Nobody likes flying. It's something we're forced to do, either for work or to escape it. We are cattle, herded into metal fart-tubes, forced to endure shoddy conditions and passive aggressive workers. And we get to pay for the privilege. Your experiences are bad. These are probably worse.
It's taken nearly a year, but one MuckRock user finally received the complaints filed to the Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection Division regarding "customer service" and "discrimination." The request was only for a two-month period in 2014, but that still netted 166 cases, with all the gory details attached.
The majority are what you'd expect: people complaining about lost luggage, poor customer service, and demanding refunds, vouchers, or moral compensation. Others are frightening, daft, hilarious, or some hellish cocktail of all three. Sometimes they're just downright fucking creepy, like this example from last March (emphasis always mine):
On March 9, 2014 at around 7:00 pm I was checked for my flight by a Jet Blue employee named [REDACTED] or ￼[REDACTED]. This person was friendly and courteous, as I would expect any other employee to be. At 7:32pm I received a text message from an unknown number to which they approached me by my name and I replied asking who is this, they followed to confirm if I was [REDACTED] ￼and I said yes, who is this. This person started apologizing saying that he knew he was not suppose to be doing this ( texting me) but he wanted to give me his number. Then he identifies himself as [REDACTED], the guy who checked you (me) into your flight. He said that he found me to be very attractive and to please take his number. I believe this is unethical and its a violation of privacy and sexual harassment. I felt very uncomfortable, I cried and was emotionally affected by the incident. I would like this situation to be addressed properly and prevent things like this from happening to other customers. Until this day, I haven't heard anything back from the company in regards to this matter as I did filed a complaint that same night.
Or from a doctor of infections diseases:
I am concerned about unsanitary conditions in the lavatory of this flight. There was no water in the sink. When I told the flight attendant, he said they do not carry water and directed me to use small towelettes that were in the lavatory. As a passenger, an infectious diseases physician, and an infection control expert, I see many problems with this: 1. If a sink does not work, then it should be taped off. There was no indication the sink was not working. 2. The soap dispenser was full. It should have been removed. 3. The towelettes were scattered about the sink, including opened and used ones. 4. The towelettes are not effective in disinfecting hands. It would be more sanitary to have an alcohol hand gel dispenser. 5. Alcohol cannot remove stool on hands. Thank you. I have also informed American Airlines.
There are several claims of discrimination, but this one stuck out after a dispute about re-booking a flight:
After a few minutes of talking, the supervisor rebooked their flight and waived the fee. I did hear one person ask if they were being discriminated against due to their color. She said no and told them to have a nice flight. She then walked to our area of the counter and said there was nothing she could do for us and if we wanted to get home, it would cost us $279 for a ticket. She wouldn't allow us to speak and explain completely. We paid that and returned on that flight to Houston. I do feel that the representative on the phone gave incorrect information that cost me more money. I do feel discriminated against due to the fact that the people that had their flight rebooked and fee waived were a black race. My wife and I are Caucasian.
Then there's the ridiculous:
My daughter and I flied on United's flight from Beijing China to Pittsburgh USA on 10/10/13. When connecting at Newark, my flight UA3892 from Newark to Pittsburgh delayed for 2 hours. I was at the gate entire time without complaining once. When it was finally boarding, my three- year-old daughter pooped on her diaper. I told the gate agent [REDACTED]￼, that I need to go to restroom and will be right back. He gave my seat to other people during the 8 minutes while I was away from the gate with knowledge that I will be right back. When I inquired why he gave out my seat and asked his name, he was very rude and used middle finger twice when talking to me. His attitude and gesture made me realize that he intentionally gave out my seat because of discrimination.
The even more ridiculous:
I boarded the aircraft, as I've done on my last 14 flights since 2/28/14, with a soft cervical collar and sat in the emergency exit row. Flight Attendant ￼[REDACTED] told me that I could not sit there pursuant to FAA regulations, to which I explained about my past 14 experiences, where my affirmative answer to the question regarding my ability to carry out specified duties. She said, "now you definitely can't sit there", this is after I stowed my carry on, jacket & hat in the overhead compartment. I then asked her at what point did I become not eligible to sit in this seat and she replied, "as soon as you boarded wearing that collar". I then capitulated by removing my collar, to which her response was, "so you won't follow my instructions", without giving me a chance to respond and went to the rear of the plane. Several minutes later, I was confronted by CSS [REDACTED] and was told that I could either change seats or I would be removed from the aircraft.
