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Airline Travel Has Been Very Good to Me

After reading all of the horrible stories I did some thinking and rough math, just for context.

20 years of travel (actually more) x 20 flight legs per year (on average) = 400 flight legs
75% + carry-on only (but this last trip I had a 50 pound checked bag. I pack for the trip, not for some packing goal)
0 Missed flights
0 Missed connections
1 Flight canceled (United)
0 Flights canceled while at the airport or less than a week prior
0 Gate checked bags
2 Carry on weight checks (Virgin and Turkish Air)
1 Carry on weight check failure (stuffed things in my pockets as the desk agent laughed – Virgin Atlantic)
0 Carry on size checks
1 “lost” checked bag (delivered to the hotel a few hours later - Lufthansa)
6 Modified or canceled trips
1 Problem with the cancelations and modifications (during pandemic so don’t blame them a lot - United)
1 Bumped off flight (bought my way back on – United)
0 Unhappy seat changes
1 Free upgrade to Business Class
0 Problems finding room in overhead
1 Had to put my personal item under the seat where it belongs due to overhead space (my choice).

LIST ADDED by EDIT
0 Items on head from OH Compartment
0 Fights among passengers
0 Nasty flight attendants
1 Date with Flight Attendant
12 Hit in the face by people with back packs turning around without care
Dozens of screaming crying kids
1 Young lady who decided my lap was hers and stretched out across me and slept
2 Diverted flights (one post 9/11 CDG to JFK because of suspicious behavior on the flight, one grounded due to a particular plane type being grounded as a result of a crash Aswan to Cairo)

How? Not sure. Maybe because I:
Book through the airline
Arrive early
Plan flights with reasonable layovers (a few hours anyway)
Avoid United whenever possible
Use Turkish Air whenever possible
Follow all of the luggage rules to the letter
Pick seats with some strategy (aisle seat in center section, towards the front and when I pick one I look for a row with someone already on the other aisle seat because it is rare anyone will choose to be in the middle and 9 out of 10 times I get an empty seat next to me)
Am polite and considerate to the flight crew, ground crew and the people on the phone when I do need to make a change or need help.

Airlines
British Air, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, Turkish Air, Aegean, Olimpic, Wizz, Ryan, Air Bulgaria, EasyJet, Eurowings, Ukraine International, Air Albania, Delta, American, Lufthansa, Air Canada, United, South Africa, Egypt Air, Tan Sasa, Malev, Southwest, Aero Mexico, Volaris, a few island hoppers in the Caribbean and Central America and I am forgetting a few.....

Posted by
2840 posts

I'm not even close to being as well-travelled as you, but I'm also happy to report minimal inconveniences. In the past 20 years I've probably flown 3-4 times/year.

  • One cancelled flight while at airport but it was after a significant snowfall in Chicago. I don't remember the airline, but we got out the next day.
  • 4 delays of 6 hours or more. Twice at O'Hare, once at LAX, once at Pearson in Toronto. If we're not going to have luck, it's usually coming home from O'Hare.
  • Never a check on size of carry-on or number of pieces check, but I definitely wish they would.
  • Multiple times smacked in the head by oversized backpacks while sitting in my aisle seat minding my own business by people with too much and too large luggage.
  • Both my trips this year, each leg was significantly modified in change of day, time, or change of connection airport. But other than this year, I can't recall a significant modification.
  • No problems with space in the overhead, but I've seen it a few times.

  • This is the first year when travelling with my wife that we have not
    checked bags. She's rather proud of herself to be able to cut down
    on her packing. the only casualty is that she has commandeered both
    of our liquid bags and I need to buy my own supplies at destination.

  • One missing bag, but lost on our way home so it didn't matter and it
    showed up the next day.

Posted by
2589 posts

Good advice. I used to think arriving at the last minute was a good idea. No longer. These days, we arrive early, get the checkin stuff done, and have a coffee. Much more relaxed.

Posted by
2645 posts

1 cancelled flight, but no big deal. I had to wait an hour for the next Southwest flight to my destination.

