Everyone can relate to how tedious airports always seem to be. Usually travelers can expect a few minor annoyances. No one could expect what these poor travelers did. They confronted some of the most frustrating and bizarre conflicts ever to be found in an airport. Did they make it through victorious? Read these stories to find out. This crazy content has been edited for clarity.
Wild airport moments. Content has been edited for clarity.
“The Jet Suddenly Tipped Over”
“I’ve flown a lot the last 15 years or so, but one trip stands out for me because it made me stop flying for about 6 months.
On my way from Lugano, Switzerland to Frankfurt for a conference, I had to take two flights: Lugano to Zurich and then Zurich to Frankfurt. There was bad weather over most of Western Europe, with rain and wind, but most flights were still leaving more or less on time. The 30-minute flight to Zurich featured constant bouncing around and a landing that was so hard, I was sure that the landing gear must be damaged. We were all a bit shaken.
The 1-hour flight to Frankfurt was more of the same: turbulence like I had never experienced before. As we approached Frankfurt and prepared to make the turn to line up for landing, we could see out the windows that a huge, dark mass of clouds covered the city and airport, and it was dumping rain. Then we turned right towards it.
As we neared and descended, the small jet was bouncing around like a ping-pong ball in an air tunnel, and we were all white-knuckling it. We obviously couldn’t land in this kind of wind. But we kept descending. I’m not sure how high the plane was when it happened, but I could see a terminal building just ahead out my window and it looked large. And then the jet suddenly tipped over, the right wing rising high, and we started slipping sideways to the left, straight at the terminal.
How the pilot recovered is beyond me, but he did. We basically flew sideways over the terminal building, so close that I could see a woman in a red coat having coffee and staring at us as we went over. I’m pretty sure she could hear all of us screaming as we swept past. I don’t think I have ever been that scared or that certain I was going to die.
The pilot got us straightened out and we made a wide turn to come back. On the second try, the winds had miraculously slowed for a time and we landed smoothly. On the return journey, I ditched my plane tickets and took the train, preferring the 6-7 hour ride. And I refused to set foot on a plane for 6 months afterwards.”
Helping Out Lands Him A Hospital Visit
“A guy missed his flight from Toronto to London and had to spend the night at the airport infirmary because of my misguided attempt to help him out.
I was lined up to get a coffee. It was a very long line. A little guy was just ahead of me in line. When it was finally his turn to order, he asked for a hot dog. The attendant told him they were out of hot dogs. The little guy, in a strong Scottish accent, reacted very negatively at this, a war of words erupted. Within moments, he grabbed a heavy glass sugar dispenser and reared back as though to attack the poor server. I immediately stopped him by grabbing his shoulder and telling him to cool out. He turned to me with a manic look in his eye and said, ‘Don’t you frigging start!’
With the situation thus diffused, he stormed off.
I got my coffee and just a few minutes later ran into him again. He stopped me and said words to the effect of, ‘No hard feelings man, let me buy you a drink.’
We ordered our drinks and he told me his story. He had been in Japan working as a lighting director on a rock tour (Rod Stewart, I think) when, just before he was due to fly home to Glasgow for a long overdue vacation, was called to an emergency gig in Edmonton (for Madonna) to replace someone taken ill. That completed, he was now flying home via Toronto and London, was clearly inebriated, and told me that he had not slept for forty-eight hours. I said something lame, like how you can sleep on the plane soon. He said, no, he could never sleep on airplanes and would just continue to drink towards oblivion. Being a nice fellow, I opened a little container in my pocket and offered him a Halcyon, a truly notorious type of sleeping pill that I think was later banned. I planned to take just half of one pill once safely on the plan, and knew it would be enough to grant me a deep sleep for six or so hours.
Two pills slipped out. He quickly picked them up and immediately swallowed both of them. I told him that probably wasn’t a very good idea, as the Halcyon is very strong stuff and we wouldn’t be boarding for another hour. He replied, ‘I’ve taken a lot worse than this, sonny.’
I went off to make a phone call, returning to the bar to check on Scotty about fifteen minutes later. He was slumped at the bar, singing loudly and incoherently. I heard another customer tell the barkeep, ‘Oh good, there’s his friend’ and knew that this would not go well. I helped Scotty to his feet. He lurched and we both crashed into a huge glass wall that somehow did not shatter. I half-carried him towards the boarding gate while he continued to sing, curse, and exclaim at great volume. I plopped him into a seat as close as possible to the agent’s desk. Everyone was staring at us. He became very quiet and a few minutes later stood straight up and then fell forward, crashing face-first into the carpet. The police, an airline person and two medical attendants (with stretcher on wheels) were soon summoned.
