We put our lives in the hands of airline pilots and sometimes they behave like naughty adolescents. This week a vaping pilot on board an Air China Boeing 737 caused his plane to make an emergency descent after he accidentally shut off the plane’s air conditioning system – causing insufficient oxygen levels in the cabin.

Stories are legion about cabin crew getting drunk in airport hotel bars ‘til the early hours, not realising their behaviour is being watched, and then they’re surprised to be arrested when they enter the cockpit a couple of hours later with the smell of booze on their breath still strong enough to fell an elephant.

But let’s not be too hard on the professionals. In most cases flights are forced to land because of behaviour of passengers that can range from the peculiar to outright headbanging. Here are a few examples.


  1. In February 2013 a family forced an emergency landing after deciding the in-flight movie wasn’t suitable for their children to watch. When cabin crew refused to shut-off communal TV monitors for the PG-13 rated film, the high-maintenance parents demanded to speak with the captain. When the couple refused to back down the Denver bound flight was diverted to Chicago for ‘security reasons’.
  2. The pilot of a Sichuan Airlines flight diverted to Chengdu Shuangliu after the windshield shattered and his co-pilot was sucked halfway out of the window at 30,000 feet. Luckily the co-pilot was held in by his seatbelt and he suffered only scratches and a sprained wrist.
  3. A Qatar Airways plane en route from Doha to Bali had to take an unexpected detour after a jealous wife used her sleeping husband’s fingerprint to open his mobile phone — and discovered he was cheating on her. The rowing couple and their child were removed in Chennai, India, allowing the crew to continue onto to Indonesia.
  4. A Turkish Airlines flight was disrupted after a crew member discovered a wi-fi network created on board named “Bomb on Board”. All 100 passengers were evacuated after the flight was diverted to an airport in Khartoum, Sudan.
  5. In May 2013, an American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing because a passenger refused to stop singing Whitney Houston’s hit song I Will Always Love You.
  6. A Boeing 747 jumbo jet was diverted to Heathrow after several hundred cows on board overheated the cabin and triggered fire alarms while flying over the Irish Sea.
  7. Passengers aboard an EgyptAir flight relived the movie Snakes on a Plane when a Jordanian reptile salesman smuggled a deadly cobra onto their flight and then allowed it to escape. The snake slithered between seats, causing general uproar before biting its handler and forcing the pilot to ground the aircraft.
  8. A nasty smell forced a Qantas flight from Darwin to Brisbane had to make an emergency landing at Mount Isa, 1000 miles from its destination. The pong was eventually located to a dirty nappy stuffed into a recess of one of the toilets.
  9. A JetBlue flight from New York to California in January 2013 was diverted after a woman created such a scene after discovering that the passenger sitting next to her had paid less for her seat that she had to me restrained by air marshals.
  10. A Transavia flight from Spain to the Netherlands made an emergency landing in Portugal after passengers began fainting due to the overpowering odour of a traveller. The smell was later discovered not to be caused by the man’s poor hygiene, but by necrosis, a fatal tissue disease which he contracted from a beach.