1 "lost" checked bag. Actually, a fellow passenger took mine by mistake, and called me to see if I had taken hers. That was over 50 years ago.

Posted by
1235 posts

I have traveled regularly since 2001. My numbers may even be a little better. (I have never been bumped, lost a bag) I would like to add:

0- times I have seen another passenger pick a fight with another flyer or anyone working on the flight
0- times I have seen a serious verbal confrontation between 2 people
0- times I have witnessed anything worth recording on my phone.

I flew this past September and all my flights and luggage landed right on schedule. We also saw little disruption to life in Europe, and they seems to be doing a better job controlling inflation that we are doing here in the US.

Moral of the story: Don't make travel decisions based on the headlines.

Posted by
1634 posts

0- times I have seen another passenger pick a fight with another flyer or anyone working on the flight
0- times I have seen a serious verbal confrontation between 2 people
0- times I have witnessed anything worth recording on my phone.

SAME ... and I have been flying with regularity for business and pleasure since the late 80s ... for 15 of those years I was flying between 80 - 100 legs per year on business (thankfully, for both my comfort and sanity, the company flew us upfront and covered the cost of lounges that weren't included with FC Tickets.)

Posted by
2257 posts

As a road warrior for decades I can say I have had ALL of these things happen at least once

Missed flights, both due to my late arrival or late connections...
Missed connections
Lots of flight cancellations (I have lived through a couple of airline strikes, some hurricanes and several winter storms :) )
Several gate checked bags
Several bag delays... including one memorable one where SW delayed the luggage and then had to get it to me not in Nashville but in Salt Lake City.... and they did
Lots of bumps - all voluntary for the payout!
Lots of domestic first upgrades and a couple of International upgrades (including one to First Class back in the day when airlines still offered that)
Lots of problems with overhead space, but I solved those... I can walk back and put it behind my assigned row.
1 passenger evicted from a plane because he would not follow the instructions of the ground crew
1 passenger arrested upon arrival (although that did not appear to be related to the flight... we landed and the police came on and got a man who had done nothing during the flight... )
2 emergency landings nowhere near our destination for medical reasons.

My thoughts.. these things will happen it's how you respond that's the key. No, the airline cannot open the airport because it's storming so yes your flight did get diverted to who knows where and by the time you land you won't make your connection.. but screaming at the staff won't change it, they are NOT in control here :)

No, the airline did not break your plane on purpose... things happen (I was once delayed for a full day because a tire blew out on landing at some small airport. Airline then sent a new tire to the airport.. opps wrong size LOL!) But would you rather fly on an unsafe airplane "He bubba it's OK if that engine falls off as long as YOU get there on time isn't it?"

So, my luggage is delayed... all my valuables are in the bag that goes under the seat in front of me.. no problem

My advice. Have the airline app on your phone. Have their phone number in your phone. Call and be polite when things go wrong. Remember that the airline sold you a seat so no you are guaranteed seat 29 A.

And the days of "9 out of 10 times you get an empty" seat are fading fast. Airlines have figured out how to maximize revenue and there are more people flying than ever.... plus you have subset of Americans who will always buy that "basic economy fare" (And no, it's not OK to scream and beg people to change with you after you and your loved one are separated because "we assumed they would seat us together so we bought the no advance seating tickets" LOL!)

Posted by
13530 posts

Thankfully, I can make the same claim too, I've been fortunate too.

Never had a flight going to Europe cancelled, or domestically for that matter since I started flying in June 1971,

never had a piece of lost "checked " luggage or delayed luggage that didn't show up in Baggage Claim, never missed a flight (came very close to that in 1977 FRA to SFO),

Never missed a connecting flight , domestically or in Europe.
Never got pulled out of line for extra attention by TSA, never had any piece of carry-one pilfered or taken (intentionally or unintentionally) during "Security",

Never was bumped off a flight,

Never had my carry-one piece questioned or rejected due to size.

Never got the "SSSS" on my boarding pass....that's not going to happen.

Never had any mechanical problems while airborne, the worst was some unnerving turbulence,

never sat next to or close to any obvious obnoxious, odious passengers,

Never had my passport questioned, etc.

