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A Brief History of Rock Stars and Air Rage

You may have heard about an altercation on Aer Lingus flight EI 110 from JFK to Shannon the other day involving Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan. We’re not sure of all the details yet, but it appears that it was an air rage incident that allegedly involved her stomping on the foot of a flight attendant o hard that she broke it. The story also says she head-butted a customs person when she got off the plane.

Air rage is nothing to joke about. When you’re flying in a chair inside a pressurized tube at 35,000 feet, safety is paramount. You want a competent flight crew, a mechanically sound aircraft and certain level of decorum from your fellow passengers. Occasionally, though, people flip out.


1.  Courtney Love vs. Qantas

On January 20th, 1995, Courtney was arrested and strip-searched by Australian police after creating a disturbance on a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Brisbane. She was accused of verbally abusing a flight attendant. No charges were filed.


2.  Ian Brown of the Stone Roses vs. British Airways

On February 13, 1998, the ex-lead singer of the Stone Roes was aboard British Airways flight 1611 from Paris to Manchestter when something happened between him and flight attendant Christine Cooper.  She says that she’d been offering drinks to passengers when she though Ian had gestured at her.  He wasn’t, though; he was just putting something in his pocket. Realizing her mistake, Christine offered an apology with a open-handed wave in Ian’s direction.

At that point, she alleged that Ian yelled “Hey you!” at her and warned her not to wave at her like that or he’d “chop her hands off.”

She apologized again, but says the abuse just kept on coming.  When the captain was summoned to see what all the fuss was about, Ian allegedly repeated his threats.  And later, so the story goes, he banged on the cockpit door for 20 or 30 seconds as the plane was on its descent into Manchester Airport.  (This was before 9/11. Can you imagine if someone did this today?) The captain radioed ahead and when the plane landed, Ian was arrested and charged with air rage.

When he went to trial, he insisted that the airline’s story was wrong and his remarks were just jokes. He also denied banging on the cockpit door.  His defense fell on deaf ears and he was sentenced to four months in prison at the notorious Strangeways Prison.  To this day, though, Ian, his friends and supporters maintain that he was set up as some kind of example and did not deserve to be sent to jail.


3.  Liam Gallagher vs. Cathay Pacific

Our Kid has a lifetime ban from flying the Hong Kong-based carrier after an incident on a flight to Perth, Australia in February 1998.  He was accused of abusing passengers and crew as well as being a general nuisance. It got so bad that the captain threatened to divert the plane just so he could eject Liam, Oasis and their 30-member entourage. No charges were filed but the ban remains in place.


4.  Peter Buck of REM vs. British Airways

According to the REM guitarist, all he wanted was to get a little sleep on the nine-hour British Airways flight 48 from Seattle to Heathrow.  It was April 21, 2001.

When the drinks trolley came around, Peter availed himself to a couple of glasses of wine to wash down an Ambien. That’s when the fun started. According to witnesses, he attacked two members of the cabin crew, covering them with yogurt, overturning a food trolley and trying to steal a knife.  Upon landing in London, he was charged with being drunk, two charges of assault and one of damaging British Airways property.

The trial was held a year later with Peter’s defense being “non-insane automatism,” a condition caused by the combination of the wine and the sleeping pill.  After deliberating for five-and-a-half hours, the jury returned with a not guilty verdict.


5.  Courtney Love vs. Virgin Atlantic

On February 4, 2003, Ms Love was arrested at Heathrow after the cabin crew complained of abuse and disruptive behavior on a flight from Los Angeles.  She refused to sit down when told and wouldn’t fasten her seatbelt when instructed. No charges were filed.

For a list of more bad-behaving fliers, go here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38061 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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