Possible Flight Problems

Problems that may occur before or on a flight

Presently, flying presents several problems that can be averted through simple awareness. Certain well known flight problems can make a passenger lose time, money and may even pose health risks. Before flying, passengers should make a list of everything that needs to be taken care of, both before and during the flight, specifically any items or circumstances that require one's special attention, such as medication and diet. Here are some of the most common flight problems.

Preparing for in-flight technical difficulties

Although flying is very safe, the fear of malfunction at 30000 feet is rarely far from a passenger's thoughts. As unpredictable as these are, there are steps passengers can take to help save lives in the case of emergency, such as being familiar with the emergency equipment and the location of emergency exits. Other minor flight problems such as a malfunctioning seat, reading light, earphones, etc, should be addressed early to avoid discomfort on long flights.

Avoiding long lines and red tape

Passengers can avoid time-consuming hassle at airports by getting informed ahead of time of the procedures in place at the specific airports and airlines that they will use. It often pays to do as much research as possible in advance, online. Nowadays, one can book, pay and check-in before setting foot in an airport. Passengers should also check with their airline about the standard procedure in place to handle unexpected cancellations, delays and other flight problems.

Taking precautions to minimize health risks

In long flights, passengers should not remain seated for extended periods of time as this can cause life-threatening blood clots. Simply getting up from one’s seat and walking for a few minutes will reduce this risk. Other health related flight problems passengers should be aware of are the risks of pressure changes to the ear, of the alteration of sleeping patterns, and the accompanying jet lag that can cause havoc to the nervous system.

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Fear of Flying

The fear of flying is quite a widespread phenomenon among airline passengers. Some passengers might experience only a very mild fear of flying, while others can develop a serious anxiety disorder and consciously start to deprive themselves of using planes for travelling purposes. A fear of flying may prevent a person from visiting family, relatives and friends, or visiting other countries for leisure purposes or work-related business. In extreme cases flying might become absolutely impossible for the very unfortunate passenger.

What Exactly is the Fear of Flying?

The fear of flying is a strong feeling of discomfort the passenger might experience during or before the flight due to personal reasons. For example, the person might be afraid of heights. Some people are scared that the plane will fall into water. Other passengers have a fear of being in closed, crowded spaces and not being able to control the situation. Sometimes, a passenger might have previously experienced some unfortunate psychological trauma connected to flying and they just cannot get over that.

How to Deal with a Fear of Flying

The first thing the person has to do is to accept that a fear of flying won't go away by itself. If the fear of flying is mild, here are some tips which might help someone to feel better during a flight. For example, the person might familiarise themselves with some statistical data as to why flying is actually safe. The person might also pretend during the actual flight that they are travelling by bus or car and convince themselves that nothing bad is going to happen. Finally, the person might also contact the doctor and ask for some calming medicine which is safe to take during the flight. Should the fear of flying become very strong, the person could get psychological help from professional sources.

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Disruptive Passengers

Disruptive Passenger Behaviour can be defined as abusive behaviour exhibited by passengers, either at airports or aboard flights. The number of disruptive passengers is growing and several reasons contribute to this increase, such as the reduction in passenger space, the fear of flying and the excessive consumption of alcohol. Unruliness, violence and inappropriate touching can occur on any flight. People are becoming less tolerant of problems and delays and alcohol, an element present in many reported episodes, inflames disruptive behavior.

Disruptive passengers threaten the safety of the entire flight

Inappropriate behaviour by other passengers is similar to problems seen in other public places. In this case, it occurs at 35,000 feet and the aggressor can't be thrown out the door. This being said, Zero Tolerance polices must be communicated to passengers and educational materials explaining regulations ruling interference with flight personnel must be provided. The amount of alcohol that passengers drink on board must be limited, and admittance to a plane must be refused if they turn up drunk.

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Flight Turbulence

There are many problems that could face an airline passenger during a flight, most of which can be overcome easily if prepared with the knowledge of how to deal with them effectively. One such problem is flight turbulence, which is quite common during a flight, but nevertheless can cause distress to any passenger that is unaware of its nature. Flight turbulence is not dangerous, although it could result in minor injuries if a passenger has not taken the proper precautions.

Dealing with air pockets during flight turbulence

When hitting air pockets during flight turbulence, the aircraft is knocked around to some extent, resulting in a very bumpy ride. It is important to be aware of the 'fasten seatbelt' signs, and if they should light up, then to do as they say as soon as possible. Also, pay attention to any additional instructions given by the flight attendants. Remember that aircraft are built to easily withstand the stresses caused by turbulence, so there is nothing to worry about.

