Airports aren’t the best place for humor or any sort of fun. In fact, it’s a serious building with serious security. But that doesn’t mean that things always go smoothly. In fact, the airport is one place you can count on to see something weird, hilarious or frightening, and sometimes they all happen on the same day- and no one knows it better than the people who work there.
Today, we’re going to get into some stories that show just how crazy an airport can get. From finding dead bodies to women chanting at airplanes with souls, these people have seen it all, and more. If you’d like to understand some of the funniest, scariest and weirdest things that airport staff have seen, keep reading.
40. Flop, I’m OK
Several years ago at Pittsburgh International, it was 3:00 am when I saw an older woman tumble down the “up” escalator.
Every time she flipped over, she yelled, “I’m Ok,” like Filburt from Rocko’s Modern Life. Flop, I’m OK. Flop, I’m OK. Flop, I’m OK. She rolled in place for maybe a minute before someone shut the thing off.
39. The Purplish-Red Patches
This happened sometime in the late ’70s. We noticed a patch of purplish-red on the marble floor near the check-in queue. Thinking someone spilled their red wine on the floor, a cleaner comes over and clears it up. About half an hour later, there’s another pool of purplish-red. A different cleaner comes along, clears it up. Eventually, the original cleaner comes back, notices the same pool he cleared up already is back. He looks up. There’s an air vent dripping. Maybe it’s air conditioning coolant or something? He reports it to his supervisor. Nothing happens for a day or two and they just keep mopping up this coolant.
Eventually, they send an air-con tech into the roof. He comes back down the ladder, white as a sheet. It’s a body. It turns out someone had tried to break past security by climbing through the air ducts, took a wrong turn in the dark, and fell 30 feet into a fan mechanism drop.
38. Dead or Not, You’re Paying for a Ticket
There was a lady about mid to late ’50s about to board with four big suitcases. This was a time when you would normally bring up to two suitcases or 23kg (per person). When I noticed it, I told the lady that she would have to pay for the extra two suitcases.
The lady nonchalantly says, “Oh, my husband is the one carrying those.” So I asked about her husband and again, completely relaxed and in a natural voice, she points at the plane and answers “That’s him in the coffin.” After that, I apologized and let the lady board.
37. Humping the Baggage
I used to work refueling planes. Most days during lunch, I would sit in the airport and just watch people. Anyway, a cart with a bunch of baggage rolls by and the bag on the end falls off without anyone but me noticing.
After some time, the security was notified of the unknown bag- taking all precautions, they bring in the sniffing dog to check it out. The dog sniffs it for a second and then all of a sudden begins to dry-hump the bag. This was all before 9/11.
36. She Wants to Fly the Plane to China
I worked at a corporate aircraft maintenance place, and we had a situation where this crazy woman somehow got out onto the secured ramp area. By the time one of our line service guys saw her, she had the main entry door opened up on a Global XRS aircraft.
When he pulled up, she looked at him and asked if he could help her get her bags on-board. When he told her he couldn’t, she told him she was going to fly the plane to China and didn’t want to be late. After that occurrence, the security at our airport became insane.
35. The Device That Will Make You “Blind”
One day, I was doing a bag check on a strange dense metal item. It was a woman and her son and the item was some weird piece of metal. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t dangerous. Anyway, she saw what it was and yelled at her son, “Don’t look or you’ll go blind!” She then whispered to me that it was her Kegel exerciser.
I re-ran the bag through the x-ray so the operator could see what it looked like without the item in the bag and he said, “What the hell was that?!” I told him and he had no idea what Kegels were and why someone would need to exercise them. I gave her the bag and tried not to die laughing because of her sheltered child.
34. A Child in the Suitcase
I worked as a TSA a few years ago. I’m sure there are hundreds of stories of adult toys and other gross stuff, but the weirdest was a suitcase with a child in it.
The child was about two years old, and the parents did not want to pay for another ticket. They were stopped at the gate, though.
33. Her Soul is Still Connected to the Flight
I was working as a contractor in the planning department of a large commercial airport. This airport has a park between the runways that people go to, to sit and watch planes. I decided to take my two young boys out there one evening because they liked watching the planes take off and land. It started getting dark and I saw a lady stand up and put her arms up and start making howling sounds. At first, I didn’t know what she was doing or where the sound was coming from, but I heard it again and realized it was her and she might be a little crazy. This continues for a few minutes and I decide to leave. Meanwhile, she was still standing there, arms up, howling at the planes taking off.