After being quick to explain that I truly did not know this person, I offered that he was without sleep and had been drinking a lot. As a medical attendant shone a little flashlight into his non-responsive eyes, the policewoman turned to me and said, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more than drinks involved.’ I quickly agreed, but too much the coward to admit that my sleeping pills were a causal agent in this farce. I watched as they bundled him onto the gurney and wheeled him away, but not before the airline rep examined his ticket and informed Scotty that he could easily take a flight the next day, once he’d had a chance to sleep it off.
I would think that Scotty, upon awakening the next day to find himself still in Toronto, might curse me vigorously, though in all likelihood he probably remembered nothing of me or my accursed pills.”
“Descended To Our Doom”
“As a flight my wife and I were on approached the airport to land, we could hear some strange grinding and high-pitched whirring going on beneath the plane. Very repetitive grinding and whirring. Not a good sound for any mechanical device to make. But whatever. That sort of thing happens. No big deal, right?
The grinding and whirring finally stopped, but our aircraft had made its way away from the airport and seemed to be circling. An announcement came over the P.A. system, and the pilot informed us that we had no functional landing gear. He thought. But they couldn’t be sure, because the computer system responsible for reporting on the landing gear was not working. And we had all heard that weird grinding and whirring. He also said something about the tower having an inability to visually determine whether our landing gear was up or down, due to low clouds and so forth. Moreover, the landing gear might be down, but it might not be locked into position. Or it just might be stuck halfway. There was no way of knowing.
But, the pilot assured us, these passenger jets are designed to be able to land on their bellies with only some jostling and sliding. No big whoop. The plane would be out of commission for a while, but we’d all be fine. As long as everyone was buckled in, all the loose baggage and objects in the cabin were secured, and everyone braced properly, we should hopefully all be fine.
So that’s what we set out to do. Land without landing gear. Maybe. On the belly of the plane. Maybe. The flight attendants wanted us all to put our heads as low in our laps as they could go, with our arms bracing our heads, and chant with them, ‘Brace! Brace! Head down! Stay Down!’
So we chanted. And braced. And at one point, I looked up for a moment to look out the window and see a lineup of fire trucks and ambulances, with lights flashing just off the runway. Dozens of them, all waiting for our disaster to play out. A surreal vision. The flight attendants began the chant stoically and authoritatively, but as we got closer, their voices began speeding up and slurring.
It was a bit exciting. And mostly terrifying. We would finally get to use those emergency doors and inflatable slides they always talk about in the safety brochures and demonstrations. Hopefully we wouldn’t have a fire or smoke to contend with. No explosions. No random debris dislodging and flying across the cabin. Hopefully people in the emergency rows knew what they were doing. Do I grab my backpack despite instructions not to? There are important work files on my computer, and the exit row is only two rows away.
So we descended into the airport space, bracing and chanting and praying. And I was mentally preparing for the evacuation. Visualizing how things would go. Down we went. Down. Down. We descended to our doom and landed without incident. It was the softest landing I’ve ever felt. It was like our plane was a down feather from a duckling being dropped gently onto an enormous marshmallow from about an inch away. The landing gear was just fine. The computer just had malfunctioned. The grinding and whirring we heard? Apparently irrelevant. Everyone burst into a spontaneous round of cheers and hoots and whoops and sighs and applause.
A totally normal flight in just about every way. We ended up only about 10 or 15 minutes late, and everything was completely fine in the end, yet that chant will forever be seared into my memory. The stress of that sort of moment cannot be forgotten. Indeed, sometimes in stressful situations, I’ll just blurt out, ‘Brace! Brace! Head down! Stay down!’ and sort of laugh to myself. It’s a way of telling myself and/or my wife that everything will be just fine. Which it usually is.”
Homeland Security Paid Him A Visit
“So my crazy experience was in the U.S., post 9/11. I was a student in Indianapolis, and for one of my holidays, I decided to fly into DC to spend a few days with a friend. Now, my friend is Pakistani, who had already been in DC working for a couple of years. Since I was a student, he was kind enough to book me the flight ticket.
On the day of the flight, I arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. I head straight to an empty counter and I am greeted with a smile. I hand in my ID and ticket and wait. I wait and wait and wait. The lady staff seemed a little nervous and confused and kept looking around. So I finally butt in and asked her if there was a problem. So she said, ‘Yes sir. I see that your name has been listed on the no-fly list.’
