Delays, flight cancellations, gross airline food—there’s always been a lot to complain about when it comes to your air travel experience. But for every below-average meal or annoying last-minute cancellation you’ve ever had, you’ll be feeling pretty lucky that your plane journey never came close to any of these horrific scenarios.
From turbulence so bad that passengers felt as if the plane could tear in half to scary announcements and mass vomiting sessions, these are perfect examples of why air travel is not everyone’s favorite form of transport. Losing your luggage is one thing, but how about sharing a cabin where half the passengers are simultaneously losing their lunch?
What makes each of these uniquely horrifying plane ride stories even more hellish is the fact that plane passengers have no option but to put up with it until the plane lands. At least train travelers can choose to escape a bad situation at their next stop... Birds flying into the engines, violent passengers, horrendous smells, you name it. These passengers have suffered it all and lived to tell the tale. Keep reading to get a glimpse of plane rides at their most nightmarish, as told by passengers!
25 Forced To Stand For 7-Hour Flight
Throughout our lives spent on public transport, a lot of us will have been forced to stand on a bus or a train journey during pretty hectic journeys. But even in the worst of circumstances, this may only be between 30 mins and up to an hour, and even then, we often have an opportunity to grab a vacant seat once passengers have gotten off at their next scheduled stop. But imagine playing this same waiting game on a plane for not one, not two, but a total of 7 grueling hours?! We’re not kidding.
One poor guy had no choice but to stand for the entire 7-hour duration of his flight, and since it was a direct route, there was no hope of grabbing a vacated seat either. Tough break.
On this particular US Airways flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Philadelphia, 57-year-old passenger Arthur Berkowitz unfortunately found himself sharing his seat with his overweight neighbor who weighed in at 400 lbs. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Berkowitz’s fellow flyer was spilling over into his own seat, and because of this, Berkowitz could not use his own seatbelt during take-off or landing. Because of this, Mr Berkowitz said he had no alternative but to “stand in the aisle and the galley area for most of the seven-hour plus flight.” The airline’s way of apology? A lousy quarter of his $800 ticket refunded.
24 “Blender-Like” Turbulence
There’s not a part of that sentence that sounds appealing, does it? So, it's probably fairly self-explanatory why this wasn’t a ‘flight highlight’ in the frequent flyers scrapbook. But if you really want all the gory details, then we suggest you put down your lunch and keep reading at your peril. First things first, this particularly grim flight should have only taken around 4 hours in good weather, and instead, it took an unbelievable 30 hours all in all before the ordeal was over due to jet refueling and horrific weather patterns.
Because of heavy air traffic, this 2016 Delta Air Flight from the Dominican Republic to New York had to touch down in New Hampshire to refuel. Unfortunately, it couldn’t take off again, and because the plane had reached the max number of flight hours, the plane was going nowhere that day. Passengers were given a place to stay by way of apology and the following morning, puke hit the fan when passengers suffered extreme turbulence on their journey home. “It was really bad. People needed oxygen. I’ve never experienced turbulence like it,” passenger Maribel Reyes told NBC and then added, “I thought the plane was going to break in half. The pilot described it as a blender.” You know it’s bad when your flight is comparable to being in a human smoothie!
23 Toilet Overflowed, Sending Sewage Down The Aisles
Whether you happen to be flying or using a restaurant bathroom, most public restrooms provide everyone with pretty clear instructions as to what and what definitely isn't cool with being flushed down the toilet. Anything other than toilet paper and actual human waste is about the limit when it comes to what a toilet bowl should be used for, but not everyone plays by the rules and the repercussions can be inconvenient at best. And at worst? Well, this.
Someone on board a Continental Airlines flight to New Jersey from Amsterdam decided to do the unthinkable and flushed a pair of latex gloves down the already tiny and compacted toilet bowl.
What happened next is something that may have had some passenger praying for a water landing in the middle of the ocean. The toilet system unsurprisingly became clogged and before long, the entire plane cabin began to resemble (and smell) like an average street in medieval England—sewage was literally spilling its way down the aisles! Speaking to Seattle’s KING-TV station, Passenger Collin Brock from Washington said, “I’ve never felt so offended in all my life I was forced to sit next to human excrement for seven hours.” Seriously nasty.
22 The Plane Collided With A Flock Of 100+ Geese
Passenger planes frequently have near misses with birds and some flights even result in some getting unfortunately sucked into the plane engines from time to time—it’s a hazard that’s come to be expected with air travel. But no matter how experienced or skilled you are in your role as a pilot, how on earth do any of the cockpit crew members prepare for a bird-related disaster on this scale? On this particularly scary occasion, not a trio or even a gaggle of geese collided with the plane, but a flock of more than 100 were all headed straight for the plane, and unsurprisingly, the results were catastrophic and near-fatal for everyone on board.
