Being born in the Netherlands to parents from Hong Kong meant that I travelled in planes since I was a little baby. I really hope for my fellow passengers that I wasn’t one of those crybabies. I have no fear of flying and, as a child, I wanted to become a fighter jet pilot (even though I didn’t know what they did exactly, it seemed like a lot of fun to me that they could fly super high speed above the clouds and spin around and around).
Being almost 32, that means I have 30+ years of flight experience and I wanted to share the worst and best flight stories.
- Let me start with the experience that wasn’t subjectively the worst, but objectively it was the one closest to an accident (as far as I know). When I was about 12, I was flying to Hong Kong with my father on a Cathay Pacific flight. Weather was terrible, I believe there was a typhoon and we ended up stuck in this. We dropped lots of height all the time due to air pockets and I just remember everyone (crew and passengers) panicking. The plane was moving in all kinds of directions and people around us were crying, screaming and praying. And me, as a 12-year old, decided there was nothing I could do. Crying doesn’t help, screaming doesn’t help and praying (not being religious) doesn’t help. So I just sat quietly and observed. And every time we dropped in height, my stomach dropped too and I giggled. This angered my dad, as he was probably more nervous, but I couldn’t really help it as I love the feeling of my stomach dropping and I didn’t feel fear (that was probably how the adrenaline addiction/fearlessness started), while understanding the seriousness of the situation. Anyways, we ended up making an emergency landing in China somewhere, stayed there for 24 hours until the typhoon died down and continued on our way. All’s well that ends well!
- The second worst experience was on a RyanAir flight – one of the many. Of course we have all had to deal with crappy RyanAir flights, but perhaps I shouldn’t have accepted this situation. I didn’t want to, but I was 20, not as vocal or bold as I am now, and the flight attendant wouldn’t listen and forced me to sit down. So what was the issue? The flight had just come in and I guess they don’t clean (or didn’t clean) the planes well between the flights. The person who sat in my seat on the flight before had thrown up and there was puke over the arm rest, part of the chair and the buckle of the seat belt. It was disgusting, but the flight attendant wouldn’t listen and forced me to sit even though I said there was puke everywhere. Or perhaps she just didn’t want to do her job cleaning it up. Luckily I have always been kind of tiny, so I could sit down without touching any puke. I also had wet wipes with me, so I could carefully wipe away someone else’s puke before using the seat belt. Ugh, it was so disgusting, I can’t believe I didn’t object (more). Well, I guess I haven’t flown with RyanAir anymore for a long long time.
- Third place goes to EgyptAir. And I guess it means I value service higher (or bad service lower) than actual situations that are bad but not the staff’s direct fault (see 4. if you want to know what I mean). So, EgyptAir has been great in many occasions, lenient policies, flexibility (anything goes mentality), which I like, sometimes. Yet, while flying back to Cairo from Bangkok in 2013, my vegetarian meal consisted of this…(Yes, that’s three buns – who eats those dry buns to start with?!)
- Fourth place goes to a recent experience while flying with Emirates to from Dubai to Dhaka. The situation was (and apparently people have not heard this is possible) that there were bedbugs in the seat. I didn’t realise this at the time, of course. I was a little itchy, but it wasn’t too bad. Only after I had gotten off the plane and saw the bites and their patterns (I recognise them from when I had them in South Africa, eight years ago), I knew it was bad news. This happened in March 2016, it is now June and the marks are still not completely gone. Nasty…
- Fifth place goes to booking flights with Tripair. Their customer service is awful. In addition, it was through them that I had a flight whereby I had to transfer to a connecting flight in London. No biggie. However, I was arriving at Heathrow and departing from Gatwick. Ok, still manageable. I had to pick up my luggage at Heathrow though, since they could not transfer it for me directly. I waited at the belt, but my luggage wasn’t there. I spoke to the airline representative; turns out they held my bag in the back and was waiting to have it released? Why delay when this is already an inconvenient situation? Then, when I checked the bag in at Gatwick, the system did not recognise it. It seemed ok, until I was about to board the plane. Something was wrong with my bag and it was not loaded onto the plane. Excuse me…? In the end, they managed, but the late arrival of my bag led to a short delay in the departure of my flight, etc. etc. Crazy. Never again.
- Experiences in the cockpit of planes. Being an aviation enthusiast, I enjoyed visiting cockpits. First place goes to Cathay Pacific again, as I was invited to sit in the cockpit during another flight from Amsterdam to Hong Kong, for about an hour. This was in 1999 so I was 15 and it was early in the morning when the sun was just rising. We were flying above some mountain ranges in Asia and I just remember it being so extremely beautiful and that these pilots are so lucky to be flying planes, seeing these views and being paid for it too! They just let me sit there until right before landing. I asked if I really had to go back and unfortunately the answer was ‘yes’. But I left with a big thank you and a big smile.
- More experiences in a cockpit. During my backpacking trip in 2008, I was offered two free flights with a South African small jet airline – one of which was in the cockpit.
You can read more about it here and here!
- Flights where staff is just amazingly kind and helpful. From storing my guitar in a safe section to giving me extra snacks or other food (yay!) to notifying me there is a row of three seats unoccupied and I can move there and lie down, if I like. I have often experienced great service from KLM, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic. So, thank you for that!