Updated on May 12th, 2020
After 30 years travelling the world, I share my favourite, amazing & funny short travel stories from the air. Fly with me to New Zealand, Australia, Amsterdam, Morocco & Los Angeles. My tales include meeting Michael Jackson & being struck by lightning…among many others!
I see travel as a combination of experiences & events which always seem to culminate in travel anecdotes. Anyone who knows me is familiar with how much I love to share my scrapes & adventures with others. I seem to have a lot! One of my best short travel stories is about the time I was attacked by lions in the Serengeti. Or when I spent my first night in Cuba in a police station, followed by my first night in Antigua. Then there’s my chequered experience learning to sail. Maybe finding out what it is like to be caught in a bushfire in Namibia is of interest?
With travel on hold, for now, it has given me time to reflect on my 30 years of travel, the many air miles covered, & as such some of the crazy travel experience stories I’ve accumulated along the way. When thinking about the hours I’ve spent in airports & planes, it’s unsurprising that a few experiences have stood out.
“For example, there is the time I was struck by lightning, got caught in a downpour while boarding & poured water all over my neighbour at the start of a long haul flight.”
Or the celebrity journeys where I flew with an entire professional rugby team, got stuck in Casablanca airport with the band The Stone Roses … & when I met Michael Jackson. Interested? Sitting comfortably? Then here we go…
My Best Short Travel Stories …Tales from the Air
Short Travel Stories – London to Los Angeles
It was a big flight for me, having tragically lost my husband, Terry 11 months earlier. I was heading off to meet my sister & family for a holiday to LA & then Hawaii. I hadn’t seen them since they had returned home a month after the tragedy that had left me coming to terms with my new life alone. During the trip, it would be my birthday, the first for 18 years without Terry.
“As I boarded the plane I was excited when I saw I was at the front with loads of legroom, a big seat & felt very special when they brought around a glass of champagne for me. I told myself “This is going to be a good flight!”
The lady next to me took her seat. She was on the phone talking loudly & didn’t really acknowledge me. I was fine with that. After take-off, we were offered a glass of water & I placed mine on the tiny drinks’ holder between us, then headed for the bathroom. On my return, I did the shimmy to try & get back into my seat while negotiating the pillow, blanket, water bottle & seat belt. Then it happened! I accidentally sat too early & ended up spilling my glass of water. For a small glass, it held a lot of water!
Pouring Water Over My Aeroplane Neighbour
That was it. Both me & the lady next to me were soaked. She was livid. I was mortified. I apologised profusely as she shouted at me for my stupid behaviour. She had a point. However, the more she went on about it, tutting & telling me how wet she was, I started to lose sympathy. I was wet too. My seat was wet & I hadn’t done it on purpose. I requested what she would like me to do to make the flight better for her. She asked if I had a clean pair of trousers she could have. Of course, I didn’t but I could hear her muttering in disgust as she headed for the toilet to clean herself up.
“What else could I do? Bear in mind this was a 10 hour flight & we had just taken off!”
I turned to the flight attendant for help. “Excuse me. I am an idiot & I accidentally spilt my water on this poor lady. It there anything at all you could do to help her?” She considered for a second before suggesting that she could move her to a vacant seat. Hallelujah!
Saving The Situation
When she returned from the bathroom, I informed her of the situation. She jumped at the opportunity to move (thankfully!). Then, as she sat back down I saw her bum hit the other glass of water.
“As it started to topple I grabbed hold of it, saving us from another soaking. I chose to keep this to myself. After all, it wouldn’t have helped!”
I breathed a sigh of relief as I used the newspaper given to me by the crew member to create a spongy barrier between my wet trousers & the sodden seat beneath. Needless to say, it wasn’t quite the relaxing treat of a flight I had hoped for…but at least I got 2 (wet) seats to myself…;)
Short Travel Stories -Auckland to Sydney
I had just spent a fantastic 2 months with my friend exploring the beauty of New Zealand. I had a one-year working visa for Australia & was heading back to stay with my sister & find a job. As I boarded the plane, I took my seat a few rows from the back, in the middle section. It didn’t take long before I started suspecting that something weird was going on. The whole of the back section was empty, apart from me, sitting all alone.
As the time for take-off approached there was a flurry of excitement which wafted it’s way to the back. In its wake along each aisle filed some of the biggest men I’ve ever seen. They looked at me in a bemused manner as they all took their seats, surrounding me at all angles.
“The guy to my right had a big smile on his face as he turned & said: “What did you have to pay to get this seat?” To which I replied, “I’m English, I have no clue who you are!”
Becoming An Honorary Member Of A Professional Rugby Team
It turned out they were the Auckland Warriors Rugby League team, heading for their fixture in Sydney. The player on the other side of me was huge. So much so we had to raise the armrest between us just so he could fit his thighs in! We particularly bonded (apart from the constant leg rubbing) when they started serving the meal. He winked as he spoke the immortal lines “They always order us low-fat meals. Would you like to swap? You look like you could lose a bit of weight.” Bit rude…but I agreed none the less.
The remainder of the flight was spent watching the rest of the passengers use the toilet more regularly than I’m sure was required as they came to the back to chat with my new friends. They brought papers & magazines to get autographs of their heroes. I may even have signed a few…just for fun! It’s not every day you become an honourary member of a professional rugby team, is it?
Short Travel Stories -Melbourne to Sydney
I had just spent a lovely few days with my sister, Al, visiting our cousin & his family in Melbourne. We had enjoyed their spectacular hospitality & eaten our body weight in amazing food as we always do when we visit. So much so we were exhausted & looking forward to the next few hours without actually consuming anything. As we waited in the departure lounge, the noise suddenly magnified & we realised that the skies had opened & Melbourne Airport was engulfed in more rain than I think I have ever seen.
They announced that no flights were leaving as there was too much rain for any of the ground crew to do their essential work. We joined our fellow travellers, sitting on the floor & waiting out the storm. Finally, an hour later, the weather had passed & our flight was being called for boarding. The first group were let through onto the tarmac, then it was our turn.
“As Al & I exited through the door, the heavens opened again. We tried to run but within seconds the ground was covered with an inch of water & we were both wearing flip flops. Moving quickly was impossible.”
There was nobody in front of us & it appeared that they had stopped everyone behind us. By the time we climbed the stairs & got onto the plane we both looked like we’d had a bucket of water poured over our heads.
Boarding A Plane Soaked To The Skin
For some reason, we expected our fellow passengers would have been caught too but everyone else was perfectly dry. As were the next group to enter the plane. In fact, all other passengers on the flight apart from the 2 of us were fine. They all seemed to have made the short walk without being hit by a drop. To make it worse, Al was wearing a white linen shirt. With the rain, it had gone completely see-through.
For the remainder of the thankfully short flight, as people passed to use the toilet, they always did a double-take. Without exception, the words coming out of their mouths were “What on earth happened to you two?”
Short Travel Stories -Marrakech to London…via Casablanca
As a wedding anniversary trip, my husband Terry & I had just enjoyed a long weekend in Marrakech. Despite the guidebook describing the climate as “hot, hotter, or hottest”, while we were there it had rained every day. We had made the most of our time by enjoying negotiations in the souks, developing a taste for sweet mint tea & trying to get our one pair of jeans dry before we had to pull them back on again. The day we were leaving the sun came out. Typical!
Stuck in Casablanca with The Stone Roses
Terry & I always loved a celebrity sighting & as we waited at Marrakech airport we spied one. Ian Brown, the legendary singer of UK band The Stone Roses came swaggering past. For the remainder of our time at the airport, we kept ourselves occupied with “Ian Watch”. At least it kept us entertained although we were disappointed to discover that he wasn’t on our flight.
“When we finally boarded, we hadn’t realised that our flight back was going to involve a quick stop in Casablanca, before continuing our journey home. When the shortstop seemed to last a little longer than expected we started to get restless.”
The air conditioning had been switched off, so it was getting hot. After about an hour we heard the infamous line “We are sorry. There is a fault with the plane. We need to be here for a while to fix it. You will need to leave the plane”. We formed an orderly queue in the aisle as we all filed off, expecting to be back in the next hour or so. It turned out we weren’t.
There is a tendency when we are on a flight delay, to form allies. We gang together with fellow passengers in the same predicament, form bonds & short-lived friendships as we deal with our unfortunate situation.
“There will always be people who seem to know everything when you know nothing. I like to attach myself to them in the hope of feeling in some way “in control”. Knowledge is power.”
On this occasion, Ian Brown’s band became our allies. We found out that due to an “unfortunate incident” on a British Airways flight a few years earlier, he refused to use the airline again. He flew with Air Maroc, leaving his bandmates to be stranded in Casablanca with us. They were the first to inform us that the flight crew had left the building. This was not a good sign. We were not heading off for a long time to come. In the end, we were there for 13 hours!