It all happened on a British Airways flight from London to Montreal, Canada back in 1998, and one passenger on the flight had perhaps one of the scariest views of anyone else on board. Sharing their harrowing ordeal on a Reddit post, the user revealed, “We lost three engines immediately and all four engines were on fire. I had a great view as I was sitting in the emergency exit on the left-hand side.” Panic properly set in once the shaky-voiced pilot made his emergency announcement: “Please get into a crash position and listen carefully to your attendants. We’re going to try and bring us in.” Mercifully, the plane eventually landed safely and no one was injured, but this has since gone down as one of the worst bird strikes in aviation history.
21 Unruly Kids Kicking Seats And Breaking A Passenger’s Camera
Proof positive that not every plane ride horror story has to be life-threatening to be full of terrors, it just has to involve kids let loose and ready to make you their new ‘plaything’ for the next few hours. One Reddit user describes an especially hellish plane ride with Trans World Airlines a few years back when he was seated in front of two of the worst-behaved kids you could imagine. Fair enough, no child is a saint when it comes to traveling by plane. The air pressure makes their ears pop and the noises during takeoff might seem scary, but there’s no excuse for the way these little brats were behaving. And to make matters worse, the parents never seemed to care what their little darlings had put this guy through.
Reddit user LT described his nightmare journey: “My seat was kicked, food was thrown, and my ears were assaulted to the point I had to put earplugs in. The flight attendant was constantly telling the parents that they had to get their kids under control.” But the worst was yet to come when one of the kids got hold of his personal possessions. “I went to the restroom and came back. Then I heard a CRASH and looked, and apparently, the brats had helped themselves to my camera, taken it out of the case and dropped it on the floor. It cracked the casing so the battery no longer stayed inside. The parents took NO responsibility at all.” Wow!
20 A Dog Forces An Emergency Landing
Of all the reasons for a plane to perform an emergency landing, you probably never expected to hear of something as trivial as this being behind it. But this wasn’t just any normal dog poop scenario, though. It’s one thing when a dog has happened to do its business in the park or in someone's house, but don’t forget that these places have air to them and you have the option to walk away from the stench. Yep, inhaling fresh doggy poo in a stuffy plane cabin of recirculated air is certainly no fun!
On a flight that was headed to Philadelphia from Los Angeles, the plane never made it and was forced to make an emergency landing in Kansas City, Missouri to allow the flight crew to properly clean up the mess (not to mention give passengers a breather!).
By the time the service dog had gone to the bathroom for the second time, passengers were beginning to become physically ill, and according to passenger Steve McCall, the crew had by then “ran out of paper towels.” Nasty. The foul smell and lack of cleaning equipment forced the pilot to tell passengers, “We’ve got a situation in the back. We’re going to have to emergency land.”
19 When Food Poisoning Strikes
Life can be cruel sometimes, and it seems that things like illnesses, in particular, will wait until the worst possible moment to strike you down. When you gotta go, you gotta go. And one plane traveler found this out the hard way when a bout of food poisoning took her by surprise in a pretty graphic way. (Beware, read this in your lunch hour and it’s at your own risk!). In answer to a Reddit thread entitled ‘What’s the worst experience you’ve had at an airport or on an airport?’, one user described how her flight became a nightmare before it even got started.
Just as the plane was leaving the airport terminal, a severe case of food poisoning set in. “The flight was backing away from the terminal when I got out of my seat and rushed to the toilet. The flight attendant tried to stop me, but when I said ‘I’m going to be very sick’, he kindly let me through.” The ill passenger continued, “Then the vomit came a’rushing and some moments later, I was on the floor and realized I had passed out.” Just as they managed to make it back to their seat, the food poisoning struck the passenger down south. Noticing the poor traveler was sat in a bad mess, the plane turned back into the terminal and paramedics were called to the scene.
18 The Rain Stays Mainly In The Plane
There are many sights that you just plainly don’t wish to see while you’re traveling by plane. An escaped poisonous snake is pretty high up there, even your fellow passenger revealing their butt crack to you while they reach into the overhead compartment for a little too long can be a disturbing sight. But perhaps worse than both of these scenarios combined has to be the sight, or rather the sensation, of water around your ankles. Yep, we think this is pretty close to horror movie territory in this situation.
