OT: Your worst airline experience

Submitted by Prof. Brewsington on June 23rd, 2011 at 7:30 AM

As I await my standby* Houston to Detroit flight for 7:05 am, I would like to share my experience in the last 24 hours and hear about other airline "horror stories". Yesterday, the 22nd for those of you keeping score, our flight from Colorado Springs to Houston was delayed. Thankfully, the flight from Houston to Detroit was also delayed. No big deal, right? When we boarded the plane, 2 hours later, there was a "computer" problem. Another delay. With some rough calculation, I estimated we would be in Houston at 8 pm, with our flight to the D at 8:30. I was fairly close and our flight landed and we were off the plane at 8:15. Earlier, the flight attendant told us that  our gate was move to E**. Nope. We went to the gate and were told that we had to go all the way to C**. Ok. We go to this next gate. Nothing. Gates closed, sign changed, 5 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave. Usually this isn't a big deal, but when you have an exam to make the next morning in Dennison, it just sucks. On the bright side, if you need a place to stay in Houston, try the Towne Place Suite. Really nice. Continental Airlines, however, not so much. 

Now that that's over with, what's your worst airline experience? 

*Still waiting as of 7:29 EST



June 23rd, 2011 at 8:11 AM ^

I don't fly very often so this might not be that big of a deal, but I sat on the tarmac for about an hour and a half in Athens, Greece because one of the ground crew noticed something leaking from the fuselage.  Something leaking from the plane you are going to be in for the next 14 hours is NOT COMFORTING!!  It turned out to be part of the ac system, but I was convinced I would die for the first half of the flight.


June 23rd, 2011 at 7:56 AM ^

Coming back from Aruba, we flew into Orlando.  Orlando flight then goes to Atlanta.  However, our flight is a few hours late in Orlando, so we don't arrive in Atlanta until exactly 15 minutes before our next flight leaves.  Luckily, our next flight from Atlanta to Detroit was literally across the hall from the gate we came into, so we got off the plane, and ran over to our gate (with 10 mins to spare).  The lady at the desk tells us "Oh I'm so sorry, the plane just pushed off."


Basically, after some intense arguing, my dad got them to admit that the plane was full, and that's why they just pushed off to leave, and that us being "late" was just an excuse for them to avoid the humongous pay-out they have to have for someone to forfeit their seats.


June 23rd, 2011 at 7:59 AM ^

Also, I'm leaving to San Diego for a conference today, so it's probably not the best time for me to be reading airline horror stories : )


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:11 AM ^

I was coming back from a tasting trip for my wedding and we got to the airport a little earlier than expected so we figured we could make it through security in plenty of time. Well, both my fiance (now wife) and I got the pat-downs and baggage checks and then we got to our gate to find out it was delayed 30 mins. We figured that wasn't too bad so, ya know, w/e.  We get on the plane, they shut the door and then they realize there's something wrong with the plane so then we sit there for another hour waiting on them to fix whatever it was and we finally are ready to go and...  Obama was flying out of MIA so no one anywhere was allowed to move - including the baggage guys who were, inexplicably, not there yet. So then we waited another 30 mins to get the bags loaded and then at that point we ended up being # 23 for departure so that took another half and hour.  Then, naturally, when we landed in DFW they didn't have our gate ready (WTF?!?  we were over 2 hours late how was the gate not ready???).  Thankfully my story doesn't include lost luggage or a cancelled flight but it was still quite annoying.


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:48 AM ^

We had to go back down to the place we were getting married to do the cake tastings and the reception tasting. I know it's a girly thing but, seriously, it's tons of awesome food and stuff you don't have to pay for (at least not on that trip).


June 24th, 2011 at 10:52 AM ^

We had ours down in the Florida Keys - it was pretty great. The temps down there are very temperate so the high was like 84 and low was around 73 or so.  The biggest thing about a destination wedding is making sure the people you want to be there can afford to go.  It worked out really well for us and having everyone there in one place made it pretty awesome.


The place we got married was Hawks Cay in Duck Key Florida - if they are thinking Florida I'd highly recommend that place as we drove, literally, all over the entire state looking at places.


