43 Unbelievable Things That Actually Happened In Airports

Being in airports is often humdrum, even stressful. Indeed, they’re typically places where no one wants to be – although they’re usually unavoidable if you have to catch a plane. Sometimes, though, extraordinary things happen in airports. Take the following 43 incidents, for example…

43. Someone tried to transport 18 severed heads

U.S. Customs officers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport seized a truly grisly cargo of 18 decapitated heads in 2013. But don’t worry: no gruesome crimes had been committed to obtain them. Sent from Italy, the items in question were in fact part of a medical shipment bound for a research center. Officials ultimately confiscated the heads at the airport due to improper paperwork.

42. A tiger cub was found in a suitcase

During 2010, a woman traveling from Thailand tried to smuggle a tiger cub in her suitcase, with the 12-week-old animal cub drugged and packed alongside soft toys. It was speculated that she had been intending to sell the cub as an exotic pet in Iran, where it may have earned her the equivalent of around $3,000 as a black-market purchase.

41. A bag label caused a major incident

In April 2018 a bag marked “Bomb to Brisbane” caused Australia’s Brisbane Airport to shut down. However, it was all an innocent misunderstanding. “Bomb” in this context refers to Bombay, the old name for Mumbai in India, from where both the bag and its owner, 65-year-old Venkata Lakshmi, had been traveling.

40. A football player made a bomb threat


During a 2013 security screening at Los Angeles International Airport, Aldon Smith, a 24-year-old linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, apparently made a “joke” suggesting that he had a bomb. Airport authorities subsequently arrested the player and held him in custody, with the LAPD later booking the player for falsely reporting a bomb threat.

39. A cheetah got loose inside an aircraft

In 2008 a Delta airline baggage handler opened the cargo hold of a Boeing 757 passenger plane to discover a cheetah prowling around inside. In fact, the animal was one of a pair of cheetahs being transported from Oregon to Atlanta. After the big cat was eventually tranquilized and captured, however, it was eventually taken to its intended destination: Memphis Zoo.

38. Passengers had to push a plane onto a runway


Yes, passengers in Siberia had to push their aircraft onto the runway in 2014. Once temperatures fell to below -61 °F, the plane’s icy brake pads wouldn’t budge, and so the craft became stuck in place. Then, when the pushback tractor failed to shift the plane, the passengers decided to give assistance to help get the flight going.

37. All flights were canceled in the world’s busiest airport

In what must have been a very costly disruption to services, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, the busiest air-hub on the planet, plunged into chaos when its power went down in December 2017. The incident caused the cancellation of over 700 flights and impacted many thousands of travelers. Officials later said that the failure had probably been triggered by a fire at a nearby power plant.

36. A drunk man passed through an X-ray machine


In 2012 a drunk backpacker actually passed through an X-ray machine at Rome–Fiumicino International Airport. The 36-year-old Norwegian man had leapt over an unattended check-in counter before falling asleep unnoticed on the baggage belt. Then, in what should have been a tightly controlled area, he made a journey of 160 feet before airport staff noticed. The X-ray images showed him apparently unconscious while curled up on the belt.

35. A man smuggled gold bars in his rectum

At India’s Indira Gandhi International Airport in 2018, authorities arrested a 24-year-old man traveling from Dubai to Delhi for attempting to smuggle nine gold bars in his butt. The bars themselves weighed more than two pounds in total and had an accumulated value of approximately $45,000. And, believe it or not, catching travelers with gold hidden in their rear ends happens more often than you may think.

34. The world’s most awkward security pat-down?


Increased vigilance over the years has doubtless led to an increase in pat-downs by airport security. Although they’re not necessary for every passenger, additional checks may sometimes be required. But if you do happen to trigger the alarm when heading through the metal detector, heed this advice: act natural. Unlike, perhaps, this woman.

33. Two women attempted to smuggle a body onto an aircraft

In 2012 Gitta Jarant attempted to smuggle Curt Jarant, her dead husband, onto a flight at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport in the U.K. Assisted by her step-daughter, Jarant used a wheelchair to transport the 91-year-old. She had covered his eyes with dark glasses, too – enough to fool a taxi driver into believing he was fine, but not airport staff.

32. A couple attempted to smuggle 200 tarantulas


In 2012 customs officials working at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam may have received a fright when they opened a suitcase to find 200 live tarantulas, grasshoppers, crickets, millipedes and other miscellaneous bugs. The suitcase belonged to a pair of German travelers who were returning from a trip to Peru. And, of course, authorities confiscated the entire haul – including some tarantulas of scientific interest.

31. A brawl broke out between passengers at a Florida airport

A fight erupted at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2017, apparently leading to some arrests. Tensions flared after approximately 500 passengers were permitted to board a Spirit Airlines plane and then made to disembark after the flight was canceled. Wracked by conflict with their pilots’ union, the airline had been forced to ax over 300 flights in the week leading up to the incident.

