Flying in a plane is a wonder of human achievement—but it can be hard to feel that way when we’re sitting in a cramped economy middle seat between a snoring man and a screaming baby. The truth is, plane travel is half glamour, half agony, and these Redditors found that out the very hard way. Here, they tell their worst plane stories, from awful families to close calls in the air.
1. A Pittance For Your Troubles
At 20,000 feet, the O2 masks come down. Loonngg silence from the crew. Finally, the pilot comes on with the horrible news. He says lots of electrical systems are out and we’re landing at a small airport in nine minutes. The descent was on full air brakes, which made the flight loud and shaking, with kids screaming because their ears were hurting, and parents screaming at their kids to blow while holding their noses.
The adult behind us was slapping his thighs and shouting endlessly “Oh no. Oh no.” BUT… we got an $8 voucher for lunch at the airport while we waited for a new plane. There was no one else in the terminal when we landed, but to get our $8 lunch vouchers, we had to prove we were on the flight by showing our ticket. There was a one-line report in the FAA documents saying “multiple electrical failure.”
It was not a lightning strike since the weather was clear where we were. There was no depressurization, either. As we landed, a big thunderstorm hit the airport from the opposite direction, and that is why we had to land so quickly. My wife and I were actually quite calm during the event, holding hands. Afterward, we slept for most of three days straight.
2. Bad Luck Comes In Twos
I was on Japan Airlines, and it was an eight-hour flight to Australia. Probably the best and also worst flight I had been on. Best as in there were literally only 20 passengers including myself, a fully staffed crew, and the catering was stocked. We got to sit anywhere we wanted and they allowed us to stretch out over three seats and sleep. The sake and food were flowing because they had enough for a full flight. Sounds like heaven, right? Wrong.
50 minutes in, a strange older couple comes and sits in the seats behind me. They had the whole plane to themselves but decided to sit there and be LOUD. I put my earphones on and ignore them. A few minutes later, they come and sit right next to me and begin to talk to me about how awesome it is having the plane so empty, and if I like new things because they only liked new and exciting things.
This went on for about 30 minutes. At this point, I’m trying to be polite and tell them I’m going to move to another seat to read my book. I moved as far away as I could, asked for some more sake, and sat down. Wouldn’t you know it, 10 minutes later, there’s the old couple again, and again, they sit right next to me. This time, the crew were handing out food, so they just decided to come over and have it with me and keep talking about the incredible book they had read called The Matrix.
I get an hour lecture on how the moon is hollow and sounds like a bell when you ring it. I try to eat my food in peace while they go on about new and exciting things. After a couple of times moving to a different seat and them not getting the hint, I just wanted to be left alone. I gave up and I told them I was going to watch a movie. The guy kept interrupting me every chance he got, and to top it all off, his wife was doing this weird chicken dance in front of me every 30 minutes to keep her blood going.
I will never forget it and it will haunt me for the rest of my life. The last hour of the flight they fell asleep and I legged it to a seat right at the back in a random place and finally had peace. The empty plane ride was already ruined, so I just ordered more sake and made the most of it.
3. Daddy Issues
This child was screaming her lungs out in the seat behind us for the last 40 minutes of a 10-hour flight because she didn’t want to put her seatbelt on for the descent. For a while, all I could hear besides her was her useless father telling her “stop screaming” 100 times then arguing with the flight attendants by saying, “Look at her, she doesn’t want to put the seatbelt on, there’s nothing I can do.”
The saving grace was one very sassy male flight attendant who would walk by every two minutes and just say “be the parent” to the father and then continue walking. It was hilarious.
4. The Fast And The Furious
At the airport: I have TSA pre-check, so I get to go through the fast line, leave electronics in my bag, etc. I was on a business trip coming back from Detroit to Toronto. TSA flags my bag to go through the X-ray again. And again. And again. The third time a guy comes, picks up my bag, and asks if there is anything sharp he may hurt himself on (no) before he pulls out my phone charger, Kindle charger, and laptop charger.
He puts the chargers back on the bag, sends the bag through. Flagged again. The guy told the woman at the machine to get up and leave after she couldn’t even identify a phone charger on the machine without claiming it was dangerous. But that was nothing compared to my experience on the actual flight. Apparently, there was a storm rolling into the area and the pilots were trying to outrun it.
Usually, when a plane reaches the start of a runway, they line up, stop, ask for clearance, then take off. We did not stop. They opened the throttle before we had fully completed the turn, which was how I knew it was going to be serious. We were screaming through the sky. We climbed steeper than I ever have and stayed at high throttle the whole way. I linked into the Internet to tell my friends that we were hauling butt.
We land 40 minutes early and practically skid into the jet bridge. We were the last flight allowed to land.
5. A “Helping” Hand
Well, when I was 13 I flew from Denver to Sydney solo. My flight out of Denver was 15 minutes late taking off. No big deal, as I could easily make my layover in San Francisco. Except when I disembarked, the gate attendant stopped me because there was a whole debate on whether or not I was flying in assisted or with an escort-in flight attendant. Again, easy problem to solve.
I try telling everybody that I have copies of all my paperwork saying I get to go solo. Every time I tried to speak up to tell them this, the adults would shush me or simply talk over me. They eventually held me until I missed my flight. So here I am stuck halfway across a continent, alone in a city I’ve never been to before. I finally convince them to just call my mom who takes nobody’s problems. They set me up for the night in a hotel room with a flight attendant.
I only have a backpack with some books and my Discman. No change of clothes, toothbrush, etc. We go eat their continental breakfast, and I grabbed a grapefruit half because everything else looked gross and grapefruit is awesome. The flight attendant asks me if I’m on a diet then looks at me like maybe I should be, even though I don’t think I was 100 pounds at the time.