There's what will forever be known as the "half glass full" incident:
My wife approached [REDACTED]￼ with a cup to get some drinking water, and she rudely and abruptly told her to get it from the bathroom. It was my wife's understanding that water from airplane bathrooms is not potable. My wife then informed ￼[REDACTED]￼ that she was planning to drink it and therefore couldn't get it from the bathroom. She proceeded to ignore her and another flight attendant handed [REDACTED]￼ a water bottle to fill my wife's cup. She filled the cup barely half-full. When my wife asked her to fill it more, she huffed, rolled her eyes and reluctantly filled it. My wife was so shaken from the execrable experience she barely made to her seat.
The whole family, especially my wife ￼[REDACTED], is devastated emotionally and psychologically out of this incident.
During embarkation at the final destination the flight attendant was speaking with me in an unacceptable, rude and impolite attitude all because I wanted to get off before the business class passengers although I am a frequent flyer Gold.
The even more entitled:
I expect a COMPLIMENTARY roundtrip domestic 1st class ticket as compensation for your rude, inexcusable customer service.
Those lying flight attendants:
During the boarding process, the gate agents firmly stated that the overhead space is full and the passengers *must* check their carry on luggage and will be able to pick it up on arrival from the luggage area. However, upon boarding the plane it was apparent that plenty of overhead space was available and the flight attendants knew as much
Give us our damn TVs:
JetBlue advertises TV's on their planes; and this promise was the reason I chose JetBlue for my family's spring break flight. There were no working TV's on the whole plane. I want my money back.
The International Incident:
I took a United Airlines flight from Mumbai to Newark, and almost had an international incident due to no fault of mine and the power-trip the flight crew seemed to be on.
Just got home from spirit flight 842. Felt like I needed to complain about the behavior and safety of the flight crew. I was in the front row, and they were just making jokes and laughing, not taking anything seriously. The problem is they forgot to lock in a very large metal container in the galley area. They noticed this too late just when we were taking off and this large metal container came flying out, hitting the back wall of the galley and landing hard on the ground. then flipping into the aisle about a foot from my feet. It scared the passenger sitting behind the wall so much he would have jumped out of his seat if he hadn't been buckled in. Then the flight crew just laughed about how funny it was. I felt their conduct was very unprofessional and unsafe. If they forgot to lock the container down, what else are they forgetting while they are goofing around with each other.
The belligerent captain:
Comments on dangerous attitude and poor service in PIA (Pakistan International Airline) flight to Karachi I recently travelled to Pakistan with PIA and have a horrible experience to report. The pilot of the flight namely Captain ￼[REDACTED] had an outrageous behavior towards American and British passengers in Business Class. Captain ￼ seemed very opinionated, agitated and vociferously advocating against American and British presence in his hometown of Abbottabad, Hazara in Pakistan. We as passengers felt very uncomfortable, afraid and threatened. He made sure we understood that he was in-charge and we should only shut-up and listen to his abusive commentary about our unwelcome presence in his homeland. This is the most humiliating flight experience I have had and will never again fly PIA (Pakistan International Airlines). I did fill the comment card and I would not be surprised if the airhostess threw it away.
The US Airways attendant called me to the gate where an irate woman was standing. She then proceeded to yell at me that I had her seat and was screaming at the US Air employee to "deal with me." It was a horrible situation to be in because there was no reason for the US Air employee to call me to the counter when there was an irate customer standing there. It was not my problem that I had the seat she wanted. It was an open seat online and I chose it. To make matters worse after the woman yelled and screamed at me the US Air attendant continued calling people to the counter to find someone to switch seats with her. Ultimately, she did, and she sat that rude woman right beside me. What an uncomfortable flight home that was and it was a completely ridiculous situation.
