My 4 Worst Flights Of 2018

Yesterday I wrote a post sharing my nine favorite flights of 2018. This wasn’t exclusively intended to be a list of the nine most luxurious flights I was on this year, but rather was intended to reflect some of the innovations and personal touches I experienced in 2018.

In a similar light, in this post I wanted to share my four worst flights of 2018. I’m not suggesting that these are the four least comfortable flights I took, or anything, since obviously an economy flight will (almost?) always be less comfortable than a first class flight.

Rather it’s intended to reflect some of the true low points of customer service and product “innovation.” As you’ll see, this list includes flights in first and business class, and not actually any flights in economy (my flight on EasyJet in economy was even pleasant).

I guess it was a pretty good travel year, because I can only think of four flights that deserve a place on this list. So here are my four worst flights of 2018, starting with my least favorite (each listing has a link to the trip report):

TAAG 777 first class Luanda to Sao Paulo

I love trying new airlines, and this year one of the most “exciting” new airlines I tried was TAAG Angola. I was so excited to fly with them. My flight from Lisbon to Luanda was pleasant enough, though the same can’t be said about the flight from Luanda to Sao Paulo.

After a significant delay where I was wondering if the flight would even depart (and I didn’t have a visa to enter Angola), we finally left. Unfortunately the crew, and in particular the purser, were awful.

The purser was very concerned about my picture taking, to the point that he aggressively approached me and demanded I delete all my pictures. The way in which they handled this made me feel exceedingly uncomfortable. He demanded to see both my camera role and phone notepad.

The service from the rest of the crew wasn’t exactly great either. When I woke up in the morning I was scolded for not having woken up earlier.

“Why did you sleep so long? We only have 30 minutes, you need to eat fast. I give you 10 minutes.”

I didn’t even ask to have breakfast!

Lufthansa A320 business class Zurich to Frankfurt

There aren’t many redeeming qualities to intra-Europe business class to begin with, given that it’s simply economy with a blocked middle seat. That in and of itself doesn’t land a flight on this list, though.

On this flight the purser (wrongly) accused me of videotaping the crew. She was completely off base, and frankly embarrassed me given that she stopped the safety demonstration to approach me about it. Rather than apologizing after the fact when I confronted her about it (especially given that she acknowledged she misunderstood her colleague), she doubled down on her stance.

So much for a Skytrax 5-star airline…

American 737 MAX business class Miami to Quito

American has gotten a lot of bad publicity for their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which they’ve squeezed extra seats into. The planes are uncomfortable, and even the first class seats are uncomfortable for sitting in for any extended amount of time.

Not only was my flight from Miami to Quito my first ever flight on an American 737 MAX, but it was also delayed by four hours due to a mechanical problem.

Unfortunately the return flight from Quito to Miami wasn’t much better — the crew was awful, and it was a redeye, so I didn’t get a wink of sleep.

Air India A321 business class Delhi to Colombo

While I had a pleasant flight on Air India’s 787, unfortunately the A321 didn’t offer a similar passenger experience. The plane was ancient, and had no power ports and no entertainment, and the seat padding was awful. Rather than having built-in TVs, they had little things that looked like TVs but rather just had a cardboard cutout in them.

It wasn’t the worst flight ever, as the crew was friendly and food fairly good, but I’d still generally avoid Air India’s A321 in the future.

Bottom line

The fact that these were the worst flights I can think of for 2018 means that it was a pretty good year of flying for me. My employee interactions on TAAG and Lufthansa were what made those flights so bad, but otherwise it has been a pretty uneventful year.

What was your worst flight of 2018?

Comments

  1. Business class in Lufthansa is the worst experience – simply because it is not a business class at all, just marketing promoted economy. Nothing can be worse.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up about air India. My wife and I are planning on being on a 321 one-stop MLE-TRV-DEL. Thanks to you, I’ll make sure our iPads are loaded with an extra movie, or two (those faux screens are pretty hilarious, though.)

  3. @Nate:
    Geez Lucky is in the business of producing a blog illustrated with photos. Sorry you don’t get his frustration when he is unnecessarily prevented from doing that.

  4. @Lucky, what is with the random numbers (9 best, 4 worst)? Is it just a Buzzfeed-esq style? Not a complaint or anything, just genuinely curious as to the randomness of it.
    Keep up the good work in 2019!

  5. Had a bad experience with LH at Frankfurt airport. We had to connect there (unfortunately) when traveling from Berlin to Boston. The first leg was delayed and we subsequently missed the FRA-BOS leg (as you do at Frankfurt when you have less then 2 hours to transit). We also had our baby with us and despite this, the staff at Frankfurt were very rude. They did, however, eventually re-book us on British Airways through Heathrow later that day which went well. Also, because of the delay, we got compensated MORE than the entire return flight was… BTW I only knew about the compensation because of this and similar blogs. The Frankfurt staff said absolutely zero about it (but gave us a 20 Euro food voucher..lol)

  6. “Rather than having built-in TVs, they had little things that looked like TVs”. Those are actually TVs, and every seat has them (although the non bulkhead ones are now covered by upholstery). AI decided that IFEs were too expensive to operate (AI really seems to struggle with IFEs among many other things) and thus just decided to INOP them across their 321 fleet.

  7. The Lufthansa one was my favorite. Perhaps as it was so surprising. And as far as TAAG that was definitely taking one for the team.

    Nice job, Ben

  8. Lucky you should have said you are a talent scout looking for models with big boobs for your next shoot. They all would have lined.

  9. @Petr

    You are exactly right. I have been on Lufthansa only 2 times…both on the same day in May 2018. I had Business Class flight from BUD to FRA to connect to my flight to LAX. Of course, other than the meal it was basically economy. While my Business Class flight had better seats, if I did not know that I paid $5,000 for the flights I would have just thought that I was in Economy. Nothing about the service or anything else was really different from what Economy seating and service used to be in the US over 35 years ago.

    I was lucky though….originally I would have paid almost $9,000US for the same RT flights. But using Google Flights I was able to pair together a Swiss Air flight and the Lufthansa flight…both owned by Lufthansa…and save about $3500US. I would have saved more except I had to buy a separate flight to go to my destination city, overnight at a hotel in BUD and fees to reserve the throne seats on Swiss Air.

    Lesson learned…..for great Business Class at a reasonable price….any Asian airline then the ME airlines. European and US are not that much different.

  10. Everyone of these was 100% predictable based on the carrier and/or routing. But none will top my horrific experience on Ethiopian.

  11. Hi Lucky,

    Love your blog and first time I’ve written. As your worst trip column reminded me of mine of worst of 40 years traveling over 250,000 miles per year. On Lufthansa, I was booked business class from Spain to Mumbai via Frankfurt. With a 4 hour layover and being a special services customer of United, I checked into the Senator club. The Senator receptionist commented my Mumbai flight was actually an Air India flight but a Lufthansa flight left 45 minutes later. He suggested I change flights since the service would be better. To make the change, I needed to go to the Lufthansa ticket counter though. As I had 4 hours, I went to the ticket counter and they said it was fine but I needed to get Air India to endorse the ticket. Now on a mission, I went to Air India who endorsed the ticket. Being outside of security, I checked into the Mumbai flight at the first class check in on Lufthansa, Very friendly and she even showed me her screen to pick out the best seat. Back to the Senators club and thanked the receptionist who commented it would be worth the hassle. With my boarding pass in hand, I proceeded to the gate 20 minutes ahead and was met by a staunch ticket agent . She said she had been waiting for me and my ticket was wrong. I showed her my boarding pass and recounted my journey in changing it. Her was response was it was wrong and would cost lots more money. As I had an actual boarding pass Lufthansa just issued, I politely said I’ve never been denied boarding . If there was a mistake, Lufthansa people made it but said I couldn’t miss this flight and asked what I could do to fix it. Her only remedy was for me to pay the $3,500 difference and it had to be done at the ticket desk more than 10 minutes away. Trying to keep calm, I said, my only goal was to get on the flight since I had important clients waiting for me. She stated it was “ impossible” . I thought maybe they gave away my seat but knew by the seating chart shown at check in, over 50% of the seats were open. With only 5 minutes to go, I started to raise my voice and demand her supervisor. She stated she was in charge of the flight and that wasn’t possible. She than called the airport police since she thought my anger was threatening her. The police arrived and the plane left. I insisted on taking her name and starting writing down every agent at the gate. I walked to the ticket counter and got served by the same person who told be it was fine originally. After seeing the boarding card, he looked worried but claimed I should have know the boarding pass wasn’t valid since the air ticket number started with the Air India code. The ticket people than wanted to keep my boarding pass and I took their names. No flight to India flew until the next day. In desperation, I went to the Air India counter and explained what happened. Luckily the very nice AI agent said she used to work for Lufthansa and she never heard of anyone being denied boarding with a Lufthansa issued boarding pass. Remarkably, she quickly arranged a first class ticket on BA to London to catch the AI London to Mumbai flight . She even upgraded me to first class.