My host had to get on a flight so we go back to the airport where I’m locked in the unaccompanied minors room. It had half a set of Jenga blocks, 11 pieces of a 12-piece puzzle, and two episodes of Degrassi playing on a loop. I was stuck there for 12 hours. Nobody told me I had three free meal tickets, so I didn’t eat all day. Then finally at 10 at night I get on my flight to Sydney. After 36 hours, I had a breakfast in-flight. All because everybody decided a 13-year-old girl had no right to self-advocate.
6. Up In The Air
About six years ago, I was sitting on the plane and I suddenly felt a tickle in my throat. It just wouldn’t go away, I’d cough and cough and cough, nothing. The only thing that helped was ice chips, but even then I couldn’t stop. It was miserable. But the worst was yet to come. That night, I woke up in the middle of the night with two swollen eyes, swollen lips, hives all over my body, hot joints, and a tight chest.
I was having some severe allergic reaction to something. Which means that on the plane…my throat was closing and I just didn’t know it. Of course, the ice chips helped because they were keeping the swelling down. What’s weird is that has never happened before or since then and I’m not allergic to anything that I know of. Something on the plane just set it off, and it could happen again.
7. Between A Rock And A Hard Place
This happened when I was 15. I was sat in the middle seat, in between a tour group that must have contained a lot of first-time flyers. Cue to the flight attendants announcing to the passengers to fasten our seatbelts. The two people on either side of me started freaking out because they couldn’t find their seatbelts. I tried telling them they probably sat on them, but they’re rather large so I think it was difficult for them to get up.
Instead, they panic. They were screaming and other people in the tour group started freaking out too. The flight attendants came but had a hard time understanding them through the screaming. I was also trying to explain to everyone what was happening. One of the people next to me finally calmed down enough and asked me to help them to find the seatbelt. I had no choice but to reach under their butt, free the seatbelt, reach over, and fasten it for them.
They yelled something to the rest of the tour group and I guess they figured it out since there were whoops and cheers. I had to help the other person next to me and reach under their butt too. They were both sweaty. Then they decide to host a prayer session before the plane took off. The two people next to me were genuinely sweet and tried to make me feel included in the prayer group by holding my hand, but enforced prayer sessions just make me want to scream, “Screw Jesus!” and go to sleep.
I mean, they were sweet people initially. They were worried why a young girl was all alone on such a long flight, and I had to explain that my family checked in really late, so we ended up separated. They were chatty and asked me a LOT of questions about flying. I needed to sleep though, so it was painful. Finally, I decided to just order booze so I can pass out.
This was a more innocent time when most non-American airlines will not check for IDs. As soon as my Bailey’s came, one of the people next to me shot me the most disgusted look and snapped, “You drink?” I told them yes, and after that, I got left alone…until I got woken up when I started feeling squashed. They’re both larger people and I felt bad for them since it was really tight for them, so earlier during the flight, I showed them the armrests can go up so they can just spill into my seat.
Like a lot of Asian women, I’m kind of short and tiny so there’s plenty of space in my seat. Unfortunately, when they’re asleep, they start melting into me and I got squashed. I ended up sitting at the edge of my seat without the seatbelt on to escape. Oh, and they had another prayer session before the plane landed and all cheered and whooped when we landed safely.
8. Unsolicited Advice
This was direct from Moscow to Houston on a Singapore Airlines flight. Behind us sat an elderly Singaporean couple who took of their shoes and used our armrests to put their feet up. The smell was unbearable. I was in the middle seat, my boyfriend was on the window side, and there was an older guy on the aisle. The older guy starts by complaining nonstop about the smell.
He’s berating the flight attendants over it. They keep asking the elderly couple to move their feet but they keep putting them back. The man eventually decides to calm down. He introduces himself to me by telling me that I better not have to use the restroom during the 13-hour flight because he won’t feel like moving. He spends several hours telling me, through my headphones and obvious disinterest, about all the languages he speaks, the places he’s worked, and all the money he makes.
At one point, he was telling me about his childhood in Louisiana and I (having no idea what to say because I don’t want to talk) mention I have family in Shreveport. He takes the opportunity to make it clear how stupid I am because it’s not relevant because it’s several hours from his hometown. About half way through, I told him to let me out to use the restroom and watched him storm around the cabin like a toddler.
He berated me about my timing (?) when I returned to my seat.
9. Some SNAFU
I was doing one of my required five jumps in airborne school in the army. It was a combat jump, so we had our weapon and gear strapped to our harnesses, which made it difficult to cinch up the harness properly. Later when we were on the plane, we had to circle the drop zone because of some ranger candidates ahead of us. During that time, I got the worst motion sickness I’ve ever experienced.
I was sweating profusely and fighting the urge to vomit with everything I had. We finally got to jump and when my caught me, it fully cinched up on my balls. Chaos broke loose and I vomited all the way to the ground. Still had to gather my parachute and run to the rendezvous point.
10. From Feast To Famine
Business-class was overbooked, so I volunteered to move back to economy class in an aisle seat by the bathroom. I got a two-for-one deal for doing so. While sitting in my new seat, right before taxiing, a kid and his mom came hauling butt toward the bathroom. Right before the kid gets to the bathroom, he projectile vomits in my lap. I cleaned my clothes the best I could, but I smelled like puke the entire way back home.
11. All Hands On Deck
I was on a late-night flight from Las Vegas to Charlotte. Clearly, the best thing for me to do during the flight was to sleep through it. That’s not quite what happened. Maybe about an hour before we were scheduled to land, I was woken up by a grab on my breast and then a hand down my side. I remember jolting myself upright (I had my head down at the time) and coming face to face with this man, grinning and absolutely REEKING of drink as if he had bathed in it.
