Fact Check

Stuck on You

Was a passenger sealed to a toilet seat for two hours on a trans-Atlantic flight?

Published Jan. 31, 2002


Legend:   A passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight was stuck to an airline toilet for more than two hours when flushing it created a vacuum that sealed her bottom to the seat.

Status:   False.

Example:   [BBC News, 2002]

A plane passenger is giving bottom marks to an airline — after getting sealed to a toilet seat for more than two hours during a trans-Atlantic flight.

The American woman used the toilet, but pushed the flush button before standing up.

To her horror, she realised that the powerful vacuum action had got her in its grip.

Her body was sealed to the seat so firmly that it took airport technicians to free her.

Origins:   In

January 2002, venerable news outlets such as the BBC and Reuters ran with the story of an American woman who had supposedly become stuck to a toilet seat for hours on a flight from Scandinavia to New York when she "got sucked in after pushing the flush button while seated, activating a system to clean the toilet by vacuum" and "had to sit on the toilet until the flight had landed so that ground technicians could help her get loose."

The news reports exhibited from a dearth of checkable details, however: the incident had allegedly occurred "last year," the passenger was
identified only as "an American woman," and what little information was available was provided by an unnamed "SAS spokeswoman." (Other


news reports identified the SAS spokesperson as Siv Meisingset and stated that the American passenger "did not want to be identified.")

Not surprisingly, within the week these same outlets were running retractions that reported the eponymous "SAS spokeswoman" as relaying "that [SAS] internal checks had shown that the company's original information was false" and quoted her as saying that "we regret that we presented the story as true."

Hmm . . . Usually businesses are reluctant to confirm any negative news reports regarding their operations, no matter how much information demonstrating them true might already be available to the public. Why in the world, then, would SAS confirm a story like this one, especially if it weren't true?

Eventually, an SAS spokesman (one with a name) provided some details about the mistake to the Ananova news service:

Thomas Brinch, a spokesman for SAS, told Ananova the story is probably just a fictional example from staff training on how air crew should deal with emergencies.

"We have now checked through all our complaints and claims and we have not been able to locate such an incident," he said.

"We have no idea how it surfaced but it's the sort of story that may have been used during training when you think of an extreme example of what the crew should do when such and such a thing happens.

Last updated:   17 December 2005

  Sources Sources:

    Cooper, Gael Fashingbauer.   "Airplane Toilet Story Was Untrue."

    MSNBC.   30 January 2002.

    Agence France-Presse.   "Airborne Toilet Ordeal for Flushed American."

    21 January 2002.

    Ananova.   "Airline Says 'Passenger Stuck to Toilet' Story Was Mistake."

    31 January 2002.

    BBC News.   "Passenger Pans Airline After Toilet Ordeal."

    22 January 2002.

    Reuters.   "Flushed with Anger — Sky Toilet Horror."

22 January 2002.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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