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Revolt on a Plane? Where and How to Complain If Your Pilot Is Drunk and Other Dangerous Air Travel Scenarios

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sky bottleBack on December 28, passengers on Aeroflot Flight 315 revolted before takeoff when they suspected their pilot was drunk.

It was the pre-flight announcement on the Moscow to New York flight that tipped them off that the pilot was in no condition to fly, at which point passengers pleaded with the crew.

Though at first passengers were told to “stop making trouble” by the crew and by a representative from Aeroflot’s head office, the red-faced pilot eventually staggered out of the cockpit to face the angry mob, promising that he would pass control over to the other three pilots on board.

Eventually, all four pilots were replaced.

It’s reported that at the time, an Aeroflot representative (actual Aeroflot logo, still in use today, below) sought to assure passengers that “it’s not such a big deal if the pilot is drunk.”

Aeroflot’s Actual Logo“Really, all he has to do is press a button and the plane flies itself,” the representative said. “The worst that could happen is he’ll trip over something in the cockpit.”

Weeks later, Aeroflot has issued a statement saying that pilot Alexander Cheplevsky might have suffered a stroke before the flight, explaining his slurred and garbled speech during the in-flight announcement.

Fast forward to New Year’s Day, when a Muslim family of nine was kicked off an AirTran flight after passengers reported hearing remarks about airplane safety and security. At the time, although the family—in which all but one was a U.S. Citizen—was cleared to fly after FBI questioning, AirTran refused to rebook them on another flight. It wasn’t until the next day that AirTran apologized and reimbursed the family’s airfare and rebooking fees.

In light of these similar reactions to two very different situations—one seemingly justifiable and the other sparking controversy over civil liberties—when is it appropriate to report your concerns (or start gathering an angry mob)? Do you know how to register a complaint or concern while still on a flight? Well, we didn’t either ….

The Department of Transportation first referred us to the Transportation Security Administration to register immediate concerns. However, according to TSA regional spokesman Nico Melendez, if you see an immediate threat to safety or security while a flight is on the ground, start by notifying the flight attendant; if that doesn’t get any results, call 911.

You can also report airlines or airport security threats with the TSA by calling its hotline at 866-289-9673—but, chances are, that’s not going to get you immediate results.

Passengers with concerns about airline safety issues should call 1-866-TELL-FAA (1-866-835-5322).

Have you ever gotten off a flight due to fear over the pilot or other passengers? Reported suspicious activity? Tell us about it in the comments box below.

Related links: Wall Street Journal, Middle Seat Column, CNN,,, Moscow Times

By Sarika Chawla for

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