I like flying sometimes. It’s fun to know that you’re in a vehicle that has no business being in the air, looking at clouds and seeing new places at a bird’s eye view. Unfortunately, that is the only fun thing about flying. The actual flight might have the potential to be relaxing or even fun, but spending time at the airport seems to be specifically designed to bring out the worst in people and put us in the most patience draining situations. That’s if everything goes right, by the way. If something goes wrong, your time at the airport is immeasurably worse. If an airline messes something up, it could mean a horrible flying experience, or even that you don’t get to fly at all.
Airlines can mess up your flights in a lot of ways. Everyone has a story about how their time at the airport was made nightmarish by something seemingly small going wrong for no reason. That thing could be a clerical error where something simple is spelled wrong, or it could be an issue that goes viral and makes a major airline lose a billion dollars on Wall Street. Either way, airline screw ups are the worst. Here are fifteen ways that the airline you choose to fly might ruin your flight, your day, or worse.
15. They’ll Bump You For Employees
Airline employees sometimes need the very planes they work on to get to their shifts. That’s not really a problem until it becomes one. Airline employees need to get around too, so normally I don’t have an issue with this. However, the problems start to arise when airlines will literally kick people off a plane without an explanation to seat an employee like a sky marshal. Sometimes they’ll reassign you to a different plane, but other times you’ll be bumped off the flight and you’ll have to make arrangements yourself. Obviously, the airline doesn’t want you telling the world that you got bumped for a sky marshal, or even that there’s one on board. As we learned with the whole United scandal, airlines will bump people off flights to fly any number of their employees, but there are so many screw-ups with that situation that we need to touch on them beyond this. This is just one of the ways that your time at the airport can get seriously ruined.
14. They’ll Blame Your Kids For Being Kids
Flying with kids can be a special kind of nightmare, even if they’re your own. That being said, sometimes kids really need to fly and there’s no avoiding it. We often wish there was when a child is freaking out on our flight or a baby is screaming with no hope of stopping, but there’s no way around this except forbidding kids to fly, which is a dumb way of handling that issue. However, if your kid annoys the crew, the airline will kick you off the flight. Singer Sarah Blackwood of Walk Off The Earth fame found this out firsthand when she couldn’t get her toddler to sit down and put his seatbelt on right before takeoff. Her flight turned right back around and they took her and her kid off the plane.“That’s how babies are,” she reportedly said. You might not be surprised by this, but the airline she was flying with was United Airlines. That just goes to show that United can really have a history of screwing with flights. Whether you agree with United’s decision, in this case, is irrelevant, because their decision really messed up Sarah’s airline experience either way, and showed that something like that could happen to us.
13. They’ll Take Their Annoyance Out On You
We probably have no idea how often we come close to getting taken off a place just because we’ve annoyed an airline employee or cabin crew. If you don’t listen to their instructions on the plane or you ignore their light up signs, that’s a good reason to get taken off a plane, but sometimes the infractions are a lot more innocuous. For example, when Dallas lawyer Bobby Abtahi was rushing through a revolving door at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, he didn’t notice that he’d cut someone off from using it for a moment. That’s a minor infraction: when you’re rushing around you’re often single-mindedly focused on your goal and not paying as much attention to obstacles, even if they’re people. The problem was that that person turned out to be a Virgin America flight attendant, and they complained to the captain flying Bobby’s plane. He ended up getting booted off the flight for a minor misunderstanding. Virgin eventually apologized for the whole snafu and refunded his fare, but this is still a glaring example of how even the most minor infraction can get you booted from a flight.
12. They Don’t Like Your Style
You can get kicked off a flight because of what you’re wearing. It’s not necessarily about your style, but if the cabin crew thinks you’re dressed inappropriately, they can kick you off the flight. If your T-shirt says something they don’t like, if you’re showing just a little too much skin, or are provocatively dressed in the opinion of the crew, that’s enough to get you kicked off the plane or even blocked from getting on it in the first place.
Airlines used to make employees wear suits and ties to fly, but they don’t do that anymore, doubtless because flying in a suit and tie is probably one of the worst ways to fly. Southwest Airlines does this occasionally, and Spirit Airlines deplaned someone for not pulling up his baggy pants. No matter how annoying you find that trend, getting deplaned is even more annoying. However, the most egregious decision here was when United Airlines booted two teenage girls for wearing leggings, the teenage girl uniform (and the uniform for any woman who hates jeans). A third girl, who looked 10 or 11, had to change thanks to this sexist policy. United Airlines defended this decision by saying that they were family members of employees flying standby and needed to dress nicely. “It’s not that we want our standby travellers to come in wearing a suit and tie or that sort of thing,” he said. “We want people to be comfortable when they travel as long as it’s neat and in good taste for that environment.”
