The Gift that Keeps on Giving: More Airline Incidents

by  Liz Webber | Dec 14, 2011
Plane / Biletskiy_Evgeniy/iStock

When we set out to document the Top 10 Airline Incidents of 2011, we had no idea some of the biggest newsmakers were still to come.

Obviously, the snafu with the highest exposure and level of absurdity has been Alec Baldwin’s removal from an American Airlines flight last week for refusing to turn off his phone once the cabin door was closed and subsequently slamming a lavatory door. (Hey, Words With Friends is important!) In the aftermath of the incident, Baldwin went on SNL to issue himself an apology (while portraying an AA pilot on the Weekend Update segment). Now American is trying to find a way to cancel “30 Rock” from its in-flight programming line-up. Next up: Airlines ban celebrities altogether!

Though less sordid – but no less bizarre – a pair of firearm flubs earlier this week give new ahem, ammo to gun control advocates. On Monday, TSA screeners found a loaded gun on a 76-year-old man that he claimed he forgot was there. (Is it just me, or if you can’t remember where you put your gun you shouldn’t be allowed to carry one!) A day later, another knucklehead “forgot” he had a loaded gun in his carry-on bag. When a police officer went to empty the weapon, he accidentally shot the screening table, sending a bullet fragment back up towards his face.

Finally, while this may not be as major a fail as other incidents, it certainly has us scratching our heads: The FAA approved iPads for pilot use even during periods when passengers cannot use electronic devices. Now, we’ve long been skeptical of the FAA’s reasoning for forbidding us our technological toys. Can my tiny phone really prevent a jumbo jet from landing correctly? That’s a little too scary to think about. The alternative explanations that are often bandied about don’t seem to justify why electronic devices are a particular target. Some suggest that the ban is it to keep passengers from being distracted during the pre-flight safety spiel, or to keep the phones and e-readers from becoming projectiles if, heaven forbid, there is a problem during take-off or landing. Yet if either were the case, why are we allowed to keep our books and newspapers? I’m pretty sure your copy of War and Peace is going to do far more damage than my iPhone if it comes loose during a bumpy landing.

What else could possibly happen in the last two weeks of the year? Here’s hoping Oprah “forgets” to check her firearm and gets kicked off a Ryanair flight carrying a stowaway cargo of rabid raccoons, while a sleeping air traffic controller causes the pilot to sideswipe an oncoming plane, and the entire U.S. ski team – disguised as little old ladies – gets so upset they pee in the aisle.

Be sure to read our Top 10 Airline Incidents of 2011 for even more air travel mayhem!

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