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Any traveler knows that flight delays are a way of life. And any seasoned traveler can probably predict when an uncontrollable circumstance, such as bad weather, might mean a late takeoff — then there are the unforeseen situations, like a broken coffee pot, that come seemingly out of nowhere. Here are 10 of the strangest reasons for flight delays we’ve heard of so far.
1. Slow-Moving Turtles
In July, more than 400 diamondback terrapin turtles managed to find their way to New York City’s JFK Airport, with several of them actually making their way onto the airport’s runways and taxiways, leading to several flight delays. Though airport authorities could not confirm whether any aircraft had actually hit a turtle, the Port Authority’s chief wildlife biologist, Laura Francoeur, said, “Anything can be a hazard to aircraft, even turtles.”
2. Snakes — and Other Critters — on a Plane
In 2015, a snake tried to slither its way onboard a Sydney-bound Virgin Australia flight at Australia’s Gold Coast Airport (OOL). The snake was spotted before it managed to make its way onto the plane, but its bold attempt at a free flight forced the rest of the passengers to have to board from the back of the plane. Stuart Robert, Australia’s then-assistant minister of defense, was on board and witnessed the whole incident. “The airport staff acted quickly and brought a bag with a rod to gather up the little guy and probably take him back to where he came from,” Robert told the Daily Mail. “They responded well and the delay was minor.”
Snakes aren’t the only critters who have caused late departures; iguanas, cockroaches, otters, crabs and monkeys have also been blamed for flight delays. In 2010, a half-dozen horses owned by a Saudi Arabian prince caused a ruckus in the cargo area of a plane leaving Seattle, leading to a delay of more than an hour. In 2013, employees at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) dealt with a fire, a swarm of bees, and coyotes on the runway — all in a single day.
3. Mathematic Misunderstandings
In May, a flight headed from Philadelphia (PHL) to Syracuse (SYR) was held up when a passenger reported some suspicious doodling on the part of her seatmate. She handed a note to the flight attendant alerting her to her concerns, and the flight remained grounded while the man was removed from the plane. So what happened? The man was Guido Menzio, a renowned economist who was actually working on a differential math equation. After being questioned and showing authorities what he was doing, Menzio was allowed to return to his seat and the 41-minute flight took off more than two hours after its scheduled departure.
4. The Need for Fresh Air
In March, one of the 130 passengers aboard a China Southern Airlines flight leaving Chengdu Airport (CTU) opened the emergency door just before takeoff, leading to a delay of more than an hour. The passenger later explained that he thought the door was a window and just wanted “get some fresh air.”
5. Fighting Flight Attendants
In 2012, two flight attendants manning an American Eagle flight from JFK to Washington-Reagan (DCA) couldn’t see eye-to-eye on something and got into such a heated argument about it that the cockpit crew determined it was necessary to turn the plane around and head back to the gate — where it remained for nearly four hours. “We were informed we were going back to the gate because the flight attendants couldn’t work with each other,” passenger Dan Alexander told NBC New York. “I find it hard to believe the flight attendants couldn’t work with each other for an hour.”
6. Dueling Pilots
Transporting passengers from Point A to Point B can be a stressful job, and pilots aren’t immune to occasional disagreements either. In 2015, an Air India pilot and engineer had a misunderstanding in the cockpit that ended up escalating and delaying the flight’s 122 passengers by three hours.
7. Cats in the Cockpit
In 2012, a 10-year-old cat named Ripples managed to break free of his pet carrier when the latch broke after boarding an Air Canada plane in Halifax. Like any smart traveler, Ripples headed straight for first class — then into the cockpit, where he hid in a small compartment underneath the crew’s feet. The passengers had to deplane while techs worked to capture the cat and get him back into his cage. Four hours later, the plane was able to take off.
8. Improperly Served Nuts
In 2014, Korean Air vice president Heather Cho made headlines all over the world when she forced a flight leaving JFK to head back to the gate so she could have a crew member thrown off the plane after being served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than on a plate. Cho, whose father was the airline’s chairman, was eventually arrested and sentenced to one year in jail — she was released four months later.
9. Wrong-Sized Pajamas
In 2012, two first-class passengers aboard a Qantas flight headed from LAX to Melbourne, Australia, demanded to be let off the flight when their request for XL-sized pajamas could not be met. They refused to accept the complimentary PJs that business-class patrons receive and eventually, the crew relented and let them off the plane. The pilot had no problem informing passengers of why the flight had been delayed 30 minutes. As passenger Angela Ceberano told The Daily Mail, “He said: ‘Just to inform you all, the reason we’ve had the delay is because two of our first-class passengers refused to fly on this plane as there were no extra large pajamas on board for them.”
10. Boy Band Shopping Sprees
And my personal favorite: in 2012, boy band One Direction had enough clout to delay an entire British Airways flight traveling from Heathrow (LHR) to LAX for 15 minutes so that they could do some duty-free shopping. According to a band spokesman, the lads had left the airport between flights and had been stuck in traffic on the way back to LHR.
What’s the strangest reason you’ve ever heard for a flight being delayed? Let us know, below.
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