What's The Most Absurd Thing To Happen To You While Flying?

Illustration for article titled What's The Most Absurd Thing To Happen To You While Flying?
Photo: Cole Burston (Getty Images)

I had the misfortune of experiencing air travel a few days ago. I’d been in Canada almost six months, which meant my visa was about to expire, which meant I needed to get home at some point in the very near future. I weighed the options: I could drive from Canada to Texas and potentially infect people or be infected by people with that whole deadly virus going around, or I could fly and cut a three-day trip down to an eight hour one.


I chose the latter. I proceeded to immediately regret everything in my life.

(Before anyone grumps, I was required to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of travel, I double masked while I was in the airport, and I tested negative again three days after flying home. Still not ideal to be traveling at all, and I don’t plan on doing it again until I’m vaccinated, but such is the life when you have an international marriage and need to be in a different country to help your spouse finish his immigration paperwork.)

After boarding the plane in Toronto, we had to go through a de-icing process before takeoff. Cool. No big deal. Except we say there on the tarmac for ages after the de-icing had been finished. Then the pilot came over the intercom to let us know what happened.

“Just a little mishap here,” he informed us. “One of the de-icing trucks hit the plane, so we’re going to have to go back to the gate for maintenance.”

Thus began the most painful hour of my life. I knew I had about an hour layover in Chicago, and as we taxiied back to our gate, I was watching each precious second tick away.

And then the pilot came back on the intercom: “We have to ask everyone to disembark to perform these routine checks, but, uh… for an international flight, you’ll all have to go through customs again.”


I about died. I legitimately could have combusted. Customs is a pain in the ass on a good day, and trying to send 30-odd pissed off passengers that have tight connections back through customs is a recipe for disaster.

At that point, I had about a half an hour to make it to my next flight, and that was if we took off immediately.


Eventually, the captain was able to convince The Powers That Be to let us stay on because, apparently, all that had happened was a de-icing truck sensor bumped the plane. A mere tap. But rules are rules, so we had to go through the routine check. Since it didn’t need actual repairs, we got to stay on.

And then. And then. All these terrible cretins started getting up and wandering around.


I’ve written about this before, and here it was, happening again! For some reason, people feel the need to just get up and chat to their pals or use the bathroom immediately when we are trying to get back on the runway. Why! Why do you do this! We need everyone to be seated to take off and here you are, having a wander like two-thirds of this flight is not in the throes of anxiety wondering if they’re going to make a tight connection!

Eventually, we did it. We got up in the air. For the next 90 minutes, I lingered on the verge of exploding. If I missed my connection, the next direct flight to San Antonio was the following day. My only other options to get into Texas that night required one to two other layovers, and I’d be damned if I willingly subjected myself to another round of this.


We landed in Chicago with a sliver of time to spare. My airline app was telling me it would take 11 minutes for me to walk from one gate to the next, and I had less than 10 minutes to complete my mission.

Thankfully, my husband had wrangled one of our pals—who works at the Chicago airport at that specific airline—to give me a hand. He couldn’t hold the plane for me, but he did meet me when I disembarked to take me straight to my next gate so I wouldn’t have to waste precious seconds hunting for where I needed to go. I was the last person to get on my flight, and they closed the doors after me. Thank you, friend Kyle, for your help.


That’s a very long way around to saying that being bumped by a de-icing truck in the middle of a pandemic when I desperately needed to get home to avoid overstaying my visa is the most absurd thing to happen to me while flying. Share your stories! Let me know the most ridiculous things to happen to you! 

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.


Matti Sillanpää

It was ‘07 or ‘08. I was coming from business trip from Helsinki (I live a bit more north in Oulu) on Blue1 (SAS more economical daughter company). The plane was about to start landing stuff and suddenly it went almost to 90 degrees sideways. Whole cabin made a quite a noise. The plane rightened itself and embarraced annoucement followed.

“Ahem. This is your captain. I would like to apologize, my first flight as commercial pilot and forgot for a moment I was flying a cilivian plane (most of them are ex-airforce pilots).”