We all know the pains of air travel from the cramped spaces to the long waits to the horrible food, but for the most part it's a pretty mundane experience. Yet that isn't always the case, as these fliers reveal the funny, scary and downright crazy plane moments they will never forget.
"There was a State Department communicator transferring from the US to Saudi Arabia with his family in 1982. Among his family was a 95-pound dog.
Upon arrival, all the luggage was unloaded, including one empty dog cage. The cargo area was searched; the airplane's cargo compartments were searched, no dog. Of course, paperwork was filed and phone calls were made back to where the dog was to have been put on the plane. Ground personnel swore the dog was put on the plane.
One week later, the dog was found in the wing of the aircraft. The dog was dehydrated, hungry and not well-pleased by his ordeal. The airline considered billing the owner for the damage the dog had caused to the plane but decided that the bad publicity would cost more in the end."
I'm flying from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Cleveland, Ohio. Just as we are about to board the plane, someone in line says something like 'a Cessna just crashed into the World Trade Center.' Though a bit troubling, most people were just focused on getting on the plane and didn't pay it much mind.
Taxi to the runway and take off like normal. I have my head buried in a book, so I'm not paying much attention to what is going on, though I did notice we didn't get to altitude which I thought was weird. I think we stayed at maybe 10,000 feet rather than going up to 30,000. My flight was direct into Cleveland. We cruised along at 10,000 feet for 30 minutes. The pilot came over the intercom and said 'The FAA has closed all US airspace, we're landing at Chicago O'Hare.'
Well now everyone on the plane is getting nervous. I had no idea what was going on. Maybe there was an accident or maybe a plane was hijacked? We land at O'Hare and looking out the window all I could see was chaos. Planes were everywhere. Stacked up at the gates, on the access runways leading to the takeoff runway. I'd never seen so many planes on the ground before.
People started getting on their phones and slowly information started spreading through the plane that we were under attack. We thought this meant that someone had launched a military attack of some sort, like jet fighters, missiles, etc. I'm confused as to what is going on. Of course, my cell phone was dead, but it probably wouldn't have mattered if it was charged because people were having a difficult time getting through on their phones.
After about an hour waiting, we were able to get off the plane at the gate. The scene inside was just total panic. I remember seeing national guard soldiers there with their weapons, dogs, etc. Over the intercom, they were repeating 'please leave Chicago O'Hare airport as soon as possible.' I overheard people saying that the attack was coming to Chicago.
I have two small kids at home and a wife. I'm stuck at O'Hare with what I thought at the time was an imminent attack. I left my luggage behind and got out to the front of the airport. I managed to stop a guy driving a rental car shuttle bus and asked if he knew if there were any cars available. He said, 'Buddy, nothing is available, but hop on I'll take you with me so you're not stuck here.'
On the ride to the rental car facility, I'm racking my brain to try to figure out how to get out of Chicago. No rental cars available, flights are shut down, I was sure trains wouldn't be an option either. Then it hit me. I knew what to do. I asked the rental car driver for some directions on where I needed to go and started walking.
I walked for about 30 minutes or so and found what I was looking for: U-Haul. I rented a U-Haul truck and drove it all the way back to Ohio.
And that's my worst airline travel story."
"Here is one incident I'll never forget. It didn't involve a person who went crazy or anything like that, but the plane had the weirdest malfunctions I have ever seen.
On a British Airways flight, the plane lost its cockpit window in an explosive decompression mid-flight and the captain was sucked halfway out of the aircraft. The stewards latched onto his body, fearing that he would get sucked into the engines causing them to malfunction. The co-pilot, fighting tears for his dead captain, fear of losing his own life and that of his passengers, keeping his cool while every bloody alarm was ringing off the hook in the cockpit, landed the plane.
Think that's weird? Here's the kicker: the pilot survived."
"I was on a flight when a lovely little 5-year-old girl sat down in the seat next to me. She was adorable, and the flight attendants asked if I could help keep an eye on her. Within about an hour or so, she had drawn a picture of me and told me she liked and trusted me. I asked who was going to meet her at the airport when she landed.
