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Plane Awful Flight

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Poor Josh, stuck with obnoxious other passengers and cramped seats while Drake is off sitting with hot girls.

"We were herded down a too-warm jetway into a cabin that was ridiculously over-crowded. [...] The seats were too small for someone of my size, much less the overweight matron sitting next to me in the middle seat. I had to share the armrest with her for the entire flight to Chicago. Her flab spent the whole trip trying to slip over the armrest and crawl into my lap. Ugh."
Ayla Goodkind, Whateley Universe

Ah, airplanes. What could be better than flying through turbulent winds, with a Screaming Plane Baby down the aisle, a kid who won't stop kicking your seat, and getting stuck sitting with annoying strangers? Not to mention the food sucks ("What's the deal with airline food?"), and the flight itself could take several hours — worse if there's a delay. Any of these factors can make a ride horrible, and it's even worse if there's a combination. Worse still if someone has a flight phobia.

So it's no wonder that airplane rides in fiction have a tendency to be portrayed as uncomfortable at best and absolutely miserable at worst. Whilst this can be Truth in Television, the problems with flight travel tend to be comically exaggerated for the sake of making the protagonist suffer. First-time fliers will never want to go back, those with a phobia will be given confirmation that airplanes are awful, and everyone will just be happy when the plane finally lands.

Common problems include being stuck with annoying passengers, a lack of space, bad food, and flight sickness. In the worst case scenario, the plane may crash, in addition to everything else, just to underscore how bad the flight is.

Compare Subways Suck and Buses Are for Freaks.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Downplayed in Cardcaptor Sakura. It's Sakura's first time to the airport and riding an airplane, so Touya pranks her by telling her that she has to take off her shoes before she boards, just as she would before entering a house. She embarrasses herself in front of the flight attendant at the counter, who tells her that this isn't necessary. This also being Japan, the process of going to an airport and taking a plane is generally less strenuous than it is anywhere else.

