Flying has got to be one of the few things that makes everyone even the slightest bit uneasy. Whether you are concerned you'll miss your flight or the thought that you are thousands of feet up in the air makes you feel sort of, well... helpless. Remember: chances are you'll get through whatever an up-and-coming flight may throw at you.
For more flight experiences, you can find the original thread source at the end of the article.
The Unbearable Journey Back To Newark
“In mid-October of 2017, my college had scheduled a short ‘fall break’ that fell about halfway through the semester. This would allow students who hadn’t seen their families in nearly two months (like me) a brief visit home. My family was ecstatic, of course, and booked me a roundtrip flight from Pittsburgh International Airport to Newark. The hour-long flight back to New Jersey was a breeze, and I was soon sprawled out in the passenger seat of my dad’s Nissan, speeding down the Turnpike with a Wawa hoagie sandwich in one hand and my duffel bag in the other.
The break itself was rather short (Friday to Monday), and it didn’t help that I woke up Sunday morning with extreme nausea and a fever. The symptoms bled into Monday, and while there was nothing I would’ve rather have done than curl up on the couch until I was better eased, I needed to get back to school. Laying in bed grumbling at the injustice of it all, I choked down a few swigs of flu medicine and began packing.
My flight was at five, and Newark is around an hour and a half from my hometown (provided there aren’t any burning tractor trailers on the Turnpike, which happens more often than one might think). At around noon, I realized that United Airlines had yet to email me my mobile boarding pass, which they had done 24 hours in advance for my other flight. I informed my father of this.
He came in five minutes later, phone in hand, with a shocked expression on his face. ‘What happened?’I asked. Wordlessly, he extended his phone to me. I squinted to read the tiny writing.
Flight Status: CANCELLED.
We both stood there, agape for a good fifteen seconds before leaping into action. My dad angrily called United, who gave the excuse that they had ‘accidentally not secured a plane for that flight.’
‘Well what about La Guardia or JFK?’ my dad fumed, naming the two New York airports that are both within a half hour of Newark. No, the representative said, there were no flights to Pittsburgh out of those airports that day.
At this point, I was beginning to panic. Pittsburgh is a seven to ten-hour drive from my town, and although we’d driven before, I didn’t have that kind of time. Both of my parents had work the next day. I frantically began searching for Greyhound bus tickets, but they were all sold out for that day.
‘PHILADELPHIA!’ snarled my dad, who was still on the phone with United, ‘can she fly out of Philly?’
Yes, I could fly out of Philly, but not directly to Pittsburgh. The rep suggested flying to Washington, DC, and after a brief layover, taking another flight to Pittsburgh. Having exhausted all other options, my dad booked me the flight, and we sprinted to the car for the two and a half hour drive to Philadelphia.
I bid my farewells at security and soon found my gate. I was an hour early, I had finally booked a flight home, and I was happy. So what if it involved a brief detour to our nation’s capital? I was just content to be going back to school…until I glanced at the digital screen above the gate and nearly choked on my water.
Flight Status: DELAYED FOUR HOURS.
I did some quick mental math. Four hours, plus one in flight time to DC… there was no way I would make my layover. I once again frantically called my father, who in turn called United while I made a beeline for their customer service desk. After an hourlong battle and some tears (apparently I can cry at will – who knew?) United finally agreed to transfer me to an American Airlines flight out of Philly directly to Pittsburgh. They’d even transfer my checked luggage for me.
‘You’re all set!’ beamed the ticket agent. ’10:35 flight to Pittsburgh International, gate C-22!’
’10:35,’ I murmured to myself, ’10:35… ten… thirty…’
My eyes made contact with the giant digital clock behind her head, which read ’10:27.’
I blinked. She smiled. I shuffled from foot to foot, trying to mentally comprehend what had just happened. I was in terminal A. My flight was now in C. And it left in less than ten minutes.
As a seasoned traveler, I often found amusement in seeing time-pressed travellers booking it across airports. Never again, I vowed as I sprinted across the moving walkways, doing my best to avoid taking out small children with my large duffel swinging from my hand. I made it to the gate just as they were finishing boarding.
‘Boarding pass please,’ requested the agent.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
I didn’t have a boarding pass. Well, I did, but it was for my semi-original United Airlines flight to DC, not an American Airlines to Pittsburgh. I tried to explain this to the woman, who in turn called her manager. I hopelessly watched as another man closed the gate doors behind them. I thought all hope was lost.
In that moment, I began to believe that miracles do truly exist, because the manager reappeared with the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life: a boarding pass, for this flight, with my name scrawled on it in blue pen. Snatching it out of her hand, I yelled thanks and sprinted onto the plane. I’d made it.
Well, I made it. But my luggage did not. Remember how United had sweetly claimed they’d handle the transfer of my suitcase?
Yeah, that didn’t happen. I realized this after waiting around for an hour and a half at baggage claim in Pittsburgh. Tired, ill, and defeated, I made my way to the good ol’ United customer service counter.
‘This says your bag is in Washington D.C.,’ said the agent.
Well, duh I thought. ‘Huh, that’s odd,’ I said through gritted teeth.
Forlorn, I took the shuttle back to campus. My suitcase came in the following day, which ended my travel experience, and I didn’t even miss my 9 am class.
Moral of the story: you might want to reconsider flying with United Airlines.”
‘I Was Questioned By A Flight Attendant’
“Coinciding with the Labour Day holiday in 2017, I decided to go to Kuala Lumpur for a day trip and try Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru on the way back. I once suggested that my parents fly with them when their fare from Jakarta to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur was still cheap (which they refused). Everybody in my family (except me, of course) was afraid of flying with them after the 2 incidents that struck them in just 4 months on 2014, so I found this to be just the right moment to try.
The route I took was a very short one at only around 200 to 300 kilometers. I decided to take pictures of everything they would allow me to.
I had never experienced this before and I hope to never experience it ever again.
The flight attendant brought a continuous paper presumed to be the manifest, went to my row, and started asking me. Let’s compress the dialogue into points:
She asked where I was from. (I answered Singapore; my trip started and ended there but to save cost I flew to Johor Bahru instead.)
She told me that she was from Johor Bahru and her cousin was in Singapore, which she used to coerce me to tell the truth. (I was already telling the truth so I had nothing to hide anyway.)
She asked where I was studying. (I answered where, and was sure she and her cousin would be familiar.)
She asked me why I took photos and said I’m doing so for my personal documentation; it was my first flight on Malaysia Airlines.
She asked me again if I was a journalist. (I answered with a no; it’s quite rare for a student to be a full-time journalist anyway, let alone doing it undercover.) And then…
She told me that taking photos on board a Malaysia Airlines flight was prohibited and although the crew members were fine they asked me to ask for permission on the next flight(s).
Throughout the questioning session, I always had the thought that I was going to be screwed, and although it didn’t turn into anything bad, it still left me with a very negative impression as she questioned me while standing at the aisle, allowing others to hear the session as well.
I’ve had the thought of flying their inaugural Kuala Lumpur to Surabaya route later this month, however after such an incident and after I spent some of my money on the upcoming flight to Jakarta for the meetup I think it would be best to stay away from them (at least for a while).”
‘I Thought It Was Over For Me’
“In Ethiopia (2003) I was flying from Gondar back to Addis Ababa in a Fokker 50 with Ethiopian Airlines.
It was dark and there was severe turbulence due to the strongest storm I’ve ever seen in my life. It was impossible to see anything from the window, not even the wings. The plane started to bounce terribly while the plane started the landing maneuver. It was pretty scary and the passengers started to shout and cry.
Then the captain spoke and said that we were going to do an emergency landing because it was impossible to escape from the storm at that point. The faces of the flight attendants were pure panic, but they gave us instructions to be in the brace position.
At that moment, I thought we were going to perish crashing on the way to the airport. It was my first flight on a third world airline, and my reasoning was: I’m flying in a third world country airline, with pilots trained in Ethiopia. I remembered all the crashes that happen in Africa, the bad weather, the technical conditions of the airports, the condition, and type of plane, near the ground. I just thought It was all the perfect conditions that a crash would occur in.
Thank God, we landed safe (extremely bumpy, of course) but we were lucky! There are a lot of terrifying stories with less luck than what I had gone through.