'My mom and step-dad. They're really mean. They hit me a lot. They also lock me up in my room and don't let me out, sometimes for days.'
She got quiet.
'They yell at me a lot, too. They drink too much, is what my dad says.'
My jaw dropped. She asked me not to say anything as she would get in trouble.
I asked her, 'Are you just playing, or is this real?'
She assured me it was real. Her father didn't want her to go, but because of the divorce decree had no way to prevent it. I excused myself in order to to tell the flight attendants. They decided to call ahead and have an officer meet her at the gate. When I came back, I told her what I'd done and what was going to happen when she landed.
She scolded me for it. 'You promised you wouldn't tell anyone!'
I told her that by letting the police know, this could prevent it from happening again, and that maybe once enough people knew about it, she could stay with her dad instead. She smiled at the thought of that. The plane landed, she thanked me and told me she loved me. Then the police met us on the jetway and pulled her aside to meet with her parents. I still wonder how it went, and what became of this wonderful, sweet little girl. I hope and pray that it turned out OK for her. I know I will never, ever forget that flight, or her."
"I was flying from London to LAX. I was in my mid twenties and single. There was very pretty girl in the row with me. We got to chatting. She asked me if it was safe to bring controlled substances into the USA?
She had two pills of ecstasy in her bag. Obviously couldn't bring through customs. But it would be a waste to throw them away, so we popped them. A very entertaining way to spend a long flight: no music or lights, but it was good stuff so sitting there, talking deep stuff, cuddling and 'forming inappropriate emotional attachments.'
Going through immigration we must have looked totally spaced, but I guess enough people look like that anyway after a long flight. Her boyfriend met her at arrivals and I never heard from her again."
"The pilot running down the stairs of a 747 with a loaded weapon in Chicago was close, but the unclothed guy takes the cake.
In my 2,000,000 miles on United, I've seen and been through a lot. But the strangest incident that happened to me was on a flight about 10 years ago. About two hours into the flight I had settled in to watch a movie. Out of nowhere, some guy bumped hard into my seat back, and then landed square in my lap. Stark. Not even his socks. A very embarrassed flight attendant helped the confused man onto his feet and back into the loo and got him dressed.
Later, the flight attendant told me that the gentleman was afraid of flying. His friends had given him a pill to calm his nerves, telling him to take the pill when the plane takes off and not to drink anything. Apparently, he ignored those instructions. And then, for some unknown reason, had gone to the bathroom and taken off all his clothes.
After returning to his seat fully clothed, he fell asleep. Upon arrival, the flight attendant asked him if he was OK, and he said he had a very pleasant flight. He didn't remember a thing, and his friends promised not to tell him what happened. Although I know I could never keep such a secret!"
"I was flying home. We were at cruising altitude, somewhere above 32,000 feet, with zero turbulence when suddenly the plane just plummeted. The weirdest thing was, the wings and nose stayed level, so you just felt the sudden loss of gravity and marveled as all the unsecured objects (including the flight attendant) hit the cabin ceiling. I had my seatbelt on, somewhat loosely, and I was hovering about two inches above my seat.
People were screaming and praying. The man in front of me was telling his wife how much he loved her; the woman behind me was telling her little girl, 'Close your eyes, baby.' Life does imitate art, and this was a disaster movie.
I don't know why, but I remained unmoved; no panic, no tears. I thought, 'This is how it ends. I didn't think it would end like this.' Then I remembered that my parents would be waiting at the gate (it was 1994), and I imagined their anguish as the waves of bad news rolled in. Delay. Incident. Accident. Crash. Rescue. Recovery. No survivors. So, a silent prayer for Mom and Dad; then I waited to die.
Suddenly, it was over. I don't know how long our 'uncontrolled descent' lasted. Like all intensely stressful situations (car accidents, combat, small children's birthday parties) time dilates. I do know we recovered at roughly 5,000 feet.