11. They’ll Arbitrarily Decide If You Drank Too Much
For some people, the booze planes serve is the only thing that allows them to ride without fear. For others, they just like the alcohol that gets served on planes, which is actually pretty decent depending on who you fly and what you like. However, if you’re drunk before the flight or are obviously impaired in some other way, you shouldn’t expect to get on the plane. That’s a perfectly fine policy, and it’s probably there for a good reason. However, the problems start to arise when airplane cabin crews are able to boot people off a flight because they “look impaired.” It’s not like cabin crews are armed to the teeth with breathalyzers or anything. That means if they see someone have a couple of drinks at the airport bar, then board their flight, they might say that they’re drunk and deplane them even if they’re sober as a judge. That’s a level of power people just shouldn’t have without evidence to back up that power.
10. They’ll Put A Typo On Your Ticket
Sometimes airline computers screw up, but if they do it on your ticket, it can cost you your flight. Sometimes, typos have the power to keep people from getting where they need to be. For example, if you make a reservation over the phone with an airline and your ticket comes out with a typo or even the most minor of mistakes, you might be stuck with fixing those mistakes at great cost to you thanks to a ton of additional fees. In order to avoid this issue, double check everything. Airlines can screw up even if you tell them every detail of your flight booking perfectly, and there are times where we’re not perfect and we end up making mistakes. It’s important to double check everything when you’re dealing with an important flight. After all, you double check your luggage every time you leave for a trip, so the same should be true of your flight. If you catch an error on your ticket within 24 hours, the airline should be able to give you a refund at no charge so you can fix the problem.
9. They’ll Misspell Your Name
I’m a person with a reasonably simple name to spell. However, I cannot tell you how many times I end up having to correct people on how to spell it simply because my name looks or sounds like something else. Anyone who has a name that happens to be a variant of a more common name knows about this particular struggle, and how it often seems impossible to come out from under it. It turns out that now, I have to worry about airlines misspelling my name on plane tickets because it happens way more often than we think it does.
To make matters worse, while the TSA will accept a minor misspelling, some airlines and countries won’t, and if your name isn’t exactly matching your passport on your ticket, you’re not eligible to enter their planes or countries. To avoid this issue, double check your name, and even if you think it looks okay, check it again, and make sure it matches your method of identification. If you’re booking over the phone, make the agent read back the spelling of your name.
8. They’ll Change Their Schedule And Not Tell You About It
Nothing is worse than getting a schedule change at the airport, except for having a flight changed on your schedule and the airline neglecting to tell you about it. While this seems like a crazy problem to have in 2017, it’s a major issue. United Airlines is pretty notorious for changing their schedule and not telling anyone about it, and I’m sure other airlines have done the same a time or two. This lack of information could cause you to wait for hours at the airport for a flight that’s been pushed back, or miss a flight because it showed up earlier than you thought. If you booked your tickets early, check those reservations regularly. It’s annoying, but it’s less annoying than missing your flight because the airline failed to pass along an upcoming schedule change. This allows you to make changes to your flight if necessary, or even find a better flight that opened up because of those schedule changes.
7. They Literally Lost Your Seat
This is one of those issues that comes up because of schedule changes, but this is most definitely its own issue. When a flight gets changed, they can move it to a smaller aircraft. While that seems innocuous enough, this change to a different aircraft can seriously ruin your day. Smaller airplanes have different seating configurations, so your amazing window seat on a transcontinental flight might end up becoming a middle seat between two complete strangers. That would mean that the airline would have quite literally lost your seat. If you’re particularly concerned about where you sit, this is an excellent thing to double check before you fly. If you explain that your seat got changed thanks to your flight getting moved to a smaller plane, most reservations agents are willing to help you out and get you a better seat.
6. They Don’t Understand Visas
Airline staff is going to try and enforce visa requirements before you get on the first plane of any international journey because they have to be strict about that. Countries can fine airlines for bringing people who aren’t eligible for entry into their country there. This means that contract agents in our country need to know the ins and outs of foreign travel, and I mean all the ins and outs. For example, if you’ve got a Swedish passport but are flying out of New York, the agent needs to know if your passport will be accepted in China, the country you’re flying to so you can make a connecting flight to the Philippines. If they don’t know that, they can’t let you onto any of your flights and your trip is ruined. Needless to say, airline staff are people and they often get it wrong. It helps to know the requirements of the country you’re traveling to yourself, but for airline staff, their system is law. If you think they’re looking at the wrong information, ask them to call the company’s headquarters to set the record straight.