He started to reach towards me again, so I pushed him away. He turned and walked away after that, but after a few steps, this dude collapses. The flight attendants scrambled over to see what had happened and of course, there was a nurse on board who hopped up to see what was going on as well. Feeling guilty, I put my head back down to “sleep” so I could eavesdrop on what was happening an aisle behind me.
Apparently, this dude was 1) So wasted when he got on the plane that the attendants had refused to serve him multiple times during the flight and 2) He was on all kinds of crazy heart medications and he shouldn’t have been drinking in the first place.
12. Some Things Are Forever
I was flying back to the upper Midwest from Jamaica (fairly long flight) and we hit a big storm over the ocean before hitting the mainland. My buddy was sitting next to me and had just gotten back from the bathroom. We hit some major turbulence and he didn’t have his seatbelt on when the plane dropped a good 20 or 30 feet. It was like a full free fall moment out of the movies.
Everybody’s drinks and all floated, and he flew up and hit the ceiling and then came back down. Meanwhile, a lady in the row next to us starts hyperventilating and screaming that she doesn’t want to die over and over. She also straight up pooped her pants. The turbulence eventually went away, but the smell of her poop lasted the remaining three hours of the flight…
13. More Than He Bargained For
I was in the army and going home to surprise my mom for Christmas. I was at my final layover in Newark, some time late at night. I’m waiting at the gate to board the plane when they announce the flight has been delayed by a half-hour. No big deal. They continue to delay the flight a half an hour further back at a time. We’d get to five minutes before boarding and they’d push it back a half hour.
This went on for three hours. Apparently, they were waiting for our plane and crew to arrive from Pittsburgh and they couldn’t take off because of a storm. The plane finally arrives, and we board. Unfortunately, by the time we get out to the runway, the storm that stopped them from getting to us has now reached Newark. So we sit on the runway for an hour and a half waiting for the storm to pass so we can take off.
By the time the storm passes, when considering the time span of our upcoming flight, we can no longer fly because the crew cannot work for a consecutive 16 hours without a sleeping break due to FAA rules. They tell us our flight is canceled, and we need to get off the plane. So at this point, we were about five hours past our original boarding time. It’s the middle of the night, I haven’t seen my family in a year, and it’s now officially Christmas Eve.
We all have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen. They gave us all a $12 meal voucher, except at this point the airport is basically closed. The only thing that’s open is the McDonald’s, and of course, they only have a limited menu. All 100 and some of us are in the line, so that takes some time. They tell us that there is no way they can get us a flight today.
The only option is for us to take the bus they have arranged for us. We were all angry, but didn’t really have much of a choice. I figured I would work it out with the airline later. So they sit us all in the main lobby of the airport, where we wait for another two hours for this bus to arrive. Despite paying for a one-hour layover and a one-hour flight to Syracuse, I got an eight-hour layover and an eight-hour bus ride.
All I got from the airline was the meal voucher that I received at the airport. Apparently, they didn’t HAVE to do anything, because this entire situation was caused by weather (which, it wasn’t, it was caused by their lack of planes available to use). Screw United.
14. Literal Crash Landing
I was on a nighttime flight 15 years ago. All of a sudden, the cabin lights are turned on to full blast and the captain makes an announcement. “You may be smelling a noxious odor. We have an electrical fire on board, and can’t be sure how quickly it might spread. We are being diverted to the nearest airport and will be executing an emergency landing in 15 minutes. Please give your attention to your flight attendants as they instruct you in the proper crash-landing procedure.”
I would have thought there would be pandemonium, but everyone became extremely quiet. I had my 11-month-old with me and was advised to hold him in my arms and assume the crash-landing procedure as best as possible to shield his body with mine. Everyone on that plane thought we were goners. I was talking quietly to my baby, pointing out the window at the Earth below and telling him how beautiful it all was.
I didn’t want him to go scared. After about 10 minutes and no catastrophic failure, we all began to relax a bit, thinking that the fire was contained or spreading extremely slowly. We all positioned ourselves for a crash landing. The tarmac was ablaze with the flashing lights of fire trucks, ambulances, and other vehicles, all in preparation for a worst-case scenario.
We landed smoothly and without incident, thank God. That was a really, really bad 15 minutes.
15. Start Your Engines
I was leaving out of San Juan, coming back to the states from a very nice vacation. 30 minutes into the flight, I hear a loud BOOM! The plane immediately loses altitude, and the flight attendant starts crying and running down the aisle. I was with my girlfriend at the time and I was really trying to maintain the macho “It’s all good” persona. Meanwhile, the guy to my right is screaming and scratching at the window.
I can only imagine what is going through his head. To top things off, and maybe I should have led with this, I look across the aisle out the window and the engine is on fire. So, after what felt like an eternity, the plane leveled out, and we were then left with what I wish was silence. Instead, there were babies crying, obviously sensing the stress in the air, flight attendants crying, and worst of all this “whir, whir” sound that sounded like to all of us that the other engine would be imminently shutting off.
Finally, the captain came on the loudspeaker and in a cracking voice stated that we would be returning to San Juan. That 30 minutes back was probably the longest of my life. I read probably 10 chapters in my book and don’t remember a thing. I do remember looking for someone who seemed to be unfazed so it would help me calm my nerves and I noticed a gentleman two rows up across the aisle who seemed to have his stuff together.
However, I realized afterward when I had time to reflect that he looked at the same page of his newspaper for the entire 30 minutes back and didn’t move a muscle. Then, the finale. The landing: There was a multitude of fire trucks and ambulances waiting for us on arrival. There was the obligatory clapping when we came to a stop, but this time it was different because people who were strangers an hour earlier were hugging and crying together.
