Bad Air Travel Experiences


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, August 28, 2006

My top three worst air travel experiences:

  • When I was five, I briefly got lost in the Philadelphia airport. I was walking with my family down an endless corridor, eyes forward and mouth agape. Dad, Mom, brother, and sister all turned left and stopped to cue into a line; I continued. After a moment, I looked around, didn’t see anybody I knew, and panicked. Some nice people quickly got me back to where I needed to be. Things like that will put you off airports. (But it did teach me the value of bursting into tears in public.)
  • When I was in college, I got an interview for a summer intern position at Saginaw Steering Gear. General Motors sent me tickets to fly me from school for a one-day visit. Sounds pretty posh, huh? World’s largest corporation sending a jet for me…. Well, actually, it was a small prop plane on mighty Republic Airlines. We hopped from Houghton to Pellston to Lansing to Detroit to Flint. My ears became so plugged from the altitude shifts that I was nearly completely deaf when I arrived. I had a series of meetings where all I could hear was my own voice inside of my head; this was extremely unnerving because I was a 20-year-old kid without confidence or anything interesting to say. I smiled and nodded a lot. I didn’t get that job.
  • A few years ago, I got stuck in a middle seat on a flight from Chicago to Seattle. Always an unhappy situation that, having to wedge my six foot three of legs into one foot three of space. But what made this particularly hellish was that every five seconds the guy in front of me would push back against his seat, and thus his seat against my knees. Trapped, there was no place I could put my legs without feeling his seat every five seconds. I hated him. But then I observed and overheard and realized the guy had a nervous condition, a tick. I felt sorry for him. Moments later I hated him again. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and I still hate him.

There they are. How about you? I’d be interested to hear about your worst experience. And — what do ya know?! — you can click “Comments” and tell me! Let’s take this blog thing for a spin and see how it rides.

And finally, if there is an underlying moral to this week’s comic and comments, it’s this: I’m thankful to complain. Others have had it much worse, and they’ll never have the pleasure of writing about it.


  1. Kris said,

    September 6, 2006 @ 9:39 am

    This is very fancy. Will others see my comments? Am I coming in clear? I said, am I coming in clear?

    I will share that comic with my colleagues who have suffered countless airport indignities over the past few months with the acquisition.

    One bad experience was when Mom, Dad and I flew from SC to MI to house hunt. It was really more terrifying for them than me but they realized on the first flight that they forgot my Mammy. God bless them. I understand that parental queasy feeling of forgetting the one unique object of affection.

    I’m sure Andy would contribute his medivac flight from Dahka to Bangkok…..”let’s see, flying on an airplane to get to Dhaka contributed directly to my hospitalization in the third world so getting on an airplane again will make me feel, uh, better? no, not really…..”

    I flew once with Grandma A from Phila to Michigan. We were waiting in line at the desk at the gate – there was some kind of delay – and the middle aged, business dude in front of us was swearing and very agitated. I called him out and told him that we didn’t appreciate his commentary. He looked at me (fresh out of college) and then at Grandma (whose expression was clear – a cold stare and clenched jaw) and apologized profusely. I believe that had it just been me, he would’ve told me to go to hell and how to get there.

    Boy, that whole Saginaw Steering Gear deal was a blessing in disguise, huh?

    Blog on –

  2. John said,

    September 6, 2006 @ 11:02 am

    I’m a trifle deaf in this ear. Speak a little louder next time.

    Yeah, who would have possibly tangled with Grandma once her jaw was set? Not anybody who wanted to live to tell about it….

  3. Harrison said,

    September 6, 2006 @ 12:08 pm

    Well there was this one time…

    …when the kids wouldn’t stop screaming, this happened almost every business trip to Florida

    …when I got interrogated for having a drawing compass and protractor

    …stuck between the two soumo wrestlers

    …lost luggage

    …I was so sick and miserable

    …16 hour flight to Durban SA

    …I got cancelled and/or bumped

    When you travel enough you will see the ugly but it really is the minority of the time, I think it’s almost worse for the occasional traveller because the ratio of good to bad is narrower.


  4. ryan said,

    September 7, 2006 @ 8:56 am

    It’s a toss-up.

    Return flight from San Francisco (thanks Rapistan); mother with two children behind me, kids are around 8 and 12. 12 year old doesn’t want to be on the flight, 8 year old is completely obsessed with playing with… the dog they brought with them. Yep, 20-ish pound, floppy-eared, curly-haired mutt plopped dead center of the mother’s lap.

    The dog was not happy to be on an airplane, especially one headed for Detroit. Did you know that 20-ish pound, floppy-eared, curly-haired mutts can whine a tone just below the threshold of flight attendants but just within the hearing range of fellow, nearby passengers? For 5 hours. Non-stop.

    Or, the trip to Boston, from Detroit, via… Atlanta. A 2 hour flight miraculously turned into a 9-hour, weather-delayed, don’t-care-budget-airline induced cluster [explicative]. Both ways. Don’t fly AirTran.

  5. Mike said,

    September 7, 2006 @ 9:30 am

    So many flights but mercifully few bad ones… Lots of “entitled” people

    I want an aisle seat!
    Service takeoff to landing,
    10,000 tons of ice cream
    If I don’t get the things I’m demanding
    I’m going to scream…

    The worst flight ever was a red eye from Sau Paulo to Miami on the nearly defunct Varig. It was the last flight out before Christmas and the only seat was a non reclining economy seat in the rear of the plane. Non-smoking section yes but the plane was smoking on the right side and non on the left. My bloodshot eyes, gravel voice and ode de ashtray ruined my Folders homecoming moment…

  6. John said,

    September 11, 2006 @ 5:11 pm

    Right. Daddy will get one.

    So Mr. Wonka, how much for the airplane? Name your price.

  7. Dominic said,

    September 11, 2006 @ 8:07 pm

    I think I took the same plane you did…Houghton to Green Bay to Pellston to Tawas to Saginaw to Flint to Detroit to Chicago. Well maybe we did not make that many stops, but it sure semed like it. Was interviewing at US Steel (in Gary, sing the song), got off the plane and could barely walk because my legs fell asleep. I was young and naive. Didn’t know that you could walk around the plane while it was in the air.


  8. John Auchter said,

    September 12, 2006 @ 6:33 am

    Looking back, you have to ask — was Pellston really necessary? Did anyone ever actually get on or off a plane in *Pellston*? Maybe it was just a refueling stop. (Or a place where they could rewind the rubber bands for the propellers.)

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment