Nothing can ruin a good holiday as much as a horror flight. From delays to lost baggage, or from the omnipresent screaming kids and bad food, there are endless ways a flight can go wrong. But don't fret here are the situations and their solutions to help you survive a horror trip.
Sometimes you sit next to someone and enjoy a good conversation. And sometimes you sit next to someone who just won't shut up. As if you really care about their sister's husband's barber's lotion working to cure a blistering sore on her left pinky finger?
Variation: Being in the crossfire of a conversation between people sitting in different parts of the plane.
Solution: Pretending to sleep is not an option. Actually it is, but being super direct often works to deflect the verbal onslaught. Try, "It's been lovely talking to you. I'm going to settle down with my book/magazine/laptop/iPad now. Would you like to borrow some reading material?" You're polite, assertive and still, oh-so-generous.
Just because you take care of your personal hygiene doesn't mean the person next to you also does. It might be the whiff of BO as they clip their seatbelt in, the stench from their breath, or the smell of their feet as they take their shoes off but on flights longer than 90 minutes, the stinker is too much to stomach.
Variation: Sitting next to someone throwing up from motion sickness.
Solution: Politely offer a breath mint to the person next to you and then ask them if they would mind putting their shoes back on. Scented aromatherapy travel sprays can mask most smells. If it really is that bad, get the flight attendant to move you to another seat.
The power tripper
An all too-common occurrence is the rude flight attendant. They'll roll their eyes, act like they're superior beings and tell you off if you happen to step on their invisible toes.
Variation: The equally rude passenger, for exactly the same reasons.
Solution: Sometimes it's better to take the high road, and kill someone nasty with kindness (I personally have fun with by pressing the 'zing' button for drink refills on long hauls over and over and over again). But in cases of genuine disrespect, ask to speak to a supervisor. Insist on an incident report, take names, and if it's a bad incident, collect names and email addresses from witnesses. Follow up as soon as possible.
Chances are you're just as likely to see an equally rude and aggressive passenger give a poor hostie a hard go. In this case, give a little moral support a big smile and a thank you can really help a hostie (and in turn you can expect great service by being on their side).
While it may not be as bad as in years past, lukewarm airline food can still be fairly rotten, and avoiding a bad meal isn't as simple as choosing either the chicken or fish.
Variation: Almost worse is the airline running out of food, or your specially ordered (vegetarian, low-carb, or diabetic) meal finding it into the wrong hands (i.e. not yours).
Solution: If you're flying on a budget airline, pack your own snacks and sandwiches. Most Australian airports have decent food halls. If you're going long haul, your best bet is to order a special meal, which is individually prepared, and often better. Protein bars are good as they will fill you up, while instant powder soups are also handy particularly during delays.
Seat recliners. There's a cold place somewhere underground for greedy people who recline their seats all the way as soon as the landing gear comes up, thus physically trapping you.
Variation: People who stuff their bags underneath their seats and try to take your legroom.
Solution: Be polite. If it's absolutely unnecessary for them to recline, just ask if they could adjust their chair up a little to give you some space. If they're rude about it, feel free to squish as much lumpy crap into the seat pocket and proceed to press your knees into the back of their chair. Or be mature and scope out another seat.
The only thing worse than being stuck in the bulkhead with a bunch of screaming kids is being stuck with a parent who isn't prepared to fly with children.
Variation: The arguing couple, or the "I've-had-it-up-to-here parent".
Solution: Don't blame the kid their little ears are incredibly pressure-sensitive. Have a spare lolly or two to give to the parents. It will not only quiet the kid, but the swallowing action will help them equalise the pressure so changing pressure will hurt less (breastfeeding and dummies work the same wonder on newborns).
If you're flying with kids, bring snacks and noise-free new toys with you, and ration them out over the flight so the kids have something to keep them occupied. Please?
The missing baggage
Just when you think you've gotten away with a decent flight, your luggage doesn't show up on the carousel.
Variation: Bags are broken, damaged or something has been stolen.
Solution: Prevention. If you can, take just carry-on luggage. Make sure your bag is clearly labelled with your contact name and address, phone and email. Include this on the inside of the bag as well. In-flight, wear layered clothing you can stretch out to last for a few days. And take a spare pair of undies in your carry-on, especially if you're doing a long haul.
Be sure to register lost, stolen or damaged luggage with the airport and airline, write down the name and employee number of the baggage claim department personnel, and the date and time you spoke to them so you can follow up. Include all receipts to claim with the airline or your travel insurance for compensation.
Putting it all in context: the really really bad stuff
The real flight horror stories are a little more serious the ones in which planes suddenly lose pressure or hit turbulence, or the engines give out, leading to emergency landings.
Solution: Wear a seatbelt at all times. Read the safety card. Pay attention to the safety briefing (have you ever noticed that 95 percent passengers don't? Odds are 100 percent of those people will wish they had when the plane starts losing altitude). And make a firm mental note of where the exits are. If you have to evacuate, listen to the cabin crew, stay calm, move fast, leave your bits and pieces and cabin baggage and bail out as soon as possible.
And remember: when you're up in the air, it's all about the destination, not the journey.
Have you got a bad flight experience to share? Let us know below.