On a July flight to Australia from Los Angeles, passengers of a Qantas airline flight were genuinely worried that they could all be swimming with the fishes once they noticed a water leak in the plane.
Eek. A cracked pipe caused water to slowly begin dripping on to the heads of passengers in the lower deck of the plane, and before the rest of the cabin could realize what was going on, water literally began flooding the aisles of business class and beyond. One freaked out passenger who recounted the scary incident on Twitter was Community actress Yvette Nicole Brown who described the sight as “a river through the aisles.” Yikes. The captain thankfully turned around and headed back to Los Angeles airport until the leak was fixed.
17 Nervy Pilot Causes False Alarm
No matter how petrified most flying phobics feel about being on a plane, the one thing they can always count on is that they are in good hands with their calm and collected, qualified pilot. As this scary account can testify, though, this isn't always the case. While this pilot was certainly qualified for the job, the words ‘calm and collected’ could not really apply to this dude! In what sounds like a scene taken straight out of the iconic comedy disaster movie Airplane!, one passenger recalls the time everyone on board slowly began fearing for the worst when their pilot acted a little, shall we say, unconventionally.
One terrified flyer revealed the tense moment on Reddit when they witnessed their own pilot visibly freaking out in front of them: “All of a sudden, the pilot raced out of the cockpit, stopped at the row in front of me, and started frantically demanding that everyone get out of their seats.” So far, so good! They then continued, “It turns out, he needed to get a better view of the plane wing. He kneels over and looks out for about a minute. He thanks them, turns around, and goes back to the cockpit.” At this point, people on board are dumbfounded and nervously expecting a crash landing, when all of a sudden, the pilot announces, “Everything is fine. An erroneous warning light had come on.” Oops.
16 Wake-Up Call
It’s very rare to expect to get some decent shut-eye on a plane journey, especially since they can sometimes be filled with teething babies or rowdy drunk passengers. But these nightmare passengers are going to seem like heavenly plane companions when you compare them to this guy’s traveling buddy. What could they have possibly done that's worse than high-pitched screaming toddlers or aggressive plane drunks?
Let’s just say that the phrase “I sometimes get travel sick” are not the best words you could ever hope to hear on a plane journey (or any journey, for that matter).
One passenger recalls the time he was on a short domestic US flight from Michigan to Florida. He had settled into his seat when his fellow flying neighbor gave him the polite, but ultimately futile, warning that he “sometimes gets sick from flying.” Our unfortunate passenger seated next to him thought nothing of it and soon fell asleep as the plane journey got underway. The man later woke up but it wasn’t down to turbulence or a loud pilot announcement but because of a shower of puke. “I fell asleep and woke up to him projectile vomiting all over me. I was in the window seat and it went all up the walls of the plane and the entire plane smelled putrid.” No food sold on that flight then?
15 A Swarm Of Bees Clouded The Windshield
It turns out that bees, as well as birds, can cause some major problems on an aircraft (and no, we’re not referring to mass outbreaks of passengers joining the ‘mile-high’ club). Coming face to face with a gigantic bumblebee when driving your car can be a bit of a scary situation, but what happens when a swarm of bees just so happen to collide with the front window of a passenger plane? Oh wow. This is most people’s idea of a horror story right here! In April of 2014, the Allegiant Air flight bound for Minnesota was leaving Las Vegas airport when the plane was struck by a huge swarm of bees.
According to a spokeswoman for Allegiant air, most of the pesky honey makers became ingested into one of the plane engines while the rest had begun to cloud up the plane windshield.
Speaking to the Duluth News Tribune, many passengers revealed that while nothing felt unusual at the time, an unpleasant “sulfur-like smell” began to filter its way through the cabin, and this is when most people began to panic that something was seriously wrong with the plane. Luckily, the crew aborted the flight and returned safely to Las Vegas airport where the 160-plus passengers were put on to a new non-bee-infested plane.
14 26 Passengers "In A Bad State"
Flights are never pleasant when one or two passengers are suffering from a bout of travel sickness, but this is pretty common in air travel and at least you can’t catch travel sickness. Now try to imagine that you happen to be sharing your flight with not one, not two, but a whopping 26 fellow passengers who are all suffering from a severe gastroenteritis? (A mile-high skydive sounds like a fairly welcome concept at this point, right?) So, how on earth did 26 plane passengers suffer the misfortune of getting sick all at once?