So we get off the plane, and you’re gonna hate me…but I just don’t remember if we took the bouncy house slide down. It’s been 15 years and it was a lot to process that night. We get into the concourse off the walkway and I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but what we got was one gate person working at the airline who said, “Yeah, the same thing happened last week” to one of the other fliers.
Also, I found the flight attendant who went flying down the aisle and I shared with them that I was always taught everything is okay and normal, and if I was worried, to just watch the flight attendants and see how they behave. So when he ran and cried, I knew we were in trouble. He then proceeded to tell me he never did that and stormed off…but he totally did. The airline paid for one sleepless night in a hotel in downtown San Juan.
We went to a tapas restaurant and I tasted nothing. We woke up and boarded the same airline early the next morning. It was still terrifying.
16. Family Fun For Everyone
I had just adopted two children from Ethiopia. Our return route was from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to JFK, then a two-hour car ride home. Nearly everything that could go wrong did. This is a traumatic event for the children, so they were very scared and unsure the entire time. Within moments of entering the plane, both children are in tears. Within an hour, our new five-year-old is wailing at the top of his lungs.
The one-year-old is crying for hours, and due to parasites, the baby is a constant stream of diarrhea. After a couple of hours, the flight attendants are asking us to keep the kids quiet—like how?!—and at some point, they ask me to take my son to the back of the plane near the bathrooms because others are getting upset. So that sucks, but honestly, not unexpected.
BUTTTT, as we are on the final approach, the pilot pulls up and informs us we can’t land at JFK, and we are diverted to Boston due to weather. We end up at Boston International with about 10 other unexpected 747s full of people, all of whom are stuck overnight trying to find hotels and rental cars. No flights will be departing until the next day. We are scrambling to figure out what to do at 3 am in the Boston airport with three kids, as we’d brought our oldest son for the trip.
Meanwhile, the one-year-old is spewing through her diapers and clothes onto the airport terminal floor while surrounded by a billion strangers. After hours of calling around, we manage to rent a car and drive a couple of hours toward home before staying in a bad hotel. We finally proceeded the rest of the way home via car the next morning. Door to door it was 56 hours of crying, poop, and no sleep.
WORST. FLIGHT. EVER. I felt so terrible for the passengers nearby. It must have been a nightmare flight for them as well.
17. When It Rains, It Pours
It was a 12+ hour flight, and I was in the middle aisle on a 747. The seat recliner was broken, the guy next to me took his shoes off and his feet stank, the woman to my left spilled orange juice on me, and the headphone plug for the in-flight entertainment was broken. I did get extra potato chips as compensation for the seat problem, though. Thank God for that.
18. Something Smells Fishy
This was when I was 10-11 years old. I went on a nine-hour flight and had the middle seat. An older woman sat in the window seat and had a horrendous smelling perfume on, like the kind that gives you a headache in the first 10 minutes. Oh, and she went to the restroom and re-applied her perfume every couple of hours, just in case in wasn’t horrible enough for me.
The smell plus turbulence was enough for me to throw up for the duration of the flight. For years after I was so scarred that I took motion sickness pills every flight, only to realize I didn’t have motion sickness, it was just that old woman’s horrible perfume.
19. Strange Powers
We were flying from Florida to London when one of the engines caught fire somewhere out over the Atlantic, so we had to turn back and land in New York. Except…the engine on the replacement plane also caught fire, so the pilot had to turn back and land in New York. We didn’t chance it with a third plane and went with a different carrier. Still, it had lasting effects on me.
I was eight years old at the time and for some strange reason, I’d never had a nightmare before then. My first nightmare was on the third plane back and involved a Mickey Mouse in a glass coffin and an emaciated green version of Thing from The Addams Family.
20. Went Down The Wrong Pipes
We were flying on a night flight from Germany to New York, and the flight couldn’t have gone any better. We were descending into JFK and the back wheels touch ground, then the front. Everyone started clapping…then, for 2.2 seconds, you just hear the engines go full throttle again and we took right off…again. At this point, you can see the terror and panic in people’s faces.
I was with my cousin who suffers from panic attacks as is, so this triggered it instantly. The flight attendants didn’t seem to have any idea either. I immediately thought it was being hijacked. We flew around in circles for 10 minutes before the pilot came on the PA and pretty much said, “Our apologies about that, we were landing on a take-off runway.” I think about what could have happened very often, as I fly pretty frequently.
21. State Of Emergency
On a flight from Philadelphia to Denver, late December 1990. As we get about an hour from Denver, the pilot tells us a blizzard has closed the Denver airport, and we need to divert, so we divert to a place called Gunnison, Colorado. Gunnison airport is small, and not really set up for large commercial airliners. As we approach, I look out the window and see mountain tops on either side.
The captain comes on and tells us to prepare for an emergency landing. Meaning stow your stuff, buckle your seatbelt, and assume the crash position, as in, put your head between your legs. Now I’m about 14 years old at the time, and traveling with my aunt, two cousins, and their two friends. My cousin Billy and I are joking about this situation, while my aunt is praying with my other cousin.
We land and need basically every foot of the runway to come to a stop. The pilot then has to get off the plane and make a phone call because we are now alone, hours from Denver. They get some shuttle buses to show up after about an hour, then we begin the SIX HOUR ride to Denver. That was a long day.
22. Two Emotional Wrecks
I was seated next to a woman with an “emotional support animal.” If I had to guess, it was a pug chihuahua mix. Whatever it was, it was small enough for her to keep it on her lap. Apparently, the dog needed its own emotional support animal, though, because it was a wreck. It kept standing up, whining, and I swear to God it would poop on her lap. The smell, Jesus.
23. Tight Quarters
I used to fly by myself a lot and really enjoyed it. One flight I was on was a smaller plane but I was lucky enough to score a window seat—but luck wasn’t actually on my side that day. In comes a very overweight guy—not shaming his weight, just pointing it out—who is assigned to sit next to me. He takes up more than the seat size, which results in me having basically only half of my seat and being smooshed against the side of the plane for the entire flight.