By the way, my second worst experience was also in Ethiopia, but it was very soft compared to this one. And I learned that Ethiopian Airlines has incredible safety records, with very well trained pilots, and very nice planes. Despite this awful experience (and my situational ignorance) it’s one of my favorite airlines.”
‘My Airline Declared Bankruptcy…While I Was In The Air’
“Once upon a time (2008), there was a value airline called Skybus. Skybus proudly advertised $10 fares. Yes, you read that right…ten dollars. The idea was that the first few people to book a flight got it for $10, then the next batch went for $20, and so on up to ‘normal’ fares. So anyway, I book my flight and I actually drive an hour past my usual airport to get to the one that has Skybus Airlines.
First off, the plane didn’t pull up to the terminal. They saved money by not doing that. We had to walk out onto the tarmac. I’ve done this with little puddle jumpers but never with a huge 747. We had to walk up a series of ramps to get on the plane, which was decorated with a Nationwide Insurance ad right on the side like a city bus or something. Whatever. My roundtrip flight cost me $20. I couldn’t complain.
So then the plane gets ready to take off. And, no lie, a woman wearing a hoodie and jeans walks up to the intercom and introduces herself as the flight attendant. She explains that they’re not your typical airline and that they save money by not offering anything complimentary. Pillows were $5 and blankets were $10. ‘Keep those wallets out because we will be coming by with the quality value convenience cart momentarily’, they said and walked up the aisles selling jewelry and electronics. Again, my flight was $20. I turned up my headphones and went to sleep.
I woke up as we were about to land when the hooded flight attendant asked me to un-recline my chair. We landed without incident and the captain made an announcement: ‘It’s currently 50 degrees and raining here, but this plane is headed to Fort Lauderdale next where it’s a nice sunny 80 degrees. If you’d like to go, remain seated and have your credit cards ready for the flight attendant. It’s only an additional $70.’ Tempting, but no. I disembarked…down a series of ramps…onto the tarmac.
I get inside the airport and look up at the TV screen to see, ‘SKYBUS DECLARES BANKRUPTCY. PASSENGERS STRANDED.’
This was in 2008. I was still using a flip phone, so I couldn’t verify details. Oh yeah, they also saved money by not having any airline staff at the airport. Their ‘counter’ was just a bunch of computer terminals which were shut off. I get to my hotel and immediately start googling.
Sure enough, they declared bankruptcy that morning and decided that their last flight would be at 11:59 pm that night. My return flight was scheduled for the next morning. I went to their website to find a message on the homepage that suggested stranded passengers find another airline to get home (thanks for the tip). Their 1-800 number had a recording of someone reading what was on their webpage.
All flights were either sold out or some ungodly price. I ended up renting a car and driving 11 hours past my house and to the airport where my car was parked before then driving another hour back to my house. All told, with gas, rental fees and tolls I paid way more than I would have if I’d just flown with a regular airline.”
The ‘Fighters’ In The Back Seats
“This happened 5 years ago. I was traveling back home from India with my father. It was a 9-hour flight and I had school the next day.
None of this would have been a problem if the two guys behind us hadn’t started punching each other. It wasn’t a couple of friendly punches. From my seat, right in front of them, it felt like Rocky was training for a fight or something.
I mean I get you guys might have high testosterone levels and constantly have to prove your strength but please relax and stop messing around on a flight.
When I turned around the ‘boxers’ turned out to be around 20 and very ‘tough looking’. And then they told me to shut up when I asked them to stop shaking my seat.
Throughout the flight I got the occasional kick and snigger.
When they brought us food, I placed my phone and school book (with my assignment due the next day) on the armrest. Big mistake.
With hindsight, I know I shouldn’t have left them in such an easily accessible place, but I underestimated how far will strangers actually go to mess with you.
Once we finished our meal I noticed my stuff was gone. Obviously, I know it had been them but when I told my father he brushed it off. But he thought my stuff had fallen on the floor and started searching for it. Now I was furious but what my dad did was impossible to not find funny.
He started crawling between seats, feet, and legs to find my precious belongings. Yes, people were shocked when they saw a head pop up between their feet but when my dad reached the two guys sitting behind us, he found my book and phone under their feet.
