Image: bin Laden mask
Andrew Winning  /  Reuters file
Osama bin Laden is just one costume air travelers and airline staff should avoid this Halloween, James Wysong writes.
By James Wysong Travel columnist
updated 10/18/2006 1:01:43 PM ET 2006-10-18T17:01:43

On Halloween, most airline crew members are allowed to wear a costume to work. Some costumes are elaborate and well thought out, while others look like a last-minute throw-together. Sometimes passengers get into the spirit and dress up as well. Every year there is someone — a passenger or a crew member — who takes dress-up a little too far.

The following are costumes that I have actually seen at the airport, along with the consequences that followed.

Osama bin Laden. Maybe funny at a college frat party, but a little too close to the bone at the airport. The person who did this was — believe it or not — a pilot, and let’s just say it went over like a lead balloon. I laughed, not at his costume but at his surprise when he discovered the authorities didn’t think it was funny.

Drunken pilot. A passenger thought it would be clever to come to the airport dressed up as a pilot and hit the bars a good three hours before his flight. He met up with several passengers who were horrified when he claimed to be their pilot. He wasn’t breaking any rules, and nobody had the right to tell him to quit, although security was alerted and made sure he wasn’t really working the flight.

Police officer. Impersonating a law enforcement officer is illegal no matter what day it is, and with cameras and real cops all over the terminal, if you turn up in this costume, you are just a chicken waiting to be plucked.

Airline CEO. I wish I had thought of this one. A flight attendant dressed up as the tycoon from the Monopoly game and added a badge identifying himself as an airline CEO. He bragged about his pension during the whole flight, threw fake money around and laughed continuously at the other airline employees. Simple, yet brilliant.

Flasher. It may sound like a good idea, but keep in mind that indecency laws are strictly enforced. When a man from Florida wearing nothing but a trench coat flashed the women as he passed through the terminal, he was arrested. Apparently, he had been arrested before on the same charge, so maybe it wasn’t a Halloween costume after all.

Mass murderer. Dressing up as an infamous murderer in a public place, especially in an airport, is also a bad idea. On my flights I have seen Lizzie Borden, Son of Sam and Jack the Ripper. The best one was a flight attendant dressed up as a box of Cheerios carrying a fake sword. I am embarrassed to say it but, yes, he was a Cereal Killer.

Suicide bomber. Not funny, period! Two flight attendants dressed up as “I Spy” characters but ended up looking like terrorists with bombs. They were suspended when a couple of passengers raised a ruckus.

Anything explosive. Two gate agents actually dressed as bombs with a lit fuse. They worked the customer service desk and anytime anyone got angry, they would reply, “Be careful, I am operating with a short fuse today.” Surprisingly enough, the costume went over well, or I guess you could say that it didn’t bomb. Still, I wouldn’t recommend this stunt at the airport, especially these days.

Priest. A colleague of mine offended an actual priest with his “Father Ted” outfit. It wasn’t the costume that was the problem; it was the Catholic jokes that came with it.

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The opposite sex. You may wear a dress as a gag on Halloween, which might make some people chuckle, but before you know it, you are sneaking out to catch the cosmetic sales at the duty free shop.

Any character of ethnic origin. Don Juan, a matador, sumo wrestler, geisha girl, Rastafarian (especially if you’re white), etc. You have to realize that Halloween is an American tradition, but when you are in an airport, you may come into contact with international passengers who could take great offense.

Feminine hygiene product. A man showed up at a New York airport dressed as a tampon. In fact, he made most people, including me, laugh out loud. However, small children kept asking their parents what he was, and I doubt the flustered parents were inclined to begin sex education at such a young age, much less at an airport. The costume also had drawbacks for the wearer; for example, sitting on the airplane was difficult, and he had to take his cotton top off because he was blocking the video screen.

Next time you’re flying on Halloween, wear a costume that will put a little smile on a crew member’s face. As long as it isn’t one of the previously mentioned get-ups, it might get you a free drink on the airplane. I have known many gate agents who have upgraded as many costumed passengers to first class as would fit. It’s in the spirit of “Trick or treat!” and all those grinning jack o’-lanterns.

Enjoy and have a happy Halloween flight.

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