Traveling somewhere can be a fun experience. It is exciting to go somewhere familiar or new. On the other hand, the experience in the airport or on the plane can cause immense stress on passengers. People share the moment their travel experience went south. Content has been edited for clarity.
What Else Could Go Wrong?
“I’m a software developer from Brazil.
About a year ago, I started interviewing for a position in a company in Canada and made it through the on-site interview. I must add that I was a very inexperienced traveler.
The first leg of the flight was to São Paulo. It was set to last 50 minutes, and we took off at the scheduled time. But man, if only I knew what was coming my way.
As we were approaching São Paulo, the pilot told us due to bad weather, we would have to land at a nearby airport, wait for conditions to improve, and then fly to the correct airport. Only, it didn’t.
We were inside the plane for two hours, not allowed to leave. We did have some snacks and water, but that was just about it. Some people got mad. I mean, really mad. In the end, we ended up taking a bus to the correct airport, but by the time I entered the bus, I knew I was going to miss my connection.
When we arrived there, there was absolutely no one to advise us. Eventually, we found the airline counter, and a line was formed, so they would take a look at each case and decide what to do. But we had no food, no water, no chairs. Even the children and the elderlies got no support. I still get really mad remembering this.
After a long time, it was finally my turn.
The attendant turned to me and said, ‘Unfortunately, your ticket was bought from another airline. This means that your situation is not our responsibility.’
I was baffled. Literally. But it wouldn’t end this way. After 10 minutes of negotiation, and thanks to the help of the other passengers that were nearby, I got a basic hotel stay with a meal. Awesome, everything was settled now, right? Oh no.
We drove to the hotel, and I saw a giant line in front of it. Fortunately, the receptionist told us since there were a lot of people in front of us, we should eat first, and then check-in. Best advice ever. I quickly ate and went back in line.
When there were about five people in front of me, guess what? There were no more rooms. So we had to wait for another bus, which would take us to a different hotel. This time, everything was smooth. The hotel itself was much better, and there were much fewer people in line. In 30 minutes, I bathed and went to sleep.
Just to contextualize: my flight took off at 4:40 pm. I went to sleep at 5:30 am.
The rest of the trip was a breeze. Canada is beautiful, just amazing.
And yes, I got the job!”
Waiting, Waiting, And More Waiting
“I happen to have a deep aversion to American Airlines.
Here are two reasons why.
About two years back, my grandparents and I were in North Carolina for our usual family vacation. We normally flew Delta, but the problem was a layover in Atlanta. Unfortunately, there were no direct flights from our hometown to our destination, and we immensely disliked having to stop in Atlanta. Now, there was nothing wrong with Atlanta, but we didn’t like having to change planes. So we came up with what we thought was a better solution. Let’s take American Airlines.
With American, we would only have to take one plane, and we’d have to drive two hours from the airport to the hotel. Sure, it’d be long, but it’s better than a layover. Or so we thought.
We were on our way back home. We’d driven the two hours, and had gotten lost, but eventually, we found our way to the airport. When we got to the airport, it was two in the afternoon. Our flight was to leave at four in the afternoon. So we killed time and waited. At four, we were told that the flight was delayed til six p.m. So we waited again.
At six, they told us the flight was delayed til eight p.m. So we waited again, slightly angrier, but understanding that it was not the gate agent’s fault. They just worked for a bad airline.
Unfortunately, the only people who understood this were my grandfather and me. My grandmother not so much. When they told her this, she freaked. She had a bit to drink. She started yelling at the gate agent, and the cherry on top of the horrible night was that she threatened to harm the gate agent. I don’t know what comes over her sometimes, but this was the first of two times she said ‘we should hurt you’ to someone.
The second time was a waiter who didn’t bring her a napkin. She’s interesting to say the least.
So, we had the joy of TSA coming up to her and saying, ‘Ma’am you can’t threaten people with harm.’
Her reply was, ‘Sorry. I am very upset.’
Back to the main story.
We were waiting until eight, and we got another announcement. The flight would be delayed til 11 pm. So people settled in to wait it out a few more hours. We kept waiting for updates, and when there was no more update, we were relieved. We could go home! Except, we were still waiting until around 12:30 am when they told us that the flight was delayed until 10:30 am! Oh, and there was no hotel in either the city or the airport. Good luck with that!
Thankfully, there was one other plane that was still at the airport. It was a flight to an airport an hour away from home. And it was going to depart soon! My grandfather walked up to the gate agent and started a polite conversation. Turns out the man was from Haiti and spoke French, to which my grandfather quickly jumped on and replied something in French. The man seemed to be enjoying the conversation and told us there were six seats left. Not together, unfortunately, but we could still make our way home. And off we went, back home(ish).
