The Grossest Things That Happened On Planes In 2023

Flying is stressful as it is, with cramped seats, long lines, flight anxiety, and unexpected turbulence. But imagine sitting next to someone who decides that clipping their toenails or flossing their teeth in the middle of the flight is completely acceptable. The world of air travel is always full of surprises, some pleasant and others, well, not so much. 2023 was a year of weird, bizarre, and downright gross events happening on planes. From unexpected food encounters to unhinged passenger behavior, the skies were certainly not the limit for these strange incidents.

Some not so gourmet food prep

If you're like us, your TikTok "for you page" is full of satisfying cooking videos. But not all food prep is created equal, especially when it happens on a plane. In December 2023, TikTok user barfly7777 uploaded a now-viral video of their hack for preparing frozen shrimp and mashed potatoes in an airplane bathroom. It's one thing to bring a smelly meal onto the plane, but cooking it in a cramped and communal space? Barfly7777 used two 6-volt batteries wired to a beverage heater to prepare this interesting meal. Our only question other than "Why?" is, "How do you get two 6-volt batteries through airport security?"

The infamous diarrhea plane

A Delta flight bound for Barcelona was forced to turn back in early September after a messy situation. One passenger suffered from severe diarrhea and, let's just say, caused a biohazard emergency throughout the entire plane, not just the lavatory. After the undoubtedly interesting two-hour flight back to the original departure location, passengers were removed and re-boarded a clean plane to continue their trip abroad. For context, the incident was bad enough that the carpet was removed from the aircraft and replaced. 

The viral not real passenger

Maybe we're not quite reaching the "gross" category with this one, but it's certainly odd or confusing, and no list of odd airplane behaviors would be complete without the most viral moment of the year. By now, we've all seen the viral TikTok video uploaded by knuckleslawncare that features one passenger yelling at another passenger in the back of the plane. The woman announced to the plane that she was getting off the aircraft because the passenger in the back was "not real." The video reached over 15 million people and sparked some interesting conspiracy theories ranging from aliens to ghosts, and even referenced the airplane sequence in the first Final Destination movie.

A game of hide and seek

Normally, a game of hide and seek wouldn't make headlines, but when it involves the arrest of an airport passenger, it's worth mentioning. In July, police were awaiting one 44-year-old passenger who was wanted for violating a restraining order, among other crimes. The man opened an emergency exit as other passengers were leaving, jumped onto the plane's wing, and hid in a nearby vehicle for 45 minutes, evading police. The unruly behavior didn't put any other passengers in danger, and police eventually captured the man, but for a 44-year-old adult, we're counting this one as more than gross behavior.

An invasion of privacy

Nobody wants to use the bathroom on an airplane. It's just not an enjoyable experience by any means. But one flight attendant on a Boston-bound American Airlines flight in September gave passengers a whole new reason to avoid the plane's lavatory. The flight attendant was said to have stopped a teenage girl from entering the bathroom, stating he had to wash his hands first. Moments later, after the attendant, the girl, and other passengers had used the plane's bathroom, rumors about a hidden camera placed inside were making their way around the plane. Upon landing, the bathroom was searched, and authorities escorted the flight attendant off the plane.

A new take on in-flight announcements

In-flight announcements or talks of turbulence are typically the only announcements heard over the intercom on a flight. That was not the case for one airplane full of passengers, including actor Emmerson Collins. For lack of a less gross description, the sounds of grunting and moaning played over the intercom system on a long flight from California to Texas this past September. Passengers were confused, some even laughing, thinking it was some sort of joke. Collins' TikTok video, viewed over a million times, was appropriately captioned, "Weirdest. Flight. Ever." We'd have to agree!

A creepy crawly stowaway

Nothing makes (almost everyone's) skin crawl more than a loose, eight-legged animal on an aircraft. Think of the movie Snakes on a Plane; only this British Airways flight was experiencing its sequel, Scorpions on a Plane. The flight, headed from Texas to London, was interrupted when the flight crew began a search for a loose scorpion on board. Passengers were moved to different sections of the plane, but in what would be a worst-case scenario for arachnophobes, the scorpion was never located.

Don't spill the rice!

Spilling food isn't inherently gross unless you've completely trashed the floor around your seat and aren't willing to clean it up before deboarding. But being belittled and having your flight grounded for a small accident does fit the bill. One passenger shared a flight experience on X from April 2023 in which a passenger spilled rice in the aisle of the aircraft shortly after boarding. The X-user stated that the flight attendant onboard screamed, "Who spilled the rice?" while pacing the aisle, searching for the culprit. The flight was prevented from leaving the gate until the rice spiller fessed up. Now known as #RiceGate, the incident was resolved by another flight attendant, who eventually swept up the mess. The culprit, however, is still at large.

Long hair, don't care

A Reddit user posted an image from a September flight to Europe from the U.S. that gave every viewer a collective eye twitch. The photo was of a passenger letting their hair hang over the seat behind them, essentially covering the screen of another passenger. Redditors had mixed reactions to the image, with some saying asking politely would've been enough and others stating, "A retaliation would be bare feet on their armrests or chewing gum in their hair." The Reddit post sparked a discussion about in-flight etiquette regarding personal space. While there's no written rule on how much leeway you have over the seat behind you, one thing is for sure: no one enjoys getting a stranger's hair in their face.