As it turns out, these 26 flyers were part of a tour group of Australian students attending World Youth Day in Brazil and had all contracted a 48-hour stomach bug at the venue. It’s not been verified what kind of dodgy festival food or drink these poor guys had consumed, but it can’t have been good. The 13-hour Qantas flight from Chile to Sydney had 26 incidents of wall-to-wall situations (and with only 10 toilets on the plane!). 3 of the 26 afflicted students suffered so badly that they needed to be stretchered off the plane once it finally arrived at Sydney airport. The plane was later quarantined and thoroughly disinfected (which we can only hope is code for ‘set alight’).
13 Man Filled Plane With His Body Odor
Planes are naturally fairly smelly places—everyone on board is breathing in the same recirculated air of people’s perfume, food, and occasional farts (that everyone totally waits until takeoff to let rip), but when stronger and much more unpleasant smells are present on a flight, it can quickly become unbearable for most people on board. As much as it may risk hurting the feelings of the offending smelly passenger on board, body odor isn't something a lot of flyers will be able to put up with for long journeys. And this flight was no exception.
While on a 2010 Air Canada Jazz flight from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to Montreal, one male passenger began getting dirty looks from some passengers on board who noticed that the man was giving off a pretty pungent scent.
A woman sitting near the smelly flyer spoke to Charlottetown's Guardian newspaper about how people “were mumbling and staring at him” while other passengers described the smell as “brutal.” Fortunately for the passengers, but embarrassingly for the man, crew members tried to isolate him. But when this failed to do anything about the smell, they decided it was best to let him off the plane to catch a different flight.
12 Passenger Had To Be Duct-Taped To His Seat
You may have come across this photo on social media posts over the last few years, and if not, well it’s probably pretty self-explanatory as to just how much this guy got out of control. This guy was your average passenger from hell after he caused a hellish ride for every other person on board an Icelandair flight from Reykjavik to New York back in 2013, and it all ended with this photo going viral—first on Tumblr, then on Twitter. Basically, this man got more than a little carried away on the in-flight mini bar (in fact, he reportedly drank his entire supply of duty-free liquor in one sitting). But instead of turning into the playful, singing kind of drunk, he quickly became aggresive.
As well as screaming from the top of his lungs that the plane was “going to crash,” the man began yelling at fellow passengers and flight crew and tried to hot a few passengers, even going as far to try and choke the poor female passenger sitting next to him. Eventually, fellow flyers decided that enough was enough with this dude and they rallied together to duct-tape the rowdy passenger to his chair (not forgetting to tape his loudmouth shut too). It may look extreme but according to Icelandair, “plastic ties and tape are standard on-board flights to help in such situations.” Considering what this guy tried to pull, it’s understandable.
11 The Passenger Who Refused To Stop Singing
You might think you have a beautiful voice and may be told regularly that you’re amazing on karaoke night, but when you happen to be sharing your imaginary stage with a hundred or so strangers on a plane, let’s just say your tribute to Whitney Houston may not go down so well in a tin can at 35,000 ft. Try telling this to the
female passenger who wouldn’t stop singing on an American Airlines flight from LA to New York back in 2013, because she seemed to be under the impression (or more like under a spell) that fellow passengers would love to hear an endless loop of Whitney Houston’s hit song I Will Always Love You.
This passenger wasn’t just singing a few bars to pass the time or calm her flight nerves. This woman actually had to be cuffed and physically removed from the plane for refusing to stop serenading (or in this case, torturing) the plane. A few fellow travelers filmed the incident on their phones as the Whitney mega-fan was subdued by a federal air marshal on board and cuffed until the plane made its emergency landing in Kansas City to kick her out. This is exactly why most airlines keep a generous supply of earplugs with them at all times. But we’re guessing even these didn’t help out any poor passengers on this particular flight.
10 Plane Returned To The Airport Because Of A Seat Recliner Fight
Remember that stern warning your parents gave you when you fought with your sibling on family car journeys? Something along the lines of “Don’t make me come back there” and “Do you want me to turn this car right around, because I will!” It must take things to a whole other level of embarrassment and shame when an adult fight with a fellow grownup passenger gets so far out of hand that this is exactly what your pilot is forced to do as well. Just as sleepy passengers were gearing up for a peaceful overnight flight from Washington D.C. to Ghana, all hell broke loose around 11 pm when one passenger reclined his seat a little too far back for another passenger's liking.
What started out as a few heated exchanges between the two flyers soon turned to an altercation when one smacked the other one in the head. By this point, a fellow passenger and flight attendant began to intervene and it all got pretty ugly pretty fast. The pilot thought it best to head straight back to Dulles airport but needed to burn off enough jet fuel for the plane to land safely. So, the plane flew in a circle for a good half an hour (during which time, two F-6 fighter jets shadowed the passenger plane as it made its descent back into Dulles airport). Wow, these passengers had to feel red-faced about such a trivial fight.