I’m a small person too but I like my wiggle room just as much as the next guy. That wasn’t the worst part though. He smelled SO bad. Like the type of body odor, people get when they haven’t showered in multiple days. I know the flight attendants felt bad for me but there was nothing they could do to help me escape as it was a fully booked flight. Thankfully, the flight was only two hours and I have never experienced this again, but man I hope to never go through that again.
Please take a shower before flying. Thanks.
24. Kids Will Be Kids
It was a six-hour flight to the West Coast. The plane was very hot inside, and I had two small kids behind me screaming and kicking the whole time. The row was three seats wide, and my row was three sweaty fat people (myself included). I had the window seat. Behind us was the mother on the aisle seat, with a toddler in her lap. The toddler would screech every couple of minutes and would run up and down the aisle.
The two older kids behind me spent most of the flight climbing on my seat and playing on the floor, hitting my seat. Their names were super basic names like Jayden and Brayden. I learned this through the nonstop arguing and screeching fights. The mom did nothing the entire flight, even with requests by the staff. She only said, “This is why daddy doesn’t want us to visit.”
25. The Mother Of All Plane Rides
My mother-in-law had booked the flights and we all ended up separated—she hadn’t done it on purpose, just one of those things. My husband and elder daughter were further up the front, and I was seated across the aisle from my two-year-old. She was SCREAMING, since being sat next to strangers was not her jam. I was crying, she was crying, the flight attendant was rolling her eyes at me, but then a wonderful lady next to me offered to swap.
I don’t normally bawl like that, but I was a bit shaken up from losing said two-year-old in the airport 30 minutes before; I’m a nervous flyer anyway and it just all got too much. I was so, so embarrassed, but the one thing I was consoling myself with was that I’d never see any of these people again…I soon found out how wrong I was. The woman who helped me turned out to be a regular at the place I work.
On a slightly more humorous note, I went up to check on my seven-year-old, who was sat on the opposite aisle seat from my husband, and she was sat next to a young couple that was probably about 18 or 19. They said to me she’d been really well-behaved, and had turned to them when they first sat down and told them she wouldn’t be talking to them because “If you talk to strangers they kidnap you.”
26. One And Done
On a flight from Wausau, Wisconsin to Chicago, I was on a small regional jet. I was talking to my co-worker in the seat across the aisle as we approached Chicago. One moment I’m looking face-to-face with him, then suddenly I was looking down at him. Right after that, I was looking up at him. We finally settled back into a normal cruising pattern, but it was a scary “What the heck just happened?” moment.
I don’t think we came close to rolling over, but it sure as heck felt that way. When we arrived at O’Hare (where I considered kissing the tarmac), a fellow passenger suggested that we’d somehow been caught in the wake of a larger jet. Sounded plausible but not terribly reassuring. The best moment occurred after the pilot brought the plane back under control.
The cabin was eerily silent, and the captain opened his microphone, cleared his throat, and said, “Sorry.” He was a man of few words, I guess.
27. Sticking The Landing
They had to do an emergency landing during a snowstorm after running of out fuel because we flew in circles for three hours waiting for the storm to clear at any nearby airports. Eventually, they had to land in 0 visibility—like, I couldn’t even see the wing out the side of the plane. The landing felt like a car accident, and then we overshot the runway and ended up parked in a farmer’s field.
On the plus side, we got to use the slide and I rode in the fire truck back to the airport. Since I was 14 at the time, it was the greatest day ever. But yeah, looking back we could have easily been killed during that landing. And to this day, I still get super tense during landings.
28. The Principal Is Your Pal
I was on a study tour when I was 10. The principal had the same surname as me, so he was arranged to sit next to me. He was nice, but any kid would be frightened to sit next to the head of school for several hours. I was so nervous I didn’t chat with my friends and watched movies on the TV, trying to be the best behaving student. The worst part is that he kept using the flight’s deck of cards to attempt magic tricks with me, and failed every time.
I experienced my first cringe on that plane, and it lasted four hours.
29. Child’s Play
It was a flight from San Jose del Cabo to Dallas Fort Worth. I was transporting an adopted cat to her forever home in North Dakota. This woman got in with FOUR children. The oldest seemed to be 8-10 and the youngest was probably under two years old and was sat up across the aisle and three rows ahead. They never, EVER shut up. The oldest seemed to be playing something on the cellphone but kept screaming at the screen.
The baby kept crying the entire flight and the other two would fight each other and sometimes just run up and down the aisle and bother other passengers. The woman never bothered to rein in her little jerks. The most she would do is go to the bathroom with the baby and return…with it still crying. On and on and on for hours. But then came the thing that peeved me the most.
When a flight attendant noticed my pet carrier with the kitten, she asked if I had bought a pass for the pet and if it was well behaved, THEN proceeded to tell me that if the cat was being noisy it would need to be removed from the cabin…like what the heck. Are you going to throw away the cat in the middle of a flight? Drop it into the cargo? The cat never cried or made any kind of noise that would disrupt anyone.
The most she did was squeak a little when the plane took off. Yet you allowed the four brats to make as much noise as possible, disrupting all the passengers? And yet the cat is the problem? This is why I really wish childless flights were available.
30. When It All Falls Down
I was flying to Orlando for a fun family trip to Disney. A few minutes before boarding, I felt a twinge in my lower abdomen, then the feeling like I had to pass gas. Only I knew it wasn’t that. I raced to the bathroom and my butt exploded right as my hands touched elastic. After venting what felt like all my internal structures, I threw away my destroyed underwear and rushed to board.