Never encountered a flight all sold out in Economy when reserving which is all I fly anyway.

Never had any problems dealing with a travel agent when used them ages ago.

From SFO or OAK I fly only to London Healthrow, FRA, Gatwick (the most advantageous), Paris CDG on United, Air France, Lufthansa, and BA (my favourite)

Posted by
2170 posts

I've been flying for 49 years and will carry on doing so!
Had two flights cancelled, both rebooked almost right away by the airline.
Never missed a flight, though I have had to run like mad through a couple of airports (Frankfurt and Munich) when the previous flight got in later.
Only been schmucked in the head once by something falling out of the overhead bin.
Never seen any bad behaviour on board any flight, ever.
Been upgraded only once to a better class of seat.
Been asked to change seats only once by a girl whose friend was afraid of flying...I then got the better seat, though still in Economy.
When I traveled with my walking cane in 2019 prior to my knee replacement, I got absolutely amazing service from everyone on board and in airports: priority boarding, cart ride through the airports and told to go to the front of the line for security at Vancouver, Montreal and Rome.

I love flying, and it's an adventure every time.
Great thread topic, MisterE!

Posted by
10433 posts

Recovered road warrior here. Always in the 100k clubs. I miss the free upgrades but not the reasons I got them. Pretty much every problem at one time or another back then. (Have you ever tried to sleep at Baltimore or Reagan Airports? Yes, they run out of hotel rooms at 11 PM when your flight is delayed for hours then cancelled.)

Happy to say in 7+ years of retirement travel, things have been smooth. No stats, but like many I have not experienced passengers behaving badly nor have I been treated rudely. I send out good vibes and have a positive expectation and am nice to people Planning ahead like you do, Mister E, pays off for us as well.

My favorite business trips were when we lived in Italy and I took the train instead of flying. SIGH.

Posted by
7401 posts

I too have been fortunate in my flights in 52 years of flying to Europe except three times:

We were sleeping late in Brighton and listening to London television news. All flights were on time--except Braniff. Because Braniff went out of business the day we were flying them home to the U.S. We had to go quickly get to Gatwick Airport and we hung around 2 days until we could hitchhike back with Delta to Houston--not our original airport. Gatwick was a zoo those days.

One European trip, I was the unlucky guy 3 flights in a row singled out for more extensive security checks. That last check my carry on bag got put on Gate Check and it never showed up in Atlanta. My electronic car key was in the bag. Had to wait around in a cheap airport hotel 2 days until the bag appeared.

But the worse thing was when my wife asked a security guard at CDG where the restroom was, and he said go out "that door". 10 minutes after she returned through "that door," the entire airport wing was emptied out along with 2 jumbo jets full of passengers--and everyone's luggage too. Even the security staff had to go out and be rescreened. Threw everyone 3 hours behind and perhaps 100's of people missed their connecting flights in the U.S. My wife and I made our Detroit to Memphis flight on time.

We too use some of the above suggestions on flights. We never accept any 6:00 a.m. departures because we know all flights returning to the U.S. go out around noon and early afternoon. We don't want to sit in an airport all morning. And we try to take 8:30 a.m. or later first flights.

We also try to arrive in Europe late morning as those 6:30 a.m. arrivals will have to wait somewhere until they can get into their hotels around 2:00. I'm too tired usually to do much upon arrival other than take a nap. And we avoid short connecting flights and we avoid long connecting flights. 2 hours in an airport waiting for a connection iis just fine with us.

Posted by
2440 posts

I was not a frequent traveler pre-Covid (although I feel somewhat like a road warrior now) - I flew long flights a couple of times a year in my early travels. But I almost feel like pre-Covid was a different world…..so basically I am only going back about 5 or 6 years.