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:12 AM ^

Coming back from Charlotte to Grand Rapids back in February of 2008 flying American Airlines.  We taxied out to the tarmack in CLT and sat for 2.5 hours because the runway in ORD was shut down.  They only had warm beer.  I missed my connection flight in ORD by 3 hours, never was instructed by anyone at AA on what to do, so I instinctively go to the baggage claim because the only workers working were there (it was 12:30am).  Security is shut down so I can't go through into the terminal.  I call and get tickets for 8:00am into GRR the next day.  I haven't eaten in 9 hours and nothing is open.  I end up sleeping next to a homeless guy in the ticket counter area at O'Hare in a blizzard.  He smells like cheese and marijuana.  I get zero sleep.  It's finally 4:30am and I make it into the terminal through security.  I finally eat and get coffee.  It's finally 8:00am and I'm in the air to GRR.  Midway through the flight -- "umm, folks, the GRR airport is shut down due to snow."  So we're in the air with nowhere to go.  Finally we land with a snowplow leading us down the runway and my bag miraculously is there.  

That is the shortened version.  I'm never flying AA again due to their horrible lack of communication.  That was by far the worst experience in travel I have ever had.


June 23rd, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

And we both came to the same conclusions (my story will be posted at the end of the thread).

The serious lac of anything resembling customer service is mind-boggling...what kind of business throws up their arms to a paying customer when something goes wrong and says "I'm sorry sir, but my computer says it's not AA's fault. I can't do anything about it because I'M A ROBOT"

Wolverine In Exile

June 23rd, 2011 at 8:17 AM ^

I'm a gov't employee who has to make a lot of trips into to Washington Reagan Nat'l airport-- convienent to downtown and Northern VA suburbs, right on the GW Parkway, etc. One particular night in Feb a couple years ago, I'm flying back to Columbus OH from DCA and it's on US Air. At DCA, the US Air regional gate (35A/B) is a clusterfuck of a waiting area that looks like the airport from Casablanca. Essentially they have about 6,000 flights going through this gate per day since they just take your boarding pass and put you on a bus to a regional jet parked on the tarmac a good ways away from the terminal. So they can put through like 5 flights in 20 min from this gate.

The guy working the microphone that night is a dude that regularly works that gate. Jamaican guy with a thick accent who tried to be funny. He'll announce the Raleigh/Durham flight like "Ok, now boarding the flight to Raleigh Durham, home of the Blue Devils, Tar Heels, and Wolf-pack". Corny I know, but he like his college sports. So it's a relatively easy night at DCA with no flight delays and it's time for my flight. I like to travel to DC in the standard blue sportcoat / khaki pants and that night I happened to be wearing my Michigan tie with the little block M's all over it. Jamaican Guy announces the flight as "Now time to board for Col-lum-bus Ohio home of the Buck-eyes." Then he drops the "O-H" and the boarding area responds "I-O!". First sign I should have just skipped the flight.

So we go down the escalator to the boarding area where you get on the buses. I'm laater in line and by the time I get on the bus to the plane, there's one seat left in the last row. I'm walking back trying not hit anyone in the head and some old broad who's about 85 sees my tie and says in a voice loud enough to be heard by everyone on the bus "HEEYY! we got one of the people from that school up north on this flight". I smile and continue to walk back, but start getting elbows in my kidney area as I keep walking. When I sit down, the guy next to me asks me if I'm OK. I try to say yes, and then he looks at me with a shit eating grin and yells, "it doesn't matter.. O-H" and the rest of the bus does "I-O!" with hand motions. Sign #2 I should've taken a train home.

We get to the plane and start to depart the bus. More of what i'm sure was inadvertant kicking of my shins. Finally get on the plane and I have the window seat in the last row by teh bathroom on the CRJ aircraft. The stewardess gets on the speaker and says we're delayed by 15 min b/c of traffic onthe runway. Then she says "well I heard we have a Michigan fan on the flight with us today, and this Columbus based flight crew would like to assure you of a safe and entertaining flight." I'm like what the hell? then she gets back on, "while we're waiting i have a special musical selection to help pass the time." 10 seconds later, tOSU marching band playing Hang on Sloopy is blaring on the speakers and the rest of the plane decides to do the hand motions with the song. I now know what it feels like to be in Hell.

