When it comes to flying, it’s always a gamble on who will be seated next to you. Sometimes you’re really lucky and the seat next to you is vacant. And sometimes you’re seated next to someone who is eating an extremely smelly dish. In my experience, it is quite rare to be seated next to someone delightful. Which got me thinking, there have to be some great stories on this topic, and this is the place to do it. So let’s hear it, Insiders. What are your most memorable plane/airport experiences?
Here’s mine: I met my most memorable seat buddy, Lane, on a trip to Texas last winter. I was very hurried trying to catch my plane to Dallas and was one of the last to board. Luckily, I had checked my baggage so I didn’t need to worry about finding room in the overhead bins. I got on the plane and noticed a man with a rather large cowboy hat, and knew I would be seated next to him. I didn’t think much of it, other than hoping the hat wouldn’t be an annoyance. After getting settled, he introduced himself and we started talking. Turns out I had more in common with a cowboy from Texas than I ever thought I would. He gave me some great travel recommendations and I still have a fishing trip out of Galveston he highly recommended on my bucket list. We ended up chatting the entire flight and it made a quick trip out of a 3-hour flight. The hat never got in the way.
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My family flew a good bit when I was a kid, and one memorable flight occurred when I was 16. It was December 1971, and we were returning from a family vacation in Nassau. Most of my flying at that time had been on either Delta or Eastern and had been 727s, DC-9s or DC-8s. After the hop from NAS to MIA, our connection for the flight back to ATL was sitting at the gate: a spankin' new Pan Am 747, the Clipper Ocean Express, which Pan Am had leased to Eastern. It was my first look at a 747, and I rarely use this word, but it was awesome! Once airborne and allowed to "move about the cabin," I made a beeline for the spiral staircase that went up to the "lounge." Unbelievably, (to me anyway) I was the only passenger that did, so I had the lounge to myself for the duration of the flight. A flight attendant would appear every now and then to see if I wanted anything and to bring me the in-flight meal, but other than that, I was alone and staring out the first window, which because of the shape of the lounge section of the fuselage, presented a forward-looking view.
Upon landing at ATL, along with a "buh-bye" the flight attendants handed each passenger a button that read, "I'm one in a million" because at the time, fewer than one million flyers worldwide had flown on a 747. In retrospect, I think it took baggage handlers longer to load the luggage for all the passengers into the baggage holds than it took to make the flight back to ATL. But when you're young, time is less relevant, and I still remember the wonder of that flight.
Yeah, talk about a little extra room to stretch out! During the flight, a few folks did venture up the stairs just out of curiosity to have a look-see, but no one stayed around. '\/\/'
That pin's probably somewhere at my mother's place, but I wouldn't know where to begin looking for it. But here's an image of it that I found online:
Hard to match foxglove's wonderful account. My most memorable commercial flight was on a Pan Am Clipper in 1952 from the west coast to Hawaii, at trip my dad won as top salesman. The plane had overhead sleeping compartments, where we could stretch out in total comfort. I regretted later passage of Pan Am from the scene.
My favorite general aviation flight was with my pilot wife in a flying club trip from Scottsdale to Catalina Airport in a single engine Piper Cub. We first landed at the Salton Sea airport and it was intriguing to see the altimeter needle circle to negative 200 feet. After take off we had to head eastward far enough to get high enough to clear the mountains that tower over the Palm Springs area and passed over Palomar Observatory. The most exciting part was the landing at the Catalina Airport, where the runway begins at a cliff on the shore and as you approach for landing you are heading for that sheer cliff, fairly terrifying visually. You can't see much of the runway from there, as it has a hump, so the suspense continues until you taxi over it. Some may prefer the Great White Steamship, but it was a great flying experience.
Not any more, all commercial travel now. My instrument-rated pilot hasn't flown for a few years and is no longer current. I miss being her passenger, but we had many memorable trips with the Scottsdale AeroMech flying club. Some of the more memorable ones: delivering Christmas gifts to orphans in Alamos and Guaymas in Sonora, Mexico; Kino Bay in Sonora; and the Carlsbad Caverns. The flying club offered free flights to the kids in Guaymas and we will never forget arriving over the airport and seeing a line of hundreds of kids waiting for their flights! We quickly unloaded the gifts and started the flights. The 20 or so planes were busy for hours doing short flights, and it was a delightful experience for all.
My most uncomfortable one recently was somewhat self imposed. My boss and I are a bit on the larger side, not huge, but enough that putting the two of us side by side in a small regional jet with 1 seat on one side and two on the other for a 1.5 hr flight was going to be uncomfortable. But given we knew each other and didn't have a problem we figured that it would be better to be leaning into each other than some stranger. The best part was the fact we had at least booked the economy plus seats for a little extra legroom, only to be deterred by the flight attended who had to seat someone who was disabled there. So back to a smaller space we went. Turns out it happened to be back in July at LGA right about the time the baggage handlers were threatening a strike. We get ushered out on the tarmack to your regional jet, board and then proceed to be stuck for 2 plus hours due to "traffic", more like the baggage guys were proving their point by being as slow as possible. Couple the two big guys next to each other in an airplane that couldn't keep up with the airconditioning level and someone near by with one of the worst cases of B.O. and you have one uncomfortable flight. Thankfully I was able to share it with the boss and hopefully will win the travel story of the year at our annual dinner.
Very interesting topic and one that will require some thought as it could be a commercial flight as a passenger, or maybe a private airplane flight that I was flying, or possibly a flight in a KC10 Tanker....hmmm or maybe riding in the jumpseat of a commercial flight. Much like pluto77 many of our aviation stories good or bad have been told on Aviation Geeks Unite!
Regardless, those are some great stories for sure that have already been told.
As I was thinking about this thread I noticed on the wall of my aviation/computer/office room a Certificate that has to be the most memorable plane experience of them all for me. I was in college in Longview, Texas and along with an aviation major I was taking flying lessons at Gregg County Airport (GGG).
Yes it was my Solo flight and I think I was so excited to just fly that I was dumb to the fact my Instructor was standing on the ground near the edge of the ramp watching me rather than in the plane helping me fly. It was just me.
That is the most memorable and while there are others which come to mind looking back a huge number of years not one of them as memorable to me as that 26th day of February 1975 in Longview, Texas.
One of my most unforgettable seatmates was a beautiful, silent, bald man in a bright orange monastic robe, a Buddhist monk on a flight from Bangkok to New York. Looking down the isle enroute to my seat, he stood out like a sore thumb. I couldn't help but notice an unsettling look of apprehension in his face. I wondered to myself what life event forced him leave the seclusion and security of his monastery. Sure enough, I had the amazing fortune to be seated next to this spiritual being with a seat empty between us. Clearly, he didn't want to engage in conversation which I expected, so I fully respected his need for space. I sensed he was thankful (and relieved) that he didn't have to deal with a chatterbox. He offered me a couple shy smiles, but kept his face down reading a prayer book. At one point, he nodded off and imagined the heightened level of peace this individual must have in his daily life of sacrifice and devotion. Even though we barely acknowledged each other outwardly, I felt his blessing.
greekbecky, I fly from a tiny Podunk airport in nowhere USA and often have a Buddhist monk on flights with me. Sometimes there are 2 or more. I'm not sure if it's the same guys each time or different ones, and I don't know where they are going to or coming from. But it's actually a fairly common occurrence. Once we had a Buddhist monk and a Catholic priest in his collar on the flight, along with a bunch of pilots in uniform deadheading to their hub, and I felt very safe