    In the end, poor old Air India saved my ass while Lufthansa continued to claim it was my fault. Luckily I knew a top executive at Lufthansa and wrote him about the experience. Letters of apologies were offered and fruit baskets for a year arrived. My United special services reps made official complaints and they took copied of the boarding pass to show folks internally.

    The only reason I rated this the worst flight after tens of cancellations, delays, one air accident and countless missed connections was it was all caused by a system that couldn’t admit to being wrong.

    Sorry for the long email but thought as the road warrior you would find it interesting.

    Best,
    Geoff

  12. I fully agree with Lucky, most of the time it is the Crew that make a flight a good or a bad one – I could fill books about incidents. Sometimes i question the client orientation. For me the worst are still the US airlines, they make every flight a nightmare, based on their attitude towards clients. In Europe most of the time i had good experiences with business class.
    My worst experience 2018 was btw with Singapore airlines, horrible food and bad service…I wonder why everyone loves this airline, I was so disappointed.
    Happy new year to everyone!

  13. Just flew LH681 TLV-MUC yesterday, 31DEC, in coach on A-321 VERY PLEASANT 4-hr flight
    Yes A/C has has tight seating, very thin padding and, thankfully, limited recline (so the pax ahead of me wouldn’t jam into my knees). Flight was on time. My special meal requests were somehow lost (although I checked their web site 2 days earlier to verify that our meals request was recorded). But CABIN CREW Especially NICE! There were a few empty seats and crew reseated some middle seat passengers – opening up a 3-seater for my companion and myself. And they worked very hard to scavenge and assemble a suitable meal for my companion.
    Lufthansa may not care much about pax comfort but this crew really took care of us.

  14. Hello @Lucky in an avid reader and check every day for new posts. There’s a topic I’d like to see a post on because it’s something that’s very close to me as it’s happened twice to me already when flying long haul and that’s when the IFE doesn’t work. It happened to me first was back in 2015 on a United Airlines 777-200 flight from San Francisco to Tokyo Haneda and this time around the whole plane had its screen malfunction. The crew tried to reset the entertainment system over and over to no avail. We could only see the flight map and games but no movies or tv shows. The second time was last week on a British Airways 787-900 flight from Mexico City to London. This time the screens not working were only about 6 spread across two rows in economy. Once again we asked the crew to reset the entertainment system but it didn’t work. On the flight back from London to Mexico City my tv screen worked but a few screens a couple rows back didn’t. So it seems like this is an ongoing problem or at least happens more often than not. A third time it happened to my step mom on an Aeroméxico flight from Mexico City to Bogota but she was easily able to relocate to a new seat with a working screen. So I’d like to know really how often this happens and if it’s ever happened to you and what can be done.

    Thank you.

  15. First of all u click crew pictures without permission….top of it u call them rude if they offend…
    Eating when its time land…..u expect them not to do their pre landing flight safety related duties???
    Boss aircraft and restaurants are different

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