Flying doesn’t always go smoothly and that’s no exception for celebrities.
In 2019 we saw an unusually long list of major scandals involving VIP passengers, from drunken outbursts to accusations of racism.
Qantas and its low-cost brand Jetstar made enemies out of at least four celebrity passengers, while Harry and Meghan faced a global controversy of their own.
It all kicked off early, in January, when an Australian top model was dramatically arrested at Los Angeles International Airport.
ADAU MORNYANG’S DRAMATIC ARREST
Australian model Adau Mornyang, 25, was arrested in Los Angeles on January 22 after a dramatic United Airlines flight from Melbourne on which she drunkenly assaulted a flight attendant.
Explosive audio from the flight captured the former Miss Australia finalist hurling obscenities and referring to a flight attendant as a “white trash b**ch” before throwing her socks at passengers.
Mornyang told News Corp in March she had no memory of mixing prescription drugs with alcohol to sleep during the flight and denied being drunk on the plane.
She faced up to 21 years in jail after being found guilty of assaulting crew but ultimately escaped with 100 hours of community service and three years’ probation.
But in September, Mornyang faced more drama when she was reportedly arrested and jailed by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in “a surprise ambush” when an official claimed she was in the country illegally, according to her sister Maria.
THE VERONICAS’ QANTAS FIASCO
Pop duo The Veronicas have vowed never again to fly with Qantas after they were dramatically booted from a Brisbane-bound plane in Sydney in September.
According to Qantas, Lisa and Jess Origliasso were removed from the flight by three federal police officers after they “refused to follow crew instructions” and were deemed security risks. The sisters said it all started when a flight attendant refused their request for help with their bag in the overhead locker.
“Then right before takeoff, the flight attendant bought over the manager and pointed us out. He proceeded to lecture us about company policy. We listened and asked for their names,” the sisters said on social media, saying the experience was “upsetting and embarrassing”.
The Veronicas say they are still to receive official word from Qantas about why they were booted off the flight.
The sisters threatened to sue the airline and were later seen taking a flight with Virgin Australia.
SAM ARMYTAGE’S LUGGAGE FEE
Weeks later, in November, Sunrise presenter Sam Armytage publicly slammed budget airline Jetstar’s “rude staff” and overweight baggage charges.
Armytage told followers on Instagram she shelled out $700 for last-minute flights to Queensland for a funeral and was shocked at being charged extra for overweight baggage on the return flight.
She called Jetstar “the worst” and vowed never to fly with them again.
“@jetstaraustralia you are the worst! Paid $700 for last minute flights to Queensland for a funeral … Then (was) charged $60 extra at gate home for same amount of carry-on as we flew up with yesterday. Go figure?!?!” she said.
“Will definitely choose @qantas or @virginaustralia next time. Every time.”
Showing no signs of letting go of the negative experience, she went on to slam staff and the lack of legroom in her seat.
“Not to mention how rude the staff are while they’re charging you extra,” Armytage said in a follow-up post.
WILL.I.AM’S RACISM ACCUSATIONS
Qantas faced another major controversy in November when Black Eyed Peas star will.i.am accused the airline of racism after a tense incident on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney.
The rapper and songwriter tweeted to his 12.8 million followers he had been mistreated by an “overly aggressive flight attendant”.
“I don’t want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour,” will.i.am said.
It is understood police were called in Sydney after the American star refused to show his boarding pass and ignored safety directions to stow his laptop as the flight prepared to land.
However, he claimed he had not heard announcements over the PA because he was wearing noise-cancelling headphones.
Will.i.am posted the name and photo of the flight attendant on Twitter, which attracted criticism.
Qantas called on will.i.am to retract his racism claims and said if he didn’t back down, it would help any staffer’s battle in court.
HARRY AND MEGHAN’S PRIVATE JETS
Even the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had their own mile-high scandal in 2019.
The royal couple faced heavy criticism and were accused of hypocrisy for using private jets to travel through Europe – taking four private jets in just 11 days – while encouraging others to do their bit for the environment.
Even music icon Sir Elton John was dragged into the scandal after pictures emerged of Harry and Meghan boarding a luxury 12-seater Cessna plane to visit his $27 million villa in Nice.
As critics blasted Harry and Meghan for their gas-guzzling journeys by private jet, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were papped taking a commercial flight with budget carrier Flybe to Balmoral.
“I spend 99 per cent of my life travelling the world by commercial (flight),” Prince Harry said.
“Occasionally, there needs to be an opportunity based on a unique circumstance to ensure my family are safe.”
He added he “always offset” his flights.