The first rule about allergies is that you apparently don't talk about allergies:
One member of the flight crew, flight #2096, a male, became very upset when I told the people sitting next to my son that he had a nut allergy. He raised his voice, told me that I was not allowed to speak to people on the plane about allergies. At this point, the people I spoke with told me it was fine that they had brought nuts, but would not eat them, the woman sitting across from me, who I hadn't spoken with turned around and told the flight crew not to worry about it. He however, did not stop; he told me that if my son's allergy is so severe maybe I should get off the plane and take another flight. When I asked him what flight he suggested I take, he ignored me, and continued on; he then stated that he would notify the pilot, if I talked to anyone else. He did not tell me what would happen if he spoke with the pilot, but from his demeanor, I took it as threat that he would have me thrown off the plane. Finally, my husband who was sitting several rows up turned around, and told him, thank you. We wanted to notify the people sitting near our son about his nut allergy and because he made a big deal about it raising his voice and caring on, everyone knew about the allergy. The male attendant stopped at this point and left me alone
I was removed from the flight from a family dispute with out belongings or cash in a foreign country. Alone. 5 ft 2, blonde. Never had a legal issue in my life. The exit tax paperwork was not given back to me either. My husband claimed I was drunk, after the captain asked for the family to be removed. At the time they removed me. The report says I did not follow instructions. I most definitely did. He asked me to sit in my seat , but he was standing in the isle and I could not get to it. I was in shock from him yelling. Authorities refused to give a sobriety test, for their was no need. I had been shopping for 2 hours. This was a total misunderstanding to to the captain, resulting in me being treated cruel. I would like cameras pulled to see where my bag went that was under my seat. It had 20K in my personal belongings in it.
The drunk with kids:
My two minor children were seated next to a man that was inebriated on the flight and the crew continued to serve the passenger alcohol. Several adults confirmed this passenger's drunk behavior who were seated around my children during the flight.
The (possibly) drunk and (definitely) unstable:
The last person to board the plane was a man carrying only a laptop computer. He sat one row behind me, on the other side of the aisle, in the exit row. The entire time the flight attendant was giving the safety instruction, this man mocked her, shouted over her, and made disturbing comments. He threatened to open the exit door at 30,000 ft. He made comments pertaining to us being killed if the plane crashed, swore at the flight attendant, and acted very inappropriately. I first turned around to ask him if everything was ok and he told me everything was not ok and preceded to yell racially offensive comments and swear extremely loudly.
Oh God the mosquitos:
While boarding the United aircraft at Mumbai airport on Feb 7th, 2014 passengers including myself were subjected to a horde of mosquitoes while waiting for boarding to begin. On contacting the United ground staff they conveniently blamed it on the local airport maintenance.
In fact the local United staff supervisor - a [REDACTED] went ahead in saying United Airlines could/should do nothing about it. He was extremely rude and unapologetic about the entire affair. Many of the mosquitoes made their way inside the airplane. Despite the aircraft captain requesting for bug-sprays none was provided by United ground staff. It resulted in a very painful 16 hour flight with passengers including myself being bitten by mosquitoes all along.I ended up developing an allergic reaction on my face as a result of such bites as a result of gross inefficiency of the airlines and their failure in providing a hygienic environment for a flight of such a long duration coming into United States.
The "$100 Boucher:"
Inside the complimetary drink.I found a Metal clip that I almost swolled.I ask the server and he mentioned that this metal clip had come off the ice Plastic bag into the dispensary. I contacted South West Airline right away after i got off the plane and they offer me a $50 voutcher for my troubles. I told them that my life was not worth $50 Dollars and they insited to give me $ 100 Boucher.