That’s when the nausea started. I have never felt so bad in my life. The wheels of the plane had barely left the ground and I was up and running to the bathroom to a chorus of “Sir! SIR! You have to remain seated with your seatbelt fastened!” Nope. I got into the bathroom and hurled chunks for most of the flight. Landed, felt like I had run a marathon, and then gone nine rounds with Mike Tyson.
I got to the place we were staying, and that’s where I lay for most of the week. I missed everything. One of the worst experiences of my 47 years. I still can’t believe how fast it came on…I went from 100% fine to an explosion of bodily fluids in a couple of seconds.
31. It’s Getting Hot In Here
I was seated in the front row, bulkhead seat. As the plane began takeoff and the g-force hit, one of the ovens in the wall in the galley just in front of me and to the right ejected from its usual place and crashed to the floor, tumbling into my leg. The oven was filled with empty metal trays, so the sound it made upon crashing to the floor was unlike any noise one might expect during takeoff.
It was immediately followed by screams, utterances to an assortment of deities, and the sound of collective defecation as the unwashed masses behind me envisioned all manner of catastrophe unfolding. The ovens are modular and simply slide in and out for replacement, but they are held in place with screws. The previous flight had oven issues, so maintenance arrived and replaced the oven. They failed to reinstall the screws.
32. White Out Wipe Out
I was flying from San Francisco to Boston in February with a massive winter snowstorm pounding the East Coast. Logan Airport in Boston closed and the 737 was diverted to a little airport somewhere in New York. The approach was in pure whiteout conditions, incredibly turbulent, engines screaming at every jump and jolt, lights flickering on and off.
The guy sitting next to me had a panic attack and started clawing at his seat belt, trying to get out of his seat. I grabbed his collar with my right hand and started shaking the heck out of him and yelling at him to stay seated and hold on and everything would be OK. This was sort of like my old water rescue training. Then absolutely without warning, there’s the mother of all jolts as the plane slams down onto the runway.
Some loose stuff in the cabin got thrown around as the pilots deploy probably every single braking device the plane carries. I’m pretty sure I saved that guy from injury if he’d made it out of his seat. Anyway, the plane sat on the ground for about two hours, got de-iced, and then we flew to Boston without further incident.
33. All The Way And Back Again
Have you ever flown out of or into Philly Airport? You’d know if you had. I’ve had a multitude of horrible flying experiences at this particular airport, but none as bad as when I was flying to London a few years ago. We had been staying in Maryland prior to us flying out, so we drove from Maryland a few states up to Pennsylvania to fly out of Philly. The flight was for 10 pm.
Ideally, we could sleep the whole way and arrive in London in the morning. So at 9:30 pm, we board our plane. We’re on there for quite a while when they tell us there’s a problem with the plane and we all need to get off. Okay, just a few hours, no big deal. At 1:26 am They find a second plane for us to use, and they load all of our baggage and us passengers back onto the new plane. YIKES.
This plane must’ve been from the 80s or 90s. It was horribly out of date in every way possible and honestly, gave me a good amount of anxiety in terms of safety. They start to push off from the gate and go onto the tarmac and there’s this horrible sound the entire time. We sit on the tarmac until 3:04 am, at which point they bring us back to the gate but won’t let us exit the plane.
When this happened, my mom started to call the airlines to move our flight to a new airport, and we’re all sort of relieved we’re not flying across the Atlantic in this disaster trap. At 4:41 am, they finally declare the flight “canceled” and tell us we can call for vouchers and that we basically have to figure everything else out ourselves. We exit the plane back into the airport…and we’re the only people there.
THE ONLY PEOPLE THERE. No employees, no security guards, just us wandering around after sitting in a plane for the last six hours or so. My mom got us a flight out of JFK Airport at 10 am but we had to move fast. We waited an ETERNITY for our luggage because they had to call people to come into the airport to get it off of the plane and into baggage claim.
At 5:52 am, we’re in a taxi hauling our butts to New York City, and this God of a taxi driver gets us to JFK by 8:16 am. We go to the lounge for a bit before our flight and I ran into KEVIN BACON coming out of the bathroom, and by 10:30 am we were in the sky-bound for London. We missed an entire day of our trip, but I’m glad we got there. Moral of the story: screw Philly Airport.
34. Pizza Party
Ah yes. This one time we were on a plane trip to Hawaii from Washington and we had to make an emergency landing at a different island because something went wrong. They didn’t let us get out of the plane for some reason. We were there for like eight hours, so we ran out of food and the airline ordered pizza delivered to the plane. At this point, we have been on the plane for like 15 hours.
We’re all eating the pizza. when the little girl in front of me throws up.
35. Taking A Nose Dive
I used to be a skydiving instructor, and one day we were heading up in a twin otter—an old school twin-prop plane—at about 8,000 feet. Both engines all of a sudden start screaming, then a few seconds later they both stopped. The plane was just gliding and then slowly started to nose dive. I wasn’t too concerned as I was right by the door with my parachute on, so I was ready to bail.
But when I saw the face of the pilot in the little mirror in the cockpit looking as white as a ghost, I realized it was quite serious. After about 10-15 seconds of the plane slowly going down and people screaming, the engines fired back up and we continued to altitude and jumped. The moral of the story, wear a parachute.
36. United We Stand
6’4″ tall me wedged into a tiny economy seat for a five-hour trans-US flight on a United Airlines 757. I was in the back of the plane, two rows in front of the aft bathroom. One mom with a crying baby was in the row in front of me, one mom with a crying baby was in the row behind me. The flight departs at 6:05 am. I can’t sleep because of crying babies and turbulence.
The baby in the seat behind me keeps kicking the back of my seat. To be fair, the mom apologized, but she didn’t really have much of a choice as she was also stuck in a tiny little economy seat. The mom in front of me has to change the baby’s diaper around hour three, but the lavatory is occupied, so she returns to the seat and changes the baby on the seat-back tray table.