30. A burning Jeep filled with gas cylinders drove into an airport departure lounge


There were thousands of people inside Scotland’s Glasgow Airport terminal when a blazing Jeep carrying propane tanks drove straight towards the glass doors in June 2007. Fortunately, though, a concrete bollard prevented the vehicle from entering the building. Had it not been there, the outcome of the terror attack would have been very different indeed. Ultimately, five members of the public suffered mild injuries – but, thankfully, no one died.

29. A man took a joyride on a runway at Duluth International Airport

Duluth International Airport in Minnesota was the scene of an intoxicated rampage during one morning in November 2018. There, Christopher Lee Dunker broke through the airport’s gate and drove his car onto a runway, drawing police into a brief pursuit before being arrested. Dunker was subsequently charged with evading the police, criminal damage and driving under the influence.

28. A woman chased her plane after missing her flight


Catching a plane is nothing like catching a bus, as one woman discovered in 2018. After checking in and missing three boarding calls for her flight from Bali to Jakarta, the Citilink passenger duly stormed past security and then ran after her plane just as it was taxiing for take-off. Another individual subsequently restrained her, and she ultimately caught a later flight.

27. Hackers caused the display boards to fail

A cyberattack on Bristol Airport in September 2018 highlighted how vulnerable some aviation systems are to hackers. You see, the intrusion caused the flight displays to fail as well as creating numerous problems that took several days to resolve. A spokesperson for the airport later described the hacking as “a speculative online criminal attempt.”

26. A woman attempted to smuggle cocaine in her breast implants


Officials at Barcelona–El Prat Airport had detained a woman traveling from Colombia in 2012 as she had provided incomplete answers when questioned about her travel plans. Then, when the employees conducted a physical examination of her, they noticed signs of recent surgery on her upper body. It turned out that the woman had cocaine-filled breast implants, with three pounds of the illegal drug found in total.

25. Someone attempted to smuggle 51 living fish

Authorities apprehended a woman trying to smuggle 51 tropical fish through Melbourne Airport in 2005. She carried the animals inside 15 plastic bags filled with water, which she had then hid under her clothes inside a custom-made apron. Airport officials were apparently alerted to the illegal cargo by the curious sound of “flipping.”

24. A plane knocked into a building


In 2018 an Air India plane coming from New Delhi plowed into a building near the main international terminal at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, Sweden. The craft was making its way to its assigned arrival gate when its left wing knocked into the structure. Thankfully, though, none of the 179 travelers on board suffered any injuries.

23. An air traffic control officer got drunk

An air traffic controller working for McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas lost her job after turning up to work intoxicated in 2018. Indeed, the employee was apparently so drunk that she couldn’t speak without slurring. And when she subsequently lost consciousness for over 30 minutes, five aircraft were left circling the skies, unable to land.

22. A woman with an “emotional support squirrel” is removed from her flight


Squirrels are nervous, skittish animals and therefore perhaps not naturally inclined to give comfort to humans. That didn’t stop one woman from trying to take her “emotional support squirrel” on a Frontier Airlines plane at Orlando International Airport in 2018, however. And when she refused to leave the craft, the other passengers were asked to disembark before the individual and her pet were escorted from the scene.

21. Someone broke a window after their flight was canceled

International air travel may be an infuriating experience when it doesn’t go smoothly, but vandalizing airport property is no way to improve the situation. In June 2018 a woman at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport smashed a window after a technical problem caused the cancellation of hundreds of scheduled departures. She fled the scene but was later identified on CCTV footage and arrested.

20. A van crashed from the fourth floor of an airport parking lot


In June 2018 an American Airlines van plummeted off the fourth story of an airport parking lot in Miami, Florida. The van apparently smashed through a wall before falling to the ground and landing upside down. Miraculously, the driver, Orlando Luna, survived the accident without serious injury.

19. A 67-year-old woman in a wheelchair was apparently abandoned

After having been at the funeral of her ex-husband in 2018, 67-year-old Olimpia Warsaw was apparently abandoned at O’Hare International in Chicago. Warsaw, who suffers from diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, allegedly spent the night sat in a wheelchair following the cancellation of her flight. Her family subsequently claimed that the airport porter assigned to help her had refused to take her to a hotel.

18. A snake caused mayhem among ground crew


The sighting of a snake in Islamabad International’s “apron area” – the place where planes are loaded – sparked panic and chaos in Pakistan in 2018. Yet while some of the airport staff felt it necessary to run for safety, authorities would later describe the snake as having not been venomous.

17. Three men attacked a flight attendant when she refused to pose for a photo

In November 2018 three men in Tho Xuân Airport in Vietnam physically attacked a female flight attendant. The individuals concerned had reportedly gone to the airport to see off a friend when they asked if they could take a selfie with her. When the attendant refused, however, the men responded by kicking and slapping her. A video of the attack subsequently went viral and caused public outrage.

16. A passenger tried to burn his baggage after his flight was canceled


15. A model drew undivided attention while going through security

Andressa Urach can’t seem to navigate airports unnoticed. Well, it’s unlikely that the Brazilian spent an alleged $300,000 on cosmetic surgery just to blend into the background. But still, the guy at the back of this image could have at least tried to be more subtle about catching a glance. Kindly pop your eyes back into your head, sir.