I don’t know how my father was able to sleep with those two behind us but me being the paranoid chicken I am, every time they kicked or I felt their hand ‘accidentally’ bump into my shoulder, I started making up scenarios. I mean, if they had stolen my things, why would they restrain themselves from strangling us in our sleep or putting something in our drinks… yes, I was stressed, tired and perhaps a bit delusional. I just wanted to safely land and leave.
Eventually, we landed and I can proudly say I stayed awake the whole time, ‘protecting”‘my father, who after having crawled like a baby, had fallen asleep like one.”
‘The Flight Attendant Spilled Hot Coffee On Me And Then Denied It’
“I am going to begin with a confession — I have been an unapologetic loyalist of Jet Airways. Even when the organization I worked for decided to implement ‘cost-cutting’ and the leadership team was asked to fly low-cost airlines, I offered to pay the difference. Once I became an entrepreneur it would have been sensible to always book the cheapest fare. No, not me! I continued to be indulgent with my choice of Jet Airways. Even my credit card is a co-brand with Jet…
Then I got a reality check.
I was traveling from Kolkata to Mumbai with my family. Rather than a sequence of events that transpired, let me try and narrate it in the form of an in-flight announcement to the competent folks at Jet…It just might cut more ice!
‘Ladies and Gentlemen of Customer Service and Guest Relations, tighten your belt and be forever-ready! When a customer raises a complaint, respond promptly. Please don’t test his patience…’
I was traveling with my infant daughter and they created a fair amount of inconvenience during check-in and boarding. I did the most natural thing to do…tweet! This was just the beginning. To make the journey more memorable…they spilled hot coffee on me. I tweeted again. No response to both the tweets for over 24 hours. Since patience is not my virtue…I decided to write to the CEO Amit Agarwal (yes, LinkedIn works!). Finally, it takes them 48 hours more for a guest relations executive to call me.
‘Cabin-crew take special note: Please don’t drop or spill hot coffee on passengers sitting in aisle seats. And even if you have made a mistake…get them a first aid kit and bloody well own up!’
I was working on an important presentation when the ‘accident’ happened. There was hot coffee all over me and my laptop. It was not just a few drops. The open flask overturned. Instantly, I checked for my daughter’s well-being and proceeded to clean the laptop. Finally, I wiped the coffee off my arm. I know I erred on the airline protocol of ‘watch yourself before you watch-out for others’, I don’t know if it deserves being lied to…
The exact quote from their email: ‘Our crew member has also categorically confirmed that the issue of the spillage on the MacBook was not brought to her attention, else they would have mentioned the event in the post flight report. This report then facilitates our concerned crew as a reference case with a view to take additional precautions while serving passengers on board.’ Really, considering I was working on the laptop and the air hostess even helped me clean it, how much more ‘notice’ did she need…
The mail further mentions: ‘We understand that since the coffee pot was full only about a quarter, a few drops of coffee had spilled over your shirt’. A blatant lie once again and a terrible sense of casualness. I wonder where they learn customer service from…I am not saying the customer is always right, but sometimes s/he can be!
My personal takeaway has been that along with the lack of patience, I also don’t have very ‘thick’ skin. Hot coffee does leave a mark…so does the callous response from your favorite airline.
‘We are a service brand. Even if the tray tables are not folded, our hands should always be. Never say or do something that cheapens the brand!’
Although I’m not someone who gives up without a fight, I responded to their email with a long and detailed reply, countering every lie with specific facts. Then comes their final salvo. A few days back they write to me offering…Wait! Please fasten your seatbelts before reading this, lest you fall off the chair laughing or maybe in shock! Since their ‘re-inquiry’ couldn’t ‘establish the accurate sequence of events,’ they offered to ‘reimburse the dry cleaning expense incurred for the shirt’ against a ‘scanned copy of the bill’.
I was the one who wanted to take them to the cleaners. They even referred to my ‘alleged injury’ in the email. At this point, nothing was going to ‘pain’ me. I just wondered if a lawyer was heading their Guest Relations team!
Coincidentally, I faced grief from Taj Hotels and Jet Airways within a span of a few days. Taj responded promptly and sincerely like only they can. Even Jet responded…like only they can!
To be fair, Jet Airways has reached out to me by offering to setup a call with their Head of Guest Relations. I have politely declined. It’s my turn at not giving a flying crap.”
Points are edited for clarity.