Absolutely disgusting. Oh, and United sent my bags to a different airport and I didn’t get them until the next day.
37. Running Hot And Cold
I had been teaching in Africa for several months, and I came home from African summer to North American winter. I spent two weeks with my family in the mountainous West (average temp of about 30 F), and one week with my then-boyfriend (now husband) and his family in the upper Midwest during their coldest week of the year (average temp of 0 to -10 F).
My body freaked out over the abrupt drops in temperature, and I had a TERRIBLE cold on the way back to Africa to finish the school year. A 14-hour flight from Chicago to Dubai, and I slept/was miserable the majority of it. The shorter flight from Dubai to Lilongwe was easier, but still not fun.
38. Under Pressure
I drank some wine at the airport bar when I was a fresh 21-year-old. I felt very cool and like hot stuff. Welp. Turns out I have low blood pressure and sometimes it drops drastically when you don’t eat or have low sodium levels or something. When I got on the plane, I took a little tipsy nap then suddenly woke up clammy and dizzy. My vision started tunneling and I realized I needed to go to the bathroom or vomit or both, immediately.
I started releasing the most toxic gas while I’m stumbling from my window seat over the poor two passengers, blindly feeling my way to the bathroom. I went into a semi-fetal position on the toilet until I could see again. As I came out after what felt like forever, I heard the guy sitting next to me telling the attendant he thought I might be dying. I finally went to see the doctor about it after another time, and when it happens, I basically have to find the fastest way to get salt in my body.
39. The Undying
This one is from my father. He was flying in Russia and there was a terrible storm during the flight and obviously, it caused extreme turbulence. Then the captain turned on the PA system and told everyone “This is Captain Bezsmertniy speaking, we are passing through some light turbulence so please fasten your seat belts” in the most monotonous voice possible. There was one thing that made this even more terrifying.
The name Bezsmertniy translates in Russian to “undying.” Also, a lightning strike hit the wing. My dad was really glad he made it.
40. Freak Accident
The woman sleeping next to me started to convulse, and she began vomiting all over my right arm and lap. All I could do was reach up and hit the call attendant button. After 30 seconds, she woke up with no recollection of what had happened, and apparently it had never happened before. They relocated the woman to a different seat and I excused myself to clean up.
41. A Slip Of The Hand
When I was an infant, I was sitting on my father’s lap when the flight attendant leaned over him to give coffee to the person sitting next to him. Her hand slipped and the boiling coffee spilled on my bare chest as my father was changing my shirt. It burned my entire chest. I had a massive scar for a year or two after, and apparently, she broke down crying during the flight.
42. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
I was having to fly back home from across the country; my dad had fallen into cardiac arrest and wasn’t expected to make it. I had one phone call with my mother explaining the situation and that’s all I heard from anyone. I was put on a plane home with the thought that my dad had died at some point during the flight. Being on an eight-hour plane trip with the thought of not seeing your father ever again was so, so hard.
Every painful emotion was racing through my head while being in the air with a plane full of strangers. It was one of the worst moments of my life. I hope I never experience anything like that ever again. But will add that once I hit the ground, I was told that my father had woken and was making progress against the odds. I’m glad that to this day I still have him.
43. Try Something New
I was holding my toddler on a flight and the air pressure change from landing had her wailing. I tried everything I could think of to calm her. People were unbuckling their seatbelts and coming over to try and help. FINALLY, I filled a water bottle cap with water and had her drink from it. She wasn’t used to drinking like that, but I was thinking that the swallowing motion would help “pop” her ears.
It worked as she drank it, and then she stopped crying and fell immediately to sleep exhausted.
44. I’m All Ears
I had a lot of ear problems as a kid that required multiple surgeries. I figured out on my first flight at age 19 that my ears could still bother me when the worst ear pain of my life hit me during the descent. Since then, I figured out how to make them pop, making it less of an issue. But I was unprepared that first time and spent quite a bit of time holding back tears until my ears popped on their own a few minutes after landing.
45. Control Your Kids
I was flying home to Australia, and there’s some European family whose daytime is apparently our nighttime. Their bored kids run endlessly up and down the aisles, making sleep impossible. Cabin staff was useless. While in transit, one kid produces a green laser and waves it around. I’m not sure if it was powerful enough to blind, but his idiot parents don’t tell him off.
Thankfully their connecting flight was not the same. I slept for maybe two hours before arriving to attend my mother’s funeral.
46. Oopsie Daisie
I had a flight attendant throw up on my lap because she had drank too much before we took off. I’m pretty sure she got fired. I was 11.
47. Going To Brown Town
Oh boy. My boyfriend will KILL me if he ever knew I posted this. It’s bad but HILARIOUS. The whole day was chaos. I was on my period and emotional and wanted pizza more than anything on Earth. I literally cried when we got to the pizza place and they said they needed to cook my pizza and it would take 30 minutes. I wanted a Sbarro-type place with ready-made slices.
So after my meltdown, we got on the plane, pizza-less, and I naturally needed a nap after crying. Well, the reason we didn’t get pizza is that my boyfriend needed to drink a bunch of pints with his brother who was going to a different airport than us. Understandable, drink with your brother, but make sure you get your crazy girlfriend pizza. Anyway, I slept hard.
Then I woke up to the pilot saying we’re on our final descent and fasten seatbelts, yadda yadda. I was at the window, my boyfriend was in the middle, and there was a stranger on the aisle. Correction, my boyfriend was supposed to be in the middle. In reality, he was gone. I assumed he was in the bathroom, so I looked to the front and back at the overhead signs and they both said the bathroom was free.