What? For what?
‘Oh, don’t worry sir. Sometimes when two individuals with the exact same name are on the same flight, the system locks the reservation.’
Now I was a 100% sure that this was a nonsense excuse, because my name is a very unique Indian name, rare even in India, and there was no chance another individual with the exact same name will board my same flight, also from Indianapolis. I am pretty sure that she was buying time and had managed to press some panic button, because a while later, two gentlemen and a lady, in suits, with flashing badges like the FBI, approach me. Apparently they were from homeland security or some jazz. They come to me and ask me to remain calm and accompany them. They take me to a room behind the check-in counter and ask for my ID. I showed them my seminary ID and they seemed a bit perplexed. They first quiz me about my name and also about my college. Then they asked me why I was going to DC. Then they asked me who booked the ticket for me. That was when I figured out what it was all about.
My friend, who booked the ticket, apparently shared the name with one of the hijackers of 9/11. So obviously, that was a name in the no fly list. So the next half an hour was spent exploring my links to him. They managed to get all details about him from me and ran all their checks. Suddenly, my DOB on my ID caught their eye. It was 9/11. Yes, my birthday is on the 11th of September. They asked me if really that was my DOB, or if it was some sick sarcastic joke from my end.
So after more than an hour with them, I was allowed to board the flight. They apologized and said they were only doing their duty. We smiled, shook hands and I was finally on my way to DC.”
“Detained By A Group Of Armed Police”
“I was detained by a group of armed police at Cairo International Airport after a dispute with a taxi driver got out of hand.
I had paid for the taxi fare at my hotel in downtown Cairo, then I watched the concierge pay the driver and instruct him where to take me. On arriving at the airport, the driver turned around and demanded payment. Already running late, I explained repeatedly that I’d already paid and knew that he had been paid, then got out of the cab and grabbed my bags from the trunk. While I was doing so he called over some pedestrians and talked to them while gesticulating at me wildly. One of them approached and said, ‘He’s saying you haven’t paid him.’
By the time I had my bags out of the car, three policemen had approached and repeated the driver’s complaint. I told them I had already paid, explained that I was running late. I then walked confidently into the terminal. When I entered the building and looked up at the departure screens, two things happened. The first was that I realized the driver had taken me to the wrong terminal. The second was that a firm hand grabbed one of my shoulders and spun me around.
‘Passport,’ said a policeman, whose uniform made him look like a war hero rather than an airport security chap.
‘Look, I’m running late and I don’t have time for this,’ said the proud Englishman in me.
‘It wasn’t a question. Give me your passport,’ came the retort.
I was marched into a small back office with two hands on my shoulders, and I sat down behind at a table surrounded by four or five chain-smoking policemen. The war hero came in, put his weapon down theatrically, and sat on the table. ‘You’re in a lot of trouble,’ he smiled.
In an uncharacteristic moment of levelheadedness, I handed him the calling card of the hotel and pleaded with him to call them to confirm my story, acutely aware that if the hotel concierge was in cahoots with the taxi driver, I could be there indefinitely. After a short but aggressive sounding conversation, the war hero put down the phone and turned to me. ‘I’m very sorry to have wasted your time, Mr. Mortimer. Let’s go.’
With around 30 minute to my flight, I explained I was in the wrong terminal and thought there was no way I would make it. I was bundled into a police transit van and driven at high speed, to the other terminal, where I was marched to the front of every queue and escorted to the door of the plane.
I hope they gave the taxi driver a sound hiding.”
At The Mercy Of Immigration
“One day I was flying to Chicago, as part of a routine trip. I head to the US customs at the Toronto Pearson airport, but this time I wasn’t allowed to cross the border. Instead, they pulled me aside and stuck me in the waiting room where it was pretty empty, so I assumed that it would be rather quick process. Other people eventually came in, and the US immigration officials took them right in while I just had to sit there.
I heard the boarding call for my plane being announced, and I approached one of the officials, saying that I heard the boarding call for my plane. I was told rudely, ‘you’re not going anywhere’.
This whole waiting process would drag on for at least another eight hours, where people would come in and be interviewed, but I’d just have to still sit there. I felt as if I was losing my mind and did my best to keep a cool head. A couple more hours later, this woman comes up and says that they’re ready to see me now. So I head into the interview room and sit down. She begins asking questions as to the reasons for my visit.
I explained I was only going there for a few days because I’m working on a project in Canada and need to see my team in Chicago, but I was going to be flying back, and I showed her my printed itinerary. She leaves the room and goes to talk to another official, and I can see them both staring at me through the window. Now, both of them come in and talk to me.
