In 2022, the world started traveling again – and with that came the return of all the usual misbehavior and antics abroad. But with nerves perhaps frayed by a record year for airline cancellations, delays, lost luggage and inflated prices, misconduct was a particularly strong theme. Here are the standout moments from a year of travelers behaving badly.
‘Did you pack your bag yourself?’
Sharp items and weaponry are, as everyone knows, huge no-nos when it comes to carry-on bags at the airport.
Everyone that is except for the man in Boston with a sword concealed inside a cane, the passenger at New York’s LaGuardia who was packing nunchucks, three saw blades, a switchblade and a folding knife, and the traveler in Alaska who rocked up to the security checkpoint with a bag filled with 28 knives.
A family of American tourists also caused havoc at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport in April after trying to transport an unexploded shell through security. Airport staff announced an evacuation and video circulated on social media showed people panicking and running for cover.
Popping a whole uncooked chicken in your carry-on is guaranteed to raise suspicions with the US Transport Security Administration, but even more so if you hide a gun inside it, as one man did in Florida.
And at least that poultry-clad firearm was discovered: An investigation was launched in June after an Atlanta passenger cleared security with a bag that may have contained a gun.
Live animals were also part of the circus of mayhem in 2022: Porcupines, armadillos, turtles, lizards and snakes were among the 109 live creatures discovered by X-ray in two pieces of luggage at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Two women were arrested and charged with smuggling in that incident, but on other occasions the intentions weren’t criminal. A live dog was accidentally sent through the X-ray machine at an airport in Wisconsin in December, just weeks after a cat was found trapped inside a suitcase at New York’s JFK Airport. It appeared to have crept inside when the suitcase’s owner wasn’t looking.
And at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Ohio in September, a human was the unexpected item hiding among the luggage. A man was arrested after climbing through the airport baggage carousel into a restricted area.
‘For your safety and comfort, please remain seated’
In January in Honduras, a man was reported to have damaged the inside of a cockpit in a Miami-bound American Airlines plane then tried to jump out of a window – all while the aircraft was still at the gate.
NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. was another passenger who was kicked off a flight before takeoff: He was removed from a Los Angeles-bound American Airlines flight at Miami International Airport in November after refusing to comply with safety protocol, according to a police statement.
And in September, a Southwest Airlines pilot in Houston threatened to cancel takeoff after a passenger AirDropped a nude photo to other fliers.
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was the most high-profile traveler to be involved in a physical altercation with another passenger this year, but fisticuffs and mid-air high jinks continued to be on trend.
The worst year on record for unruly airplane passenger behavior in the United States was 2021, with nearly 6,000 incidents reported and nearly 72% of them mask-related. This year, meanwhile, there was a much reduced 2,359 Federal Aviation Administration reports as of December 15, with the peak being in February 2022, before the mask mandate was lifted.
This year started with a rowdy group of Canadians being stranded in Mexico after their maskless partying on a Cancun-bound flight got their return flight scrubbed and other airlines declined to fly them home.
In February, an American Airlines flight attendant used a coffee pot to hit a passenger on the head after he tried to open the plane’s exit door, according to the airline. And there were multiple cases of flights being diverted or turned around because of disruptive behavior – such as trying to bite a fellow passenger or assaulting cabin crew.
Fines for McMuffins and reclining your seat
It wasn’t just airplane passengers who were getting out of line. Two Air France pilots were suspended after a fight in the cockpit, a JetBlue pilot was “removed from duties” after failing a Breathalyzer test before a flight, and two pilots on a Ethiopian Airlines plane were reported to have fallen asleep and missed their landing.
An AirAsia flight in Malaysia was rerouted after a snake was found slithering through the light fixtures. And strange moans and groans were heard blasting out over the PA on an American Airlines flight to the bewilderment of passengers.
At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in May, a man was taken into custody after walking out onto the wing of a plane that was taxiing after arriving from San Diego.
And the misadventure didn’t stop after planes landed. A passenger arriving in Australia from Bali, Indonesia, was fined $1,874 after two undeclared McMuffins and a ham croissant were found in their luggage.
Fines were handed out on other modes of transport too. A man in China was ordered to pay $478 for reclining his train seat: It smashed the laptop screen of the passenger sitting behind him.
Bad behavior in the Bel Paese
International tourists flooded back to Italy this summer and soon the Bel Paese was the world capital of visitor villainy.
There was topless sunbathing on a war memorial, skinny-dipping in Venice canals and Rome’s Spanish Steps were damaged first by a Maserati and then by scooters.
An Australian man rode a scooter through the ancient site of Pompeii and the southern coastal town of Sorrento introduced fines for bare chests.
“Italy is peculiar in the wealth of tourism features the country has, and it’s unique in that people occupy these spaces in a way that doesn’t occur in many countries,” Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tourism Association (ETOA), told CNN Travel in October.
He pointed out that Venice and Rome are living cities in which people are forever rubbing alongside priceless cultural treasures. Said Jenkins, “There’s nowhere in France [the most visited country in the world] that’s as sensitive. And they’re getting 65 million international visitors a year, so the sheer volume of people going into these spaces means a small fraction behaving irresponsibly isn’t that surprising.”
Come with your buds, but not for the bud
Visitors also poured back into Amsterdam, with the city officials targeting less desirable sex and drug tourists with an initiative focused on “actively discouraging international visitors with plans to ‘go wild’” in the Dutch capital. It’s been dubbed the “stay away” campaign.
Thailand decriminalized cannabis in June 2022 and cannabis cafes subsequently started popping up over the Thai capital, Bangkok.
Not everyone was keen on this new tourism offering, with Anutin Charnvirakul, the country’s health minister, saying in August that weed-smoking visitors weren’t welcome.
Of course, trouble-making tourists were as ever but a tiny portion of the number of people on the move this year and there were many heartwarming stories from 2022 as well.
There was the retired nurse who helped save the life of a baby who had stopped breathing on a flight between Pittsburgh and Orlando.
And the woman who became friends with a kind stranger who came to her rescue after her luggage was lost en route between Europe and the US.
Then as the year came to a close, there were the two refugee sisters who were reunited with the mystery woman who gave them $100 on a plane 23 years before, a gift that would change the young girls’ lives.