Every Friday, Cpi-Web looks back at the week’s most charming individuals. While there are always plenty of contenders for our Worst Passenger of the Week award, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory. Here are this week’s winners.
The illicit rhino horn trade has seen a dramatic resurgence in recent years, thanks in part to unfounded rumors that consuming powdered rhino horn cured a Vietnamese politician’s terminal cancer. Though the import and export of the mythologized animal parts are banned throughout most of the world, an intact rhino horn can sell for much more than its equivalent weight in gold.
The financial rewards that can go along with obtaining the much-sought-after panacea has even inspired enterprising thieves to burgle museums and private collections to liberate long-since taxidermied specimens. Obtaining rhino horns in the wild involves decidedly more cruelty and sometimes results in human as well as rhino deaths.
Three passengers were arrested upon arrival at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) after customs enforcement agents discovered 15 rhino horns hidden among their possessions. By some estimates, the seized cache was worth as much as $4.5 million on the black market. The rhino horn mules, however, told authorities that they were only paid about a thousand dollars each to smuggle the horns into the country.
A horde of men’s and women’s hockey players traveling home from a championship game reinforced the sport’s rough-and-tumble image, but the players managed to escape with only a stern lecture from police. The “boisterous” and reportedly intoxicated group’s rowdy behavior is said to have made it nearly impossible for flight attendants to complete the required pre-flight safety briefing on an Air New Zealand flight from Wellington International Airport (WLG) to Auckland Airport (AKL).
There were apparently a few warning signs of impending trouble before the reveling hockey teams boarded the flight home and then started heckling the flight crew. “Airport police received a report of a loud, boisterous group at the bar on Sunday at around 8pm,” an airport police spokesperson told reporters. “An officer attended and talked to the group who left the bar and went to their gate without incident.”
According to the spokesperson for the amateur hockey league involved, the team members were “in high spirits and emotionally charged” following a playoff victory. The league admitted that some players enjoyed alcoholic beverages in the locker room after their games, but denied that any participants arrived at the airport drunk.
Some eyewitnesses, however, say the post-game/pre-flight celebrations were more than a little out of hand.
“Players were bringing handles of beer to the tall tables and encouraging each other to skull the drinks with loud shouts,” one passenger at the airport told reporters. “Airport staff appeared quite concerned with the behavior and after about 20 minutes a police officer arrived and dispersed them. The adults with the group in particular looked very sheepish. The officer stayed for around 20 minutes as the group lumbered down the terminal to their flight. The airport took about 15 minutes to clear the tables and mop the floors.”
An especially bold and disturbingly creepy passenger was arrested this week after being accused of using a mobile phone to covertly take a photo while holding his camera under his seatmate’s skirt. The alleged incident occurred just before a flight at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) was due to depart for Spokane International Airport (GEG).
The accused voyeur’s icky plan was foiled when the victim’s boyfriend reportedly caught the sneaky shutterbug in the act. The suspected pervert is said to have quickly deleted the incriminating pictures, but according to The Deseret News, 35-year-old Kevin Earl Mills was taken off the plane and arrested on suspicion of “voyeurism by electronic equipment.”
Although crossing paths with a peeping Tom while flying is a rare occurrence, it certainly isn’t unprecedented. In fact, two former Worst Passengers of the Week earned their titles through similar antisocial activity. Unlike Mills, in these cases, the accused degenerates were in an obvious position of authority.
In 2010, a 55-year-old former US Airways Captain by the name of Joseph Pereira pled guilty after being arrested for taking an “up-skirt” photo of a 15-year-old girl at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). Pereira was in his pilot’s uniform when he was arrested. In this case, authorities were able to recover incriminating photos from the aviator’s mobile phone.
More recently, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screener was arrested for using his breaks to film lewd under-the-skirt videos of unsuspecting passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). Then 29-year-old Nicholas James Fernandez was also in uniform at the time of his arrest. Fernandez was already under suspicion and was being followed by another TSA agent who is said to have observed the criminal behavior as it occurred.