10 Horrible Airline Experiences That Will Make You Want to Drive to Your Next Vacation Destination

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When traveling, flying is usually the fastest way to get where you're going but there's a lot not to love about modern air travel. Here are 10 horrible airline experiences that will make you want to opt for a road trip instead of flying.

10 Horrible Airline Experiences That Will Make You Want to Drive to Your Next Vacation Destination

Airplane flying into the sunset.
Image credit: Shutterstock.

From shrinking seats to rising prices, here's what people really hate about flying. 

1. Tiny Seats

Airline cabin.
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If you think the seats are getting smaller, you're not wrong. The distance between seats is also shrinking. If you fly budget carriers like Spirit or Frontier, the seats may be even smaller. 

While a tight fit in the airline seat department might be a sign that you need to work out more, flights are decidedly more uncomfortable when you're squeezed into a tiny seat. 

2. Upcharges, Upcharges, Upcharges

Airline meal.
Image credit: Deposit photos.

Want to check a bag? There's usually a charge for that. Among the major U.S. carriers, Southwest Airlines remains the exception with two free checked bags per passenger. Other upcharges include food and beverages – if you remember those days when a meal on a flight was standard issue, you're probably a vintage flyer – and to select what seat you want to sit in. 

In the good old days of air travel, most of these things used to be free. Not anymore. 

3. Seat Recliners

Smiling flight attendant.
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With the space between seats decreasing, it can really pinch when the passenger in front of you hits that recline button. To recline or not to recline is an unresolved social media debate but for the already cramped passenger, the person in front of him can result in everything from reduced legroom to a spilled drink to a broken laptop. 

4. Passengers Who Do Gross Things at 33,000 Feet

Tuna sandwich.
Image credit: Deposit Photos.

Looking at you, Mr. I'm bringing a tuna sandwich with onions on board. Passengers also report seeing other passengers clip their toenails, clean their ears out with cotton swabs, and place their grubby bare feet on the armrest of the seat in front of you. 

Nothing says “Flying is a nightmare” like having the grody toes of a stranger graze your elbow. 

5. Rude Passengers

Woman saying no.
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From watching movies without headphones to man spreaders to parents who don't properly supervise their children, there are countless ways to be rude on a flight. 

Being stuck in close quarters seems to bring out the worst in people. From the gross to the blatantly rude, to the obliviously inconsiderate, a rude passenger is a rude passenger. 

6. Rude Flight Attendants

Irritated flight attendant.
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While flight attendants are generally people who work hard and enjoy their jobs, travelers will sometimes encounter an air Karen working their flight. If you encounter a rude flight attendant, remain calm and polite. Avoid engaging, if possible. Make a note of the flight attendant's name, and general physical description, and make sure you have your flight number, date, and time at the ready if you should choose to make a complaint later.

Right or wrong, a flight attendant holds a lot of power and can have you removed from a flight. Whatever the issue is, it's probably not worth that, so keep your emotions in check. 

7. Lost or Delayed Luggage

Woman with carry on suitcase.
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Luggage typically isn't forever lost but if you've got a tight connection, consider carry-on only or at least taking a change of underwear and a clean tee shirt in your carry-on bag. 

Southwest Airlines debacle in late 2022/early 2023 is a good case for sticking an air tag in your bag. It's not an overall bad thing to have trust issues when handing an airline your bag

8. Cancelled Flights

Two women traveling together.
Image credit: Shutterstock.

If a flight is canceled due to mechanical issues or weather, there's not much anyone can do about that. However, there have been an increasing number of flight cancellations and delays due to software or scheduling issues – looking at you, Southwest Airlines, who stranded record numbers of passengers during spring break of 2022 and again during the winter of 2022. 

9. Airport Security

TSA Line.
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Airport security lines just all around stink – they are no fun for anyone. Whether it's that tube of toothpaste you didn't know your kid packed in his carry-on to having a large family of inexperienced flyers in the security line in front of you, getting through security is often the worst part of the trip.

Want to avoid taking off your shoes and submitting all of your electronics for inspection and standing in a shorter line? Get TSA Precheck, CLEAR, or Global Entry. 

10. Crying Children

Crying child.
Image credit: Deposit Photos.

Crying or fussy kids on an airplane annoy everyone. And you know who really doesn't love fussy kids on an airplane? Their parents. 

While it stinks to sit next to a crying child or a child who isn't appropriately supervised, there's usually not a lot you can do about it. And, no matter how much side-eye you give the parents of the unhappy or ill-behaved child, it typically doesn't make the crying or fussiness go away. 


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