A week or so later, I had to ride around the airport with an operations guy and I told him about my trip to the park and what happened. He says, “was there a Lufthansa Airbus leaving while she was doing that?” I told him, yes, there was. He proceeded to tell me that she was pretty well-known around the area. According to him, she believed that she died on a Lufthansa flight in a previous life and has been reincarnated into her current body. She thought her soul was still connected to the flight somehow; she went to pray over the same Lufthansa flight every time it departed.
32. Playing with a Hurricane
I work at my local airport, and just last summer, we had a hurricane looming down on us. Everyone was getting packed up to evacuate, we were renting cars like crazy to people fleeing and were trying to get them out of the storm area.
I was out checking on the cars we had and when I walked back up, there was a man sitting on a bench out front just soulfully playing the trombone with an apocalyptic-looking storm bearing down on us and wind whipping everywhere. I had no idea where he came from or what he was doing, but it was surreal- like something out of a David Lynch film.
31. What’s Your Distinguishing Feature?
A school friend’s father worked on Passport Control at Gatwick in the mid-’80s. In those days, passports were often handwritten and had spaces for things like “distinguishing features.”
One day, a young woman presented her passport to him, and he opened it and compared the photo, then paused before saying, “this is a bit unusual.” He showed her the open passport which read in part: “Distinguishing Features: BIG BOOB.” She exclaimed, “My bloody brother, I’ll smack him!”
30. He Just Killed His Wingman
There’s this one guy who works as a falconer at the airport. Some birds are used to keep other birds away from aircrafts because a bird in an engine can really mess up someone’s day. So this guy had come into the airport with his bird to grab a cup of coffee. He decided to try to impress some ladies by taking the hawk’s hood off and doing a little demonstration.
What he failed to notice was the starlings resting outside on a steel beam. The hawk flew after the starlings, ran into the glass and broke its neck. Thousands of dollars’ worth of highly trained bird, gone.
29. The Plane Rolled Toward Us
One time, a couple of us were wing-walking a 757 back from the gate while our ACMX guy drove the push-back. After the jet was backed up, we were supposed to detach the push-back vehicle from the tow bar, then detach the tow bar from the plane’s landing gear, and reattach the tow bar to the push-back vehicle. That day, the 757’s parking brake failed, and as we detached from the push-back, the plane started rolling towards us with the engines running.
Looking up at a 100,000-pound vehicle that’s already basically on top of me while the engines came toward me was quite the experience. The captain had to stand on his pedal brake to stop the plane rolling so we could finish and get clear. Both the other people with me immediately went out for a smoke.
28. Who Said An Airport is a Humorless Place?
There was a group of people coming through for a business trip and their boss had never flown before. One of his employees came in with a prank that the boss needed dental records for TSA and wanted us to play along.
So the boss comes in and hands me his ID and an x-ray from his dentist to check in for his flight. Trying not to laugh, I show it to my coworker who points at it and says, “Well, TSA might have an issue with that.” The dude’s face went white as a sheet until his employees cracked up laughing. He got super red in the face and eventually started laughing at himself. Never let it be said that airports are humorless places.
27. If It Works, It Ain’t Crazy!
I was assisting at the check-in area and helping passengers who use the kiosks to check-in. Now, this was the time many airlines introduced basic economy and many people didn’t know about the new baggage rules which won’t let you bring a carry-on bag, just one personal item.
This family of five comes along and they seemed to know about the rule. But they all had backpacks, a couple of them more than one, actually. So I go and kindly remind them about the basic economy baggage rules and they snapped back at me and said they knew. They had about nine bags- all relatively small. In order to save money on their checked bags, the father takes out a big roll of tape and just sits down in the check-in area taping their bags together so it’ll only be one gigantic bag, package, thing. Everyone looked at them, but it worked.
26. “Okay! But No Tricks this Time!”
At Frankfurt airport some time last year, there was a lady who tested positive for explosives. She somehow got away from airport security.
The airport was shut down and they started evacuating the terminals. The German security officers started yelling for everyone to move towards the train. Someone then yelled, “Okay! But no tricks this time!”