Passing The Time
I don’t know if you have ever visited Casablanca Airport, or if it has changed since my marathon sit-in, but there isn’t much there. We grappled with finding things to keep us occupied. Our possibilities were limited, with one café & a small shop that didn’t even sell a pack of cards. There was an England football match being played later that day but nowhere to watch it in the departure lounge. Then one of the band came up with a genius plan.
“We joined them in the queue to get our passports checked & stamped so we could “re-enter” Morocco. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has killed a few hours at an airport by going through immigration ‘just for fun’?!”
So, there we were at Casablanca Airport drinking beer & watching football with the Stone Roses. Not words I thought I would ever string together into a sentence!
Short Travel Stories -London to Amsterdam
It was a small plane & we were excited when we finally took off for the short flight to this beautiful city. As we started to approach the airport, the dark skies looked ominous. Then the heavens opened (once again!) & our plane was caught in the middle of a heavy downpour. As we were coming into land, the flight attendant took her seat at the front of the plane, facing us all.
When My Plane Was Struck By Lightning
Next thing we knew, there was a loud bang, the plane shuddered, went silent & the lights went off. I tensed, grabbed Gemma & we stared wide-eyed at each other for a few seconds before the lights came back on again. We fixed our gaze on the flight attendant. Gemma asked me, “Were we just struck by lightning?”
“The lady at the front looked back at us all, as if nothing had happened. Then she picked up the intercom & clearly had a conversation with the flight deck.”
In my head the conversation went like this:
Captain “The plane was struck by lightning. Do you think anyone noticed?”
Flight attendant “Yes”
Captain “Do you think I need to make an announcement?”
Flight attendant “Yes”
She then calmly replaced the handset & continued to look at us as the Captain came over the loudspeaker. He confirmed our suspicions but waylaid all our fears. Everything was fine & we would be landing in the next few minutes. It was with huge relief when we finally felt the undercarriage make contact with the tarmac. We had survived!
As we left the plane, Gemma decided to try her hand at investigating a little more. She asked the flight attendant “Has that ever happened before?”
“Interestingly, neither of us can remember her exact response but both came away with completely different answers.”
To Gemma, she had confirmed that it happened all the time & was nothing to worry about. As far as I was concerned, she told us that it was the first time she had ever experienced it. Who knows, but needless to say we relived the moment numerous times as we celebrated life & toasted our survival in several bars across Amsterdam that evening.
And finally for one my best Short Travel Stories about travelling through an airport…
Short Travel Stories -Los Angeles Airport
Terry had been on a work trip which took him to San Diego. To make the most of the opportunity, I had booked a last-minute flight to meet him for a week in Los Angeles. As a result, we were flying home with separate airlines so spending our last few hours together at the airport. We were both hungry but couldn’t seem to find anywhere that was serving food.
We spotted a security guard so went to ask where we could find the restaurants. She pointed & said “You see that group of people just outside the door? They are waiting for Michael Jackson. Turn left just before you get to them & go up the stairs, there’s loads of choice.”
As you now know, Terry & I loved a celebrity spot so when the opportunity to see the King of Pop presented itself, it was hard to resist.
“Underplaying & with a short attention span as usual Terry looked at me “Did she say, Michael Jackson? I’m hungry, we’ll give him 10 minutes.”
We headed off in the direction of the crowd. Some were clearly fans, others paparazzi & we got our camera out to join them. Everyone was just looking intently towards an insalubrious doorway which led into the airport. We weren’t there for long before the door opened & the crowds’ excitement peaked.
Meeting Michael Jackson
Out came a woman with a child under each arm, holding them close to her body in a very protective manner. Both had their heads covered completely with black lace veils which obscured their faces. I totally understand why, but couldn’t help but think how sinister they looked. The cameras went mad as they quickly scurried through the crowd & straight into a nearby parked car.
The anticipation was palpable. If his kids were there, then the legend couldn’t be far behind. Everyone resumed positions staring optimistically back at the door. Terry promised he would take some photos. My job was to find a good vantage point & just watch. I climbed up to balance on the wall of a flowerbed.
“The next thing we knew, he was there. The crowd rushed forward, a fan thrust an album in his face, his security guards pushed everyone away. He walked quickly & was gone in a flash. But we’d seen him.”
And Terry got some photos, not perfect but we did get some evidence! And we had actually only been there for 10 minutes. Thank you, Michael Jackson, for being so punctual! Then we went & ate noodle soup while wondering what the hell had just happened?
I hope you have enjoyed the reflections & my short stories on travel from my hours & years spent at airports & on flights. I also hope that someday soon I will be able to add to these when we are allowed to travel again. However, for now, I still have a lot of stories to share. Why not Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss any?
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