Passengers Stage 'Lord of the Flies' Mutiny on Delayed Plane

Furious fliers fought the crew, raided food, and descended into hysteria

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Nothing is as frustrating as being cooped up on an airplane that is stuck on the runway amid never-ending delays. But something holds people back from taking it out on the plane crew, namely, the life-preserving instinct not to aggravate those responsible for keeping the plane in the air after take-off. But passengers aboard a Middle East Airlines flight at Heathrow had no such concerns, and staged a mutiny that one passenger compared to the "Lord of the Flies," the Daily Mail reports.

The Beirut-bound flight, with 230 passengers aboard, had to abort a 5pm takeoff on Thursday from Heathrow Airport after already missing its original 1pm departure due to a thunderstorm. As waiting time approached seven hours, the passengers started to crack. One passenger told the Daily Mail that "the atmosphere was very tense and a middle-aged man told the crew member he was an idiot... and that was when the pushing and shoving began. The captain came out once and I told him he had failed in his duty, to which he replied I should fly the plane."

Things turned to chaos from there. "Disgruntled passengers argued with crew, raided the galleys and started ‘pushing and shoving,’ name-calling, and engaging in 'fisticuffs,'" another witness said. "People are hysterical." Meals were stolen from the galleys. A Lebanese woman passenger was said to have suffered "heart palpitations," and a 50-year-old male passenger became "so worked up" he needed to be given oxygen.

Up to eight police officers boarded the plane at 5.50pm, but there were no arrests. The (amazingly dedicated) airline said it did not disembark the passengers because it was hopeful of getting a take-off slot and did not want to miss it. Eventually the flight took off for Lebanon, apparently with all passengers still on board and no further incidents.

It's almost impossible to imagine that happening in the United States, aboard a Middle East Airlines plane no less. Two Muslim men were recently ordered off a U.S. flight by the pilot solely because he thought their clothing intimidated the passengers. Celebrity Josh Duhamel was kicked off a flight for refusing to turn off his blackberry. But at Heathrow, turns out they are far, far more lenient. Middle East Airlines’ UK and Ireland manager Naima Kassir gave this inexplicably sympathetic comment: "Some passengers were in transit from Canada and must have been tired. They got abusive and intimidated the crew." But that's no reason not to fly them internationally, apparently.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.