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Marisa Mackle: As a former air hostess, I feel sorry for Neil Prendeville. I've seen far worse...

As airline incidents go, the Neil Prendeville story is definitely up there with the most bizarre.

But if you think this was the worst airline behaviour ever, think again.

In my six years of flying as cabin crew, there wasn't much I didn't witness. It's a hugely demanding job. You're a security guard, a nanny, a peacemaker, a nurse, a waitress, a bartender and a counsellor.

Unfortunately for Prendeville, his story has made the national news. Yes, he embarrassed himself, but he was not really a threat to anybody else. If he had been sitting in a seat further down the back of the plane, nobody might have even noticed.

I do sympathise with him, because other passengers have behaved a lot worse and got no publicity at all. Here are my top 15 memories:

1. Passengers' punch-up

This was one of my scariest experiences. Midway across the Atlantic, an American male passenger hit the woman in front over the head with his newspaper. He called her a 'fat whale' and demanded that she lose some weight. Another male passenger jumped to her defence. Fisticuffs ensued with the first man attacking the other. He was arrested at Shannon airport and received a jail sentence.

2. Newlyweds go to war

This was one of my first flights. It was a charter flight going to Portugal. A honeymoon couple were sitting in row one. They had been drinking in the bar earlier. The flight was delayed a couple of hours. An argument started between them resulting in the groom punching his bride in the face. He was taken off the plane and arrested. The bride was given the choice to either get off the plane or continue her honeymoon alone. She chose to disembark.

3. Mile-high club

People always ask me if I ever came across this. Personally I didn't, but a colleague of mine caught two male passengers in the loo on a transatlantic flight. She banged loudly on the door and one of the men came out angrily accusing the flight attendant of harassment. He claimed he was medicating his companion.

4. Vomiting over the air hostess

One of my most unpleasant experiences was when a lady was queuing for the rear toilet and vomited all over my legs. She was most apologetic about it and mortified, but as I didn't have a spare pair I had to throw my ruined tights in the bin and work the rest of my flight in my bare pins.

5. Girl in overhead locker

When I started, this story was doing the rounds. It happened to an air hostess on a rival airline. The terrified young girl was lifted up and placed in an overhead locker by a rugby team travelling home from a match. She must hve been traumatised Rugby players were up there with the 'most dreaded' type of passenger.

6. Funeral party goes bad

A group of travellers hired out a Fokker50 to go to England for a funeral. As soon as the flight took off, they started fighting among each other.

The air hostesses, terrified for their own safety simply left the bar trolley in the middle of the aisle and let the passengers help themselves.

7. Famous businessman collapses in first class

Another incident much talked about by cabin crew was when a very famous Irish business man, who was off his head on either drink or drugs, lunged amorously at a cabin crew member before collapsing on the ground of the front galley. His mortified son had to drag him back to his seat.

8. Urinating into the drinks trolley

One of the most horrible stories I heard was from an air hostess who caught a male passenger urinating into her drinks trolley.

He was arrested straight after the flight and the brave girl later testified against him in court.

9. Stolen drinks float

This was another deeply upsetting incident when a passenger stole the bar float. The air hostess witnessed him doing it and accused him of stealing. The float was duly found on him and he was also arrested on landing and charged with theft.

10. Drunk politicians

Apart from rugby players, politicians were probably the worst-behaved passengers. One particular female politician had the worst reputation among the cabin crew.

She would always demand a free upgrade and then proceed to drink the free bar dry.

On one of my flights she sat on a married politician's knee drinking champagne and refused to go back to her own seat.

11. Celebrity bad behaviour

Another lady who refused to sit in her own seat was the then girlfriend, now wife, of a famous footballer. On a flight from Dublin to England, she sat straddling her man up in Business Class. The furious passenger sitting next to her could not eat his breakfast as her knee was in his plate of sausages.

12. Sexual harassment

It's always nice to get a compliment and airhostesses get plenty of them. But there's a fine line between a genuinely nice comment and a crude remark. Once when I was doing the demo, a drunken mess of a passenger yelled out 'nice arse'. I made the captain come down and have a word with the offender. But if he had touched me, I would have had him removed from the flight. A colleague of mine was patted on the bum as she walked down the aisle by a male passenger. He was arrested on landing.

13. Shooting up in toilets

I still can't think about this incident without getting upset. It was a night flight to Ibiza and I found a young girl of about 17 unconscious in the toilet with a needle stuck in her arm. She had just celebrated her Leaving Cert and was going on her first holiday away from home.

14. Trying to open the plane door

I know it's crazy to imagine, but we had this crazy passenger deciding he wanted to get off the plane somewhere over the Atlantic.

After we explained this wasn't an option, he ran for the door and tried to open it. There followed a scary few minutes as we subdued this nutcase and tried to save the aircraft from nosediving into the north Atlantic.

15. Oral sex

Funnily enough, the most shocking airline incident during my time flying didn't involve a passenger at all.

A fellow air hostess was caught peforming oral sex a her male companion in the back galley as the passengers were boarding. Even worse, he was dating another air hostess at the time.

Marisa is author of Mile High Guy and Confessions Of An Air Hostess


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