25. The High-Powered Magnet
Believe it or not, one passenger brought a high-powered magnet on board. This thing was so powerful that, while still in the bag, it was ripping off the rollers on our conveyor and literally took three adult men to get off. If you put this thing around 1.5 feet away from a metal object and weren’t holding it properly, it would fly out of your hand.
One of my co-workers who was working that day had braces and if I didn’t stop him, he probably would’ve gotten his teeth ripped out.
24. The Delicious Seasoning
My sister worked for the TSA a few years ago. Mostly she just found people bringing in too much liquid or aerosol cans or whatever, but apparently, people quite often brought whole frozen turkeys through security.
She once scanned a bag that was full of turkeys and adult toys, in the same bag, just mixed in together. What a delicious seasoning!
23. Alien Invasion?
I work Avionics on F-22s in the Air Force and most of the work is done outside. One day, mid-shift, we get told to go inside, to turn off the lights, and not look outside. Not knowing what the hell was going on, we obviously complied. Once everyone was inside, the big stadium lights that covered the entire airfield were turned off and all the entire airfield went dark. We heard a low rumbling in the distance that was getting closer and rumors started flying. We were under attack, aliens, you name it.
Eventually, we could hear three large planes fly very low overhead. After 15 more minutes, we were given the go-ahead to go back outside and back to work. To this day, I still don’t know what the hell happened.
22. Take the Batteries Out
When we were loading a plane, I was inside with my lead sending up bags. He put one to the side and called a supervisor because it was vibrating. I watched him open it and suddenly, he started smiling and shouting in an accent (which made it even funnier), “Oh no, oh no!”
Sure enough, it was a “personal massager,” and from what I was told, the supervisor had to pull the passenger off the plane, onto the jet-bridge to “disarm” the device. The passenger was apparently an 18-year-old woman, who turned completely red-faced. A little tip, when you travel, take the batteries out.
21. Human Body Parts
My dad works for an airline and the scariest story he told me was when he and a few others were loading containers into a plane. One guy accidentally dropped a container and when he picked it back up, the container opened and there was a head and various human limbs all packaged in clear bags.
This package was going to some medical place, hence the body parts. He said that it scared the guy so bad that he went home for the day.
20. Into Pieces
I got to see an F-16 come in for a landing and a bird get sucked into the intake. The jet didn’t make it, but luckily the pilot ejected in time.
It was pretty cool that I got to go pick up all the pieces of it too. Most landed in a farmer’s land and he couldn’t grow any more crops (now he is super rich from the government’s payment).
19. Soaked with Jet Fuel
I was an F-16 crew chief, so I sort of worked at an airport. I was only a guardsman, so I didn’t see too many crazy things, but one of the jets dumped about 40 gallons of JP-8 jet fuel out of its right wing onto the ground and my friend while he was doing a pre-flight inspection.
I don’t know why, but my first instinct was, “That crap is going to ignite” because the jet was on. It didn’t, so it was just funny seeing my friend’s pants soaked with jet fuel.
18. Permanently Removed
I work the cargo ramp. We’re at the very edge of the main runway, and there’s a marshy area about 200 feet from the end of the runway. One day, we saw a pickup roll out on the service road near the marsh, and hear several blasts.
A couple of minutes later, the airport guys in the truck roll up and ask if anyone wants some free geese. One of our crew took two dead geese home and smoked them for us- they were delicious. Apparently, the geese just kept coming back to that spot, even if they were forcibly relocated. So they had to be permanently removed.
17. Crazy Airport Scams
I used to work at a cute little bar cafe/crepe kiosk in a small airport in Vermont. I was often alone while working there, and I had all sorts of people trying to extort money from me because of whatever travel tragedy had (supposedly) occurred. One of my first nights closing up alone, this young-looking woman came up to the kiosk bawling her eyes out about how she had her purse stolen and needed $60 for a bus ticket back home to Boston.
I was so close to giving her some cash, but I decided against it and gave her a cup of coffee and some cinnamon rolls and said good luck. The next day, I went shopping and saw her at Plato’s closet. I just laughed and kept walking. It wasn’t anything too crazy, just a good lesson learned.
16. She Should’ve Listened
I worked at Perth airport until recently. Most flights in Perth go to Bali and you see some characters go in and out. A Jetstar flight was delayed by 7 hours and a woman and her husband used the time to patronize the bar.