Story two is not as long.
We went to Colorado for winter break. Again, on the way home, something happened. They decided that to make money, they were gonna double book the flight. We jumped at the counter and had three new tickets, while everyone else had to suffer with what they had. (Note that this happened to us twice.)
We had a similar problem with Delta on our last trip to North Carolina. Maybe we just have bad luck with airplanes?”
Flight Attendants To The Rescue
“I was in my twenties and I had a mad idea that I needed an adventure. I was going to travel to Buenos Aires by myself not knowing a soul there. It didn’t matter because I had a plan. I had read Lonely Planet and Fodor’s and mapped out places I wanted to see and all the restaurants I hoped to indulge in.
My fights were long and I knew it was going to be a butt-numbing trip. Los Angeles to Miami (five hours), five-hour layover, and Miami to Buenos Aires (nine hours). But I was young, and sleeping in the airport seemed like a great way to save money.
My first flight was uneventful. It was late in the evening when I began my trip. Five hours later, I was tired and using food as fuel to keep me going. I tried to sleep at the Miami airport but that was impossible. Too hot and humid; it was bright and the morning sun was on my face. Meanwhile, the airport was coming to life. So I waited and waited for five hours and I could get on another plane. I was praying that I might sleep.
So began the last (and longest) leg of the journey. I was seated in the middle seat beside a woman who needed extra room.
This woman sat down and immediately lifted the divider between the seats.
I was desperately uncomfortable pressed into the next seat divider and a bit on the next passenger. The flight was full and there was no chance of my moving seats. I sat as long as could. I took breaks often standing in the galley.
While I stood, most passengers slept or watched movies. I chatted with flight attendants. I read. The hours dragged on.
But, in the final third of the flight, I began seeing flickering lights in the periphery of my vision. I was getting a migraine. My medications were in the belly of the plane.
I asked the flight attendants if they had any Advil or salty crackers. They were so kind. They brought me ice wrapped in paper towels, pillows, and blankets. Nausea took hold and I was going to need to stay close to the lav.
Again, those flight attendants made a world of difference. They lay a blanket on the floor of the bathroom so I wouldn’t sit in the ‘splash zone.’ They directed passengers to only use the other restrooms and blocked the door when anyone came by. They stroked my hair and kept bringing me cold washcloths for my forehead.
Eventually, the plane landed but my headache wasn’t letting up. The flight attendants saved me yet again grabbing me in line with them passing through customs. The immigration officers ushered me through stamping my passport and visa before the other passengers embarked.
The truth is, as bad as the flight was, it could have been so much worse hadn’t I had four guardian angels in the sky with me that day.”
Good Ole Spirit Airlines
Should I keep typing or does that answer your question?
So I was 21 and dating an 18-year-old from my hometown. I was home from college for the summer and working a great summer internship (paid). I am an advocate of taking trips and an expert in finding them for cheap. The girl I was dating at the time had never been out of the country and didn’t have a passport. You don’t need a passport to go to the US V Islands so I found cheap flights and booked us a beachfront room for the end of summer and we split the cost. About 1000 bucks each for six nights, round trip. Resort and flights included.
Well, the flight was out of Dallas at five in the morning so we got there around two in the morning to check in and wait for the flight. It turned out they had delayed the flight by an hour. And then another hour. And then another. and so on and so on. Eventually, it was to the point where we were going to miss our connecting flight that day.
So I talked to the representative and she told me, ‘The next flight there is in five days from now.’
They offered a 60-buck refund, ignoring the connecting and return flights because it didn’t apply to this one even though it was the same airline. No offer to put us in a hotel room or even provide a meal.
I got on my phone and found a flight pattern to get us to Florida that day and to the island the next morning. The representative of course ‘didn’t notice that option.’ I had her book it for me and kindly reminded her that she should probably remember that option for all of the other angry customers in line behind me.
We lost a night at our paid resort (non-refundable), paid for a hotel room in Florida out of our pocket, and then boarded the flight the next morning. We eventually got to the islands and got back okay. But they were so incompetent and unhelpful. I found at least eight options to get us to the islands before their five-day wait for the next possible flight. No refunds, hotel reimbursements, and no meal reimbursements. We got to the airport at two that morning and left the airport in Florida at around six in the evening.
I sent them bad feedback and they offered the two of us a total voucher of 50 bucks which expired in 30 days. (50 total, not each). It felt like a slap in the face.
I did not use the voucher. At least the rest of the trip was fun.”
