For those of us who travel frequently, the details of each and every trip can become a blur. The day of departure is normally just like every other - you wake up, you’ve already got your bags packed, you look in your check-on bag to make sure you have your travel sleep mask and blanket, you head to the airport, you hop on a plane, and some amount of time later, you reach your destination. If you’ve traveled by air more than a few times, it can become difficult to discern one flight experience from another- Not exactly the most unique travel stories.
Frequent flyers know something that occasional travelers don’t know; amazing, awesome, wild and crazy things can happen at 25,000 feet in the air. While the act of boarding and traveling on a plane may seem like a fixed experience, it certainly isn’t. There are many variables, and every flight has a different set, creating a wide variety of airline travel stories. Some flights have incredible accommodations, while some don’t even offer basic comfort items. Sometimes you’ll experience an awesome flight staff, and other times, flight attendants may seem downright rude. Sometimes, every passenger on the plane is perfectly at peace, while another time, one loud snoring individual may annoy and irritate every other passenger on the plane. Sometimes, you make it out the door and into your Uber a half hour early, and other times, you miraculously misplace your cell phone and find yourself running stressfully late.
Variables exist, and when it comes to flying, if there is one thing that can be expected, it is that nothing can really be expected. Although these variables may sometimes lead to frustration, they also produce GREAT travel stories. We asked travel bloggers and frequent flyers to share their best short travel stories, and here is what they said!
Charles Dugan, Owner of American Image
I flew from Tampa/St. Pete to Seattle about 2 years ago. On the way back, one of the passengers seated near the back of the plane collapsed in their seat about 30 minutes after take-off. After some mysterious scurrying back and forth by the attendants, the pilot announced that one of the passengers needed emergency medical attention, and that we were diverting to an emergency landing. He also asked if there was a doctor on board. A young lady that was 2 seats in front of me immediately got up and ran to the back of the plane. Until then, she'd been engaged in an excited chat with her friend, and while she looked to be only about 25-30 yrs old - turns out, she was an experienced EMT.
She administered CPR and got the guy breathing while the pilots did a very deep dive and made an emergency landing at an airfield in Alabama. We were met there by an ambulance crew on the airfield. The EMT team carried the large man up front and off of the plane. We waited about an hour for the plane to be inspected - turns out the pilot didn't take time to dump fuel, and had landed with the plane that was heavier than the recommended landing weight. We topped off the fuel, and continued on to Seattle. Upon landing, the pilot announced that the gentleman had made it to the hospital alive and that the prognosis was hopeful.
Tristan Pollock at Storefront
My now wife was flying on a plane with me from Helsinki back to the US and we encountered one of the strangest experiences we've ever had with another passenger. An elderly grandmother was sitting behind us. My wife is 6’2” and often needs a bit of space, so she put her chair back to rest. The grandmother began shaking my wife’s seat violently, causing a major scene. It immediately woke my wife up out of her sleep. The flight attendant came by and was totally confused at the situation. This same thing happened two more times, and on the third time, the attendant accidentally spilled red wine on the elderly lady. The whole situation was crazy, and all of this happened within the first hour of a 13-hour flight!
Mykee Saunders, Owner & Founder of Traveling with Monkeys
My husband and I were traveling, yet again, on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. After debarking the plane and getting our luggage we headed to rent our car. At the car counter, we realized that my husband's wallet must have fallen out of his pocket during the flight. He went into the airport and filed some paperwork with the unlikely possibility of getting it back sometime within the next thirty days. After leaving the airport and all hope of seeing his wallet again, we made our way to our hotel about 30 minutes away.
While searching for the phone numbers to our credit card companies, my phone rang. It was a number I didn't recognize. I hesitantly answered; usually I don't. The person on the other line was a Delta flight attendant. She had found my husband's wallet and somehow was able to track down my number through Facebook. They had returned to Salt Lake City and were about to make a second trip to LAX. She was done for the day after that flight, and being based in the LA area she was willing to meet us to drop off his wallet. We couldn't believe it. Not only did she have to put forth the effort to hunt down a phone number, but she went out of her way to personally make sure that we got his wallet back. A couple hours later, we met up at a Whole Foods in Burbank where she happily returned my husband's wallet and left on her way.
Ernest Shahbazian, Founder and Owner of Trip Astute.
