The year flew on a tank full of these weird flight moments
Frequent flyers share strange ordeals they have experienced while flying
A pilot asking passengers to vote on whether they have enough fuel to fly, a family of six all falling sick on the same flight and a passenger who was tracked down after he lost his navigator on a plane.
These are some of the quirky stories frequent flyers shared with Times Select, with a South African expat probably offering the most bizarre story from his time working in Iraq.
The man, named Marc, who did not want to give his full name, had been waiting 10 days to leave Iraq and come home.
“We had actually been delayed flying out of the country for about 10 days due to sandstorms. We had a gap to fly out and had been sitting on the runway for an hour. I was the only passenger in business class.”
He had no clue why the plane was not taking off until the captain made his appearance.
“Eventually, the captain and first officer came out and explained that they were confident we had enough fuel, but it was below expected threshold.”
The captain said he was not sure when more fuel would be available, nor did he know when the next sandstorm would start.
“They casually then asked if we wanted to go or stay and put it to a vote. I voted to go. After three-and-a-half months [away from home] I was happy to leave.”
His co-passengers agreed, and the plane took off and arrived safely without incident.
But Cape Town-based Australian lecturer Steve Rockwell believes he has the worse flying story by far, when his entire family fell sick on a flight from Sydney to Cape Town.
“If anyone has a worse story, I’d love to see them try and beat that!”
The family of six, including a six-week-old baby, a two-year-old, five-year-old and seven-year-old, had a 14.5-hour flight to Johannesburg and then a connecting flight to their new home.
Rockwell states: “You’ve got to try and feel the weight of the situation. This wasn’t just a flight, this was immigrating ... moving to the other side of the world.
“It all started a few days before we left. We were at a family farewell lunch and our two-year-old vomited.”
Somebody joked: “Wouldn’t it be funny if you guys got gastro for your trip?”
A few days later, his wife started getting sick in the departure lounge at Sydney Airport. He had to ask a fellow passenger in the departure lounge to help take care of one of the children, who was panic-stricken by the situation while he helped his family.
“You need to understand that one of our children suffers from an extreme case of emetophobia [fear of vomiting]. So while I’m trying to help my wife and juggling a baby and two other kids, I’ve literally given one child off to a complete stranger to just take him away from the scene so that he doesn’t collapse in a fit of panic.”
His wife’s condition worsened on the flight, as did the situation.
For most of the flight, he was sitting between two sons “with a vomit bag in each hand trying to catch them both as they vomit in tandem”.
“The air hostesses were no help to us at all, [and were] not interested in getting involved. They directed us to some paper towels in the bathroom.”
Rockwell, who miraculously escaped falling ill himself, called the trip to Johannesburg the longest 15 hours of his life. After arriving in Johannesburg, the family still had to fly to Cape Town Airport, where a third child started to get sick and started throwing up in the pot plants.
“It was like I’m in a bad nightmare.”
Janusz Luterek, a consumer protection lawyer, is a frequent flyer who sings the praises of South African Airways (SAA). He said he once left a Garmin navigator on a seat in an SAA plane. The staff traced the device to him by matching the seat to his booking and had it couriered to his office the same day.
Recently his family were delayed on an SAA flight to London, so they missed their connection to Denver, US. “After running around Heathrow Airport like a lunatic on steroids for about 45 minutes with family in tow, we returned to the SAA counter ready for an argument and were instantly disarmed as they handed us tickets on a flight on a competitor airline.”
SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the airline’s turnaround strategy included building even more loyal customers such as Luterek.