Shut That Kid Up
“My twins and I were on a flight from the US to Germany. They were seated apart from me. They were seated directly behind the problem. I was two rows back and over on the right side of the plane and it was so bad that I was miserable for 15 hours.
A woman and her four-year-old daughter sat in the middle seating directly in front of my 16-year-old twin daughters. This was before noise-canceling headphones.
The woman decided to use this flight to cut the apron strings from her four-year-old daughter. The child wanted to sit in her Mother’s lap and screeched for the entire 15 hours. Now, being a mother, I did not even think this was possible. Most children and adults would eventually pass out after a few hours of screeching. But not this child. Oh no. Not this child. She had stamina. None I had ever witnessed before nor since.
I now work and live overseas and have seen it all but I have never experienced anything like the screeching of a four-year-old for 15 hours.
I went to the bathroom at one point and got to witness firsthand the Mother and 4-year-old daughter. The Mother was a well-dressed woman and was simply ignoring the screeching. The child kept trying to get onto her Mothers lap and with her arm, the Mother just simply blocked her and calmly kept reading her magazine. This was an overnight flight and all of us were in desperate need of sleep.
At the hour of about 10, the head flight attendant came out and announced, ‘Shut that kid up. I have a migraine.’
Thank you Germans for being so blunt and honest. The screeching abated for about three minutes and as soon as the head flight attendant left, it started up again.
It was, without a doubt, the most miserable flight I have ever endured.
When noise-canceling headphones came out, I was first in line. I cannot fly without them.
Years later on a flight from the United Arab Emirates to Nepal, one of my twins was with me. Although I had told her to make sure she invested in these headphones, she did not. During one leg of the flight, two men were quite loud and she made me give up my headphones for her. I was not a happy person. I informed her that for 49.99 USD that there is no reason to ever get on a plane without them.”
Someone Help Her
“I had so many great flights. I even met Stephanie, the woman who is now my very best friend on the planet. We met while working on a trip together, and then we used to ‘Buddy Bid’ for years after. This means we bid for our schedules together. We always had a great time.
However, there were times when flights weren’t good, and very few were horrible ones. One such trip was from Philidelphia to Paris. A rare trip when Stephanie was not with me. A man in first class was traveling home with his family. The Man was eating too much, and drinking so much happy juice. I remember his wife telling him (in French) to ‘slow down.’ As we started our descent into Paris, he became ill. He said he felt chest pressure. He was French, and I’m not fluent, so I missed some clues.
I didn’t know he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. As the gear dropped, so did he, right in the aisle.
It took two other flight attendants to help me pull him into the galley (only about five feet) he had been in the bulkhead seat. I immediately assessed and started CPR. My flying partners returned to their seats for landing. It was something I’ll always have a hard time reconciling.
I was alone performing CPR on a man who was throwing up a steak dinner, dessert, cheese, fruit, and bottles of happy juice. Then I wiped his face and kept going. I was exhausted, but this man’s poor wife sat there watching me trying to save his life. The thing is, I knew he was gone, he had no color, and his pulse never returned.
After landing, a French Paramedic came up to help me, and when The French EMS came on and took the man away, I locked myself in the front lavatory and stared at myself in the mirror until everyone deplaned. I was covered in barf.
On the van ride to the hotel, I went off on the crew for not helping me. I was angry, but I shouldn’t have been so angry. I was so worn out, When we got to the hotel and I found out the passenger was indeed gone, I cried for hours.
After this horrible experience, I had the opportunity to perform CPR again. Fortunately, the second man survived. I would not hesitate to give CPR again.
Doing CPR shouldn’t scare people. So many people are afraid they will do it wrong. But even poorly performed CPR is better than watching someone pass.”
“The year was 2010. My first flight in 20 years. A little trip to Maine and Canada for some lighthouse photography. I thought I’d fly to Portland, spend a few days around Maine and New Brunswick, and fly back. Simple enough, right?
Yes, it was. At least going. A connection at Dulles and a short dinner and we would fly on to Portland and get there at midnight and I rented my car.
Returning to Portland later in the week, I was supposed to take a late flight. First, big mistake. Portland’s ‘Jetport’ closes most businesses at eight p.m. No problem. I ate and waited for my flight, which was supposed to leave at eight and have me back in Raleigh around midnight or so.
The flight took forever to show up. That should have been my first indication something was off, but I sat with my laptop and waited. The plane arrived at the gate and they started boarding.
No, hold up. No, no one can board. Turns out there was a hole in the luggage hold in the jet; it wouldn’t hurt the passengers but no luggage would go. They would have to get someone out of bed and fix it.