After the flight nothing eventful happens at luggage claim or the airport, although there is a "UM SUX" written in dirt on my window when I come back to my car in teh parking garage-- my alumni license plate h older has given me away. I end up writing a letter to US Air complaining about the experience and flight, and I got a letter back in a week. it was from US Air corporate telling me they're sorry about my experience and giving me 10,000 frequent flier miles as an apology. At the bottom of the lettter is a hand written note from the guy who prepared the letter, it said "yeah, I hate those guys too-- A Penn St grad".


June 23rd, 2011 at 10:20 AM ^

a good friend and I used to work for a very popular custom car company. basically like pimp my ride. we would drive to regional car shows for promotions. story short, we broke down in Columbus. had to wait several hours at some packed buckeye dive. we bleed blue but we are some pretty fun guys. we are sarcastically battering with the locals. several laughs and shots later, my friend jumps on the bar and at the top of his lungs says CMON YOU ALL KNOW THIS ONE! and proceeds to lead the whole bar in a bellowing rendition of The Victors. even the bartender knew the words. everyone cracked up. a group of linemen sized guys high fived us. the guy with a buckeye tatoo(pre scandal) hugged me. absolutely true story and one of my greatest memories.


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:20 AM ^

I can't count or recall all the travel problems I've had, particularly trying to get back to Detroit for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Detroit to Chicago is a 45 minute flight.  I have sat on  the tarmac for 3 hours in Detroit, with someone tugging on the back of my seat the entire time. 

I've had flights cancelled and had to go home after waiting for 5-6 hours in the airport.  At least when I'm stuck in the airport, rather than on a plane, I can get a beer or 10. 

I am almost always delayed for longer than the flight duration no matter the weather.  I've also had luggage not show up and have to be delivered a few times.

Flying misery is so common that my friends and family are actually surprised when I land on time.  Lots of times the flight crew just doesn't show up and we have to wait for another crew to depart.

Good times.  I always look forward to what awaits me at the airport.


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:33 AM ^

We surprised the kids with tix to the Rose Bowl in 2005.  They lost our luggage on the flight out from St Louis.  You know the outcome of the game.  My wife and I have boarded the plane to fly home, seated in the same row across the aisle from one another, kids in the middle and window seats.  A hungover Texas football player boards, pauses at our row, and vomits up and down and around the aisle.


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:39 AM ^

I've been really lucky so far in that I haven't had any problems flying (never been delayed more than maybe an hour, no lost baggage, no diverted planes, etc.). Probably the only thing that was annoying I've experienced was when I was flying from Pittsburgh to Chicago and my seat recline mechanism wouldn't lock upright, so on takeoff and landing I couldn't put any weight on the seatback lest I get chewed out by the guy behind me and/or the flight crew.

Here's to hoping I didn't just jinx myself for my Stockholm -> Chicago -> Pittsburgh flights on Saturday.

Johnny Blood

June 23rd, 2011 at 8:49 AM ^

I fly way too much -- I live in Atlanta and have already been to Boston and back as well as Michigan and back this week... and head out to California tomorrow. 

Stuff like this happens to me almost every month.  So far this year I've been stranded in South Carolina (had to drive home to Atlanta after we were sent there due to weather and then the crew's time expired) and Daytona Beach (there we just sat on the runway until 2am before taking off again and they wouldn't let anyone leave the plane).  Also had my luggage lost in Denver.

Anyone who thinks business travel is glamorous hasn't really had to do it.


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:50 AM ^

Well, I was coming back from Greenville/Spartanburg from visiting my girlfriend/now wife at her college at Furman University. I was flying United. So I get to the plane, it is delayed 2 hours due to mechanical issues they can fix while we are boarded. So we basically just on the tarmac until the storm passes. I fly to Pittssburgh to catch my connecting flight. My flight is delayed another 2 hours due to storms. I ended up on the plane only to sit on it for another 90 minutes until the storm passes. I swear I saw I twister looking out of my window while I was sitting. 

Turns out the next day the exact same flight from GSP to Pitt the next day ends up crashing on the tarmac and killing about half of its passengers. That weekend was the last time I have ever flown United. I am still thanking God I didn't fly out one day later. I almost took that flight since that Monday was Holiday and I didn't have classes but I wanted to catch up on some homework and readings. 


