’Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
Every creature was hurting — even the mouse.
The toys were all broken, their batteries dead;
Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.
–an excerpt from ‘Twas the Day After Christmas by Buyer S. Remorse
If you’re feeling the post-Christmas blues, you’ll be relieved to know that you’re far from alone. In the US, December 26 happens to be National Whiners Day. It was founded in 1986 by Reverend Kevin Zaborney to remind people to be grateful rather than complain.
But let’s face it, we all love a good whinge every now and then. And given the way that air travel is going now– endless cancellations, delays and unruly passengers – it’s unsurprising that air travel complaints have quadrupled compared with pre-pandemic levels.
Here, to humor and indulge our inner Grinches and Scrooges, we’ve rounded up the most ridiculous and outrageous airline complaints of recent history.
Are these complaints reasonable? Or simply uncalled for? Have a read and tell us.
Ghost of the cheese-mas past
For the first complaint, we are digging up the grievance of a cranky cheese-lover who was deeply concerned about Air New Zealand’s cheese-to-cracker ratio. Yes, you read that right.
In 2015, Air New Zealand passenger Jerry Scott posted a photo of cheese and crackers served to him on the flight. Scott found the generous-sized cheese slices and normal-sized crackers to be “out of whack”.
Here’s the message to Air New Zealand that he posted on Facebook:
“Dear Air New Zealand, I am writing this as a matter of national concern. I have been having sleepless nights wondering if I should mention it or not but tonight the straw broke the camel’s back. I’m pretty sure that all Air New Zealand faithful have been having the same struggle as I and so tonight I officially raise this concern;
Your cheese to cracker ratio is completely out of whack…
I mean I like cheese, I REALLY like cheese but often the best part of the cheese is having it accompanied by a firm and crisp cracker. I feel that there is sufficient cheese to justify at least four crackers!! Now maybe it’s the one ice cold red wine that I consumed in flight talking here but I took the liberty of taking a photo to show the terrible extent of your problem. Please rectify this horrid oversight…”
Thankfully, Scott’s complaint turned out to be satirical. When Air New Zealand responded by saying that it had passed on his feedback so that the team can look into the issue, Scott replied, “I will be publicly executed if you reduce the cheese allowance… Just saying.”
The “Dear Richard” letter
This is an oldie but a classic. In 2008, Virgin Atlantic passenger Oliver Beale wrote a six-page impassioned letter to Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson about his “culinary journey of hell” on a flight from Mumbai Airport (BOM) to London Heathrow Airport (LHR).
The letter attracted so much attention that some believed it to have been a marketing stunt.
Here’s Beale’s ordeal in his own words, as published by Letters of Note.
“Dear Mr Branson
REF: Mumbai to Heathrow, 7th December 2008
I love the Virgin brand, I really do, which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit. Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation. Look at this Richard. Just look at it:
I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. “What is this?” “Why have I been given it?” “What have I done to deserve this?” And: “Which one is the starter, which one is the dessert?” You don’t get to a position like yours, Richard, with anything less than a generous sprinkling of observational power, so I KNOW you will have spotted the tomato next to the two yellow shafts of sponge on the left. Yes, it’s next to the sponge shaft without the green paste. That’s got to be the clue hasn’t it. No sane person would serve a dessert with a tomato, would they? Well, answer me this, Richard: what sort of animal would serve a dessert with peas in:
I know it looks like a bhaji but it’s in custard, Richard. Custard. It must be the pudding. Well you’ll be fascinated to hear that it wasn’t custard. It was a sour gel with a clear oil on top. Its only redeeming feature was that it managed to be so alien to my palate that it took away the taste of the curry emanating from our miscellaneous central cuboid of beige matter. Perhaps the meal on the left might be the desert after all.
Anyway, this is all irrelevant at the moment. I was raised strictly but neatly by my parents and if they knew I had started dessert before the main course, a sponge shaft would be the least of my worries. So let’s peel back the tin-foil on the main dish and see what’s on offer.
I’ll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being 12 years old, Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat there with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked from the catalog and wrote to Santa about. Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster, Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this:
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s more of that Bhaji custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It’s mustard, Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any person could consume in a month. On the left we have a piece of broccoli and some peppers in a brown glue-like oil and on the right the chef had prepared some mashed potato. The potato masher had obviously broken and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird. Once regurgitated it was clearly then blended and mixed with a bit of mustard. Everybody likes a bit of mustard, Richard.
By now I was actually starting to feel a little hypoglycaemic. I needed a sugar hit. Luckily there was a small cookie provided. It had caught my eye earlier due to its baffling presentation:
It appears to be in an evidence bag from the scene of a crime. A CRIME AGAINST BLOODY COOKING. Either that or some sort of back-street underground cookie, purchased from a gun-toting maniac high on his own supply of yeast. You certainly wouldn’t want to be caught carrying one of these through customs. Imagine biting into a piece of brass, Richard. That would be softer on the teeth than the specimen above.
I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was relax, but obviously I had to sit with that mess in front of me for half an hour. I swear the sponge shafts moved at one point.
