None of the following vignettes really raise up to a level of “hell,” but they were certainly inconveniences.
The first: In 1977 I was invited to a conference in Lynchburg, VA for high school students. My father arranged the flight through his employer (AT&T). When I went to the airport to fly home, Piedmont had no record of the reservation. I ended up getting the next flight; AT&T ended up blacklisting Piedmont. Note to airlines: Never lose the reservation made by someone who knows the home phone number of the VP who manages the travel department.
The second: In 1985, I was flying to London for the FA Cup Final (their equivalent of the Super Bowl.) Pan Am’s flight was five hours late, and about an hour from landing a passenger vomited, which went down my trouser leg. The flight attendant just gave me a paper towel to clean off. Since the flight was late, I had no opportunity to change before heading off to Wembley. Of course, being a typical football crowd, I’m not sure anyone else noticed.
The third: 1985. Took a date to New Orleans. She dumped me. She told the airline she was afraid to be on the same plane with me. Guess who is ordered to take a different flight? Bad news — this was the last flight of the day into Newark. Ever try to cheaply and quickly get from LaGuardia to Newark at 11PM? No compensation, since I volunteered to leave the flight. The other option was to be arrested…
The fourth: 1996, flying from San Francisco to Newark for my parent’s 40th anniversary. My scheduled flight was canceled, and I was bumped to a middle seat on a red-eye. Six months of back spasms followed that. (And a doctor’s note requiring me to fly business or first class on flights longer than 3 hours.)
The fifth: 1999, flying from Cairo to Nairobi. Guess where the quickest and cheapest connection is? Amsterdam. No problems on the flight itself, just a very bizarre routing.
The sixth: October, 2001. Visiting my parents in New Jersey, it was a bad time for their hot water heater to fail; you look quite scruffy checking into business class when you haven’t showered for a couple of days. Terrorist scruffy…
The last: October, 2002. Paid business class ticket Newark to San Francisco. They changed the type of aircraft, and I ended up bumped to coach. Difference refunded was between the advanced purchase business class ticket, and the full-fare coach. I’ve not flown United since.