Worst Airline Blunders of 2011
When you’re flying millions of people around the world, some things are bound to go wrong.
“I had to fight to keep my eyes open” are words you never want to hear from your
pilot. But two British pilots were so fatigued earlier this year that they
admitted to falling asleep—on the same plane. Thankfully, autopilot kicked in.
Flight delays and lack of legroom are still cause for airline complaints, but passengers are just as
concerned about being treated professionally. In fact, fellow airline employees
should be worried as well: a Southwest pilot ran afoul in March when his
cockpit rant against colleagues who were too gay, too heavy, and too old was
broadcast to air traffic control.
Passengers have also been singled out in public—and refused boarding—for their weight, and
even fashion choices are at the root of a few recent high-profile incidents. One
woman’s too-short shorts caught the attention of a JetBlue employee who
allegedly asked her to prove that she was wearing underwear.
Other blunders result not from what airline employees say, but what they fail to do. Kosher
passengers traveling from Tel Aviv to London were unpleasantly surprised to
find bacon baguettes and ham melts on board. EasyJet staff apparently forgot to
stock the plane with pork-free products. And this after launching a special
kosher menu just four months earlier.
While no one wants to be disrespected, errors that put travelers at risk certainly rank
more seriously on the scale of blunders. Still, as alarming as it is to hear
about a drowsy pilot, these incidents are also quite rare—in fact, air travel
becomes safer every year.
Of course, passengers have their own part to play in keeping air travel civil and
safe. Consider the recent flare-up with Alec Baldwin, who was kicked off an
American Airlines flight after he allegedly refused to quit playing Words With
Friends on his cell phone and throwing a tantrum. Or the case of Gerard
Depardieu, who was told to wait until takeoff to use the toilet, but urinated
in the CityJet cabin instead (he claims he was aiming for a bottle)—another incident
in a long tradition of celebrity air rage.
While this plane-as-bathroom trend hopefully won’t stick, passengers and airlines are
likely to continue to make mistakes and make headlines for them.