The vegetarian chicken:
On flight I was served the special meal with label saying Hindu Special meal Veg but when I opened and started to eat, to my utter disbelief on eating couple of bites I realized Chicken was served to me... I immediately informed the crew members and they have taken a note and created a report attached is a copy of the report. Though the crew member were apologetic. I am really upset as how a chicken meal can be labeled and served as veg meal...I ended up starving on the flight.It has been more than 24 hours and am still not able to get over this issue
Children are probably the best pilots:
Incident occurred waiting for my stroller at the gate. Waiting by the exit I witnessed passengers and children playing in the cockpit, Kids sitting in the pilots chairs, some children had figured out the code to the cockpit door. All this time there was nobody on the plane, or the bridge. I am now scared of flying. Anybody could have entered the plane, or the cockpit and planted something and nobody would know about it. I even exited the bridge, and turned around and went back to the plane to get my 2 year old and nobody stopped me. There should be regulations against this type of activity.
The silk blanket:
Unfortunately, the silk blanket was too big to fit in overhead compartment, so fl attendant (stewardess) took it from me and put under the blocked sits, where it was quite dirty. She did it after I specified the value of a silk blanket. Then she sit herself on two blocked sits, put her dirty shoes on my blanket (that was nasty) and start to look at her papers (that was mean)
The woman sitting next to me was very large, and by just saying she was "large" I'm being polite. About 30 minutes into the flight, she asked me if she could raise the seat divider because it was digging into her. She did, and once she "spread out" I was left with no room. It forced me to stand for the next 3 hours in the galley, which I know is against regulations, but the attendants took pity on me. I was required to sit during landing. My complaint is why since this woman took up two seats was she allowed to board with only one ticket.
Judging fellow passengers (and YELLING about it):
I AM ON ALASKA FLIGHT 562 SITTING IN 17F WHICH IS AN EXIT ROW. IN FRONT OF ME IN 16F WHICH ALSO IS AN EXIT ROW IS A LADY WITH HALF OF HER ARM MISSING. I KNOW THAT A PERSON LIKE THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SITTING IN THE EXIT ROW, ESPECIALLY RIGHT NEXT TO THE DOOR. OBVIOUSLY ALL AIRLINE PERSONNEL IN PORTLAND AND THE IN FLIGHT CREW IGNORED THE SITUATION. FLIGHT ATTENDANT SHOULD HAVE NOTICED THE ABOVE DURING THE EXIT ROW BRIEFING.
And finally, elderly in the exit row:
I was immediately startled as the couple seated in 12A and 12B appeared unable to manage the exit row. They boarded the plane just in front of me and struggled to navigate the aisle and struggled to place their luggage in the overhead bins. Prior to takeoff, the gentleman seated in 12B did not know how to shut off his cell phone. I assisted him with this task and questioned whether he could operate an exit door if the cell phone was such as an issue. His traveling partner was unable to remove her own coat without assistance. Both me and Pilot [REDACTED] witnessed these struggles. I then stepped away to inform the flight attendant, [REDACTED], who seemed to make an inquiry only to return to again ask the couple if they we're indeed able to perform the functions required (without specifically explaining that a 38.6 pound door would have to be removed in an emergency). Simply, once me and my seat mate identified this as a concern, [REDACTED]￼ should have moved the couple to a seat that would not potentially endanger other passengers. Instead, the flight attendant informed me the the people on 12A and 12B paid for extra leg room and accordingly she "couldn't move them." Instead, [REDACTED] offered to move me (not solving the problem and potentially worsening the issue). [REDACTED] then proceeded to thank the passengers in 12A and 12B rather than make a decision that protects the safety of the entirety of passengers and crew. Other passengers seated around us made similar inquiries and expressed concern - without an appropriate resolution.
Also, the banal:
The final reason given was that they had used "the wrong fuel"
This is the third time on a long haul Delta flight where I have been seated next to a passenger of size.
I observed the flight attendant repeatedly handling ice cubes for passenger drinks with her bare hands. This is just gross.
I insisted on speaking with a manager. She then said to me, "I don't have time this week for girls."
Delta Airlines has refused to "write" cancel and also "refund", a reservation made only a few days ago and paid to them, via VISA credit card, I have advised my credit union to dispoute and why. TRIP is SEVEN months away and Delta stated NON refundable which was NOT fully declared at time of reservation. SEVEN months away?!! and they refuse?? GREEDY pricks.
And remember, this is just the complaints for only two months .