Tales from Our Travel Writers: What Was Your Worst Flight Experience?
When Flying Gets a Little Bumpy
Our Travel Wise writers have a lot of experience when it comes to traveling abroad. While they’ve seen some amazing sights and explored some incredible cities, there is one aspect of travel that everyone considers to be the worst: flying.
Sure, it always puts things into perspective to see the world from above. But the novelty of this sight only lasts for so long. Unfortunately, the tediousness of flying is just something that any avid traveler has to put up with.
Our writers are experienced fliers at this point, which is why the articles they write on the topic are always so informative and helpful. We decided to ask them to share some of their real life flight experiences with us, so we can see exactly where their sage advice stems from.
We asked the following question: What was your worst flight experience?
Here’s what they said!
My worst flight experience was when I was 17 and traveling from Alberta to Toronto on a school field trip with some classmates. I had recently had my wisdom teeth taken out a week or two before, but I didn’t think anything of it as I got ready for the trip and boarded the plane.
The flight itself was relatively uneventful — until it came to the descent. As the plane started to decrease in altitude, I started to feel an excruciating ache in my jaw.
You know the way your ears hurt for a while during descent before they pop? Well, it was my back teeth that were hurting — and they weren’t popping. Tiny pockets of air from the wisdom tooth surgery were trapped in my teeth and the pressure was building.
The plane seemed to take forever to land and the pressure wouldn’t go away. I whimpered, tears in my eyes, as waves of pain shot through my jaw and sinuses.
By the time we finally touched down I was red faced, shaking and exhausted.
The lesson, kids? Wait a little while after having major dental surgery before flying on a plane. Maybe if I had some wisdom at the time I would have known that.
I am a nervous flier. It doesn’t matter that I have taken more planes than I can count, and that I understand that air travel is in fact one of the safest modes of transportation.
Nothing changes the fact that being thousands of feet up in the air in a little metal tube terrifies me. I usually just grit my teeth and bear it: I’m not going to let this fear stand between me and travel.
But every now and then I have a flight experience that just makes me want to cry and never take my feet off solid ground ever again (I don’t care what some people say, extreme turbulence is NEVER fun).
One particular flight stands out as my worst experience, however. I took a flight on Malaysia Airlines, from Kuala Lumpur to Paris, in September 2014: two months after MH17 was shot down and six months after MH370 disappeared entirely.
Oh, and there was also an incident of a woman being sexually assaulted by a member of the flight crew on that exact same flight, MH20. So basically, my flight anxiety was in overdrive before I got on that flight.
To be fair, I guess I could have asked for a refund on my ticket, and switched to another airline. But there was no other airline that came close to matching the price Malaysia Airlines was offering from Auckland to Paris that year (ticket prices, unsurprisingly, were in free fall for all of 2014).
And I figured that I get scared anyway, so what difference would it make? So, being the stubbornly budget traveler I am, I took my chances.
I was nearly in tears boarding the flight. It didn’t help that almost every seat on the plane was empty.
In the cabin of the enormous A380 aircraft there were maybe 30 other passengers. I became convinced that this was a sure sign we were doomed.
I spent the first three hours of the 11 hour flight just gripping the armrests and clenching my jaw, waiting for certain death to happen. Being that scared gets exhausting though, so eventually I passed out (conveniently, I could just lie down: I had the whole row to myself).
In the end, it was a very comfortable flight and I arrived safely, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed. 11 hours of fear wasn’t really worth saving a few hundred dollars and the bonus of having a whole row of seats to myself though, and I haven’t boarded a Malaysia Airlines flight since.
In my senior year of college, a couple of close friends of mine decided to take a trip abroad to Italy. I wanted desperately to go, but couldn’t get the funds together when they were trying to buy tickets.
Miraculously, a month or so later I was able to buy a ticket as well, although not all the same flights as they had. While they managed to only have two connections to get to Rome, my itinerary had three and I was to arrive nearly six hours after them.
We departed in March during our Spring Break. Luckily enough we were all on the same first flight from Miami to JFK. The first leg of the trip went fine and we all passed the time reading books, watching TV and playing cards with one another.
However, once we reached New York I had to catch a different flight from them and it all went haywire.
My next flight was a red-eye to London scheduled to depart at 7:30 p.m., however the weather had other plans. A high wind was reported in the area and my flight was delayed for another two hours.
Once we finally departed, I couldn’t seem to drift off due to a combination of anxiety at being by myself, turbulence and the crying baby seated across from me.
Cranky and bleary eyed, I arrived at the London-Heathrow airport with only 30 minutes before my next flight. That would have been fine if it was in the same terminal, but no, I had to run across the entire airport for my British Airways flight.
Although I just barely made it, apparently my luggage wasn’t quite so fast.
When I finally arrived at the Rome, Fiumicino airport, I discovered my luggage got left behind in London. I desperately tried to find someone who spoke English, which proved a lot more difficult than I imagined it would be at an international airport.
Finally, an employee at one of the British Airways information desks was able to help me and I filled out a missing baggage form. She assured me my luggage would be delivered the following morning to the hostel I was staying at.
Lucky for me it was, but the whole experience was quite harrowing for a 20-year-old who found herself alone in a non-English speaking country without her luggage.
While I laugh about it now, at the time, it was anything but funny. I boarded an early morning flight for what should have been a quick and easy trip from Seattle to Phoenix to attend a business meeting — this was before the advent of sites such as GoToMeeting.
Not long after taking my seat, I heard a huge “thud” and felt the plane reverberate from the impact. The man who sat beside me turned and looked at me, asking, “What was that?!”
It turned out one of the baggage handlers had run into the plane with his equipment. An hour later, still sitting on the tarmac, one of the flight attendants announced that this plane wasn’t taking off, and we’d have to disembark.
Passengers were re-routed on various flights: I was to catch the next flight heading to Phoenix in another 75 minutes. I’d still make my meeting, but it was going to be awfully close.
Finally, it was time to board once again. For this flight, I ended up sitting next to a man who clearly did not fit his seat — excess fat was oozing out of it, and encroaching on my already tight space. What was even worse was the smell; the odor was so bad I began to feel nauseous.
While trying not to breathe in that unpleasant aroma, and squeeze up next to the window the best I could, an announcement was made that the flight was delayed due to a mechanical issue, but that passengers would remain on board until it was repaired.
Some 90 minutes later, we took off. We finally touched town in Phoenix — over four hours late. Meeting? Mostly missed.
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