    Comic Books 
  • Ziggy Pig - Silly Seal Comics: To reach Latveria, Ziggy takes a tiring roundabout flight on Air Doom. It required over 24 hours, several body cavity searches, and the only "bathroom" was a Doombot with a bucket.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert: One early strip had Dilbert and Dogbert on a flight and the stewardess told them that the in-flight meal had been reduced from a tiny packet of peanuts and a cup of soda to the staff drinking the soda and belching out seat numbers.
  • FoxTrot: One arc had Roger going on an agonizing plane trip. First, he has to get up before the crack of dawn to go to the airport, then he finds he's missed his flight and the only other way to get to his destination includes half a dozen flight changes and will take until next week. He's the last one allowed to board the flight, for calling a male flight attendant a stewardess. His seat is at an acute angle, and when he asks a flight attendant for help with it, she reveals that was the reclined position, and the normal position is even worse. The in-flight movie is Alive, a film about the survivors of a plane crash who were driven to cannibalism. The flight attendants sell earplugs and blindfolds at extremely inflated prices.
  • In one Pearls Before Swine comic, Rat finds that the complimentary food and drinks have been reduced to one peanut and one ice cube to lick (for the entire plane to share). And the guy who licked the ice cube before Rat has a cold.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Crack Fic The Death Eaters' Disney World Trip, the Death Eaters' nine-hour flight to the US doesn't go well, due to several incidents that involve Voldemort acting like an entitled asshole, Bellatrix creeping Voldemort and probably everyone else out, Draco acting like a shining wit (that's a spoonerism), a Death Eater being outright killed, and/or crappy airline food. However, considering these are Death Eaters we're talking about, it's probably worth more of our time and effort to pity the Muggles who were unfortunate enough to sit in the flight with them, especially "Uptight Man", who had to endure the sixteen-year-old Draco kicking his seat from behind so much that both had to moved to different seats.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Beavis And Butthead Do America, Beavis turns into Cornholio after a woman gives him candy and caffeine pills to eat, bursting into the cockpit and frightening the pilots so badly that they lose control of the plane. They're able to right themselves just in time for them to land safely.
    Butthead: Huhuhuh, you said—
    Pilot: (throws Butthead off the control panel) NOW!!!
  • In Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, the main cast board Gremlin Air, where the crew is made up of gremlins that are dismantling the very plane they are supposed to fly.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Anger Management: the film's main plot is kicked off when Dave has to endure a flight where he's stuck sitting next to Buddy, who's acting as obnoxiously as possible, and being ignored by a rude and confrontational flight attendant. He eventually gets tased by a sky marshall who, as it turns out, was having a miserable flight, himself.
  • Bridesmaids: The flight to Las Vegas is actually not that bad, except for Annie. She takes a pill from Helen, manipulates her into taking it with alcohol, and this causes her to slip into hallucinations and a break from reality thanks to a paranoid seat mate who keeps fantasizing about the plane crashing. She ends up stumbling around the cabin, declaring that the plane is about to crash, and the plane ends up getting grounded and they all have to bus back home.
  • Daredevil. While on a flight Bullseye finds himself stuck next to an old lady who won't shut up, despite trying to drown her out with his earphones. So he kills her with a peanut flicked down her throat.
  • The Day After Tomorrow: Sam Hall is on a plane ride to New York with his quiz team classmates when the plane hits some turbulence. The pilot has to switch on the seatbelt sign and the plane quickly starts bouncing all over the sky. They get through it, the ride smooths out before anybody pukes... and then the oxygen masks activate, meaning the cabin has lost pressure.
  • Destination Wedding: After bitter, judgemental Lindsay and Frank snipe at each other while boarding, they find out that they're next to each other in the back of the extremely tiny airplane which ricochets with every turbulence. Naturally, this doesn't help their dislike of each other.
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Any enmity that Neal Page obtained from having Del Griffith stealing his cab and almost making him miss his plane only gets exacerbated when he has to sit right next to Del in the plane and Del turns out to be incredibly annoying (talks a lot, almost sleeps on him and it's implied he has an odor problem), on top of lousy food and O'Hare Airport closing down because of a blizzard (which means that Neal is forced to find a way to get home from Kansas).
  • Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach:
    • Harris tries to book First Class tickets for himself and Proctor on the flight to Miami, only for Hightower to book him a "private plane", which turns out to be a budget flight on a cargo plane full of livestock.
    • The villains of the movie also have a bad flight, because they have to share it with Lassard, who spends the entire flight being Fackler-grade accident prone, with all the accidents impacting the villains, with the crowning moment being when he accidentally walks off with their loot in Miami because their baggage got switched.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home has Peter and his class fly to Europe. Peter has a miserable time — not only is MJ sitting with his romantic rival and Ned with Betty, both having a great time, he's stuck with his annoying teacher, who only ends up sleeping on Peter's shoulder.
  • United 93 portrays a real, not funny, nightmare flight: the highjacked flight on 9/11 that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, after passengers, knowing that everybody was going to die, attempted to take over the plane from the highjackers, resulting in the plane not reaching its target.
  • The 1957 drama Zero Hour — and its better-known parody remake Airplane! — has half the passengers on a plane flight succumb to food poisoning, including the flight crew, forcing a former fighter pilot to take the controls and land the plane.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway: It's Greg's first time going to the airport and taking an airplane. Not only is he seated between a couple with a baby, but he also gets anxious over something happening to the plane after he watches the safety demonstration video (and he also gets worried about the turbulence and the pilots being allowed to move about the cabin), the passenger behind him puts his feet up on Greg's armrests, and he can't lean his seat back because he's sitting in the emergency exit row. Also, meals are only given to first class passengers. The Heffleys also have to alternate between who gets to sit in first class, but Greg never gets his chance due to the doorway getting blocked by the food cart after the turbulence hits.