We had two choices: either spend the night in Portland or fly sans luggage to Philly where my connection was. The airline gave me a voucher and said I’d get a hotel. So off to Philadelphia I went, knowing I would miss my connection and have a flight waiting for me in the morning.
When we arrived at PIA, which was this airline’s home base, the gate attendant looked at the voucher staring right at him, and said, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about. Find your hotel.’
Right, I know very little about Philadelphia and am expected to find and pay for my room despite a voucher. No, I refused. Finally, he gave in after enough of us raised a stink.
I got to Raleigh early the next morning and got my luggage mid-afternoon and left.
I try to avoid that airline like the plague nowadays.”
“I was flying three hours to Chicago.
There was an empty seat next to me and I thought, ‘This is going to be a great flight!’
I was in the aisle and the gentleman next to me was wearing a business suit and on his phone when I took my seat. He spoke no English.
Again, I reiterated to myself, ‘This is going to be a great flight.’
We were even leaving on time. Woo hoo!
And then things changed.
The announcement came on to get off your cell phones. My fellow passenger did not. We started to take off. He was still on the phone, speaking a foreign language. Was he planning something?
He hung up the phone and then things got strange(r). He would sit quietly in his seat. Then he started pounding on the seat in front of him, yelling in his language, and then drawing something on the seat with just his finger. Then he would relax.
This continued over and over throughout all three hours. I don’t scare easily but this guy scared me. I reported him to flight staff and they offered no help. There was a guy in the aisle across from me with his wife, girlfriend, or some travel companion and she squeezed his hand every time the passenger went off.
He looked at me and asked me if I was scared. I sheepishly said yes. He offered to switch with me if I felt threatened. I did feel threatened but I did not feel it was right to endanger another. I asked the flight attendant if I could switch seats with the Air Marshall. She said no as it means his identity would now be disclosed. Finally, we landed. I grabbed my bags and darted for the exit. People around me let me go ahead as they knew what was going on. I have had crazy flights but this one certainly topped it.”
A Close Call
“I was in Saudi Arabia flying the Hajj for Capitol (a US charter airline) in 1980. We had been hired to fly Libya’s Hajis from Libya and Chad to Jeddah and back. One day, we were departing Jeddah with a full load of Hajis returning to Libya. We had reached rotation, the point when you have to commit to taking off or aborting the fight.
Unbeknownst to us, a light came on in the cockpit which indicated that the flaps were not operational. The captain had no choice but to abort the take-off. This initiated a very interesting sequence of events which included putting the nose of the plane back down onto the runway and attempting to stop it before we reached the end of the runway.
Had this not been Jeddah, we would undoubtedly have run out of room before we were able to stop. But Jeddah has very long runways, which saved us, so to speak. But, this wasn’t the end of the drama.
We stopped, but the brakes had caught fire and there was the ominous possibility of having to evacuate the aircraft. A very small percentage of our passengers spoke English and I knew about five words of Arabic, one of which was ‘Yalla’ which means ‘hurry up.’ Had we needed to evacuate, that was about all I could have yelled to get people to leave the aircraft. I know that most of them would have tried to carry every single thing they had with them and a lot of people would have been lost as a result.
Luckily for all of us, the fire was extinguished and we were able to deplane normally. They changed out the brakes and we departed a couple of hours later. I had to ask myself how long I would have stood at that door yelling ‘Yalla’ before I would have just gone down the slide myself. I guess I’ll never know.”
Ground That Pilot
“It was aboard a domestic Aeroflot flight from Kyiv to what was still Leningrad.
Some ‘pilots’ on domestic Aeroflot flights should have stopped operating anything more mechanical than a tractor. Too many got a job due to who they knew, not what they knew.
Our Russian group babysitter had even introduced me to the crew before departure as an American Captain
Anyway, we started our descent, and control inputs were excessive. It was snowing but the air was smooth. Whoever was flying (I use the term flying very loosely) leveled at what I had mentally calculated to be the final approach fix altitude. Then he did a zero-G pushover to intercept something. I presume the glide path. In the cabin, we were going from zero-G to + two, and I could feel heavy left and right banking.
I told the wife to never get scared unless I was so I pretended to read my magazine. The wife looked at me. She said I was pale and she knew I was terrified.
The tractor operator landed on the nose wheel first, bounced then the left main, then the right main, then finally both, and got the nose down.
Our Russian tour group lady turned around and asked me what I thought of that. In very explicit English I yelled what I thought of the pilot and that he should be grounded. That didn’t go over very well. To say that I was angry would be quite an understatement. I wanted personal words with that guy. Then I waited at the bottom of the air stairs, but they wouldn’t leave the cockpit. I finally gave up and went into the terminal. Our babysitter disappeared.”