The woman then fancied a cigarette and rather than go outside and go through security again, she lit up in the middle of the duty-free area. My colleagues quickly tried to stop her, but she told them to back off. Cue airport police, a $10,000 fine and no flight to Bali. She should have listened to the staff.
15. The Wind Blew the Entire Plane
I worked at a tiny airport with puddle hopper planes. A plane landed on a really windy day in the winter, so there was still some ice on the ground. I went out to flag the plane in and watched incredulously as the wind blew the entire plane sideways toward the ditch next to the taxiway.
The pilot had to do some serious engine-revving to keep the plane from going into the ditch. It was kind of funny and a little scary, luckily no passengers were on board.
14. Not All Heroes Wear Capes
I used to work for TSA and there was a guy, a lady and a little boy. The lady looked like she wasn’t allowed to speak, the little boy looked scared but didn’t say anything, the man wouldn’t even look at me. So it freaked me out. I told my supervisor and she called the airport PD. As soon as the man saw me talk to my supervisor, he looked sort of agitated. He sent the lady and the little boy down the terminal and was trying to grab all of their things to go meet them. The police showed up and asked me for a description. Since the airport wasn’t big, he found them and brought them back to the checkpoint. As they got closer to the checkpoint, he tried to send the lady to the exit instead of having her come back.
Eventually, the police were able to separate the man from the lady and the little boy. She told them everything. They walked the man out in cuffs. I didn’t get to see what happened to her because my shift was ending. But when I grabbed my stuff from the back, we made eye contact and she nodded at me. I took that as a thank you. It was a scary situation but I’d do it again any day. There’s no telling what would’ve happened to that lady and little boy if I didn’t follow my instincts.
13. Geese Strike
I work at an airport in baggage handling. I’ve seen some crazy bird-strikes at airports, but one sticks out in particular. It was a 737 which flew through a flock of geese and they got sucked in the engines.
One engine basically exploded while the other continued to operate but at reduced power. It managed to land and upon inspection, the good engine should have failed as well. All the blades were chipped, some broken in half and a couple were missing. It was a miracle that the plane landed. If it had been taking off, it’s possible there would have been loss of life.
12. That’s Why You Should Never Leave Your Kids Unattended
My father worked as ground crew at a large airport in the ’90s. Sometimes, he would have to take my brother and I to work with him, and on a very rare occasion, we were in one of the vehicles out on the tarmac. He left to do some work on the tarmac, and explicitly told my brother and I not to touch anything in the car. So of course, my brother, being the antsy-pants that he was, decided he wanted to roll down the back window in the station wagon. He climbs into the driver’s seat and starts pulling levers. If I remember correctly, the gear-shifter on this vehicle was on the steering column, and of course, that’s what he grabs. The car starts to roll towards a fairly large airplane.
What happened next was lots of ground crew chasing after the car as it rolled closer and closer to this large airplane. One of the crew managed to jump into the car and stop it, just a few feet short of the plane. At that time, it was pretty scary, but looking back on it now, we all find it pretty hilarious.
11. Amazon Orders
A 767 took a turn too sharp on the taxiway during the winter and got stuck in the snow/mud. It was stuck there for 36 hours while they brought in their ACMX guys from their main hub to try and get it out.
Meanwhile, 80,000+ pounds of Amazon orders and other stuff important enough to burn jet fuel to move just had to sit in the cargo area. I can’t imagine what it cost them to recover it all and the plane.
10. Mommy, Help!
A grown woman fell asleep while waiting for her flight to board. They called her name several times – this was a small airport, so it was quiet, and she was in the area. She just slept through it all. She woke up and realized what happened after the gate agent had already pulled back the ramp and the plane was backing up to begin its taxi. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, cursing and crying, and then called on her “mommy” to keep screaming.
Again, this is a grown woman. She ended up running into the airport bathroom in full hysterics and had to be dragged out by half a dozen TSA employees.
9. Why Are You Next to the Explosive Device?
A guy came to tell me that someone had left their luggage in the boarding area. There’s constantly an announcement about telling people to report it if they see abandoned luggage or something suspicious. I tell him OK, I’ll call TSA. He’s clearly freaking out and going on about how there’s probably an explosive device in the bag. I calm him down and he goes back to his seat.
About 10 minutes later, I go over to him with the TSA agent and ask him where the bag is? He points to a bag right next to him and starts rambling again about how there’s probably an explosive device in it, etc. So I just ask him, “If you’re so sure about it, why are you sitting right next to it?” You could see the light-bulb go on in his head.