9 Chaos And Fighting To Keep Families Seated Together
If you book your flight in plenty of time and organize yourself well enough to arrive early to the airport, chances are you’ll almost always get to be seated where your ticket has allocated you to sit. Sometimes, though, things don’t always work out so smoothly for some passengers. Depending on how you make your flight arrangements or which airline company you choose to travel with, plane seats may not always be assigned to passengers beforehand, meaning that some flights need to be filled on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. And this is when things can get pretty personal for some.
It’s understandably inconvenient when this system means large families can’t always travel together, but resorting to what these passengers resorted to is no way to get those extra seats allocated to you and it just makes the journey home miserable for everyone else.
This is what one father and his daughter experienced on a Costa Cruises chartered flight from New York to Tampa: “A loud Italian group began yelling that ‘Women and children come first!’ and one almost punched a woman to secure a seat.” The hot-blooded group continued hurling insults and rude gestures at each other before an air stewardess sorted it all out. “We are of Italian descent and thought it was funny!” the father admitted and then added, “Those comical passionate Italians, just love them.”
8 A Man And A Crying Toddler
It’s normal to feel frustrated by the sounds of a screeching baby or young child when you’re traveling by plane, but it's usually best for the mother’s sake and yours that these frustrations are kept to yourself. Losing your temper with a child is certainly never going to make them any quieter than you’d hope them to be and will definitely not get you in anyone’s good books on board. So, it's usually best just to ignore it, stick some headphones on, and tune it out. One irate passenger on a 2013 Delta Air flight, however, ignored the voice of common sense and actually struck a 19-month-old child for crying too loudly.
As a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta was making its final descent, 60-year-old passenger and aerospace executive Joe Rickey Hundley decided that even as the plane was almost on the runway, enough was enough, so he decided to take matters into his own hands by slapping the 19-month-old son of Jessica Bennett so hard across the face that he scratched the boy just below his right eye. Speaking to the Associated Press, appalled mother Jessica Bennett revealed that Hundley was clearly intoxicated and complained throughout the flight that her son was “too big to be sitting in her lap.” The man’s actions caused him to lose his job at AGC Aerospace & Defense and he also faced an 8-month prison sentence.
7 Never Even Mention "The Word" On A Plane
Okay, so this is pretty much flight etiquette 101. Even those of us out there with the darkest sense of humor is not going to have one about this particular word when it comes to air travel, particularly in the wake of the September 11th attacks. Although this incident happened a few years previous to 9/11, the passengers and crew were quite rightly freaked out to hear the word “bomb” mentioned on board and acted as they would in a genuine bomb scare situation by evacuating the plane immediately to get everyone to safety. As it later transpired, this was all a huge misunderstanding, owing to one drunk passenger’s poor choice of words.
One of the freaked out passengers on board described in a Reddit post just how the madness all unfolded: “I remember back in ‘98 when I was coming back from a trip to Poland, some guy on the plane claimed that he had a bomb. Everyone started to panic. We had already landed in the airport, but since this person made this allegation, we couldn’t get to our gate. So they boarded us on a bus and we waited and watched for three hours as all our luggage was removed from the plane and sniffed by a dog.” Now, for the punchline... “Turns out there was no bomb. The guy was just drunk and mad they wouldn't give him another beer so he could ‘get bombed.’” Oh boy.
6 The Plane’s Back Door Flew Off Upon Touching Down
As air safety concerns go, a piece of the actual aircraft going missing is kinda worrying, especially if you still happen to be on a moving plane when said bit goes missing! Okay, so this story is not quite as bad as this sounds, but when anything goes wrong with a plan–whether you’re in mid-flight or making your descent to your destination airport–most passengers would admit that you never really feel 100 percent safe until your plane has made a complete stop on the runway and you can breath easy that you all made it without a hiccup.
The passenger plane in this scary incident may not have been mid-flight at 35,000 ft when this happened, but the plane had only just touched down and people on board couldn’t be sure what was gonna happen when they witnessed the back door of the plane blowing off.
So how come something so disastrous happened at the last minute of the plane’s descent? Turns out that the pilot of the Eastern Airlines flight to Washington D.C. landed a little too hard and when he hit the brakes, the back door blew off! A relieved but bewildered passenger describes the unique sight from his seat: “It was something to see, watching the runway from the back of the plane. Fortunately, we had already lost cabin pressure, so no one flew out with the door.” Great flight apart from that though, right?