14. A monkey roamed free after escaping its crate


In May 2018 a rhesus macaque monkey got loose from its crate and roamed around San Antonio International in Texas for almost an hour, causing the airport to announce that it had a “wildlife issue.” The primate was a former research subject destined for a sanctuary, but it had escaped during its transit from the cargo area.

13. A man climbed onto an airplane wing and banged on its windows

In June 2018 Jhryin Jones climbed over a fence at Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, scrambled onto the wing of an airplane and then banged on the windows. Video footage shot by passengers also shows Jones stripped to his underwear and conversing with himself. The 19-year-old was subsequently arrested and charged with public indecency, trespassing and obstruction of police officers.

12. The smell of durian fruit caused mass protests


Durian fruit is notorious for its pungent aroma, which some people say smells like sewage. And in November 2018 passengers on a flight operated by Sriwijaya Air found the stench of the fruit in the plane’s cargo space so offensive that they refused to fly until it was removed. Their campaign proved very effective, in fact, with the airline ultimately taking the durian off the craft – although the plane departed an hour late as a result.

11. A prankster pretended to be an air traffic controller

In what was apparently intended to have been a prank, a 58-year-old private pilot impersonated an air traffic controller in November 2018. Fabián Norberto Penín used a hand-held radio to communicate with flight AR 1694, which was scheduled to fly a domestic route from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Bariloche. Penín was subsequently arrested, and his pilot license was revoked.

10. After missing a flight, a man attempted to force entry onto a plane


In May 2018 a passenger at Melbourne Airport ran across the tarmac and attempted to break into a Jetstar plane, having missed his flight by several hours. The unnamed man also appeared to become agitated with airport staff; it required several people to restrain him, in fact, with two of them sustaining injuries in the process.

9. A man was kicked off a flight after making a terrorist “joke” on Snapchat


In November 2018 a passenger flying to Mumbai from Kolkata on Jet Airways was arrested after making a provocative gag on the social media app Snapchat. “Terrorist on flight,” he wrote, while also sharing a picture of himself wearing a handkerchief on his face. “I destroy women’s hearts,” he then added. Needless to stay, the airport security staff were not amused on the whole.

8. An e-cigarette caused a suitcase to smoke

In December 2018 a suspicious suitcase in the checked baggage room at Boston Logan Airport began to smoke. The offending object within wasn’t part of a terrorist plot, though; rather, it was an e-cigarette powered by a lithium battery. Its owner was subsequently contacted, and the situation was ultimately resolved.

7. A man did pushups on a runway


In August 2018 a 23-year-old man delayed a Delta airplane bound for take-off by doing push-ups ahead of the craft on the runway. The man had apparently gained access to Los Angeles International Airport by climbing over the fence. He was subsequently arrested, while the airport was closed for a short period for security inspections.

6. Customs seized 400 pounds of frozen cow brains

In 2012 customs officials confiscated some 400 pounds of frozen, improperly declared cow brains at Cairo International Airport. The bovine organs are widely eaten in Egypt, with each one fetching around $6 – a price six times higher than in places such as Sudan. What’s more, customs officers at the airport had seized three other shipments of undeclared bovine gray matter that week.

5. A bag containing sex toys caused a major incident


Terminal D at Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport closed in August 2018 after X-ray scanners detected “suspicious” items inside one traveler’s baggage. Airport staff then questioned the individual, but he appeared to be evasive, telling them that the bag merely contained “technical stuff.” Only after the bomb squad arrived did they discover that the item contained a slew of sex toys.

4. 500 passengers were placed in quarantine

All the travelers on board an Emirates flight in September 2018 were held at JFK Airport in quarantine, pending an investigation by a team of emergency responders. Many of the passengers had apparently been showing symptoms of illness such as coughing and fever. One of the passengers, Erin Sykes, even told news broadcaster Russia Today that the plane had “basically [been] a flying infirmary.”

3. A woman tried to take her emotional support peacock through an airport


A New York artist known as Ventiko made international news when she attempted to take Dexter, her emotional support peacock, on a flight operated by United Airlines from Newark to LA. The The peacock also plays a part in her art and photography, and the pair spent several hours at the airport before the artist chose to drive to California instead.

2. A man tried to smuggle 94 iPhones

Although the following incident happened at a border crossing rather than at an airport, it’s still pretty outlandish, so we thought we’d throw it in anyway. In 2014 a man from Hong Kong attempted to enter mainland China with almost 100 iPhones – valued at more than $49,000 – taped to himself. In fact, customs officials only caught the the man after he set off an alarm. Electronics are significantly cheaper in Hong Kong than they are in China – something that has fueled a thriving underground market in the latter country.

1. When a Brazilian model’s airport photo broke the internet


As runner-up to the Miss Bumbum competition in 2012, Andressa Urach is probably used to drawing attention. The objective of the contest is to find Brazil’s sexiest behind, after all. So when an image of her walking through the airport broke the internet, perhaps it was due to fans rushing to find clues as to why she hadn’t won the competition outright…