5. They Lost Your Luggage
This is probably one of the more common problems when flying is concerned. If you fly a lot, chances are you’ve dealt with getting your stuff misdirected. If that happens, it really sucks, but there are things you can do to lower the risk of that happening or recover it if it does. First, tag your luggage correctly by taking off old tracking tags and making sure the new one is okay. Keep two forms of ID on the outside of the bag and one on the inside, so it’s easy for an airline to see that it’s yours. Another good way to fly is to pack assuming that your luggage will get lost. That means keep anything you can’t replace in your carry-on bag. That way, if your bags are arriving after you when you’re on vacation, you’ll have your swimsuits and everything else you can’t replace on you and you won’t have to worry about it. My personal way of making sure my luggage doesn’t get lost is to have luggage in a bright, easily identifiable color, so I never mistake it when it’s on the carousel.
4. They Make You Wait In Hellish Lines
Lines are terrible, but nowhere are they more terrible than at airports. At least at theme parks, you have the comfort of knowing you’re going to be doing something fun immediately after getting to the front of the line. At airlines, they have two agents performing the Herculean, impossible task of checking in three hundred passengers, and when there are complications or the computers don’t work, or if the agents aren’t on their A-game that day, someone is going to miss their flight. You can arrive really early, but that’s not a solution for every flight. The best thing to do is to not miss the deadline to get to the airport because missing that cut-off time can cause you to miss your flight. If you’re being delayed because of incompetent staff, document the issue by taking a picture of the line and of a clock in the area, just in case you miss your flight and need to prove that you got there on time. If all else fails, approach an agent and tell them about your approaching cut-off time, and chances are they’ll give you a priority check-in.
3. They’ll Give You A Free Ticket, Then Take It Away
The Points Guy did a piece on getting a ticket on redeemed miles with United, and it was a tour de force. It’s called Surreal Experience Redeeming United Miles on Swiss Airlines, and while the details are still a little murky, it tells the story of how The Points Guy used 50,000 United miles to book a business class award on Swiss to get to the Four Seasons Provence, where he’d just been given a four-day stay by one of his readers. Evidently, Swiss has problems with every single United award ticket they check in, but the problems escalated to the point where they said they couldn’t honor the ticket…right when he was going to miss his flight! He had to pay six thousand dollars to get on his flight! This is a really scary issue that you won’t know is one in the first place until you show up at the airport, and even verifying your ticket with your airline might not be enough. This is one of those problems that you might have to just arrive really early for if you’ve got an award ticket.
2. They’ll Give You A Terrible Connection Time
Some airlines tend to give people connection times that Usain Bolt might have a hard time making if he was running there. Seriously, if you’ve ever had to make a connecting flight with no time to spare, you know this struggle. Sometimes the times they give you are totally unrealistic, which will leave you in your connecting airport in a lot of trouble if you miss your flight. There’s nothing like the tense nervousness of having a connection time of half an hour when you know it’ll take at least an hour to actually get off your first plane.
The best thing for you to do here is just not taking a connecting flight that gives you less than an hour’s leeway unless you can afford to miss it. If you’re flying international, don’t take a connecting flight that’s less than two hours after yours, because you’re going to need those two hours to clear customs.
Sometimes tight connections are worth the risk, but if they’re not for you, give yourself a longer time between flights, if not to make sure you don’t miss them, but just so you don’t have to spend your whole day on planes. For example, if you’re traveling internationally and need a connecting flight, take a connecting flight for much later if you can, so you get a day in your connecting city to relax. If you’re stuck with a short connecting time, tell the cabin crew and they might let you deplane before everyone else.
1. They’ll Deboard You…Violently
By now, you must have heard about the scandal with United (they make it on this list a lot, guys) with Dr. David Dao. The reason why United did this is because of the first point: airlines can deplane you if they need your seat for an employee. It definitely doesn’t help that airlines will often overbook to account for cancellations so they still end up with a full plane. That was the reasoning United used when they offered to give people on the plane $400 to deplane, and then $800 and hotel service. The issue here was that the flight was never actually overbooked, it was “disrupted to transport off-duty crew.”
When no one volunteered since they were already seated and ready to depart, they picked four passengers at random to “volunteer” to get off the plane. One of them was Dr. David Dao, who couldn’t go because he had patients to see the next day. United deemed him “belligerent” and had him forcibly removed, as depicted in a video that’s honestly deeply disturbing. United CEO Oscar Muñoz issued an apology that said it was Dao’s fault everything happened, but then walked that back when the video went viral and United lost a billion dollars on Wall Street. There’s also the issue of United defaming a totally different Dr. David Dao in their attempts to discredit the Dr. Dao on the plane. Now, United probably has two lawsuits by two doctors with the same name to look forward to.
This all goes to show how badly an airline can mess up your day. They can lose your luggage, kick you off for any number of reasons, or even forcibly remove you from a plane and try to ruin your life afterward. While some of these problems are preventable, Dr. David Dao’s certainly weren’t, and the repercussions from this event still have yet to be seen.
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