The woman comes and takes her seat, while the guy she was talking to interrogates me for about an hour. He begins blaming me for taking jobs away from Americans, going on about how I should be ashamed of myself, then suggesting I don’t have all the correct documentation and I might have to be held for questioning and denied access to the US. I was basically made to feel like a piece of garbage. They mentioned that if they allow me entry, I would be put on the list of illegal aliens awaiting deportation proceedings in Buffalo. They finally both left the room outside my view, and maybe another twenty or thirty minutes later of intense discussion, only the woman came back. She handed me my documents and said I was free to go.
Finally! I get out and the first thing I do is head to the airline booth to find that I missed the last flight to Chicago. I’d now have to wait until the morning for the next flight. Essentially, I was jerked around intentionally all day for no good reason because US Immigration felt like it.”
Life Or Death Layover
“Back in September 2016, I was flying back from Los Angeles to Vilnius via Frankfurt. I was with my friend, and we had an 8-hour layover in Frankfurt. We were so tired after the 12-hour flight from LA, that when we left the plane, we found a place to crash at the airport and immediately went to sleep. After a few hours, I woke up to find my friend looking slightly scared. When I asked what had happened, she told me that she just had an anaphylactic shock after eating a tortilla from a shop, which contained a sauce that contained trace amounts of nuts. Her throat started swelling and she had difficulties breathing.
She managed to take a few pills she had with her, which did help with the swelling a bit. She was scared and the pills made her less conscious and sleepy. We rushed through the whole airport to find a medical point. She got stronger pills, after which she was even less conscious. Eventually, we boarded our plane for the final leg and my friend, immediately after taking her seat, fell asleep and remained asleep for the take off. About half into the flight (it was already totally dark outside), she woke up, looked out the window and asked why we were still on the ground, so for the next couple of minutes I was trying to convince her that we were already in the air.
It was a really scary experience for me, as I was constantly thinking that the shock might come back in her sleep and she might stop breathing.”
“I had a project in Athens and I decided to add a week-end on the island of Mykonos at the tail end of my trip. I was scheduled to fly on a 9am flight from Mykonos to Athens, have a quick meeting, catch a p.m. flight to London, and have a breakfast meeting before catching another flight to Chicago. As you can imagine, missing one flight would create a mess.
That morning in Mykonos, I had to return a rented moped and was delayed, because I had to wait for the rental shop to open at 8:30am. It was then a mad dash to Mykonos Airport, but upon arrival I saw no aircraft there. I rush to the counter at 8:47 AM and I said, ‘I am so sorry I am late!’
The woman behind the counter said, ‘No problem.’
I was so relieved because the flight attendant then told me, ‘Because we release the seats fifteen minutes before the flight to standby passengers.’
My heart sank. I looked at the clock and said, ‘It’s only two minutes!’ It didn’t matter.
I will never forget this. I asked her, ‘How am I going to get to Athens?’ To which she said, ‘There is a ferry that leaves for Athens in 45 minutes, and you will arrive there in eight hours, but you have to get to the port immediately.’
That wouldn’t work at all. I explained that this isn’t a one-way journey to Athens. I showed her and her manager all the tickets that were connected to this itinerary. I pleaded with the manager, but to no avail. I went to the gate and started asking passengers if they would let me purchase their ticket and an extra $500 for the inconvenience. When the manager saw me do that, he told me to sit in his office and wait.
The flight arrived, a small prop plane. They offloaded the passengers who just arrived from Athens, and then they began boarding the flight. I started to panic. With the propellers buzzing, I turn to the manager and said, ‘What do I do?’
The station manager told me, ‘Listen very carefully, you are going to sit in the jump seat of the cockpit. Don’t say a word, don’t speak to the pilots, and when you land in Athens, duck so you’re not seen by the ground crew. This will NEVER happen again, but there’s something endearing about you.’
I thanked him, got on the plane, sat in the jump seat, and just kept quiet for 45 minutes. It was awesome. When the plane landed in Athens, I ducked in the cockpit and walked off with the rest of the passengers.”
“This one time I was travelling from Bangalore to Singapore after a short weekend trip with some friends. As I went to the check-in counter to get my boarding pass, the person at the desk asked me for any luggage. Here’s how the conversation goes (I will refer to him as the airline guy, AG).
AG: ‘Sir, please put you bag on the weighing machine.’
I oblige and put it on the weighing machine.
AG: ‘This is 11 Kilos. You are allowed only 7 Kilos inside the cabin.’