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:50 AM ^

you are getting on an aluminum tube with about 20 tons of chattle that is connected to four jet engines that flies about 7 miles above the earth, where the temperature is -20 F and travelling 500 miles an hour.  there are over one million rivets in a plan alone, not to mention the millions of engine parts, computer parts, wires and, oh, forgot to mention thousands of gallons of the most exposive liquid we have invented. this is insane enough. but there are thousands of other flying tubes all over the sky and the majority of them converge at these single places scattered over the country all ot once. oh, and there is weather.

there are literally a million things that could go wrong in a worse way than people being late for something, lets not take for granted what is actually happening when you get on a plan

/rant over, begin parsing my facts



June 23rd, 2011 at 9:36 AM ^

This thread is pretty comical. I'm an airline pilot/instructor for JetBlue. Unfortunately, we don't fly anywhere in the state of MI. If you want an experience that is superior to the legacy carriers, JetBlue is a great alternative. We just won the JD power award for best service for something like the 8th year in a row. It really is a whole different culture here.
<br>As far as safety of flight goes, getting on an airplane is thousands of times safer than driving a car. Just think about all the other idiots on the road that shouldn't be driving. A car is a much more deadly weapon than an aircraft.
<br>As for one of the previous posters recommendations, I too would also fly private jets if you have the money. I used to fly for NetJets (Marquis) and that is by far the best way to travel. I have flown Coach Schiano from Rutgers around on recruiting trips when at NetJets. It blows my mind that U of M was sending RR around in a King Air (turboprop) when a school like Rutgers is using a jet!


June 23rd, 2011 at 9:43 AM ^

1) air travel is way safer than driving, just can't stand when people complain about air travel and how they have to wait for something - if you weren't flying you would be on a train or car and how much would that suck

2) rutgers spends more money on football than michigan, srsly


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:51 AM ^

My worst experience? I almost got bumped from first class to business class.  Fortunately that didn't happen.  Then to top it all off, when I was sipping my scotch, I wasn't warned in advance about some supposedly "unexpected" turbulance and a little bit of my drink spilled over the side onto the napkin.  I will never fly commercial again.  Marquis jets from here on out. 


June 23rd, 2011 at 8:57 AM ^

Only issue I've had was when I was younger and my parents took me to Disney World/bowl game in '98. We were coming home on January 4th and if you recall Detroit decided to have a damn blizzard. We were stuck in Orlando for 15 hours before we finally got out of there.


June 23rd, 2011 at 9:03 AM ^

Hmm.  One of the following:

1)  Coming back home from Ann Arbor for Thanksgiving my Junior Year.  Found out my girlfriend was cheating on me, and slowly but surely my 7 PM Flight turned into a Midnight flight.  Because I was making a connection in Chicago, I decided to scrap it, and spent Thanksgiving alone in Ann Arbor.  I had multiple double jack and cokes at the airport, and that drive back to Ann Arbor was interesting.  The pure adreneline I was experiencing from my anger over said girlfriend greatly outweighed the booze.  The one positive was I used my ticket voucher for that flight for the Rose Bowl against Texas.

2)  Anything coming back from Vegas.  Long lines.  Vomiting in trash cans outside of the airport.  Popping leftover purple Adidas pills before heading to the airport.  All this stuff.  I hate that airport.  (Not really an airline, but still...)


June 23rd, 2011 at 9:27 AM ^

Does anyone know any relationship at UM that isn't ended by cheating? For having so many smart, "boring nerds" here, I feel like the vast majority of relationships I know of are unfaithful on either end, actually especially the girls.


June 23rd, 2011 at 9:55 AM ^

Yes, you're so right, our women treat their nerds like shit, and conversely, the SEC is a bastion of morality.


Even though I know of plenty Michigan students in healthy, infidelity-free relationships, I'd say the better solution is to just say no to exclusive relationships in college if you're not mature enough to break up with someone before you cheat on them.

Johnny Blood

June 23rd, 2011 at 9:06 AM ^

For some reason, I've seen a lot of MSU ads at various airports around the country this year -- it's a picture of their helmet with some drivel about why it is such a great school. 

I've now seen it in at least three airports and, as far as I can recall, it is new this year.

Must be part of their national recruiting strategy...