The Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker writing and directing trio (Jerry Zucker, David Zucker, and Jim Abrahams) claim (on the audio commentary on the DVD release of Airplane! (1980)) never to have seen this film. They initially agreed to a sequel, and then balked at the idea at a later date. The movie went ahead without their permission, and despite their protests - thus, they refused to watch a single frame of it upon its release - and still have not over twenty years later.
At one point, William Shatner looks into a periscope and sees the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek (1966). This is the only time the original television version of the Enterprise appeared on the big screen. For the theatrical movies, it had been heavily modified.
At a pre-screening of this movie, the audience was given 3-D glasses as they entered the theater. After several minutes into the "blurry" film, distorted by the 3-D glasses everyone donned, the pre-screeners realized the film was not in 3-D. The audience had been duped, but it was unclear by whom. (Cincinnati, 1982)
At the Alpha Beta base, a technician tells Buck Murdock that the piece of equipment he is working on has red lights that go back and forth, but no other apparent purpose. This piece of equipment has been seen in many science fiction films and television series (including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), The Last Starfighter (1984) and an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)), but its function is never explained.
Leslie Nielsen turned down an offer to return as his character Dr. Rumack because of his commitment to the comedy series Police Squad! (1982). His character only appears in flashback sequences to the first Airplane! film. His character was replaced by the character of Dr. Stone, portrayed by John Vernon.
Following the air traffic controller asking to get Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges), there is a scene that was cut from the theatrical version which shows McCroskey in a mental institution. It opens a nurse getting a phone call from the space center asking for McCroskey. Another nurse worries that the call might disturb him, to which the first nurse replies "It's okay. He just thinks he's Lloyd Bridges." As she walks up to his bed, McCroskey is under the sheets with a snorkel poking out (A reference to Bridges' popular series Sea Hunt (1958)). After she gives him the phone, McCroskey takes the call, and then gets out of bed saying "Looks like I picked the wrong week to go senile!" (A reference to his repeated lines from the first film: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking/drinking/sniffing glue...") Though cut from the theatrical version, the scene is often inserted in television viewings to fill time.
Among the original passengers who return for the second film are the hysterical woman who gets slapped (during the courtroom scene), the middle-aged couple who talk about the weird things they've done, and the old lady who endures Ted's boring stories. Also, if you look at the peripheral passengers, you'll see a Asian man in what appears to be a soldier's uniform. This may or may not be a slight reference to the Asian soldier in the first film, who commits harakiri after listening to Ted's stories in the first film.
The truck that Ted leaps out of to get into the skyport is named "Ken's Trucking" and has a Canadian maple leaf on it. This is an inside joke since "Ken" is Writer-Director Ken Finkleman who is from Canada, hence the Maple Leaf.
Given the spoofing of science fiction in the film, there are numerous references to the classic television series Star Trek (1966). Not the least of which is the casting of William Shatner (Captain Kirk) as Commander Buck Murdock. But there is a nod to Star Trek most people (probably including the film makers) may not realize. When Gene Roddenberry, the creator and producer of Star Trek, was casting for the role of Captain Kirk, Lloyd Bridges (McCroskey) was considered for the part. He ultimately passed, paving the way for Shatner to take on the now iconic role.
William Shatner (Commander Buck Murdock) and Lee Bryant (reprising her role as the hysterical Mrs. Hammen from the first film, during the courtroom scene), were already working together at the time of this film's release on the television series T.J. Hooker (1982). In that series, Shatner played the lead role of police officer T.J. Hooker, and Bryant had a recurring role as Hooker's ex-wife, Fran.
If you look closely at the paperback books on the carousel behind the Asian man in the gift shop who falls over from having too many cameras, you'll see a book with the title "Wheel Of Fortune". Coincidentally, Pat Sajak, the host of Wheel of Fortune (1983), has a small role as television reporter during the montage of news shows reporting the space shuttle disaster.
After the news of the bomb gets out, the tower crew calls for "The Sarge"-Chuck Connors, a spoof of the George Kennedy ground expert character from the Airport Movies. In an 80s TV print, (not shown in theaters), he explains the probable path of the explosive force, primarily away from the passengers, going out into space, while pointing to a model-OF A WINCHESTER RIFLE, a nod to his past as The Rifleman.