The remainder of the flight passed in complete silence, barring the announcements from the flight deck and the cabin crew checking for injuries. Instead, we all just looked at each other, and I mean looked. It was an odd and powerful sensation, 100 strangers having conversations without anyone saying a word. We also landed in silence, no cheers or applause. Coming out of the gate, with all the friends and family waiting, I expected someone to break down crying or rush into their loved one's arms. Weren't we in a disaster movie? Instead, nothing. All 100 silent passengers made their way to baggage claim, still looking at each other, friends and families trailing behind. And then we went on our way."
"Coming in to land at Dulles (Washington, D.C.), and the guy in the opposite aisle starts groaning loudly. Immediately, I turn to look, and he's not just groaning - he's wailing, his body is convulsing, and he's smashing his head into the chair directly in front of him. The passenger next to him is freaked out and terrified.
Now, I'm a medical journalist, pharmacy grad, and I've done a load of first aid courses, so I know what's going on here. Someone starts yelling for someone to stick something in his mouth - and that's the worst thing you can do if someone is having a seizure. Instead, as perverse as it sounds, the best thing to do is let the seizure go.
So, I yell 'NO!' at that, to make it clear, then calmly get someone to signal for the flight attendant, and ask if there's something soft to use to cushion.
Now, this is a bit of a strange situation because the guy having the seizure is already restrained by the seatbelt - it's scary. So the best thing to do was use this oversized teddy bear someone had (it was Valentine's Day) to cushion the guy's head and get that in place. The stewardess is trying to help, dropping off a medkit, and puts a call out for a nurse or doctor. So there's me, the stewardess, and a nurse, unbuckled, coming in on a priority emergency landing at Dulles, the plane is at a crazy landing angle, and I'm straddling the aisle trying to stop this guy drill his head through the wall with a giant teddy bear.
As soon as the nurse arrived, I stopped because her expertise trumped my basic skills. The guy was OK - bewildered and covered in blood, but the EMTs got him off.
Anyway, all of that meant I was late for my flight to the UK. So I ended up having to sprint the entire length of Dulles' terminal (and it's a LONG terminal) to make the flight. Did it with five minutes to go, covered in sweat and exhausted.
Couldn't sleep on the flight home after that. It was about midnight EST when it was all done, and I was sweaty from the run, and a little shocked by what the heck I'd just been involved in."
"At about 7 am, my new wife and I were waiting to board an Olympic Airways flight. We struck up a conversation with an Englishman who was downing his second or third shot. I asked if he always drank in the morning, he said 'never, except when flying Olympic.'
Shortly after takeoff everyone noticed that one engine on the left side is on fire and very soon thereafter an engine on the right started smoking badly. The plane made a sharp 180 and returned safely and I considered joining the Englishman for a couple of drinks.
Not more than hour later Olympic announced that our flight was ready to board. Only after being on the plane did we realize that it was the very same flame thrower we had been on originally! Being young and invincible, we stayed on the plane and made it along with a very well lubricated Englishman who did not seem to be particularly surprised or bothered by the whole ordeal."
"My mother gets onto a flight and sits down next to a visibly nervous, fidgety woman, who proceeds to ramble on about how much she hates flying, how she had back problems and continues on to spill every detail of her life.
About 20 minutes into the flight, the woman FINALLY stops complaining. She says she doesn't feel well, then closes her eyes to try and sleep. Another 10 minutes go by.
All of a sudden, the sleeping seat mate slumps over onto my mom's shoulder. Now officially annoyed, my mother taps her on the arm. No response. She shakes the woman. Nothing. She pushes the lady back up into her seat, only to realize that this woman isn't breathing.
Seconds later, blood starts pouring out of the lady's mouth! My mom jumps up and grabs a flight attendant. The captain takes the plane down for an emergency landing. An ambulance meets them just off the runway and they rush the woman away.
My mom has no idea if this woman died right next to her or not. There wasn't any update on her status from the airline after that."
"When I arrived at the boarding gate, I was told with a chuckle that I'd been randomly selected for additional security screening. I didn't get the joke until they also informed me that I was going to be the only passenger. I boarded the plane and the flight attendant said I could sit wherever I liked.
