Hardly a month goes by without some story of an outraged passenger being kicked off a flight. And whatever the cause, you can be sure there are other passengers nearby with smartphones at the ready to live tweet and otherwise record these types of incidents in full for all the internet to see.
Has passenger behavior hit an all-time low, or are these incidents just easier than ever to document nowadays? Could it be that flight crews just so overworked that the slightest provocation has them showing folks the door?
There are all sorts of ways to get ejected from a flight. Sometimes the official reason given by the airline can sound a little flimsy. Other times it may seem totally justifiable.
The 6 Most Common Reasons People Get Kicked Off a Flight
1. The Air Marshal Needs Your Seat
Yes, there are still air marshals on flights in 2019. Just how many, no one knows for sure, as this info is classified, but those in the know have estimated around 5% or less of all domestic flights. That means the chances of you being bumped because an air marshal needs your seat are low, but not impossible. It happens, and, in the off chance it does, the airline can’t really tell you they’re giving your seat to an air marshal since no one is supposed to know if one is onboard or not.
2. You Annoyed the Flight Crew
They can save your life in an emergency but that doesn’t mean they’re above petty retaliation should you get on their bad side. All it takes is one word to the captain, and there’s no amount of protesting that’ll keep you from getting carried off. Several years back, a Virgin America flight attendant had a passenger removed after recognizing him as the guy who had cut him off in the revolving doors as they both entered the airport. In this case, however, the passenger rightfully made a fuss afterward and Virgin apologized and refunded his fare.
Similar incidents don’t end as happily for the passenger, so try and be on your best behavior around the flight crew.
Related: 7 Shameless Ways to Make a Flight Comfortable
3. You Disobeyed Crewmember Instructions
If Twitter is any indication, blow-ups involving families and crewmembers are a common occurrence. Usually, these arguments are over seating arrangements. Sometimes they happen when passengers disobey instructions, like refusing to sit down when the seatbelt sign is on, or worse.
4. The Airline Oversells or Double-Books a Seat
Sometimes flights are oversold or, rarer still, a seat gets assigned twice. Overselling doesn’t happen as much as it once did, but it does happen, as you’ve no doubt heard gate agents offering travel vouchers to anyone willing to take a later flight. Several years ago, Delta racked up a $750,000 fine not only for bumping passengers but also failing to inform them that they’re entitled to cash compensation rather than just vouchers for future travel. Something to remember the next time an airline offers you a travel voucher.
Related: How Far in Advance Should You Book a Flight?
5. Crewmembers Think You're Dressed Inappropriately
Of all the ways to get kicked off a plane, this is probably the most enraging, simply because airline policies around what qualifies as ‘proper attire’ are so intentionally vague. Flight attendants have been known to yank passengers in clothing deemed too tight, too loose, sometimes too short, or often because of t-shirts with “offensive” slogans. This usually backfires for the airline.
6. You’re Drunk
Having a celebratory pre-flight drink in the lounge is all well and good but if you’ve noticeably overindulged, don’t expect to be welcomed aboard. No one is going to ask you to say your ABCs backwards, but if the flight crew suspects you of being drunk to the point of being a potential problem at some point in the air, you’ll be removed before take-off.