Long Haul Flights: The Bad and the Hilarious – Learning the hard way

The last couple of posts have been about how to get the best out of flying economy and kicking jet lag in the ass. The tips I’ve picked up over the years have simply been from finding out the hard way. So I thought I’d share a couple of stories with you about the worst and the funniest flights I’ve endured.

The Bad | March 2008 | Melbourne to LAX | United Airlines

My very first international flight was to the US for SXSW in Austin, Texas. I was super excited at the prospect of both finally getting to the US and for my first international flight, to say I was unprepared was an understatement.

Since it was my first foray into flying internationally, seat selection and the importance of it never occurred to me. So i boarded and found myself at the worst possible seat if you are flying alone.

Middle Row. In the middle seat.

Sat to my left was quite a rotund man with a comb-over who was taking up all of the arm rest on my side AND half my leg room (also had an odour of what could described and as mixture of ass and cheese). To my right, a couple of backpackers who clearly had not washed in a least a week, the one directly next to me insisted on site cross legged throughout the entire flight. So I was off to a good start.

Flying United Airlines in 2008, meant no individual entertainment screens. It was the not so golden days of the communal film (whether you liked it or not)….ear plugs firmly in, neck pillow out, and legs folded into the space available to me as best I could, I tried to get some sleep to while the hours away. 30 mins later I was woken by an extremely chirpy voice offering me a “tuna fish sandwich” (this would be offered to  no less than 3 more times during this flight by the way) – who wakes someone up on the plane if they are asleep!? urgh! I politely declined the sandwich and tried to go back to sleep being surrounded by the waft of tuna (a thought: why would airlines serve smelly fish sandwiches in an enclosed space?!)

3 hours later, I was woken again by the chirpy stewardess for lunch, only to be suprised by the hippie to my right, whose head was on my shoulder with a river of her drool running down my arm – at this point I was not happy.

Move seats!, I hear you cry – yes, at the time I didn’t know you could actually do that – the suffering continued…

10 hours in, the rotund, comb-over man to the left, had not moved a single inch since he had boarded the flight – in fact he had been staring straight ahead for the entire flight, and I was pretty certain he hadn’t blinked in the entire time we had been in the air. I had only noticed this, because now needed to go to the bathroom, and the hippies next to me were sound asleep.

‘excuse me’…..I said, no response.

Clearing my throat in a not very subtle manner, i tried again.

‘excuse me’, nothing.

The rotund man did have his eyes open, and was not wearing headphones – perhaps he was just being an asshole….

Tapping him on the shoulder, ‘EXCUSE ME’ …….his head turned.

Bloody hell, the look on his face, as the saying goes if looks could kill…..Putting on my best smile, ‘sorry mate, just need to get out to go to the bathroom’ (a reasonable request)


‘I’d really appreciate, if you could let me out please’

‘No.’ (seriously he had the face of a serial killer)

At this time, the hippy next me had woken up and had watching this exchange, Bless her heart, woke her other half out and let me out that end.

Back to my seat, I was terrified of getting out of my seat again, and tried to get some more sleep, only to be woken again by the same chirpy stewardess and the dismal offer of yet another tuna fish sandwich!

For my first international flight it was a pretty poor experience, but a good learning one. Since that flight, I’ve not flown United internationally again (they are ok for US domestic flights) and I have since never sat anywhere else except an aisle eat.

The Hilarious | December 2014 | Baku, Azerbaijan to London Heathrow

I was one of the last staff members of the company I was working for to fly out Baku for Christmas, most of the others got out on the 20th, and now stood at the Heydar Aliyev International Airport on the 23rd looking forward to getting the hell out of Baku for 10 days.

Having spent the previous 2.5 years in Glasgow, it became a tradition to pick up a bottle of single malt for myself when I went through duty free (it would be rude not to). Quite a few Scots (no less than a dozen) were also cleaning out the whisky at the duty free concession too. Azerbaijan, is a country built on oil, often referred to as “Little Scotland” by myself and colleagues, there seemed to be more Scots than Azeris in town at times.

Boarding the 19:00 flight to Heathrow, two things struck me.

  1. I was the only female passenger.
  2. I was the only passenger who wasn’t scottish.

Having come from a family of Scots this did not perturb me at all, in fact, I thought I was in for a fun flight and I certainly wasn’t wrong….

Locating my seat, I introduced myself to my seat mates Gordie and Graham, and immediately found myself in a conversation about single malt and football – no surpises there.

Seat belt sign off. The drinks cart was out – it being a Christmas flight, BA were quite generous with most folk getting a beer and whisky during the first drinks service…..within 90 minutes of the plane being in the air – all the booze on the plane had been drunk! ha!

Then, the duty free started to be opened and passed around the plane it was like being on some bizarre football trip. The singing started, and carried us through to Heathrow.

Now as we all know, a single serve of alcohol as the effect of a double in the air. It was safe to say after 3 beers and too many whiskies to count, I was thoroughly plastered as well as the rest of the plane.

Emerging at Heathrow, it was like a procession of the walking dead, some were still drunk and singing, some were puking into the closest bin, some (like me) were hungover (already) and just wanted to get to the nearest hotel. It was the best fun I’ve had on a plane hands down, but the hangover (that lasted well into the next day) was completely horrendous.

So the above is Exhibit A as to why I only have a drink or 2 on a plane these days – unless you have 80 scottish blokes to sings songs with 🤣