For the first time in my life, I felt compelled to pay close attention to the safety instructions in order to avoid being rude. The pilot came on the air and said, 'Welcome to the Doug Massey Private Airline. We hope you enjoy your flight.
After we've reached the cruising altitude, I'll turn off the seat belt sign and encourage you to try all the other seats in the cabin and let us know which one you like best.'
It was surreal."
"A friend was on a cross-country flight and was in the middle seat. The woman on the window starts talking across her to the man on the aisle. It becomes quickly apparent that they are a couple because they start arguing about their relationship.
They are in fact openly taking about divorce. The arguing goes on for 20 or 30 minutes and becomes increasingly hostile. She finally interrupts their bickering by offering to trade seats with one of them. They're so angry at each other though that they refuse.
After a short silence they continue their arguing with her in the middle. After a few more minutes she tells a flight attendant but is told that every seat is sold and there's nothing she can do.
Yet after a few minutes the attendant comes back with a smile and says, 'I've found a seat for you.' She then explains that she is going to sit in first class. She says, 'there's a man who has bought every seat in first class so he could have his privacy. I told him about your situation and he's agreed to give you one of his seats on one condition: you are not to speak to him under any circumstances.'
So they get to the first class cabin and as she's putting her luggage away Tom Cruise gets up and says, 'it sounds awful back there. I don't mind you sitting here but this is the last time we'll speak.'
She restrains herself from wanting to hug him and sits down and thoroughly enjoys the rest of the flight."
"More than halfway through the flight, the pilot announced if there was a doctor on-board because a passenger was sick. I was stretching my legs at the galley and could hear the attendants talking. 'Oh, yea, she's totally faking it. I mean how heavy is that thing really.' Apparently one of the panels of the false ceiling in the lavatory had come loose and hit a passenger on the head and she was complaining of a concussion. An hour or two pass. The pilot now announces that the passenger is 'very sick' and the plane is going to be diverted.
We land there's an emergency crew waiting on the tarmac for her. They examine her for about 30 minutes and say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her. Passengers are livid! The medics are about to put her back on the plane and there is growing anger in the cabin for this woman. The pilot tells the medics that there's no way she was going to come back on the plane and they should take her to the hospital (smart decision as I was sure that the woman seated next to me was ready to give this girl a real concussion!). All this takes about 4 hours. All this while, we're sitting on the tarmac: no food, no air and definitely, no drinks.
When they finally take her to the hospital, the pilot announces that the crew has surpassed their 'allotted flight time' so now we had to wait for a replacement crew. There is no United crew on standby. Few more hours pass with no food, no air and definitely, no drinks! The toilets are all backed up by now as well. 8 hours into this, the pilot announced that they had permission to take us home. There was applause, people cheered, they cried and we were off. It took us about 19 hours to get from London to LA."
"Every time I think about this, I chuckle because I have a very sick sense of humor.
So one of the hottest chicks I've ever seen is sitting next to me on a flight. At first she tried to ignore me, but I'm well practiced with that kind of treatment, so her powers were worthless. We started talking and we really hit it off. She was returning from a month-long sabbatical in Madagascar. I asked her why she was there. She told me it was strange, but the letters 'MA' had a very powerful meaning in her life. It was her mission to visit every country in the world that starts with MA.
I laughed because coincidentally, these are also my initials. As expected this didn't impress her much, so I went on to ask what other countries that start with MA she had already visited. She went on to say that she has to save for 10 months in order to afford these trips and that she had only been able to afford 3 so far. The other two were Mauritius, and Marocco (sic). I paused for a second, smiled and said, 'You saved for almost a year so that you could spend one month in Morocco?' She stated yes and it was worth every penny.
Our little 'thing' quickly ended with my next sentence assisted by my warped sense of humor and my inability to stop laughing at her. I said 'So you spent a month in a country dedicated to fulfilling your calling and you not once realized that you were in Morocco?' She tilted her head and looked confused. I pulled out the flight magazine and showed her the spelling. The look on her very pretty face was just priceless.
Maybe she will get connected with MO in the next phase of her life."