  • Hannibal. Despite being a Man of Wealth and Taste, Serial Killer Hannibal Lecter has to travel on a cheap flight into the United States in order to remain incognito. It's mentioned that the seating has less allocated space than on the ships that brought slaves from Africa. Hannibal brings a packed gourmet lunch to make things easier, but is forced to hand it over to a brat kid when he starts complaining loudly, to avoid drawing attention to himself.
  • In Real Mermaids Don't Sell Seashells, Jade flies to the Bahamas for her parents' wedding. She discovers once the plane is in the air that she's afraid of flying. All the turbulence doesn't help. To make matters worse, the woman in front of her has reclined her seat all the way back, and the toddler behind her smells like poop and keeps hitting her headrest.
  • Played for Horror in Station Eleven. While none of the horrific flights are ever shown, the always-deadly Georgia Flu spreads extremely fast and it spreads especially quickly in confinement. As a result, it becomes completely commonplace once the flu originates for airplanes to ground and never open. Clark frequently hopes that everyone is dead.
    Don't think of that unspeakable decision, to keep the jet sealed rather than expose a packed airport to a fatal contagion. Don't think about what enforcing that decision may have required. Don't think about those last few hours on board.
  • Whateley Universe contains an exaggerated example, that takes up several paragraphs, in Ayla and the Late Trevor James Goodkind. It's Ayla's first time riding coach when she's used to private jets, and has nothing less than a miserable time. The cabin is crowded and stuffy, there's no space in the seats, Ayla is stuck sitting next to an overweight woman who won't stop talking to her, there's a strong, horrible smell of perfume, a Screaming Plane Baby, and of course, the food sucks. It doesn't get any better upon leaving the plane:
    "Once we reached the terminal, everyone leapt to their feet and started struggling to pull luggage out of overhead compartments as if there were some sort of race. You would think that the pilot had announced that only the first twenty people off the plane would be allowed to use the restrooms."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Big Time Rush: At the end of "Green Time Rush", Kendall and Jett win their class contest...and have to go to Washington D.C. and do a formal presentation. The last scene is Kendall in misery on the plane, stuck with a kid kicking his seat and Jett rambling away.
  • The premise of the pilot (heh) episode of The Bob Newhart Show is psychologist Bob Hartley treating a plane full of phobic passengers.
  • Bones: In "The Passenger In The Oven", Bones can afford to pay for a first-class ticket to Shanghai. Booth can't, and gets stuck in the back, wedged between two old women, one of whom keeps falling asleep on his shoulder. And snoring. For eight hours. The inevitable murder must have come as a relief.
  • On an episode of Cheers, Fraiser learns that Carla is afraid of flying. He offers to take Carla on a flight to help her overcome this fear. Realizing this would be a good opportunity to flex his psychology skills, Frasier gets a plane full of people who are afraid of flying. Pretty much every single thing that can go wrong on the flight does. In the end, Fraiser cures all of the previously phobic people, but gains a fear of flying himself.
  • In season 3 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca's flight back to West Covina after her stay with her mother in New York is absolutely miserable, culminating in a suicide attempt. Admittedly that mostly stems from her rock bottom mood even before she steps on the plane, but Word of God is that they set the scene there because being on a plane is already depressing and uncomfortable enough under normal circumstances, let alone these extreme ones.
  • CSI: Played for Drama in the season 1 episode "Unfriendly Skies", where a disruptive passenger ends up murdered during a flight, and the team eventually discovers that the man had suffered from a horrific infection that caused his brain to swell up from the pressure changes during the flight, leaving him delirious and in agony. He'd repeatedly tried to break out of the plane to escape the pain, to the point that the other passengers eventually panicked and beat him to death. It's ruled as self-defence and no one is charged for his death.
  • Drake & Josh: In "Drake And Josh Go To Hollywood", the boys have to take a plane and end up sitting with strangers. Drake gets to sit with two hot girls... while Josh, ever unlucky, sits with a fat, obnoxious, and disgusting married couple that spend their time bickering and making him look at their moles.
  • Hannah Montana: When Miley sneaks off to go to Florida without her father's permission, he and Jackson end up on the plane trying to chase her. Because he and Jackson are stuck in coach, they get to deal with, as Jackson puts it:
    "Sitting in front of the kangaroo-kid and being drooled on by Jabba the gut."
  • Mr. Bean: In "Mr Bean Rides Again", Mr Bean is given the task of amusing a young boy who is flying alone, and is feeling unwell. Despite Bean's efforts, the boy remains silent and miserable. When the plane enters turbulence, the boy throws up into a paper bag.
  • Seinfeld:
    • In "The Airport", Elaine and Jerry are coming off a trip to visit a relative and do a show respectively. However due to a cancellation, they have to take a different plane to get back home and only two seats are available: a First Class and a Coach. Jerry quickly snaps up the First Class seat and poor Elaine has to endure in the latter where she pretty much deals with all the subjects of this trope: Annoying passengers, cramped seating, horrendous airline food and losing her luggage because she was mean to the handler and he put it on another flight in revenge. At one point she tries to sneak into First Class, but is quickly forced back to her seat. All the while Jerry meets a nice girl and pretty much has a wonderful flight.
    • In another episode, Elaine and Puddy have won a trip to Hawaii, but the two get antsy during those several hours and get into an argument. Another passenger sitting next to them is also an unfortunate casualty of this. When the plane finally lands in Hawaii, Elaine and Puddy part ways... only to end up in the same taxi. And their seatmate also ends up in the same taxi as them. Here We Go Again!.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): Played for Horror in the classic episode "Nightmare At 20.000 Feet"; Bob Wilson (played by William Shatner), a travelling salesman who's recovering from a nervous breakdown six months prior, and thus is already barely hanging on to his fragile peace of mind, discovers that a monstrous humanoid is clinging to the outside of the plane when it passes through a storm. No one else sees the creature, and Wilson's wife thinks he's not recovered from his breakdown and needs to go back to the sanitarium. This episode was adapted for Twilight Zone: The Movie with mostly the same plot, though in that version, the main character is John Valentine (played by John Lithgow), an extremely anxious man with a severe fear of flying.
  • Victorious: "WiFi In The Sky" has Tori and Trina on a plane the entire episode. While Tori is attempting to videochat her friends to get a project done, Trina is having a bad time with the kid behind her kicking and mocking her while his father doesn't care. Tori gets in on some of the "fun" as well, as every time Trina has to leave, she has to squeeze past Tori and her laptop.


