The 18 Worst Air Travel Issues And How To Resolve Them

From time crunch and flight delays to waiting lines and cumbersome carry-on luggage, airplane travel can stress even the most nomadic traveler. It's easy to let the hassle get the best of people, but knowing how to manage airline obstacles will help relieve the tension and get you to your destination with minimal stress. Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author, and the founder of Access to Culture, who is also a frequent international flyer, offers some advice on the most common air travel issues and how to resolve them.

Making it through security

To minimize time spent at the security checkpoint, be prepared and travel light, minimizing obstacles to safe, smooth travel. Make the security checkpoint go by quickly by emptying pockets ahead of time, removing laptop from bags, and removing shoes and belts to not only make it faster for you, but for those behind you. Also make sure that all liquids are in the appropriately sized containers before heading to the airport.  Remember to always be kind and respectful to others because everyone has a flight to catch too- not just you.

TSA and long lines

While TSA screenings are an important safety measure, the long lines and extra time spent during bag searches and pat-downs can be a hassle.  Remember that being compliant will get you on the plane faster. Answer any questions the officer may have and be willing to have your bags searched. Any reluctance to do so could cause suspicion and may take more of your time.


Airlines often compensate passengers who volunteer to give up their seat by paying for all expenses such as hotel and meals, in addition to giving them a flight voucher. If you are in absolutely no rush to get to your destination, it may be something to consider. However, if you're one of the ones chosen to give up your seat, but you have to be on that flight for other commitments, explain your situation and politely refuse, all while maintaining an amicable tone.

Overweight luggage

If a crew member at the check-in desk tells you that your bag is overweight and you have to pay an extra fee, kindly ask if you can step aside to take some of your belongings out and place them in another bag or suitcase. Once they give you the okay, look behind you and signal to the next person in line that they can go. This proper airline etiquette will ensure you're being conscious of others' time.

Annoying passengers

If you have a small disagreement with another passenger, first try to resolve it among yourselves. If the problem escalates or continues, ask the flight attendant for assistance. In manners such as putting your tray up and down, turning off you phone or any other flight procedure, you should not question the crew. However, if there is a customer service concern, you can politely speak to the head staff

Crying kids

Crying infants should be tolerated; the mother wants them to stop crying way more than you do. Refrain from giving the parents long glares – they know their child is being loud and your stare won't stop it.  In the case of older children, try blocking them out with headphones or earmuffs before talking to the parents if the problem persists.

Uncomfortable seating situation

You have a right to be comfortable, and issues such as seat-kicking, inconsiderate neighbors, and loud media should be addressed by a flight attendant. The staff is trained on how to deal with these problems in the most inoffensive way possible. Tell a member of the crew about your problem and they will take care of it.

Trying to sleep

Certain methods can do the job, in case you can't afford to upgrade, and you can trick your body into sleeping — and people into not disturbing you. Some of the hacks may be obvious — no coffee, alcohol, or junk food. Others, such as grapping a sleep-inducing snack or not picking a seat in the front of the plane, are often overlooked. Don't be shy, and recline your seat as much as possible; cover your face to block all kinds of light affecting the body's ability to produce melatonin; make sure you're hydrated enough; and forget about entertaining yourself with the small screens in front of you.  

Pets as passengers

You want to ensure that Fido or Felix is safe and comfortable, but some airlines make this tricky and very difficult. Also, advance arrangements are not guarantees that your pet will travel on a specific flight. Typically, airlines require pet health certificates that are no older than 10 days, even if the country of your destination accepts an older one. Several general guidelines will help you make your companion as relaxed and content as possible.

Small children as passengers

There is nothing glamorous about traveling with toddlers. The most vulnerable age is when they can walk but can't stand to sit down for more than five minutes. Meltdowns over toys, naps, food, safety gear, entertainment options – any one of these very few issues can go wrong in a second. Staying calm is a challenging task that can be prevented with proper preparation. This often means advanced planning in terms of clothes, car seats, strollers, toys, and even activities during flights and layovers.

Delays and cancelations

You can't always rely on leaving on time. Delays, which can result in missed connections, and cancelations are, unfortunately, part of everyday travel. They often happen without any warning, too. So, what do you do when your flight is delayed indefinitely?  Stay hydrated, use the Wi-Fi, take a leisurely stroll around the airport, go to an airline club if you are a frequent flyer, and even go out of security. Yes, you can, if and only if you have a boarding pass for the next flight.

Getting reservations wrong

Misspelling a name or a date of birth happens all the time whether it's because of laziness, fatigue, stubby fingers, or a small keyboard. And technical errors are not unheard of. Mistakes can lead to difficulties obtaining your ticket and boarding passes. Airlines can even charge high fees. Review any booking – two or three times, reading out loud – before you enter your credit card information. Sometimes you can even make changes, at no additional cost, within 24 hours. So review that info again in a day.

Rude customer service representatives

Most people have come across a not-so-helpful gate agent. Airlines employees can be flat-out rude, especially in treating delayed passengers. While it's true that they personally can't do anything about a weather delay, for example, they don't have to treat people badly. What you can do about it is be nice. It's hard to be ride to a person who smiles at you and treats you with respect.


There are no federal laws requiring airlines to provide passengers with money or other compensation when their flights are delayed.  Each airline has its own policies, according to the Department of Transportation. In some situations, such as significant delays, you may be entitled to a refund, including a refund for all optional fees associated with the purchase of your ticket. If your flight is cancelled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation. Also, under most circumstances, if you book a ticket and cancel within 24 hours, you're entitled to a full refund.

Lost and/or forgotten documents

You can't find your wallet, ID or passports. If you are abroad, call the embassy right away. You may even be able to get a replacement quickly. (Make copies of any forms of ID, but also make sure you have embassy and/or consulate numbers with you before you leave.) TSA will ask you some questions that will help them verify your identity. Just make sure you make it to the airport as early as possible so you have time to sort it all out.

Wrong terminal or gate

It happens all the time. The boarding pass says one thing, the table another. Also, some airlines have planes at several terminals; be sure to check which one exactly. And when it comes to Chicago, for example, don't assume everyone flies in and out of O'Hare. Southwest only uses Midway. Carefully take a look at the information on your ticket and check online for possible changes. Check the airlines social pages as well because they may tweet or post about them.

Inappropriate remarks

The airport is not an entertainment venue. You should simply assume that security staff have no sense of humor. Don't joke about having a weapon, a bomb, or anything that can be construed as a threat. You will be pulled aside at the very least; you may even be detained. Not the mention that all of these shenanigans will result in delays going though TSA checkpoints.

It’s hot in here!

Have you ever had the nightmare experience of being on a plane, which is ready to take off, when suddenly, the flight is delayed for hours but passengers are not allowed to get off, had to stay in their seats with the seatbelts on, and no food or drinks were served, and the AC is not on? Everyone is sweating, getting dehydrated and annoyed. If not, you are among the few who don't know what that's like. Hopefully, this never happens to you, but be prepared just in case. Bring snacks, water and entertainment. Download what you'd like to see beforehand so you are dependent on complimentary Wi-Fi.