  • missed flights - no
  • missed connections - yes, last one in July
  • flight canceled - yes, quite a few.
  • flights canceled while at the airport or less than a week prior - yes, am counting at least 4 recently. But at least once was weather at my local airport and once at DFW. Weather is weather around here….. Once was 2 days prior to departure in 2021 - not weather. And the last one was who knows but had to spend the night at DFW, 3 hrs from home. On American’s tab.
  • gate checked bags - only voluntarily when they offered it for free and I took advantage of it.
  • carry on weight checks - nope.
  • carry on size checks - yes, 1.
  • “lost” checked bag - oh, yes, several. But they all showed up the next day.
  • modified or canceled trips - 2021 and 2022 almost every trip has been modified, some significantly (and I leave Saturday on my 9th international trip for those two years).
  • problem with the cancelations and modifications - none I couldn’t work around, even though a couple made for LOOONG layovers.
  • Bumped off flight - no.
  • Unhappy seat changes - no. But 1 not so great.
  • free upgrade to Business Class - no. Oh wait, twice domestically because of my status.
  • problems finding room in overhead - occasional but nothing I couldn’t manage.
  • had to put my personal item under the seat where it belongs due to overhead space (my choice) - such a small thing I can’t begin to remember……
  • *problems that required some time/effort to solve - at least 3, all United (most recent was just this morning).
  • *Air Canada has been a source of trouble, even as recently as July, so now I just carefully refuse to book anything that they operate.
  • *got SSSS - twice

However I may be in a weird minority that is actually happy to fly, because it means I am traveling. So I can put up with a lot and it takes a lot to make me unhappy with a trip in sight!

Posted by
5121 posts

“ Never got the "SSSS" on my boarding pass....that's not going to happen.” - I didn’t realize I had signed up for it - LOL! For flights to/from Cambodia one year, I was that “special person”. Since I enjoyed it so much, I had a repeat on our Spain trip, boarding my flight in Madrid to come home. Fortunately, they opened my suitcase, saw my neatly organized mesh see-thru packing cubes under my sweater and didn’t dump my contents as they did on the other tables.

We had one flight cancelled - found out at the Rome airport. They gave us an alternate route home on Alitalia. Instead of our Premium Comfort seats, we were in middle seats further back and happy to have them!

The airlines loved to lose my luggage in the ‘70’s, heading to the Midwest. Since 2000, no lost luggage! …..because I haven’t given them any suitcases to lose. ; )

I used to be upgraded into business class a lot - domestic & international, when I traveled monthly for work, plus our vacations. I wouldn’t pay for it, personally, but it’s wonderful arriving well-rested!

Our family has always been extremely early for flights. I’m usually waiting for Starbucks to open at the Spokane airport, too.

For all of the general complaining by travelers, it’s still a fantastic method of transportation!

Posted by
7331 posts

@ S J

Only been schmucked in the head once by something falling out of the overhead bin.

Reminds me of the time I flew into Reno. There were signs at boarding and on the plane asking people to not put their bowling balls in the overhead bins. (Reno is or was home to the National Bowling championship, and the Bowling Hall of Fame.)

I laughed the time. but I am now in the habit of watching carefully when someone opens the bin above me.

Posted by
2840 posts

Reading the comments reminds me of a couple of stories that caused delays, both of these were years ago;

  • At LAX, boarding for our flight was announced and as we all waited to get on, a staggering drunk older woman walked right past the gatekeeper onto the plane. Soon after, and before boarding could begin, an announcement was made that boarding was delayed. About 15 minutes later the police arrived and escorted the woman off of the plane. About 45 minutes after that, boarding was announced again.
  • LAX again, our flight was delayed for a maintenance issue. It turns out a bolt holding the pilot's seat in place had broken and the scramble was on to find a part and fix it. This was about 10pm and it took a couple of hours. I felt sorry for the abuse the gatekeepers took and also the flight attendants during the flight. A small minority were loudly demanding compensation on the spot and then on the flight, a small number of passengers were verbally abusing and harassing the flight attendants that they deserved free drinks. There was even one women running up and down the aisle campaigning everyone to join the uprising and demand free drinks.

Both these flights were back to Calgary and I assume loaded with Canadians...Ugly Canadians, the polite Canadian stereotype was gone.