We experienced a memorable flight travel story not long ago while flying with Air Canada. We missed a flight from Montreal to Los Angeles because of long US customs lines. When we arrived at the gate, we found ourselves at the end of a long line of passengers who were all angry, and venting their anger on one of Air Canada’s airline representatives. While we were frustrated with the situation, we knew it wasn't the fault of the airline or even the airline representative. When it was our turn, we told the representative that we were sorry that the other passengers were taking out their anger and frustration on her. She was very appreciative and empathetic of our situation, and ended up finding us seats for a flight a few hours later. She also gave us three vouchers for breakfast at the airport restaurant. It was a such a nice gesture, and it completely changed the way we felt about the situation.
Emily Jenks, Owner and Writer of Henry and Andrew’s Guide
We recently traveled to Iceland on WOW Air with our 2 boys (one newborn, one 2.5 years old). Since it was a midnight flight, we knew for sure that our 2.5 year old would sleep through the duration of the flight. Little did we know, WOW Air’s flight attendants are so amazingly beautiful and friendly that my 2.5 year old could not keep his eyes off of them! They were so sweet to him that he was too excited to fall asleep! During the flight, they played with him, walked around the plane with him, and even carried him around. We didn't get any sleep on that flight, but at least we were adjusted to Iceland time when we arrived.
Elizabeth Aldrich, Digital Nomad and Founder of Temporary Provisions
A few years ago, I traveled to Hong Kong for work. I decided to stay an extra few days and take a quick side trip to Thailand for pleasure. I made it through 5 days of basically living off street food (it's just so good there!) with absolutely no issues. Unfortunately before my flight back to Hong Kong, I made the grave mistake of ordering shrimp dumplings at the airport. About an hour into the 5 hour flight, it happened.
Let's just say, I spent most of the flight in the bathroom and barely made it back to my seat for landing. The worst part was that I had to wait 12 hours, overnight, for my flight from Hong Kong back to the U.S. I ended up sleeping in the Hong Kong International Airport, right next to a bathroom. This was during an Avian Bird Flu scare, and they kept making announcements about quarantining people who showed symptoms. They made me go to the health clinic in the airport to get checked! Luckily, they determined it was just food poisoning and let me board my flight the next morning.
Andre Arriaza - travel blogger and co-founder of Barcelona Eat Local Food Tours
I was once on an American Airlines flight between Port au Prince (Haiti) and Miami (USA). After taking off, a strange smell was protruding from the seat of the passenger who was seated directly behind me. The flight attendants became extremely nervous and they began questioning and interrogating the surprised passenger. One even suggested that he may have an explosive device and started stripping his belongings from the boot! The poor man was noticeably shocked.
At some point, another passenger suggested that the smell was coming from the man’s shoeless feet. I moved my nose into close proximity of his feet and confirmed the fact, which made everyone laugh, including the man in question and the staff members. The flight attendants promptly apologized, asked him to put his shoes back on, and brought us some drinks.
Rebecca Mace of The Solid Bar Company
I once travelled with tea tree essential oil that leaked in my hand luggage. It seemed to get into the air system quickly and gave the whole plane a medicinal menthol smell. There were tears in people's eyes and some had tissues over their mouths. I felt really bad but didn't own up. Instead, I decided to take my bag to the restroom. As I tried to squeeze past the person asleep at the end of the aisle, I somehow managed to kick him in the face…
Altogether, it was a nightmare flight. Now, I make sure that I only carry natural and solid products that are non-liquid, so thankfully, this situation is unlikely to ever happen to me again!
Patty Blue Hayes, Author and Owner of PattyBlueHayes.com
I’d escaped the reality of my looming divorce by volunteering in Romania for 3 weeks, but it was time to start the long journey back to the US on a flight out of Budapest. It was Christmas Eve. Only one other passenger and I shared an otherwise empty Airbus320 – we had all 26 rows to ourselves.
The flight attendants treated us to the champagne normally reserved for first and business class passengers. Shortly before our scheduled 9 pm arrival, one of the flight crew members spoke to the other passenger in Hungarian, which I don’t speak. They looked at me.
Uh oh. I thought something was wrong.
But my flight mate said the pilot invited one of us to sit in the cockpit for the landing and she offered it to me; she’d seen her share of cockpits.
A cockpit invitation is unheard of post 9-11 and I jumped at the chance. My eyes were as wide as a kid on a magical Disney ride. The lights from within the cockpit and the approaching runway mesmerized me. Five hundred, the automated altitude called out. Four hundred – it was bumpy, I couldn’t hold my camera phone steady. Before I knew it we were on the ground but my spirit was soaring.
Those good feelings approaching the runway gave me hope that I’d have the strength to get through the end of my marriage.
