10 Ways to Get Kicked Off a Plane

Disobeying a crew member guarantees the heave-ho.

ByColumn by Rick Seaney, CEO of
October 5, 2011, 3:04 PM

Oct. 6, 2011— -- You already know from last week's column that drunks on planes can and do get booted from flights all the time. But what else can get you kicked off? Plenty, as it turns out, from foul odors to foul mouths and even wearing your politics on your sleeve (literally).

But one thing above all guarantees the heave-ho, and that's disobeying a crew member's order; on a plane, their word is law.

"The L Word" actress Leisha Hailey learned this the hard way; sure, the incident began with a kiss between girlfriends, but it was the ensuing argument that led to the women's removal from their Southwest plane. Aside to Ms. Hailey: Southwest isn't always quite so "family friendly," as you'll see in #7.

See Celebrities That Have Been Kicked Off Planes

Let there be no doubt: No one wins an argument with a flight attendant. Not in time for takeoff, anyway. So if you want to make your flight, avoid the following behaviors: the 10 things that could get you kicked off a plane.

For more travelnews and insights view Rick's blog at farecompare.com

10 Things That May Get You Kicked Off a Plane

1. Too Political to Fly?

Avoid in-your-face politics; Lorrie Heasley of Washington was reportedly asked to leave her Southwest flight in 2005 for wearing a T-shirt featuring images of then President Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice along with the legend "Meet the Fockers." Only the spelling of Fockers was a little different, if you get my drift. She was told to either turn the shirt inside-out or leave the plane; she chose the latter.

2. Too Stinky to Fly?

Don't board a plane after a 10-mile run or whatever it is that makes you riper than an old slab of Limburger because raising a stink will get you the boot. It happened last year to a passenger aboard an Air Canada Jazz flight; in the words of a fellow passenger, the fellow's body odor was "brutal." It was all handled discreetly, however, and the unidentified man was allowed to fly out the next day presumably after he'd showered. It wasn't the first "too stinky to fly" incident, either.

In 2006, a German man was booted from his British Airways flight before its Honolulu departure because of his "overpowering stench." We don't know if this was eau de bratwurst or what, but despite his protests he did not fly.

3. Too Sick to Fly?

Flight crews can and do decide if a passenger appears too sick to fly, and we heard about numerous cases of "feverish-looking" people being told to travel another day during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. United Airlines, for instance, dumped a Tampa passenger from its seating chart for appearing to have symptoms of swine flu; later it was learned she'd simply had a bad reaction to her restless-leg medication. By then, of course, she'd missed the plane.

Tip: If you are sick, do not fly. If you don't care about the rest of us, think how miserable you'll feel during that enhanced pat-down.

4. Too Fat to Fly?

I don't have to tell you about movie director Kevin Smith's embarrassing experience on that 2010 Southwest flight (there's that airline again); you've read about it ad nauseam, and it happens to plenty of regular "economy plus" size folks, too. Once in a great while, though, the reverse is also true.

The scene was a Southwest plane in 2010; only this time, according to one newspaper report, it was a "petite passenger" who was asked to leave her seat (and the plane) to make room for a robust teen who needed two of them. We understand the airline felt bad about dumping the "little lady" but didn't want to strand the kid who was traveling by herself, and personally I think they made the right call.

5. Too Foul-Mouthed to Fly?

Mother didn't know what she was talking about with that "sticks and stones can break your bones" business because names can hurt you and if they're curse words, bye-bye plane ride. That's what happened aboard an Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight this past June when passenger Robert Sayegh admitted dropping the F-bomb. The Brooklyn native said he was just doing what comes naturally because, where he comes from, "We curse as adjectives." Sayegh's occupation: children's book author.

6. Too Different to Fly?

Being different can matter, if it makes your fellow flyers "uncomfortable." At least, that was the excuse offered by Atlantic Southeast Airlines in May after it ejected two American Muslim religious leaders who were dressed in traditional garb. The men had been heading to North Carolina for a conference on Islamaphobia.

7. Too Noisy to Fly?

I could list a lot of drunks in this category, but just to be different, I'll talk about an exuberant 2-year-old who happily shouted "go, plane, go!" as he waited for his Southwest jet to take off. Sadly, the youngster had to wait another 24 hours for "go," because he and his mother got the boot. It wasn't so much his zest for travel that led to his expulsion as the fact that he kept loudly repeating his catch-phrase over and over and over. A flight attendant reportedly said that no one could take it. Well, could you?

8. Too Sexy to Fly?

You heard about the 2007 "mini skirt" incident aboard Southwest in which Kyla Ebbert's skimpy hemline was deemed too revealing (and nearly cost her a seat on the plane) but here's a new one from this past July:

It seems a JetBlue employee wasn't sure if passenger Malinda Knowles was wearing anything under her baggy T-shirt (she claims she was asked if she had panties on), so Knowles found herself lifting up her tee to reveal her denim Daisy-Dukes -- you know, short shorts. For some reason, though, the airline still wouldn't let her fly and last we heard, she's suing.

9. Too Princess to Fly?

Here's an odd one: according to a London paper, an entourage of eight people, including "three Arab princesses" were ejected from a British Airways flight in Milan in 2007 because of what might be called a cultural divide: Apparently, the women could not sit next to men they were not related to. However, no one mentioned this until the plane was taxiing on the runway! After a reported three-hour argument over seating arrangements, the captain reputedly told the princesses and pals to take a hike.

10. Too Social to Fly?

What social animals we are! Got to have that Facebook and Twitter, no matter where we are, which can be a problem. Last December, actor Josh "Transformers" Duhamel was found guilty of TOP -- texting on plane -- and given the boot by a US Airways flight attendant. He later said he was sorry (but did he tweet his apology?).

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.

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