I was thinking “Where is he then?!” Panicking, I was looking front to back as the ground was getting closer. I asked the stranger, “Where is he?!” And he says, “He went to the bathroom like 30 minutes ago.” Even the male flight attendant knew he wasn’t in his seat, so they checked the bathrooms. The ground is getting closer, here comes my boyfriend. He sits down just in time for landing.
He smells godawful. I was like “God you stink. What’s wrong?” His response made my blood run cold. In the most serious voice, he says “Stop. We’ll talk later.” I literally cannot breathe next to him because he smells so bad. I feel bad for the aisle guy. We get off the plane and then he tells me. He accidentally pooped his pants trying to get to the bathroom. He knew he needed to go pronto and nearly passed out trying to make it up to the bathroom but someone went in ahead.
He turns around, heads to the back, and doesn’t make it. Now, if you remember I said the signs said they were vacant. Apparently, he didn’t lock the doors during this panic. And naturally, he needed to get rid of the evidence, so he was trying to flush his boxers down the toilet, and IN WALKS the male flight attendant asking him to return to his seat. Catching him flushing his poop-covered boxers!
48. Filling Seats, Making Enemies
I got my window seat in the small plane for my one-hour flight and got comfortable. A short but built guy took the seat next to me and man-spread not only into my footwell but ALSO over into my chair, literally calf to calf, thigh to thigh with me. I went to automatically flinch away from touching a STRANGER, but I realized that I was way within my seat and if I moved over he’d get like £40 of my ridiculously expensive seat.
So I didn’t move. But then he didn’t move either? I am British so I didn’t say anything and just quietly seethed in my seat for the hour. When it’s time to land I like to look over to see the sky disappear and the land take up the full window when we turn to get into line with the airport. So I look to the other side of the aisle to watch and out the corner of my eye I see he thinks I’m trying to look at him and he SMILES!?!
Like we’ve been secretly enjoying him getting all up and cozy on MY SEAT on a Thursday afternoon business flight. I was SO MAD and continued to ignore him and seethe. I met my husband at the gate and I complained about this guy LOUDLY all the way to the parking pay station, culminating in a comprehensive and curse-filled conclusion about why he was creepy and why some people shouldn’t be allowed on public transport.
Turned around and he was paying for parking at the next pay point, looking very red and determinedly not making eye contact. No regrets. Screw that guy. Stay in your own seat.
49. Dancing On The Ceiling
I was headed to the Philippines on a two-week vacation with my cousin, and we were in San Francisco waiting to board our plane when it got delayed for four hours. That’s just the start…finally, after boarding, they had over-seated the plane and no one was volunteering, so they started to force people off the plane, and guess what? They chose me to “volunteer.”
After some arguing and negotiating, me and my cousin thankfully stayed on the plane. Or at least I thought I was thankful at the time. After taking off and eating our dinner on the plane, the lights got turned off. As the flight attendant was navigating the cabin and handing out drinks, she tripped over someone’s foot in the aisle and spilled a sticky drink all over me and my cousin.
After getting cleaned up and into clean clothes, almost everyone was asleep as we were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It was roughly 3 am at this point. Well, I can never sleep on planes so I was wide awake, and I decided to go brush my teeth and use the restroom. Being a multitasker, I was using the restroom while brushing my teeth. I know it’s unsanitary but being a guy and having two hands makes me productive. Then everything went south.
The plane gave one small bump warning of turbulence, with no comment from the pilot. Out of nowhere, we hit dead air. The plane dropped, and I mean dropped!! My body flew up and smashed the ceiling, toothpaste, and pee flying everywhere in the bathroom. Meanwhile, all I hear is horrified screaming in the cabin outside the door. I was on the ceiling for a solid five seconds that felt like five minutes.
We finally hit good air and leveled out. I come smashing back down and hit hard. The bathroom, obviously, is an absolute mess. I rush out of the bathroom to my seat and buckle in immediately. The cabin was destroyed. People’s food, drinks, and personal items were everywhere. Seats were soaked, including mine, the ceiling had food stuck to it, people were still screaming and crying.
The pilot came on and said that the bad air was not on the radar and the rest of the flight would be smooth. And thank God it was, but holy heck was the first half of a 10-hour flight miserable. Thankfully, always pack two changes of clothes in my carry-on for international flights, so I had another clean pair to change into.
50. A Cry For Help
I was flying back to the States from Japan. The flight in itself was already a really long one. My family and I were seated at the very back of the plane like we couldn’t get any more back than that as far as seats went. Anyways, halfway through the 9-10-hour flight, a couple of rows ahead of us, we just hear this poor woman frantically screaming in another language, I believe it was Mandarin or something along those lines.
I looked up and saw her constantly screaming something, it must have been a name or a cry for help. I believe it was her husband; he was unconscious and wasn’t responding. The flight attendants came by, and they even managed to find a doctor who was on the plane. They dragged his body toward the back of the plane and found he didn’t even have a pulse and were applying CPR to him literally right next to my sister, who was sitting on the other side right of me.
They constantly tried but nothing worked. He died from heart failure, and according to the people with the gentleman, he had many health issues. After they stopped, the flight attendants asked my family and me if we could move seats. They had to wrap the body up in blankets and move him somewhere until we landed. They planned on putting him in one of the bathrooms and sealing it off for the remainder of the flight, but their regulations didn’t seem to allow that.
So instead, we moved and took the seats of the family of the deceased. They ended up buckling him into my seat, and I ended up sitting where he sat. For the remainder of the flight, there I was sitting in the seat of a man who had just died, while his body was buckled into the seat I was previously in. It was a really strange feeling, and it wasn’t comforting at all.
Because of our positioning, turning the plane around wouldn’t have mattered. We were hours from any land that could offer medical help. It’s frightening to be in a situation where no real help will come. I hope the family found some peace.