Jessica Norah, Travel Blogger at Independent Travel Cats
My partner and I were flying on a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Seoul, South Korea and we were assigned to a seat next to a door. It was unusually cold in this particular spot on the plane and we were freezing, covering up with sweaters and blankets. The flight attendants noticed our discomfort and went out of their way, without being asked, to make the flight more comfortable. They brought us extra blankets, a Business Class amenities kit (even though we were flying Economy), and even heated up a large bottle of water to help keep us warm and comfortable! The flight attendants were very friendly and did more than they needed to help us - definitely one of my best service experiences on a flight.
Clemens Sehi, Creative Director at Travellers Archive
I was on a flight from Istanbul to Ordu, a city on the northeastern outskirts of Turkey, when an old Turkish man sat next to me and told me his remarkable story during the flight. His experience was that he went to Germany back in the Sixties as a guest worker and never returned – until this very day. During the flight, he had told me everything about his place of origin - what it looked like, how it smelled, how special and warm-hearted the people were. It was quite unique to learn about a place from a man who hadn’t been there in over 50 years. The most interesting thing? It seemed to me that nothing had changed about the place, at all. His descriptions of his homeland were still perfectly relevant. Through this experience, I felt extremely connected to his story and the Turkish region, before I ever stepped foot there.
Laurence Norah, Travel Blogger at Finding the Universe
My wife and I recently traveled last minute from Japan to the UK, and due to a confusion with our booking, we ended up being seated in different sections of the plane. Despite us asking at numerous desks, noone was able to help us with reseating prior to getting on the flight, instead giving us glances of confusion.
We discovered the reason for this on boarding - my wife had been allocated a far nicer seat than me - I was in a middle row seat between two strangers for 13 hours, whilst she had all the "frills" of an economy plus. It was an overnight flight and it was absolutely jam packed. Add to that a kid kicking the back of my seat for most of the experience and suffice to say, not the greatest flight experience of my life!
Suzanne Brown, Author and Owner of Mompowerment
As someone who visited 40 countries before turning 40, I have had loads of experience on a variety of airlines. However, a specific flight on Aer Lingus was particularly special.
It wasn’t our first international trip, but it was our first TransAtlantic flight with our then 16-month and 4 years olds. Our 16-month old didn't want to have anything to do with my husband and he was exhausted; so I stood up, doing the mom rock for about 3 hours with him in my arms as he slept. The Aer Lingus flight attendant didn't go into the galley with his colleagues. Instead, he stayed outside and chatted with me that whole time, giving me advice on the area in Ireland where we were headed. It was our first experience with Aer Lingus and it won’t be our last. All the flight attendants were so sweet to our young boys and went out of their way to make them feel special. It’s a rare experience on an international flight these days.
Allison Constantino of A.M. Productions, Inc
I was 16, and in Hawaii for the first time. I couldn’t wait to learn how to surf, but I knew with my blonde hair and fair skin, I probably couldn’t spend the amount of time in the water learning what I needed to learn without my skin being scorched! However, I did actually get to spend 6 hours on a surfboard – and you guessed it, I ended up with almost 3rd degree burns on my shoulders. The blisters were so bad, I couldn’t stand to have anything touch them.
Of course, we were scheduled to head back to the mainland USA the next day, so I bravely put on a sundress and off we went to the airport. I was so uncomfortable in the seat. Everything seemed to “stick” to my blisters so I had to actually lean forward in my seat. To say the least, I was NOT looking forward to the 8 hour trip! As soon as we were in the air, the flight attendant came around with a tray of 24 small glasses of papaya juice, and suddenly while she was standing right next to me – you guessed it – we hit some air turbulence and ALL 24 glasses of juice went on top of my blistered shoulders.
It was such a sticky mess! I got up in total disbelief, went to the bathroom and couldn’t even bear to touch my blisters – so I just went back to my seat and spent the rest of the flight in complete misery!
Krista Canfield McNish, Travel Blogger at FoodWaterShoes
I was waiting for a redeye JetBlue flight from California to NYC on August 14, 2011. It was delayed for almost two hours because of bad weather. I shrugged, figuring a delay was par for the course, until a fellow passenger used our delay as on opportunity to watch a movie... at full volume with no headphones.
I took to Twitter and someone at JetBlue replied by saying snacks and drinks were coming. Our airport "angel" even asked if it might help if they had a gate attendant offer the offending passenger headphones. Once the grub came, everyone's least favorite flyer put his movie player away and we were all able to rest our ears.
John Doherty, Founder of Credo
My recent fiancée and I were moving from New York City to San Francisco over the holidays in 2013, which also happened to be the first holiday we were spending with each other’s families. We boarded our flight and I got upgraded upon check-in. She did not.
