March 22nd, 2012
05:46 PM ET

Overheard on Not-so-fabulous flights send some readers' tempers soaring

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

United Airlines Flight 857 wasn't exactly the best flight ever. The toilets broke, so the flight stopped in Anchorage, Alaska, and things only got more interesting from there. The 13-hour flight from San Francisco to Shanghai was three days late. Readers commented on this story and griped about modern air travel.

Broken toilets strand United passengers in Alaska

There were a few readers who dread flying.

AngelaD: "Once a year, I fly overseas with my children ... and this is one of the scenarios I dread and fear. And although I understand that some of these things can happen, it is the endless waiting in the plane and the airport just for an answer that can drive one crazy. My tickets cost thousands of dollars (in economy, of course) and I wonder what they all do with my money. I feel for the people of that flight."

But some said readers should stop complaining.

SherwoodOR: "They could have just flown on and finished the trip with the toilets backing up into the aisles. In some parts of the world on some airlines, that would have been the choice. Would you prefer that?"

Take the train instead.

DoubleW: "Stories like these are among the reasons I prefer to go by train. Not only do you get to see scenery close-up that you never see from the highway or the air, you can walk around without getting yelled at, dine at leisure at a real table in the dining car, relax and sleep if you can. It is a real pity, though, that our once-great rail system has been permitted to decay for the sake of Big Oil."

adawnrae: "Going by train is so much nicer than taking a plane, even one that is fully functional. Sadly for these people, there really is no land route from California to China."

Some joked.

teepytoppy: " 'To top it off, the inflight movie was "Glitter"...' one passenger said."

ssn32780: "Man, that's just torture. Plain and simple. Not to mention, the bathroom was broken, so you couldn't go and throw up."

Sage advice was shared.

URSilly: "If you put your meds in checked luggage, you shouldn't be flying anyway."

pwc: "I'm sure they had meds in their carry-on, just not three days' worth, which they shouldn't have needed for a 13-hour flight."

Many readers snubbed their noses at U.S. airlines.

ogive17: "Don't fly U.S. carriers to Asia. The Asian carriers are much better. I always fly ANA when I get a chance."

This reader says the airline business is poorly run.

faithinusa: "The airlines will tell you that they have to cut everything including maintaining their aircraft the right way in order to compete in a world where the average person spends an hour on the Internet to save $15 between tickets. That part is true, but what they totally missed was the fact that people will pay more if there was a reason to. Remove bean counter CFO's from being the CEO of an airline (like United) and it will get better and fast. I fly private jets now because I like providing service and not screwing people. It's not rocket science, kids. It is, however, the worst managed business in the U.S. –Former airline captain."

Or, from another perspective ...

Ruddy: "Airline industry has failed. 1.) Out-of-control passengers crammed into small seats with no leg room. 2.) Out-of-control flight attendants driven to the edge by out-of-control passengers and absence of their employers' support. 3.) Old planes and understaffed maintenance crews. Where does all the money go? TSA. Maybe not directly, but TSA is an overwhelming financial burden to our air travel. We've traded airline staff for TSA security staff."

dc603: "Seriously, Ruddy? Flying isn't a 'right,' for goodness sake. Airlines are private companies providing you with a service. If you don't like the service, don't fly their airline. Or like Chelsea said, buy a first-class ticket."

Many blamed deregulation.

Billdoc: "In the 'old' days, prior to deregulation, airfares were pretty much the same between places. It was easy to get your ticket endorsed to another airline, and then get rerouted. Now, with each airline having its own complicated fare structure, ticket endorsement is not possible. If the airline had the interests of its passengers at heart, they would have eaten the difference, and rerouted their passengers on other airlines out of Seattle, Vancouver or wherever. Guess they just wanted to hold the passengers and their money hostage ... no matter the cost to the passengers."

Time to expand the Passenger's Bill of Rights?

AZRUsure: "As a longtime business traveler I can testify to the true cramped conditions that these passengers must have put up with during this terrible flight. The airlines have NO thoughts to your comfort and on these long-distance flights things can be very difficult. I'm hoping the passenger bill of rights will be expanded to mandate leg room and food for passengers. It's all airlines, not just the big brands, although they do seem to be the worst in many cases."

Blame 9/11. Or blame gas prices. What's going on here?

twohands: "There is no more customer service in the airline industry. Passengers are more or less treated like hostages in a moving sardine can. That's what 9/11 has done."

dc603: "I never have a problem on Southwest. I fly them at least two times a month."

enyawface: "Airline industry? Where have you been? There is no customer service in America, period. the land of greed and "Oh, well, you know, the price of gas and everything, we had to raise our prices." I am still trying to figure out how much gas a cow eats every year to justify the price of beef those days. The last roast I looked at cost $19 and that was 'on sale.' "

Some said you just can't expect a perfect flight. It's not possible.

Simmons1973: "You take a risk when you fly. (Expletive) breaks down. You can't have a backup plane ready to go for every flight. Your tickets would get really expensive. Safety is No. 1. Be happy when you get there, or try taking a bus or a train or a boat. Ten times the nightmare and delays. Crybabies."

navytac: "Well yes, you take risks when you fly, and things break down. I am telling you though as someone who has spent a lot of his life fixing and maintaining things, that (expletive) breaks down a lot less when (expletive) is properly maintained. And you are right, safety is No. 1. So why on God's green Earth would anyone entrust an airline with proper engine, pressurization, structural integrity maintenance and navigation procedures when the airline can't even make the toilets work? Or even the replacement plane work? It's cool though if you don't fly. Just enjoy some Natty Ice while you are taking the wheels off your house and tell people who do put up with the hassles of flying that they are whiny."

What do you think about the airline industry? What has your experience been like? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    I just signed an exclusive contract with "Oops, I crapped my pants" diapers!

    March 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Not chrissy.
      One word: Immodium.

      March 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    I have never had a bad experience flying Southwest, either.

    March 22, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. AMERICA 1st

    Very simple solution to avoid all those problems...STAY HOME! Now wasnt that easy!?

    March 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. LarryH

    My suggestion: Fly Emirates or similar whenever possible – they make the rest look clueless

    March 22, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Des Moines

    We were delayed for three hours because of technical problems. We could see them working on the engine. Though a bit annoying, we vastly preferred that they get the job done right before we left. And this was neat: the airline (American) held many of the connecting flights for those of us who had to catch them. The luggage even made it.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. T

    I envy the characters on PAN-AM (tv show), they never have any of those problems that people face in real life.
    I haven't flown in a plane in years but after reading all those horror stories definitely will keep me away from planes, if I ever have to travel...I'll take the train.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |