9 Wackiest Moments of Summer 2013 Airline Travel

PHOTO: cigarette, smoking, airplane, travel

Seventy-six years ago this summer, beloved aviator Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific into the land of legend. To mark the occasion, a tweet from @UnitedAirlanes: "Today only, get 80 percent off on Earhart-class tickets - cheap, direct international flights consumed by the infinite ocean and never seen again."

Your first clue that something is rotten in Twitterland is the spelling of "Airlanes." United was not happy with the parody account but others found the tweets irresistible.

Another sample: "This is your captain reminding you to fasten your seat belts; we may experience some mild turbulence as we surf this sweet tornado hell yeah" (and see the end of this column for an update).

It has been that kind of summer: Some laughs, some outrage, even some sex and violence. A few heartwarming moments, too, and all are included in the following nine wacky moments of summer travel.

For more travel news and insights, view Rick's blog at farecompare.com

1. Good Samaritan of Samsonites

This one's my favorite. A fellow on Reddit explained that he was at the Tampa airport paying his bag fee when his credit card was declined. As he wondered what to do next, he was handed a note saying, "Your bag fee's on me." There was no request for future reimbursement from this anonymous fellow traveler, just a suggestion that he "pay it forward" next chance he gets.

2. The Determined Smoker

In July, a man decided to have a cigarette. Only one problem: He was on a plane. No big deal, he figured, I'll just go to the smoking area. Outside. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't get the door of his American Airlines plane to open, but that pilot had enough and diverted the plane to ditch the smoker. Next day, the guy's on an American Eagle flight and tries the same thing! Diverted flight, take two.

3. Frisky Fliers

In June, a couple of seatmates on a 90-minute Allegiant flight from Medford, Ore., to Las Vegas decided to get friendly. Let's just say, very friendly. In fact, they got friendly twice with a brief timeout for the drink and snack service. Nearby passengers were not amused and a flight attendant ordered an end to the budding romance. Criminal misdemeanor charges were filed late last week against the daring duo.

4. Air Rage Violence

Delays at Chinese airports have gotten so bad this summer that passenger air rage stories have become common. There have been incidents of chair throwing at gates, travelers punching flight crews and, in one instance, angry travelers stormed a runway. It has gotten so bad that airline employees are taking self-defense classes and we've heard of flight attendants praying to "gods of punctuality." That's one way to handle it. Another is to get the planes to fly on time.

5. Arizona Heat

Passengers said they had some big problems aboard an Allegiant flight in July: Their plane was stuck on the tarmac in Phoenix in 100-plus temperatures with little or no air conditioning for two hours. One mother awaiting the plane's arrival in Oakland reportedly received the following text from her trapped-on-the-tarmac daughter: "Remember if I die, donate my organs." Don't worry, all lived to tell the tale.

6. Alleged Crash Thieves

An ugly incident in the wake of July's deadly Asiana crash-landing in San Francisco occurred when a United customer service representative (and his wife) were accused of stealing luggage in the hectic days after the disaster. Both have pleaded not guilty. A few days after the incident, a former United baggage handler was convicted of an earlier case of looting passenger luggage at SFO.

7. Airline Employees With a Heart

I hope this never happens to you but if you ever have a death in the family and need to change non-refundable plane tickets at the last minute, brace yourself. The reservation agent will likely be sympathetic, then hit you with a big, fat change fee. Except once in a blue moon, as travel writer Christopher Elliott reported. He recently wrote about a compassionate United employee who not only waived the fee but didn't even request proof of emergency. If you think such kindness is a once-in-a-blue moon event, this actually happened twice and the second airline employee even sent a sympathy card.

8. Stolen Laptop and Freedom

Passengers on Southwest's scary nose-first landing at LaGuardia in July had to exit the plane without their luggage and when website creator and blogger Nick Bradbury's family was finally reunited with their bags, Bradbury's MacBook was missing. The good news was, Southwest quickly sent off a reimbursement check (along with other freebies) but Bradbury describes the best news: "In the end we had a fantastic week in New York together, which ironically is due in part to my not having a laptop to distract me." I know exactly how he feels.

9. Tweeting for Laughs

Got a kick out of a recent Delta tweet channeling the one and only Sir Mix-A-Lot. It included a picture of a Boeing plane -- featuring the "rear" of the aircraft -- with the description, "Baby got back! We like big jets and we cannot lie, this 737 is ready to fly."

Not all airlines have the same sense of humor, though. The parody Twitter account mentioned at the start of this column? It has been suspended.

The opinions expressed by Rick Seaney are his alone and not those of ABC News.

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