    Pro Wrestling 
  • The infamous "Plane Ride From Hell" from Great Britain to the United States that involved several drunken WWE Superstars. Incidents include Curt Hennig and Brock Lesnar getting into an in-flight wrestling match in the aisle and having to be seperated, Ric Flair exposing himself to flight attendants, Dustin Runnels serenading his wife Terri until told to stop by Jim Ross, and Michael Hayes getting into a physical incident with Bradshaw, with Sean Waltman cutting off Hayes' ponytail after the latter passed out.

  • One of the limericks on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue:
    When deciding to travel by plane,
    You'll find it a hell of a strain.
    The leg room's too small,
    There's no room at all,
    And you're wedged next to Robbie Coltrane.

    Video Games 
  • Afterlife: "Welcome to your Flightmare" is one of the Envy punishments in Hell, where envious souls are forced to find a seat for the flight and thus must decide what kind of utterly awful passengers they must put up with, from halitosis-riddled shady salesdemons to obnoxious old ladies with hundreds of children and excruciatingly boring tales about them. You can switch seats as much as you like but it's never gonna be better.
    Return your minds to their fully locked and upright positions, and remember to put your sanity into the overhead storage compartment; you've just entered...Hell.
  • Duolingo: The French course asks you to translate "J'espère que le pilote ne dormira pas pendant le vol." — "I hope that the pilot won't sleep during the flight."
  • Vacation Story: Not only does the flight staff not do their job, but the plane loses power, hits a thunderstorm, and crashes in the ocean.