Me: But, this is the same amount that I had in Singapore and I had no trouble bringing it to the cabin!’
AG: ‘This is not Singapore, Sir. You will have to check in the bag in order to board the flight. Rules are rules. Please check in the baggage or move aside. There are other passengers in line.’
Me: ‘Okay. Fine. How much would you charge for the check-in?’
AG: ‘It will be around 280 Singapore Dollars (SGD).’
Me: ‘NO WAY! The return trip costs me 300 SGD. This is a rip off!’
AG: ‘Fine, step aside so I can assist other customers. You can sit and relax on that bench.’
Just then I got an idea. I thought why not put on the clothes so that the weight of the baggage decreases?! I went to the washroom. Opened my bag, put on two shirts, two T-shirts, a coat over it (which I was carrying in my hand), two pairs of shorts, and jeans.
I went to the counter again.
AG: ‘You again!’
Me: ‘Please check the weight.’
AG: 8 Kilos. Can’t let you in.’
He apologized to me in the most condescending tone I had ever heard. By this time, I was furious. I went to the washroom again, put on another T-shirt and another pair of shorts. I opened my laptop bag, took out some electronics, and stuffed them in my coat pocket. I Went to the counter for hopefully the last time.
Me: ‘Please check the weight.’
AG: ‘6.8 Kilos.’
He reluctantly gave me my boarding pass, scratching his head and looking at me in a puzzled manner. When I finally reached the boarding gate, this same guy was there. I had not changed and was carrying the whole load on myself. He had actually brought a scale with him and rechecked the baggage. No change.
AG: ‘Have a pleasant flight.’
I gave him a sarcastic smile and left. After I boarded, I immediately went to the washroom, removed everything but a T-shirt and shorts, put it in the bag, and sat comfortably without any further hassles.”
He Could Bear-ly Wait For Her
“My wife was flying in to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport from a business trip, and I decided to meet her at the gate (which was allowed in those years) when she arrived. We had pet names for each other. I called her ‘Girl’. She referred to me as ‘Bear’. So to amuse and surprise her, I decided to show up at the airport wearing a bear costume. Everyone has thought of doing that at some point in their life, right?
Now this was not a Party City Halloween costume. I had gone to a Chicago costume rental shop that supplied costumes for theatrical performances. With that costume, I could have gotten a job at the local zoo or in a Russian circus. I had gotten into the costume, except for the bear’s head, before leaving the house. The head was on the passenger seat of the convertible. Just before I entered the parking garage, I reached over and put the head on. The old guy in the booth who gave me my parking sticker did not bat an eyelash. If you work in Chicago long enough, you get like that.
I walked through the airport in my bear costume, glancing at the Incoming Flights board to find the right gate, getting attention only from small children. The adults, including the airport employees, paid no attention at all. I was a bit early for my wife’s flight and sat down in the waiting area next to the gate. No one seemed to care that there was a bear reading a foreign newspaper waiting for a United flight from Denver. I had gotten to the back pages of the Guardian when I was interrupted by a small child addressing me as ‘Mr. Bear.’ He told me that he had never had an opportunity to talk to a bear before, so his parents had allowed him to talk to me. He asked if I REALLY was a bear. I assured him that I was. I told him that the story books were misleading and that bears, at least in Chicago, lived in apartments, enjoyed fine restaurants, and favored Mercedes convertibles over bicycles. He thought about this, and after conferring with his parents, offered me some lifesavers, which he helpfully placed one by one in the bear’s mouth.
Standing near the gate across from me were half a dozen airline stewardesses who were waiting for flights. They were all looking at the bear. After a while, one of the stewardesses came over to me and politely yet curiously asked me why I was wearing a bear costume. I explained that was waiting to pick up my wife, who was flying in from a business trip.
‘In a bear costume?’
‘How long have you been married?’
I told her. She looked puzzled, but went back to the others. They were now all staring at me. A few minutes later she came back. ‘Would you tell us what your wife looks like?’
I told her, ‘Five-two, red hair, green eyes, stylishly dressed, carrying a leather brief case, invariably wearing a silk scarf around her neck, why?’
‘Well, we are taking bets on what your wife will do when she gets here and sees a bear. I am betting that she will pretend she does not know you.’
The plane lands. My wife is one of the last to exit. She stops at the end of the gate, looks around, and without hesitating or batting an eyelash, she walks directly over to me and says, ‘Hi Bear,’ as if it were perfectly normal to be greeted by some lunatic wearing a bear costume. She took my paw and we walked out of the airport.”