Most Unexpected Flight Delays

Wm Jas, flickr

We've all been there. You dutifully arrive at the airport two hours before your flight, slog through security and finally reach your gate just to find out that the flight is delayed. It's a crazy world out there and you never know what's going to get in the way of taking off on time. Maybe it's stormy skies, maybe it's a delayed crew, or maybe it's...a fishy stench in the cabin? This might seem far-fetched, but just ask one American passenger who was traveling in Germany how real that scenario can be.

Not to mention the agitated horses and amorous turtles that have thrown a wrench in the works (humans are just as culpable of causing delays as animals, by the way). Here's our list of some of the wackiest -- and scariest -- flight delays.

10. Fishy Situation
Hannah Greve was scheduled to fly on one of Germany's major carriers from Munich to Hamburg in August 2010 when she, her boyfriend, and their fellow passengers were told they could not board the plane. Why? An official got on the airport PA system to inform passengers that their flight would not be able to depart because it had been overcome by a very fishy smell. "I think most of the passengers thought that first announcement was a joke," says Greve. "But it was followed by a mix of annoyance and relief when we realized the plane actually did smell like fish." Word quickly spread in the departure lounge that someone who'd been onboard the plane had been so overwhelmed by the smell that they had vomited, further intensifying the odor issues. "We were delayed by two and a half hours waiting for a new plane to come before we could board," says Greve, who recalls that passengers were never given an explanation for the stench. The plane had arrived in Munich from Hamburg, a city known for fish dishes, which include eel and herring. "My theory is that a passenger bought some local fish specialty, then proceeded to leave it under his or her seat," says Greve.

9. Canine Conundrum
Call him the mystery mutt. As a result of a dashing doggy, the air traffic control tower at Burbank Airport in California had to delay the departure of at least one commercial jet in October 2010. An overhead video broadcasted by KTLA news station shows a dark-colored dog sprinting across two taxiways and a runway at the airport. It was never determined where the dog had come from, but the animal was definitely on a high-speed mission, as airport officials in trucks followed in hot pursuit. In the video, the dog can be seen running down a runway and over grassy areas before exiting the airport through a gap in a gate, outfoxing the airport operations personnel who were hot on its trail. Helicopter Reporter Alex Calder, commentating on the live action, was obviously impressed by the maneuver: "This little guy does not want to go back to doggy jail here, so he is running like crazy."

8. No Wheelchair, No Go
Stephen J. Dubner, an author and New York Times blogger wrote in a Freakonomics column from October 2010 that he has "heard a lot of reasons for planes being delayed." But a broken handle on a wheel chair? That was the excuse the captain of a Delta flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport gave passengers, including Dubner, during a recent flight delay. "It didn't seem to matter that no passengers on the flight had needed a wheelchair to board: the plane couldn't take off, he said, until a replacement was brought on board," Dubner writes. He added that the captain kept passengers continually informed about the status of their departure. But it took two and a half hours before a replacement wheelchair was located, and the flight was finally able to take off.

7. Horse Frenzy
When you're a Saudi Arabian prince, apparently, traveling with your six prized Arabian horses in the cargo hold is just another ride in the skies. But things didn't go quite as planned on a June 2010 flight bound from Egypt to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The pilot of an EgyptAir flight was forced to return the taxiing plane to the gate when the horses became agitated in the hold. The pilot deemed the situation a safety risk, and an airport veterinarian was called to tranquilize the equines. Once the animals were safely asleep -- and a flight delay of 80 minutes later -- the jet took off for Saudi Arabia as planned.

6. The B Word
We all know that one of the last words you should ever utter at an airport or around perked TSA ears is "bomb." One recent SkyWest Airlines passenger at Denver International Airport, however, seemingly could not resist. His actions not only delayed the flight's departure for an hour, but landed him with a layover in jail as a result. The individual, a business executive named Sergei Berejnoi, had missed his October 2010 flight from Denver to Salt Lake City and grew angry -- by the time he arrived at the gate, boarding had already closed. Berejnoi falsely claimed that his checked bag had a bomb inside. As a result, Flight 6694, with 50 people on board, was forced to return to the gate, where bomb-sniffing dogs were used to search the plane (no explosives were found). Bail was set at $15,000, and Berejnoi was charged with endangering public transportation -- a felony.

5. Bug Bungle
Florida has the reputation of being a creepy, crawly kind of state, but passengers aboard an American Airlines flight bound from Miami to Washington, DC, in March 2010 were still surprised to learn that their plane was delayed due to a cockroach infestation in the cabin. A colony of the much-maligned insects had taken up residence on the curtain hung between the first class cabin and the cockpit. It took 90 minutes to contain the cockroach problem and for the plane to be cleared to leave.

4. Turtle Love
Passengers at JFK airport are no strangers to delays. The air space around New York is among the most congested in the country according to FAA spokesperson Paul Takemoto, with three major airports (including LaGuardia and Newark) in very close proximity. But in July 2009, something far less predictable than flight congestion caused a runway snafu when scores of diamondback terrapins from nearby Jamaica Bay plodded onto the runway in search of a place to breed. Port Authority workers hustled to remove some 78 amorous turtles from the runway, piling them into a truck and returning them to the bay. The operation caused flights to be pushed back as long as 90 minutes at JFK and affected planes taking off from LaGuardia as well as air traffic control tried to get everyone back on schedule.

3. Fight Attendants
Passengers aren't the only ones who get a little testy when an unforeseen delay hits. Two female flight attendants on a Delta Connection flight in February 2010 bound from Rochester to Atlanta were removed from duty pending an internal investigation after a fight between them compounded a flight delay. A sick passenger had already caused the plane to return to the gate before take-off, when the fight between the airline's employees broke out. The passengers were asked to deplane from the aircraft and were forced to take other flights to reach their destinations.

2. MIA Baby Pythons
Like something straight from a horror movie, a Qantas airplane missed two scheduled flights in April 2009 after it was discovered that four baby Stimson's pythons were unaccounted for following a flight from Alice Springs to Melbourne, Australia. The non-venomous snakes were being transported in the plane's cargo hold and were thought to be safely packed inside a bag that was secured in a foam box. The plane was fumigated and returned to service, but passengers' minds were not exactly put at ease since the snakes were never found.

1. Toilet Trouble
Some wily passengers decided to test the suction ability of the toilets on a Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight from Dhaka to London in August 2009, causing the trip to be delayed ten hours. Solid materials including bottles, cups and sanitary pads were tossed into all five of the airplane's toilets, causing a serious snag in the pneumatic system. The clogged toilets were fixed in just two hours, but the more than 200 passengers aboard the flight had to wait an additional eight more hours for takeoff due to a night flight ban at Heathrow airport.

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