Once cleared, I decided to relax with a bit of your world-famous onboard entertainment. I switched it on:
I apologize for the quality of the photo, but it was incredibly hard to capture Boris Johnson’s face through the flickering white lines running up and down the screen. Perhaps it would be better on another channel:
Is that Ray Liotta? A question I found myself asking over and over throughout the gruelling half-hour I attempted to watch the film like this. After that, I switched off. I’d had enough. I was the hungriest I’d been in my adult life and I had a splitting headache from squinting at a crackling screen.
My only option was to simply stare at the seat in front and wait for either food, or sleep. Neither came for an incredibly long time. But when it did, it surpassed my wildest expectations:
Yes! It’s another crime-scene cookie. Only this time you dunk it in the white stuff.
Richard – What is that white stuff? It looked like it was going to be yoghurt. It finally dawned on me what it was after staring at it. It was a mixture of the Bhaji custard and the Mustard sauce. It reminded me of my first week at university. I had overheard that you could make a drink by mixing vodka and Refreshers. I lied to my new friends and told them I’d done it loads of times. When I attempted to make the drink in a big bowl it formed a cheese Richard. A cheese. That cheese looked a lot like your bhaji-mustard.
So that was that, Richard. I didn’t eat a bloody thing. My only question is: How can you live like this? I can’t imagine what dinner round your house is like – it must be like something out of a nature documentary.
As I said at the start, I love your brand, I really do. It’s just a shame such a simple thing could bring it crashing to its knees and begging for sustenance.
15 years on, no one knows for sure whether this page-turner of a letter was a legitimate complaint, though it’s been reported that Branson read it while on a holiday. He told The Sydney Morning Herald that he “laughed his head off”, and gave Beale a phone call.
The loo-dicrous seat number 29E
These days airline complaints are quickly typed up using smartphones and either posted on social media or sent as a message to airlines.
This 2004 complaint to Continental Airlines may churn your stomach due to its graphic descriptions, but it holds its own charm for two reasons: it’s handwritten– a rare and cherishable thing these days – and it includes an illustration to help get the complaint across.
The unnamed passenger had a “miserable experience” because of their seat’s close proximity to the lavatory, but they found a very creative way of conveying their ordeal.
The letter is dated December 21, 2004 and is stamped as having been received by “Customer Care” on April 13, 2005.
Here are excerpts from the letters, with the full text below.
FH#888/500 → HOUSTON
APR 13 2005
Dear Continental Airlines,
I am disgusted as I write this note to you about the miserable experience I am having sitting in seat 29E on one of your aircrafts. As you may know, this seat is situated directly across from the lavatory, so close that I can reach out my left arm and touch the door.
All my senses are being tortured simultaneously. It’s difficult to say what the worst part about sitting in 29E really is? Is it the stench of the sanitation fluid that’s blown all over my body every 60 seconds when the door opens? Is it the wooosh of the constant flushing? Or is it the passengers asses that seem to fit into my personal space like a pornographic jig-saw puzzle?
I constructed a stink-shield by shoving one end of a blanket into the overhead compartment — while effective in blocking at least some of the smell, and offering a small bit of privacy, the ass-on-my-body factor has increased, as without my evil glare, passengers feel free to lean up against what they think is some kind of blanketed wall. The next ass that touches my shoulder will be the last!
I am picturing a boardroom, full of executives giving props to the young promising engineer that figured out how to squeeze an additional row of seats onto this plane by putting them next to the LAV.
I would like to flush his head in the toilet that I am close enough to touch, and taste, from my seat.
Putting a seat here was a very bad idea. I just heard a man GROAN in there! THIS SUCKS!
DEPICTION OF MANS BUTT IN MY FACE
Worse yet, is I’ve paid over $400.00 for the honor of sitting in this seat!
Does your company give refunds? I’d like to go back where I came from and start over. Seat 29E could only be worse if it was located inside the bathroom.
I wonder if my clothing will retain the sanitizing odor…. what about my hair! I feel like I’m bathing in a toilet bowl of blue liquid, and there is no man in a little boat to save me.
I am filled with a deep hatred for your plane designer and a general dis-ease that may last for hours.
We are finally descending, and soon I will be able to tear down the stink-shield, but the scars will remain.
I suggest that you initiate immediate removal of this seat from all of your crafts. Just remove it, and leave the smoldering brown hole empty, a good place for sturdy/non-absorbing luggage maybe, but not human cargo.”
The complaint letter typed with one hand
This 2013 complaint letter to Jetstar was written by Australian blogger Richard Wisken who felt disgruntled after being sat next to an overweight passenger on a Perth Airport (PER) to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD) flight.
A self-described “idiot” on social media X (formerly Twitter), Wisken is known for his written opinions that are NSFW (not suitable for work), and his complaint to Jetstar is no exception.
Wisken claimed that he typed the 700-word complaint with one hand as a result of sharing his space with what he initially thought was an “infant hippopotamus” on a four-hour flight.
Following his ordeal, Wisken encountered another hitch, with his next flight being canceled – twice – and then the third being delayed.
In the end, Jetstar offered him AUD 100 ($68.00) in compensation, and also refunded the AUD 25 ($17.00) he paid for an emergency seat.
The letter can be read on Wisken’s blog here, and a full transcript is also below.
Do you like riddles? I do, that’s why I’m starting this letter with one. What weighs more than a Suzuki Swift, less than a Hummer and smells like the decaying anus of a deceased homeless man? No idea? How about, what measures food portions in kilograms and has the personal hygiene of a French prostitute? Still nothing? Right, one more try. What’s fat as fuck, stinks like shit and should be forced to purchase two seats on a Jetstar flight? That’s right, it’s the man I sat [struck out: next to] under on my flight from Perth to Sydney yesterday.
As I boarded the plane, I mentally high-fived myself for paying the additional $25 for an emergency seat. I was imagining all that extra room, when I was suddenly distracted by what appeared to be an infant hippopotamus located halfway down the aisle. As I got closer, I was relieved to see that it wasn’t a dangerous semi-aquatic African mammal, but a morbidly obese human being. However, this relief was short-lived when I realised that my seat was located somewhere underneath him.
Soon after I managed to burrow into my seat, I caught what was to be the first of numerous fetid whiffs of body odour. His scent possessed hints of blue cheese and Mumbai slum, with nuances of sweaty flesh and human faeces sprayed with cologne – Eau No. Considering I was visibly under duress, I found it strange that none of the cabin crew offered me another seat. To be fair, it’s entirely possible that none of them actually saw me. Perhaps this photo will jog their memories.
Pinned to my seat by a fleshy boulder, I started preparing for a 127 Hours-like escape. Thankfully though, the beast moved slightly to his left, which allowed me to stand up, walk to the back of the plane and politely ask the cabin crew to be seated elsewhere. I didn’t catch the names of the three flight attendants, but for the purpose of this letter, I’ll call them: Chatty 1, Chatty 2 and Giggly (I’ve given them all the same surname – Couldnotgiveashit). After my request, Chatty 1 and Chatty 2 continued their conversation, presumably about how shit they are at their jobs, and Giggly, well, she just giggled. I then asked if I could sit in one of the six vacant seats at the back of the aircraft, to which Giggly responded, “hehehe, they’re for crew only, hehehe”. I think Giggly may be suffering from some form of mental impairment.
I tried to relocate myself without the assistance of the Couldnotgiveashit triplets, but unfortunately everyone with a row to themselves was now lying down. It was then I realised that my fate was sealed. I made my way back to Jabba the Hutt and spent the remainder of the flight smothered in side-boob and cellulite, taking shallow breaths to avoid noxious gas poisoning. Just before landing, I revisited the back of the plane to use the toilet. You could imagine my surprise when I saw both “crew only” rows occupied by non-crew members. I can only assume Giggly let them sit there after she forgot who she was and why she’s flying on a big, shiny metal thing in the sky.
Imagine going out for dinner and a movie, only to have your night ruined by a fat mess who eats half your meal then blocks 50% of the screen. Isn’t that exactly the same as having someone who can’t control their calorie intake occupying half your seat on a flight? Of course it is, so that’s why I’m demanding a full refund of my ticket, including the $25 for an emergency row seat.
I’m also looking to be compensated for the physical pain and mental suffering caused by being enveloped in human blubber for four hours. My lower back is in agony and I had to type this letter one-handed as I’m yet to regain full use of my left side. If I don’t recover completely, I’ll have to say goodbye to my lifelong dream of becoming Air Guitar World Champion. If that occurs, you will pay.
To discuss my generous compensation package, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet me at: @RichWisken
The request for a scenic route
This final letter is not a complaint, but rather a request for the pilot to fly a ‘scenic route’.
FlyDubai Passenger Bagher Mozafari, a self-described aviation enthusiast, was traveling to Dubai International Airport (DXB) in November 2023 to attend the recent Dubai Air Show.
Mozafari wrote a letter to the captain of the B737 MAX 8, “wondering” if they could fly a suggested scenic route because he was seated by the window. The letter even had an accompanying flight path taken from live air traffic site FlightRadar24.
The letter has been shared on ‘A Fly Guy’s Cabin Crew Lounge’, a Facebook group for aviation professionals with 1.3 million members.
Based on the comments from the Facebook group, plenty of members found it amusing, even perhaps endearing, for a passenger to think that something like that could easily be done.
Many also appreciated that the letter was politely worded and respectfully written by a very enthusiastic passenger.
The full text of the letter:
I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to you as I am about to embark on my first non-Iranian airline flight with Flydubai, and I am thrilled to be flying with your airline. I am visiting Dubai to attend the Dubai Airshow 2023, and as an aviation enthusiast, I am excited to experience the flight with Flydubai.
I am writing to you to request a small favor. I have been assigned a window seat on the right side of the plane, and I was wondering if it would be possible to fly above Dubai, following the flight path picture that I have attached to this letter. I believe this would provide me with a better view of the city from the right side of the plane.
I understand that this request is subject to weather conditions and ATC approval, but I would be grateful if you could consider it. I am looking forward to a safe and enjoyable flight with Flydubai, and I appreciate your attention to this matter.
Thank you for your time and consideration.