I chose to give up my first class seat so I could sit back with my fiancée. The woman behind us tapped her husband on the shoulder and said “Did you see that? That’s so romantic.”
He leaned forward, tapped me on the shoulder, and said “You’ll understand in 20 years.”
Sheryl Hill from DepartSmart.org
My sixteen year old son, Tyler, died a preventable death on a People to People trip to Japan. He was in a coma when we took an emergency Delta flight to Tokyo with high hopes. The pilots and crew knew our story. They bumped us up to business class. They brought us teletype updates of our son’s condition every couple of hours during the longest 14 hour flight of our lives. On arrival, they held back other passengers so we could disembark, and escorted us through customs to our waiting escort.
On our return flight we were also bumped to first class. Tyler passed away and we were to bring his casket home. Onboard, I was informed that it didn’t make clearance and would come in a few days. I screamed like a bloody banshee to get off the plane. I wanted to stay with him. This huge purser physically held me into my seat asking my husband if we had other children and whether he had a picture of them. My husband handed her his cell phone with our youngest son’s picture exposed. She said, “You look at this one. This one needs you, his mama. Get home to him and I give you my word that I will bring your other boy to you.” She then alerted the plane to what was happening and asked a volunteer to offer a PM pain reliever. I made the flight.
A year later, our grief counselor advised us to fly back to Japan and follow Tyler’s footsteps to experience the Japan he loved, to meet his host family, and to push the dark PTSD memories down. So we did, as a family of three.
What are the odds that when we boarded there was that big bold attendant facing me. I stopped in my tracks. She hooked up to me with her arms wide open and said, “Welcome back. I’m so proud of you. I’m bumping you to business class again with that beautiful young boy you’re with.”
Odini Gogo, co-founder of Res Ipsa
While we were getting ready to make an early morning flight from Istanbul to Atlanta, the tempered glass shower door shattered and cut my hand. We thought we were going to have to go to the emergency room instead of the airport, but we managed to stop the bleeding. Once we were in the air, the reduced cabin pressure made the wound start to bleed again. When I asked the flight attendant for assistance, she went into a full blown panic.
Before we knew it, there were three flight attendants huddled in the aisle, whispering to each other and watching my hand bleed. Before they would lift a finger to help they made me sign a waiver stating that the injury did not happen on the plane. Once they got their paperwork signed, I got my Band-Aid.
I recently took a flight to DC, and it was a total disaster! I had purchased a last minute ticket upgrade to Economy Plus for a regional express jet. I was using my phone to access my airline ticket and when I went to board, I was bumped to economy without my consent or knowledge. I held the line up for some time, waiting for a response and wondering if I was going to receive a refund for the upgrade. The staff member at the gate seemed surprised that I even wanted the extra $100 refunded!
I let it go and while I was waiting to board, I was asked to gate check my bag - which I did. I got on the plane and sat next to a young man holding his 2-year old daughter. He didn’t seem too happy that someone would be sitting next to him and he insisted several times that I move. We sat on the runway for 20 minutes before the Captain came on to announce that there were problems with the plane and we would have to evacuate the plane while maintenance was performed. When we finally boarded, luckily, two passengers had given up and left; leaving me with two open seats right behind the man and his daughter.
We were then informed that there was a problem with the overpressurization system so we would be cruising at 11,000 feet - which would make our flight time even longer. As soon as we took off, the smell of a soiled diaper filled the air. The two-year old in front of me definitely needed changing! But did the young man change her diaper? No, not for the entire time. As a result, the cabin was filled with a pungent odor for the entirety of the flight.
I got off the plane in DC and waited on the tarmac for my gate-checked bag. It never came. The captain of the flight was now leaving and tried to assist me in finding my luggage. We didn’t find it, it was gone. Since I had plans that evening and needed my clothing, I called the airline. I was told that I would have to wait 24 hrs, but that I could purchase clothes as long as my purchases were of reasonable expense.
Although the airline provided accommodations for my clothing, the whole day was a total nightmare!
If you fly enough, at some point, you’ll definitely run into situations that are similar to those from these stories. The only good thing about a bad flight experience? The crazy travel story you get to tell afterwards! While unfortunately not every flying situation can be totally controlled, you can control how you handle it. Make sure you're prepared for any travel story with our luxury travel sets, sleep masks, and travel wraps. Cold on the plane? Warm yourself up with a travel wrap! Your seatmate leaving their light on the entire transatlantic flight? Sleep in total darkness under a soft sleeping mask. HappyLuxe has you covered in style and comfort.
Is your flight story amazing, awesome, wild or crazy? Tell us about it in the comments below!