    Web Animation 
  • Natural Habitat Shorts:
    • One short features a weasel trading seats on a plane with a rabbit, only to end up sitting between two porcupines. When one of them turns to look out the window, there's a very traumatized gerbil stuck to his back who asks where the plane is going in French.
    • Another short has a ferret sharing a flight with a mother opossum and her entire litter. All of the babies are screaming and crying, and the one behind him is repeatedly kicking the back of his seat.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Animaniacs short "Plane Pals", an obnoxious executive has the bad luck of sitting next to the Warners, who decide to make him their "special friend" for the flight.
  • American Dad!: In one episode, Francine, Haley and Roger end up stuck on a plane that can't take off (due to Steve flying a hijacked drone through the airport airspace as part of the B-plot), and end up having to suffer through this trope despite never leaving the ground. Made worse due to Roger using a child identity at the time, and degenerating into a Screaming Plane Baby due to not having access to alcohol.
  • Played with in Cow and Chicken where the Red Guy, this time serving as an airline hostess, terrorized an already nervous Chicken with every flight problem imaginable - a crowded seating area, a terrifying instruction on what to do in case of a crash, a disgusting airline meal, and air turbulence. It's finally revealed that the plane hadn't even taken off yet, and Red Guy was just knocking Chicken's seat around.
  • Dilbert: In "Elbonian Trip", Dilbert, Wally and Alice travel to Elbonia where the production of their company's flagship product has been outsourced. The plane is a barely functional wreck with random animals wandering around and for some reason has ankle-high mud inside the cabin, just like Elbonia itself has. And this is First Class, the people travelling Coach (like the Pointy-Haired Boss) are strapped to the wings outside. According to The Garbageman, Dilbert's chances of surviving his trip unharmed would be drastically lower just by using the airplane bathroom.
  • Family Guy: In "Road To Vegas", Brian wins tickets to a Celine Dion concert in Las Vegas, and takes Stewie with him. Stewie uses his experimental new teleporter to transport the two of them to Vegas rather than dealing with plane travel, only for the machine to create a pair of copies in Vegas rather than actually transporting the two of them, forcing the originals to take a plane, which predictably turns out to be crowded with annoying passengers.
  • The Garfield in Paradise TV Special opens with Jon, Garfield (and Odie stashed in a suitcase) taking a plane to a tropical island. It's not a pleasant flight, with everything from rude stewardesses (upon finding out Jon is flying third class: "your seat is in the rear with the rest of the slime!") to broken down seats, non functioning safety belts, and turbulence that sends them bouncing into the ceiling. Garfield's thoughts on the matter:
    "Whoever said getting there is half the fun should be dragged out into the street and shot."
  • The Jetsons has an episode with Mr. Spacely on one of these, stuck between two fat guys, because he tried to save money by flying a cheap air/space-line.
  • Robot Chicken depicts B.A. Baracus' dislike of flying through a flashback. He was all happy and eager to take his first flight. The pilot commended him for going all alone, moments before mentioning to the passengers that they discovered that all the in-flight meals had gone bad, and all the bathrooms were occupied. Cue everyone trying and failing to hold in their bowel movements, and one severely traumatized B.A.
  • The Rocko's Modern Life episode "Jet Scream" has Rocko endure every bad plane flight cliche (before 9/11 and the resulting changes) known to man, from losing his luggage (it ended up on another planet) to dealing with a bratty kid (the passengers cheer when an exasperated Rocko stuffs him in an overhead bin) to the plane going into a dive. Heffer has a more pleasant flight after successfully sneaking into First Class.
  • The Simpsons: In "Days of Future Past", teleportation has reduced the airline industry to a last resort in the episode's futuristic setting. Unable to teleport due to her pregnancy, an adult Maggie has to board a ramshackle plane manned by a crew straight out of a Mad Max movie.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Squidward has one in "Plane to Sea". Squidward gets his seatbelt wrapped around him, effectively making unable to move. The flight attendant slams his face into the seat, Patrick pours hot coffee into his mouth, a baby hits him with a rattle, and SpongeBob and Patrick ram into him with food carts. The total trip takes him at least eight hours, and then it turns out the plane immediately turns around at its destination.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian", Buster reads over the titular script written by three then-eighth-grade girls and is horrified when he finds out there is a scene where he has to ride aboard an airplane to Hawaii. When he tries to talk the girls about a rewrite, they decide the plane scene will stay. Buster's fears are proven true when Montana Max, his worst enemy, is the pilot, and decides not to wait to take off despite being 87th in line for it. Plucky is also the steward, and serves him food that hasn't been classified by science yet. When Buster asks him if he could have a carrot, Plucky serves him a freeze-dried reconstituted carrot chip. Buster eats it, and is so queasy, he rushes to the restroom, which is crowded with many other queasy passengers who also ate the carrot chips. When the plane ride is over, Buster is so relieved to be off the plane, he kisses the ground.


Video Example(s):


Elbonian Airlines

The cabin that Dilbert, Wally, and Alice are in is first class apparently... The Boss is in coach, which is outside the plane...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / PlaneAwfulFlight

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