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Top Five Travel Horror Stories of 2009

What’s scarier, a bloodthirsty ghoul or an overnight tarmac delay? Obviously, the answer is “overnight tarmac delay,” which crowns our list of the top travel horror stories of the year. Read on to discover the most terrifying stories from the travel industry in 2009, and then submit your own!

And now, without further ado, the freakiest of the freaky:

  • Trapped Overnight! In August, 47 passengers were trapped overnight aboard a regional jet on the tarmac in Rochester, Minnesota. The plane, destined for Minneapolis, was diverted by thunderstorms. Once on the ground, a nightmare of errors ensued, as passengers were denied access to the airport and forced to suffer through the night with one bathroom and nary a pretzel to be found. The Department of Transportation (DOT) ultimately laid blame on Mesaba Airlines, which erroneously told ExpressJet the airport wasn’t accessible when, in fact, it was.
  • Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t European low-cost carrier Ryanair spent most of 2009 adding expensive and sometimes exploitative fees that devoured its customers’ cash. Notably, Ryanair added a £5 online check-in fee, then removed its airport check-in desks and threw a £40 penalty at customers who came to the airport without checking in online. So either pay the £5 fee or get slapped with a £40 punishment. Scary indeed.
  • We’re Going Down! Wait, Never Mind In August, an Aer Lingus crewmember accidentally played a recorded message in French that instructed passengers to prepare for an emergency landing. Confused Anglophones looked on as the French passengers descended into panic, thinking the plane was about to crash in the ocean. The intended message simply asked passengers to buckle up in advance of turbulence. Oops!
  • Cross Those Legs, Or Pay! It wouldn’t be a comprehensive list of airline horror stories without at least two entries from Ryanair. The airline caused a panic earlier this year when it suggested it may start charging to use the bathroom. While obvious legal issues immediately reduced this to little more than a publicity stunt, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary sent chills down our spine with his apparent eagerness to send customers “scurrying to the toilet before the departure gate.”
  • Switched at the Airport In June, Continental Express sent two unaccompanied minors to the wrong destinations. It’s every parent’s nightmare, and quickly turned into a publicity disaster for Continental, especially since the airline was entirely responsible for the mix-up. Fortunately the mistake was noticed quickly, and the children were found safe and sound.

Okay, so none of these will (or should) keep you up at night, though you have to admit it’s pretty scary stuff if you’re a traveler. But what we really want is to hear from you. Have you been stranded at the airport? Lost your suitcase to the airport baggage abyss? Share your story in the comment field below. We’ll collect the best submissions and publish them in our annual Reader Horror Stories feature just before Halloween. Thanks!

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