Posted by
2154 posts

[@Allan, I have several of those ugly Canadians abroad stories I could share, and a rental fishing boat captain in Mazatlan kept me busy for a good while to explain why he thought Canadian vacationers were not worth the trouble]

I hear what everyone is saying about arriving early and allowing a 'reasonable' time for layovers, but I have to chime in and say that I still feel like I have failed to make good use of my time if that's how things go. As an economy passenger, my goal was to reach the gate when boarding began, so that I had time to make a bathroom stop before getting in line. Now that I'm in Group 2, I make a small adjustment but not much. Same with layovers - I want to walk, rather than run, from my arrival gate to my departure gate, to find that the person at the podium microphone has invited people to get their things together and line up for boarding. But if I have to run that's ok too.

If I was in one of the higher passenger categories maybe I would feel differently. Advice I heard a celebrity once give sticks in my mind -- when she's crossing the Atlantic (or similar) she likes to arrange for a massage in the VIP lounge of the arrival airport, because it's such a refreshing start to your stay in London or Vienna or wherever. Good for her, I think, as I wedge myself into a seat in the higher two-digit rows with crying children all 'round. I like to imagine her under the ministrations of an accented masseur as I sit on the bus or tram clanging me to my centrally located room about the same size as that massage table.

Posted by
583 posts

“ Never got the "SSSS" on my boarding pass....that's not going to happen.”

That's what I thought until it happened. I'd flown domestically for 4 decades representing Ford at various product advisory committees and IT user groups as well as rolling out systems to various plants. I'd also flown often internationally for enjoyment. And then after 40 years of flying this retiree was chosen by Delta at LHR for an experience I've described here several times. There's was absolutely no reason for it other than random selection so I'm not convinced anyone can be absolutely certain that it couldn't happen to them.

Posted by
1712 posts

Flying has been good to me too because I survived. I survived the bomb scare that diverted our flight and resulted in a 24 hour flight in all. We arrived home at 7:30 AM to wide awake kids and we, the parents, had no sleep!

I also survived our landing gear not deploying in China. It was a knuckle breaker. We had to land at some air force field. We sat in a tiny room for twelve hours before another plane arrived to get us to our final destination.

I also survived a near crash while flying from Cozumel to Cancun. We attempted to land twice and the pilot aborted just above the ground. It was foggy and there was no runway insight. The third time was the charm. We were ushered into a large empty room and given cookies. We ( a large group of us) missed our flight to San Francisco. Ten hours later we were in our way home. I honestly wanted to stay in Mexico.

On take off from Nice we barreled down the runway and suddenly the brakes went on. Around we go to do the exact same thing. The third time was successful. Absolutely no explanation given. I was a mess.

Posted by
14427 posts

There is so much negativity sometimes, I thought it might be fun to count the numbers and see how real the negativity really was. As long as you aren't TexasTravelMom, life is good.

LIST ADDED by EDIT
0 Items on head from OH Compartment
0 Fights among passengers
0 Nasty flight attendants
1 Date with flight attendant
12 Hit in the face by people with back packs turning around without care
Dozens of screaming crying kids
1 Young lady who decided my lap was hers and stretched out across me and slept
2 Diverted flights (one post 9/11 CDG to JFK because of suspicious behavior on the flight, one grounded due to a particular plane type being grounded as a result of a crash Aswan to Cairo)

Posted by
2440 posts

And if you ARE me, then life is really really good. LOL! Travel, with the occasional hiccup, is fun!

Posted by
263 posts

@Mister E. Been good to me too. Have spent a lot of time in planes. Only way to get anywhere from the bottom of the globe. Nothing as exciting as others. Sometimes annoying events can turn out to be rather fortuitous.

Tuesday 8th Nov 2022, flight from Melbourne south to Hobart. A violent thunderstorm moved through Melbourne engulfing the airport precinct. Airport closed and all flights suspended for protection of ground and catering crew. Rightly so. 2 hours delayed but was worth it. Just before sunset boarding took place.

