10 Bizarre Incidents That Caused Flight Delays

  • 10 Bizarre Incidents That Caused Flight Delays

    Animals were involved in the making of this list.

    This summer, airlines had to cancel and delay flights because of staff shortages, but flight delays are nothing new. They’re often caused by the usual suspects: bad weather conditions, mechanical problems, and scheduling issues with the crew or the aircraft. But there are times when flights are delayed for bizarre reasons and that’s fodder for headlines the next morning (and Twitter threads moments later). Let’s have a look at some of these incidents, in no particular order of weirdness (and not counting unruly behavior due to mask mandates). 

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  • Ants in Business Class

    Who knew ants could be freeloaders? On an Air India flight departing from Delhi last month, a swarm of ants were found waiting for their unticketed ride to London. And not even economy, they wanted to arrive in style in the business class. The airline had to change the aircraft and the tiny insects caused a mighty delay of three hours. 

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  • Turtle on the Runway

    In another animal-related delay last month, a turtle decided to take a stroll on the runway of Narito Airport in Tokyo and caused five flights to halt operations. The five-pound reptile was removed using a net and a full sweep of the runway area was done to search for others. But this adventurous turtle was a solo traveler.

    Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

  • Attack of the Cicadas

    In June, a White House press charter flight was ferrying dozens of journalists from Washington, D.C., to cover President Joe Biden’s first trip abroad. But a horde of cicadas wormed their way into the engine and caused mechanical problems. The White House had to find another plane for the press and the trip was delayed for several hours.

    Prathan Srijoonhard/Shutterstock

  • When a Mouse Wants to Catch a Ride

    A British Airways flight heading to California was delayed when a mouse was found in the aircraft. A replacement aircraft had to be commissioned—mice can chew through wires and it’s a major safety issue—and the airline bought lunch for the passengers as they waited. The rodent cost the company as much as £250,000 ($340,000) including lunch, compensation, accommodation for those who missed their connections, and engineering. 

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  • A False Bomb Claim

    In September, a woman and her family were late to arrive at the gate to board her JetBlue flight at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport and tried one madcap attempt to delay the flight. After finding out her luggage was on the plane and it was taxiing, the woman claimed that there was a bomb in her bag. It ended with her arrest and a flight delay as passengers were disembarked and the plane was searched. There was nothing found but she is now facing charges.

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  • The "Nut Rage" Incident

    This case got a lot of attention internationally. A first-class passenger on a Korean Air flight commanded that the plane return to the gate at JFK when she was served nuts in a bag instead of a plate. The passenger was the daughter of the Korean Air chairman and was the vice president of the company herself! She misbehaved with a crew member, delayed the flight, and got the flight attendan thrown off the flight, but she paid for it. She was jailed for a year for the “nut rage” incident and had to resign from her post. 

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  • No Pyjamas, Won't Fly

    This one’s a decade old, but oh, it’s gold. A Qantas flight from L.A. to Melbourne was delayed by 30 minutes because a pair of first-class passengers refused to fly unless they got pyjamas that fit them. The flight didn’t have their size and they refused the business class pyjamas—apparently, they weren’t luxurious enough. As the passengers disembarked and waited for their luggage to be unloaded, the pilot announced the reason for the delay, prompting an outburst of laughter. 

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  • Fear of a Mathematical Equation

    In 2016, a University of Pennsylvania economics professor was solving an equation on board an American Airlines flight when another passenger grew suspicious of him. The plane returned to the gate. The professor was asked to disembark and was questioned by the authorities. He laughed when they revealed that the woman thought he was a terrorist because he was writing strange things, and showed them his equation.

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  • The Case of the Broken Toilets

    This has to be one of the worst delays in the recent history of delays. A United flight took off from San Francisco on a Sunday, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that passengers actually made it to Shanghai, in what was supposed to be a 13-hour journey! Three hours after take off, the plane was diverted to Alaska due to broken lavatories and the passengers were given meal and hotel vouchers to stay the night. Then a second plane arrived the next day but remained grounded due to mechanical issues. A third plane arrived, but was struck by lightning, though no harm was done, and finally the 262 passengers made it to China. 

    Katherine Welles/Shutterstock

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