Many of us have experienced the heart-sinking disappointment of the airport tannoy announcing our flight is delayed.
More often than not the cause of the hold-up is fairly run of the mill; caused by bad weather or cabin crew illness. But sometimes planes and their passengers are kept waiting for far more elaborate reasons.
We’ve found some of the craziest flight delays of all time.
8. Woman goes into labour, baby is born in mid-air
On December 8th 2014, an unexpected passenger came on board mid-air as a woman suddenly went into labour during a flight from San Francisco to Phoenix.
By wonderful coincidence, both a doctor and a nurse were on board the plane and were able to assist in the labour and care of the mother and baby. The plane was diverted and Los Angeles Fire Department Officials boarded the plane as soon as it touched down. They provided immediate medical aid before taking them to hospital – fit and well.
Passengers were delayed by around two hours and 30 minutes but the cabin crew reported that rather than being annoyed, many of the people on board gave the new mother and her baby a round of applause.
7. Gerard Depardieu needs the toilet on a flight to Dublin, urinates on the floor
Passengers on board an Air France flight from Paris to Dublin were delayed for nearly two hours when famous French actor Gerard Depardieu urinated on the floor.
Before take-off the actor requested to be allowed to use the toilet, but as is protocol when a plane is preparing for take-off, he was told he would have to wait.
Depardieu decided to urinate in an empty bottle, which then overflowed and spilled onto the floor.
Following the incident, the pilot taxied the aircraft back to the terminal where the actor and his travelling companions were escorted off the plane. Depardieu has since apologised for the incident.
6. There’s a cat in the cockpit! Flying feline causes four hour delay
Passengers on an Air Canada flight were subject to a four hour delay when a pet cat broke free from its carrying case and ran amok on a plane.
Shortly before take-off, ten-year-old Ripples broke free from his improperly fastened carrier and made a dash for the cockpit. His curiosity not yet satisfied, the furry flyer then snuck between the captain’s feet and got into the plane’s avionics.
The plane’s power had to be turned off and all passengers were forced to disembark while the maintenance crew dismantled part of the cockpit to locate the cat, who was successfully removed with all nine lives intact.
5. Man on stag do sets fire to friend’s hair forcing captain to make emergency landing
A pilot on a Monarch flight from Manchester to Majorca had to make an emergency landing when a stag party reveller set fire to his friend’s hair at 30,000ft.
The plane was flying over France when the cabin crew smelled smoke and alerted the captain. The smell was coming from a passenger’s singed hair after his friend had set it alight in what was described by his fellow passengers to the police as an ‘ill-advised prank’.
The captain diverted the plane to Gatwick where the police boarded the plane and arrested the 24-year-old man, from Widnes, for endangering an aircraft.
4. Snakes on a plane. No, really!
In a case of life imitating art (well, life imitating a Samuel L. Jackson film at least) 90 people aboard an Egypt Air flight from Cairo to Kuwait suffered a delay in December 2012 after a passenger was bitten by an Egyptian cobra, forcing the captain to make an emergency landing.
The bite victim – an owner of a reptile shop in Kuwait – had smuggled the snake onto the plane in his carry-on bag. The deadly snake attacked the man before slithering off down the passenger aisle.
Fortunately no one else was hurt in the incident and authorities were able to confiscate the serpent when the plane landed.
3. British Airways plane turned around because of ‘a smelly poo’
Passengers on a flight from Heathrow to Dubai suffered from a real ‘waste’ of time, when their plane had to be turned around 30 minutes into the flight because a ‘smelly poo in the toilet’ became unbearable for passengers.
According to passengers’ reports, the pilot announced that the plane was going to have to return to London for health and safety reasons, after cabin crew were unable to stop the offending odour escaping from the overflowing loo.
Abhishek Sachdev, who was on board tweeted: “Insane! Our BA flight to Dubai returned back to Heathrow because of a smelly poo in the toilet!”
Unfortunately for passengers, the next available flight to Dubai was 15 hours later so they had to stay in a hotel courtesy of the airline.
2. Woman doesn’t like how her macadamia nuts are served, flies into a ‘nut rage’
‘Nutgate’ or the ‘nut rage incident’ may not have been one of the longest flight delays, but it is arguably one of the most notorious…
On December 5th 2014 Cho Hyun-ah, former vice-president and daughter of the chairman of Korean Air, was sitting in first class on one of Korean Air’s planes at JFK International Airport in New York.
Before take-off an air steward presented first-class passengers, including Cho, with macadamia nuts in their original packaging. Big mistake: Cho expected to have the nuts served to her on a plate.
It was alleged that a heated confrontation ensued in which Cho began screaming at the junior flight attendant, insisting he kneel before her and beg for forgiveness. Reports say she also wrapped his knuckles with a tablet and fired him on the spot before demanding that the plane be turned around so he could be thrown off.
The pilot did as he was ordered and the 250 passengers aboard the plane were delayed by 20 minutes. Cho’s behaviour was roundly condemned by media across the globe and she was subsequently given one year in prison for violating aviation safety law, assault and obstructing justice.
1. And finally… Man attaches balloons to chair to fly around in his back garden, gets arrested for flying 16,000 feet into Los Angeles airspace
On July 2nd 1982 a man named Larry Walters bought 45 weather balloons and several tanks of helium. He went home, tied them securely to a lawn chair and using his car as an anchor, inflated all 45 balloons.
Armed with sandwiches, a six-pack of beer and a pellet gun, Larry took a seat in the chair with the intention of floating around his back garden for a few hours before using the gun to pop the balloons and drift gently back to earth.
Unfortunately his plans for a relaxing afternoon were spoiled when he cut the cord attaching the chair to his jeep and shot into the LA sky like a rocket, losing his spectacles and reaching the impressive altitude of 16,000ft.
Larry found himself drifting, freezing cold and terrified, for 14 hours. He eventually encroached upon LAX airspace where he was spotted by a pilot, who alerted the authorities that there was a man with a ‘gun’ in a flying chair hovering around the airport.
Realising he was now dangerously close to floating out to sea, Larry shot at some of the balloons and began to lose altitude before accidentally dropping his pellet gun and becoming entangled in some power lines and causing a blackout. He was rescued by the LAPD who then arrested him for violating LAX airspace and causing significant delays.
If you have been on a delayed flight for three hours or more in the past six years – albeit not for a reason quite as crazy as those in our top 10 – you could be entitled to claim up to €600 (£470).
Flight delay regulation EU261 covers flights leaving an EU country or landing in an EU country on an EU airline. Check to see if you have a valid claim by entering your flight details into our instant online flight compensation claims checker.