Surprising Reasons Flights Are Turned Around

It's uncommon, but it can happen to you.

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Surprising Reasons Flights Are Turned Around
These pilots are important decision makers during crucial times. (Image:
You're on a plane, thousands of feet up in the air, leaning back against your seat and relaxing until you reach your destination—perhaps you're going on a holiday—when suddenly, the pilot tells you and the rest of the passengers that your flight will be turned around. 

Passengers on board an international flight that departed from Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah airport in Subang experienced this on Tuesday. According to Astro Awani, the airport received an anonymous call that reported there was a bomb on a plane headed to Singapore, which prompted authorities to turn it around. However, no explosives were found.

Scenarios like this are uncommon, but it has happened in the past for a number of surprising reasons. 

Mechanical issues


In February, a Malaysian Airlines plane heading to London was forced to return after the crew detected engine problems in one of the engines. Reports of a "strange smell had come from the cabin, leading to the pilot's decision to turn back.

Sometimes, the problem may not be too serious. Take for instance, this Malaysia Airlines flight that was forced to turn around due to an auto-pilot defect. MAS issued a statement that the defect did not have any impact on the safety of the aircraft or passengers, but had made the decision as a precautionary measure.

Health problems onboard

Image: www.

This sounds like it came out of a science fiction movie, but an American Airlines plane bound for Los Angeles from London was made to turn around when a number of its passengers came down with a sudden, mysterious illness. It seemed to spread throughout the cabin as one flight attendant collapsed and another threw up. 

A report from the New England Journal of Medicine found that the most common health problems that happen on air are temporary loss of consciousness due to a decrease in blood pressure (37.4%), respiratory problems (12.1%) and nausea/vomiting (9.5%).

Passengers just getting batsh*t angry


Last year, a Korean Air exec (and daughter of the airline's chairman), Heather Cho, had a meltdown when the steward served her macadamia nuts in a packet instead of on a dish. The flight was taxiing onto the New York JFK airport when she forced the pilot to turn back to the gate and remove the steward from the plane. The flight's chief steward claimed that she had him kneel and ask for forgiveness, before jabbing him with a document holder.

In a separate event, a flight bound for Japan had to turn around because a passenger threw a violent fit. The man had wanted to do yoga, but became angry when his wife and flight attendants told him to return to his seat. He shoved his wife and tried to head-butt the Marines who tried to force him to sit down. The passenger had even threatened to kill passengers onboard. Yikes, with that behaviour, no wonder the pilot decided to take action!

Urinating on the plane (yeah, WE KNOW)


The seat belt sign had been switched on when actor Gerard Depardieu started calling out that he needed to piss. The cabin crew didn't let him use the lavatory as per airline regulations, so he got out of his seat and relieved himself in an empty bottle. He also peed on the floor. The plane was grounded for two hours while the airline staff cleaned the carpet, no doubt rousing the wrath of dissatisfied passengers.

Unexpected bad weather


We usually get our flights delayed while we're at the airport because of bad weather, but nature is always unpredictable. Strong winds can exhaust a plane's fuel or make it exceed the legal limit, and this could happen unexpectedly. A United Airlines plane with 263 passengers and 12 crew members landed safely when their pilot decided to turn the flight around after facing strong winds.

Lasers being shot from the ground (Whaaaat!)

A jet plane with 267 people onboard had been flying at 2438.4m from the UK when its cockpit was attacked by powerful green laser shot from below. The light had dazzled the First Officer and forced the crew to delay the trip. These lasers can cause severe damage to someone's vision, and is definitely something that shouldn't be condoned! 

There's a criminal on the plane!


At the request of FBI agents, a United Airlines flight from Washington Dulles International Airport headed to Beijing turned around mid-flight so that the agents could arrest a passenger in connection with a possible international parental kidnapping.


The kindness of heart


Not all reasons have to be particularly life-threatening, though. A Delta Airlines pilot turned his plane around to make sure a family who was delayed by a connecting flight got to board the plane so that they could attend their father's funeral. The pilot made the decision to go back when he had noticed a family member waving and crying from the gate. 

What if my plane gets turned around? Do I have to pay?

Naturally, your flight would be delayed. According to Independent Traveler, you should check your carrier's compensation policy. If you are travelling in the EU, passengers have the right to be compensated under certain circumstances. 

Airlines will usually book you on the next available flight if your original one is cancelled or delayed. They may pay for meals, a phone call, or even a hotel room if it takes too long. Your connecting flight, if it's under the same itinerary, will go through the same process. Yeah, it's a pain in the butt if you have a tight schedule.

And what if my luggage gets delayed and lost during this whole thing?

You'll need to file a claim with your airline at the airport. If your bags are delayed, it's a norm for the airline to pay you a certain amount (subject to negotiation) until it's found. If it's not, you must file a second claim. Check with your carrier about their lost baggages policy before you leave so that you'll be prepared for the worst.

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