When my flight got interesting

Since I’ve been in Moscow, I go back home for a week every summer. While some people have asked me why I only go for a week and not longer, the simple answer is that I want to take advantage of having the three other weeks of vacation to travel more. In general, finding the optimal flights (i.e. total time and budget-friendly) from Moscow to DC can be tricky and usually clock in at around 24 hours. This summer though, I got very lucky and only had to fly 14 hours to and from. However, I came away with what is, to date, the most eventful flight I’ve ever experienced.

To set the stage: I fly home in June, so I haven’t lucked out and gotten any direct flights (yet); I attribute this to the parameters when buying my tickets, but I’m told there are indeed some of these prestigious flights. Thus, getting home requires a layover, generally in Frankfurt (which it was this time) or Amsterdam. The Moscow-DC route isn’t super duper popular, so you generally can tell who’s going home and who’s visiting or on a business trip. (Side anecdote here, but I ran into an American mother and her son who were on their way home after visiting Russia. It’s always a blast to be able to talk with your fellow countrymen!) Getting to Frankfurt was a cinch, and it gave me a chance to focus on my itinerary for my visit during the few hours of my layover. Another side note here is that Frankfurt’s airport, while nothing mind blowing, is pretty nice and cozy. Gotta love having a quick layover in places like those! My ticket this past summer placed me in the back of the plane, but it was relatively quiet as most of my fellow passengers had things to occupy themselves with. However…

Once we boarded and were in the air, things were a lot different. It didn’t happen right away, but about an hour into the flight, this elderly Russian lady started making a scene. Okay, no big deal, right? Well it kinda spiraled out of control in a sort of odd way. This lady got up and would constantly try to talk to the flight attendants who were congregated in the galley. After while, it became abundantly clear that this lady had some form of schizophrenia: she would yell in Russian and demand to be let off the plane, since she thought we were still on the ground; she did have what appeared to be her son with her, so thankfully she wasn’t by herself. Oh yeah, she also thought that she’d left something behind once she (perhaps) realized we were in a plane, headed to America. Normally I’d have resumed watching my movies, but even with my headphones plugged in and the volume turned fairly high up, I could hear the ongoing conversation. Both my fellow travelers and I naturally tried to pay attention to the proceedings because when something was that disruptive, it’s not easy to ignore it. The girl sitting across from me was Russian, so she was kind enough to periodically update me as to what this woman was saying. Over the course of four hours, which was half of the flight time, she would start yelling at the attendants until they let her walk around to calm down. Mercifully one of them spoke some pretty decent Russian, which helped to seriously deflate what could have been even more of a nightmare-kudos to the Lufthansa staff for remaining incredibly professional throughout the course of this. Eventually, this riveting saga concluded when the woman went to sleep. Phew. The last I saw of her was when all of us were at US customs post-baggage claim, and I’m happy to report she looked a lot more oriented.

Look, I know that this situation was a lot different than 99 percent of problems most flight attendants have. I absolutely sympathize with the woman’s son/caretaker, because that was an unenviable task he had, dealing with an elderly woman for a lengthy period of travel. Again, I want to reinforce the point that given the circumstances, the flight attendants in my section did an incredible job of handling it. While it is/was debatable if she should have been flying in that state, all that matters is that she landed safe and sound.

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For my fellow travelers, what is the strangest or most memorable thing you’ve experienced while flying?

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