Memorable Flights From Hell

March 21, 2010

in Odds & Ends Stories

Where to begin? I’ve been flying for business and pleasure for more than 27 years and have had so many flights from hell that I can’t count them. A few of the more memorable ones follow:

When the smoking ban first went into place, a drunk boarded the plane from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and proceeded to scream throughout the entire flight that “I wish this plane would crash. All I want is a cigarette and you won’t let me have one.” The flight attendant’s response: give him a few free drinks.

The morning flight from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles started out great. I was seated in the bulkhead of first class with no one beside me. US Air placed an 18-year-old (he told me his age) stand-by passenger in that seat and then served him wine. Good idea! Serve a minor! When he stood up to go to the bathroom, he knocked the glass of red wine over onto my white shirt and tan pants. Nothing like ruining your clothing to get the week started off right.

We were flying from Lima, Peru, to Cuzco on Aero Continente. The flight was delayed for more than four hours due to “weather.” I guess a perfect, cloudless day counts as bad weather in Peru. The flight attendants arrived and looked like they had spent the night participating in a sleep-deprivation study. While we waited to board, a man pushed a cart across the tarmac to the aging 727 that was to be our aircraft. He used a step ladder to get up on the wing where he opened a hatch and poured quarts of oil into the hole. We kept telling ourselves “727s are good, reliable, safe airplanes.” As we flew over the Andes, I kept thinking about that infamous soccer team. A few weeks after we got back to the USA, I read an article in the paper that said Aero Continente was no longer allowed to fly into the United States because of their abysmal safety record.

Then there were the flights in Papua, New Guinea. The flight from Alotau to Port Moresby was delayed by several hours because the pilot couldn’t land in Alotau because he couldn’t see the runway. He went back to Port Moresby and waited for the fog to clear. Alotau has no radar of any sort. Flying from Port Moresby to Cairns, Australia, the flight attendant went up and down the aisle spraying from a can of insect repellent.

And then there’s Air Aruba. They keep changing their name and I’m not sure what it is now. The first time, I was to meet up with my dive buddy in Tampa but her flights got delayed so we said we would meet in Aruba. Air Aruba left ten minutes early. I was on the plane to Bonaire. She was not. I was told in Bonaire that she would be on the flight that arrived in Bonaire at 6:30 the next morning. I went to the airport to pick her up. No flight. I questioned the Air Aruba employees as to when the flight would arrive. “Soon” was their only answer. At around 11 a.m., they told me that they had forgotten but they no longer had a 6:30 arrival and she would be in at 10:30 p.m. Going home from Bonaire, they got us to Aruba late and told us that the flight to the US had already left. They took us to a hotel to spend the night and catch the first morning flight back to the US. After an hour at the hotel, they came and got us, telling us that we had to hurry because they did have an afternoon flight to the US and if we didn’t get on it, they couldn’t guarantee that we would get home. How can an airline not know its own schedule?

The second Air Aruba snafu was returning from Bonaire again. They got us to Curacao and then told us that they weren’t going to Aruba. Our flight to the US left from Aruba, not Curacao. After a long time at the counter, they found a way to get us to Miami and gave us “vouchers” for Delta from Miami to Atlanta to Pittsburgh. I thought this was weird since we were using award tickets from US Air. Sure enough, Delta said the vouchers were not worth anything and since Air Aruba had taken our paper tickets on US Air, we were left with nothing to get us home. Luckily, US Air was good enough to get us back to Pittsburgh, accepting my story, premier status, and their previous experience with Air Aruba as collateral.

I have many more but these are my most memorable.

– Elizabeth

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

AppleKornKid March 22, 2010 at 7:13 am

Good stuff, Elizibeth. Keep them coming.


rerere March 22, 2010 at 7:38 am

Yes, say more.


Peter Donelly March 23, 2010 at 12:53 am

I would rather the pilot returned to Port Moresby if he couldn't see Gurney airport (Alotau).


Schwinnfin March 23, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I agree. Flying over Papua New Guinea is a bit frightening. And at least I got to see the giant bug in the ladies room at Gurney.


scubapups March 25, 2010 at 2:50 am

There was the tiny plane in the Bahamas where they put our camera bag in a little hatch on the wing and jumped on it until it latched, and we could see the barely-latched door all the way there over open ocean.


Schwinnfin March 25, 2010 at 2:04 pm

And the puddle jumper in Honduras that was an old Aeroflot plane and still had the Russian signage.


etihad March 27, 2010 at 5:30 am

you think thats bad – look at some of the reviews about Etihad airways … the joke of the middle east


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