8. The Explosive Weapon
I was the load-master (supervisor) for a flight going to Germany and I heard over the radio that the cabin crew had trouble understanding a passenger that was screaming and asking for someone on hand that could translate to Deutsche.
As I was the only person nearby that could, I walked up to the gate and met a passenger screaming that he had an explosive object.
7. Frozen Venomous Snakes
My mom worked for British Airways for years, dealing with special freight cases for import/export. One shipment came in from Africa; a large wooden crate that didn’t actually weigh very much. Her client came in, opened the crate to check the contents and immediately became hugely irate with the warehouse staff. He barges into her office holding a frozen, venomous snake; she said it looked like a jagged lightning bolt- all zigs and zags. He’s screaming at her in the office gesturing wildly with this dead snake, demanding compensation- hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It turned out he didn’t declare them as animals (probably to get around any customs laws – there were dozens, if not hundreds of various venomous snakes in the crate). The cargo area of most planes isn’t heated, so the poor snakes had frozen (literally) to death in transit. He couldn’t sue and had to answer some interesting questions from the Treasury Department once all was said and done. The crappy thing is he was importing them to make anti-venom; if he’d only declared them and paid for them to be shipped correctly, he would have made a healthy profit and probably saved some lives.
6. Interesting Items Found in Baggage
I was a ramp agent for a while. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means I loaded and unloaded bags. Some of the more interesting things I saw were at baggage processing.
A list of things I saw in baggage processing is – a human head, eyeballs, skin (for skin grafts I suppose), a deceased person, lab research rats, snakes, and dogs in cages.
5. A Scary Salute
My grandmother was a stewardess for Delta for decades. She was serving on a commercial flight to Moscow, Russia in the eighties when Russia/US relations weren’t so great. During the flight, two Russian MiG fighter jets came up alongside the plane and scared the hell out of everybody, including the crew. They thought that they were going to be shot down.
After some confusion, it was announced that the MiG’s were escorting the Delta flight as a sort of “farewell salute” to the Delta captain who was piloting his last flight.
4. The Cargo Plane
My mother was on her way to work at YHZ and was in pre-board security, when she called me to say she just saw something unbelievable.
As I made my way to the fire department, my pager went off, alerting us to a 747-cargo plane colliding with the runway. It was easily in my top three craziest scenes to be on.
3. Was It the Bush Family?
After 9/11, I worked construction on the old airport terminal where they were putting in luggage x-ray machines. A couple of us were on break and standing out front smoking around 1 in the morning, when a convoy of several black SUVs with a dozen law enforcement vehicles pulls up to the lane in front. The next thing we knew, several guys in suits with earpieces and several cops along with airport security came to us and asked us to go with them to a secure area for a while.
Well, we did and they took us into an office, left a security guy with us and told us we had to stay there for about half an hour, after which we would be given an all clear and we could go back to our work. We never found out what it was about, but I have an educated guess. The Bush family owns an estate on Boca Grande, which is an island on the north side of Charlotte Harbor. Back when the first President Bush was in office, he would come here to go fishing. Our guess was it was a member of the Bush family either arriving or departing, but to this day, I don’t have any confirmation.
2. The Scorpion King
In the security area for checked bags, my co-worker asked our supervisor of the next day off to start his weekend early. The supervisor said no because he already had a lot of time off. So my co-worker is checking a bag when something pokes his hand. He tells the supervisor that there is something sharp in the bag and whatever it is, stabbed him. The supervisor thinks he’s trying to make excuses to go home, but checks the bag anyway. The sharp object was a scorpion. The supervisor tells him to sit down with his hand down and calls first aid. They put the bag inside some plastic bags because they are all afraid of the scorpion.
Agriculture comes after handling a situation at a different airport and puts the scorpion on ice to kill it. My co-worker calls the supervisor and tells him he won’t be in tomorrow or for the next month because they had to give him tons of anti-venom. Then he tells his boss to call him the scorpion king.
1. Different Kinds of Threats
I’m a ramp worker and the scariest was when I had to translate an explosive weapon threat from a passenger to the German crew.
There was also the time when a passenger had checked in about 10 kg of meat as baggage and it went bad on the flight over. It wasn’t very nice to unload.