The captain told us amongst the usual, that the First Officer was to take the controls of the 737. Ingrid. Am always relieved with a female pilot. For some reason they fly with a smooth touch and land placing the craft softly on the runway. Also had visions of Ingrid Bergman in the bar in Rick’s at Casablanca. My Ingrid had to make up time. It soon became clear that the normal fuel economies and other economic measures were dispensed with.

After pushing back, Ingrid zipped the craft over to the main runway as if she had recently had a refresher driving course from my sandgroper mate’s son Dan Ricciardo in the hills around his house in Monaco. Brutality opened the throttles up, pedal to the metal, redlined the jets and initiated a steep climb towards 12,000 meters. Made a note to recommend her to the Red Bull F1 team for next year.

Passed a beautiful and massive anvil topped cumulus-nimbus to the southeast. The culprit for the delay. Then after passing, to the east a full moon rising against the darkening bluish sky. White as recently fallen snow on the Himalayas surrounding Srinagar, Kashmir and hit one’s eye like a big pizza pie.

Impressive, but more was in store. A Luner eclipse had stared. A Blood Red one. In the next 50 minutes observed a quarter of the moon being shadowed by the earth. Reddy, brownish a touch of ochre. Tried to capture the sight on my mobile phone. Nokia. Not that good. When it comes to photography my dairy farmer mate puts it this way: he is as useless as tits on a bull. Had a camera in the hold luggage as had been expecting to fly earlier. Just as useless. So, I only have some poor photographs/videos and the data stored in my brain for memories.

Also on the flight were some academics from San Francisco, University of California. Knelt in the aisle to find out what they were up to. Told me they were gathering information on some of our birds and other animals. I gathered they had been to some nature parks in other states and seen platypus, echidna, koala etc, and had been enjoying themselves.

What I do miss is pre Sept 2001, when on long haul flights, one could subtly cajole the cabin manager into organising a visit to the flight deck, to chat with the flyers.

Regards Ron

Posted by
3359 posts

I have no complaints about air travel either. In fact, I'm one of the odd birds that still enjoy flying.

My one diversion story: I was flying from Lexington KY to Atlanta on a Delta MD-88 several years ago. The plane's flight path went to the west. A short amount of time into the flight, the pilot came on the intercom and said, "You know how your car has a 'Check Engine Soon' light? Well, the plane has one, too. And it came on. So, we're going to make a stop in Nashville to get it checked out." Delta had pizza delivered to the gate while we waited. Atlanta was my destination so no missed flight.

Posted by
13530 posts

Under that "Edit" list none applies. . only the screaming kids but a few times.

Only once was that unnerving...the screaming kid sat close by in the next row. The other passengers though patient and tolerant at first were becoming after a while less so. The kid's father mood changed too as he saw changing mood of those around him.

I thought the forbearance of the passengers was coming to an end, the mood was turning ugly. The kid just kept blasting away, (longer than I expected) , unending, he didn't seem to tire, where does he get this energy. So, I just sat there determined to go sleep in spite of the kid. This was in Economy.

Posted by
2840 posts

[@Allan, I have several of those ugly Canadians abroad stories I could
share, and a rental fishing boat captain in Mazatlan kept me busy for
a good while to explain why he thought Canadian vacationers were not
worth the trouble]

It's been bugging me since you wrote that and I have to ask. Did the boat Captain tell stories of cheap Canadians or drunken Canadians?

Posted by
2154 posts

@Allan, both --
apparently some Mazatlan boat rentals make the mistake of not getting payment up front,
and Canadians fail to settle up at the agreed-upon rate,
and there is a Canadian clubhouse just off the beach (the city beach, not the tourist section beach)
where sloshed people make messes in the surrounding alleys and sidewalks and otherwise misbehave.

Posted by
2 posts

Never got the "SSSS" on my boarding pass....that's not going to
happen.

OMG - it happened to me Every. time. from 2001 to 2006. I couldn't understand why - a mild mannered teacher with kids traveling to boring places.

Turns out, the ex hubby cop put me on the "watch" list in 2001.

In 2007, my fiance working with the port of Seattle, did a little sleuthing and found me on the list as well as the ex's entry. I was taken off the list and have not been blessed with SSSS since.