Your plane ticket is your pass to far-flung destinations—on several conditions. Check your airline's contract of carriage; there, buried in pages of text, you'll find a list of violations that'll get you banned from boarding or even kicked off a plane.
Contracts of carriage vary slightly by airline, but most contracts have some kind of language prohibiting passengers from doing anything that endangers the safety or comfort of fellow flyers. This is all subject to interpretation by airline employees, which is why we often see so many wild stories of passengers getting the boot. So what, specifically, shouldn't you do? The following seven behaviors should be avoided at all costs.
Refuse To Buckle Your Seat Belt
If for any reason a passenger can't or isn't willing to buckle his seat belt, flight crew will probably show him the door. It happened to a 3-year-old boy who wouldn't buckle up on an Alaska Airlines flight. It also happens when passengers are too large to fasten their seat belts. Travelers are required by federal law to wear a seat belt on some phases of all flights. And until recently, passengers of size could bring a seat belt extender on board to help with fit. But in August, the Federal Aviation Administration declared that flyers must be able to buckle up using the aircraft's original seat belt or with an extender offered by the airline, if available.
Bring a Crying Kid
Passengers who get loud, become aggressive, and spoil the comfort of fellow flyers could get kicked off a plane—even if they're still in diapers. The crew of a JetBlue flight to Turks and Caicos forced the family of a tantrum-throwing toddler to debark the plane in March 2012. According to SmarterTravel editor Caroline Morse, "The parents tried to hold the screaming toddler down in her seat with the seat belt on, but the pilot and flight attendant made the decision to kick the family off the flight and leave without them. Undoubtedly, the people trapped near that toddler on the plane were grateful, but the Daily Mail reports that the family ended up paying more than $2,000 for a new flight and hotel room for the night."
Wear Something Inappropriate
Airlines generally leave it up to flight attendants to judge whether or not a passenger's attire is inappropriate for wear in the air. As a result, instances of flyers getting the boot due to unsuitable attire are relatively common. In the past, we've reported on flight crews banning passengers for wearing low-cut tops, rocking baggy pants, and sporting offensive T-shirts.
Get in a Fight
When a man smacked a fellow passenger in the head on a United Airlines flight to Ghana in 2011, the pilot, like a parent driving a car with feuding kids in the backseat, turned that plane around. But unlike your average parent, the pilot had the wherewithal to call up a few fighter jets as backup. The Air Force was summoned and two jets trailed the plane as it circled for half an hour, burning off fuel. The aggressive flyer, naturally, was removed from his flight once the plane touched down.
Here's the most unbelievable part of this story: The whole brawl started when one passenger reclined his seat into the space of the guy behind him. Some travelers might even argue he deserved the smack.
Ignore the Request to Turn Off Electronic Devices
You've undoubtedly heard the notorious tale: Alec Baldwin was kicked off a flight for neglecting to pause his game of Words with Friends when the flight crew requested that passengers power down their devices. It's important to note, however, that you likely won't be removed from your flight if you simply forget that your device is turned on and your phone rings on the tarmac. It's not that easy to get booted. But Baldwin seemed determined. He reportedly became aggressive and ignored repeated requests before the captain decided to leave the 30 Rock star behind.
Neglect Your Hygiene
You don't have to wear a naughty T-shirt to offend fellow passengers. Simply skip the soap. A few years ago, a flyer did just that, and ended up on the wrong side of the boarding gate. According to ABC News, when passengers on an Air Canada Jazz flight to Montreal complained about a foul-smelling flyer, the malodorous man had to forfeit his flight before departure. A person on the flight told ABC News, "People were just mumbling and staring at him. The guy next to me said, 'It's brutal.'"
Drink Too Much
Visibly intoxicated passengers aren't welcome on flights; most airline contracts of carriage contain clauses that specifically state this. US Airways' contract, for example, states that the airline can refuse transport to passengers who "appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs."
Some people apparently missed the memo, like country singer John Rich (of Big & Rich), who was removed from a Southwest flight for being too drunk to fly, and an intoxicated Bahraini prince, who lost his seat on British Airways. (It's safe to say that these airlines offer no special treatment for the rich and famous.)
Even if you appear drunk but are really sober, your ticket could be in jeopardy. In July, we reported on a sober woman who was removed from a Southwest flight because a gate agent thought she was intoxicated. After being booted, the women obtained a toxicology test from a hospital, and her blood alcohol level was less than 0.003. Nevertheless, she wasn't permitted to board that initial flight.