer, there very well could have been a physical fight. I’m glad it didn’t come to that, but needless to say the majority of the flight my heart was pounding! I certainly hope the crazy passenger doesn’t have to fly very often – especially transpacific flights – given his distress and the fear invoked in the people around him.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

sports bra lady April 26, 2013 at 1:16 am

Oh, so scary for you and everyone else! Crazy people hone in on me like a heat seeking missile everywhere I go! It is a joke amongst my friends. Had I been there he probably would have jumped up in my lap licked my face or something equally as bizarre! Don't be too hard on his traveling companions, they probably knew how volatile he might get and were as, if not more, scared than everyone else. For that matter the crazy acting man was probably more scared than any of the rest of the passengers. It must be horrible to have to live in his kind of torment.


prp April 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm

OP assumed the elderly couple were travelling with him.
Me..I'm not sure.they were .probably to intimidated to get involved. and just decided to mind their own business. A smart move I think.


Crazytown April 29, 2013 at 8:11 pm

OP here – I'm pretty sure the couple next to the unruly passenger were with him. The man in the aisle with Mr. Crazy accompanied him to the bathroom (I am pretty sure I saw them going in the bathroom together at one point? Not sure how that worked given how tiny the stalls are). The couple also left the airplane with the crazy passenger. Safe to say they were in the same party.


mrsjamiecbaker April 26, 2013 at 8:59 am

I'm shocked that someone behaving in that manner, regardless of whether or not it was the fault of some mental condition, was allowed to remain on the plane without consequence. I've heard of people being detained away from the other passengers for much tamer behavior, so I have to wonder why it wasn't done in his case. How was anyone to know that he wouldn't snap further and harm somebody? I understand policies differ from country to country, but surely there was something better that the airline could have done.


sports bra lady April 29, 2013 at 12:44 am

I do feel for people with mental illness, I truly do. But what I want to know is how do they get all the way through security without any trouble? How do they get through all the hassles, waiting, rudeness and general B.S. without losing it or raising any red flags and actually board the plane? How do they not snap in the wake of all that? Then if they have to sit in the terminal waiting to board for any length of time, do they not exhibit any signs of distress or dementia? If so is this not noticed or called to the attention of any security or airline personnel? If it is noticed or reported does anyone do anything about it? Aren't there supposed to be Air Marshalls that should be trained in spotting suspicious behavior?


Gregg April 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm

For whatever reason, a number of people don't exhibit any unusual behaviors until the plane has taken off. One of the most well known cases involved Gerald Finneran who was a successful president of an investment banking company. He completely lost it during a flight, eventually ending up defecating on top of a food cart. Flights From Hell has a post about it here: Flight Freak Outs.


sports bra lady April 30, 2013 at 2:01 am

Holy cats! Crapped on the service cart and wiped with the cloth napkins, then spread feces throughout the plane! Now that is a full on, total freak out! Maybe it is the altitude that exasperates a person's mental conditions. Whatever the reason it is horrifying for all involved.


Lucy May 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm

There were a few times I kept from going ballistic when IA had a rude passenger's head in my lap… the Airlines should prevent the seats from reclinging into the space of others.. If someones wants to fully recline, then let that person purchase a first calss ticket.


Amber May 20, 2016 at 12:54 pm

On a short domestic flight, reclining is rude, on a long overseas flight reclining is necessary. You all pay the say fares, the airline chooses to give the option of reclining seats and passengers are going to enjoy that option as they see fit. Next time just recline your seat as well.


@RhovanionGirl February 5, 2014 at 1:36 pm

What makes you think the elderly couple were travelling with him and weren't just unfortunate enough to be seated next to him?


Traveler1 December 31, 2015 at 10:18 pm

The passenger sounds schizophrenic. you can't blame his companions for intervening, they probably knew it would only escalate or agitate the man further. Sometimes it's best.


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