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Airlines are in constant dialogue with both local and international Meteorological Offices, regarding the weather at departure and destination airports. Decisions are made for flights to proceed as scheduled or be subject to delay. Any concerns as to the affect of weather conditions on your flights should be addressed to the airline.

The emergence of clouds of volcanic ash

Clouds of volcanic ash are a weather problem. High levels of hard and abrasive ash particles can hinder aircraft operation. Airfields are equipped with technology for the detection and measurement of particle size and density. The ash can cause a flight to be diverted or its take-off and landing delayed.

The presence of thunder and lightening

Thunder and lightening is a weather condition that is rarely the cause of a flight delay. In the event of an aircraft being struck by lightening, the aluminium shell contains conductive fibres that cause the lightening to travel along the exterior and then harmlessly out into the surrounding air.

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Administrative Issues

While the majority of flights are unhindered by difficulties, there are always going to be a small minority that suffer from problems, a lot of which fall under the category of administrative issues. The most common of these issues will be expanded upon below, along with tips for passengers to follow when and/or if these situations arise.

Air traffic controller strike

Air traffic controllers control the flight paths of every plane entering and leaving an airfield. When these controllers go on strike, the operations of an airport are effectively shut down, as planes can neither leave nor enter the airfield as it is not safe for them to do so. Strikes usually occur on a nationwide level, leaving passengers stranded in the country until the controller’s demands are met or they give in to governmental pressure. Any passenger who finds their flight has been delayed due to an administrative issue like a strike, should contact their airline as soon as possible. Airlines often offer accommodation for their passengers until the strike is resolved.

Changes to flight routes

The passenger who finds that their flight route has been changed will often find that the time of their flight will also have changed. Flight routes can change for a number of reasons, the most common being due to inclement weather, or difficulties that the pilot has encountered while the plane is in the air. An example of weather altering flight routes is the recent Icelandic volcanic ash incident. Many flights had to extend their routes so as to avoid encountering the airborne ash. This increased the flying time of those flights. Travel insurance can sometimes cover the administrative issues of delays and increases in flying time.


It is rare to find that a flight has been overbooked, although it does occur. When these administrative issues arise, the airline is often responsible. Passengers who find they do not have a seat booked on their flight will often be compensated in some way by the airline responsible.


Various administrative issues can cause flight delays, such as many of the above issues. Delays can also be caused by bad weather. In any instance of flight delay, passengers should contact their airline and find out the cause of the delay and how long it will last. Some delays are as short as an hour, whereas others can be as long as five hours. In Europe, a delay of three hours means that each passenger is entitled to compensation of up to €600 from the airline.

Flight cancellation

Cancellations occur when the airline has purposely cancelled the flight. In almost every instance of flight cancellation, the passenger is entitled to some sort of compensation or reimbursement. Cancellations are an unfortunate aspect of air travel, but one that does not occur with too much regularity. One way of reducing the hassle of these administrative issues is to check the flight times before travelling to the airport. Passengers who check whether their flight is arriving on schedule before they leave for the airport can often ascertain whether their flight will be cancelled before making the trip.

Technical Difficulties

These difficulties arise from issues in the plane itself; these can affect any part of the plane, from the breaking system to the air conditioning system. They sometimes are only discovered when the plane is already flying, resulting in the need for the plane to change its flight path. Technical administrative issues will require the expertise of engineers and mechanics to diagnose and fix the problem.

Lack of personnel

A lack of personnel, whether they work for the airline or the airport, can cause administrative issues as there are not enough employees to complete the administrative duties necessary for the flight to depart. These administrative issues may result in short delays for passengers who have already booked their flights. Many of these administrative issues can be a cause of stress for the passenger when they cause a flight to be delayed, cancelled, or re-routed. In all of these situations, it is necessary for the passenger to contact both their airline, and their travel insurance. The airline will be able to provide information on the specific nature of the issue involved, and the passenger’s options. These options will include finding alternative accommodation and their rights regarding compensation. The passenger’s travel insurance will be able to provide more detailed advice about compensation to the passenger.

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Technical Difficulties

It is not uncommon for airlines to delay, or even to cancel a flight due to technical difficulties arising with the plane or airport and leading to problems with the flight process or to flight delays. It can cause a significant inconvenience to passengers by making them run late for their personal matters. A flight delay can be also very costly for airlines experiencing this unfortunate incident. It can lead to a series of other unfortunate events for the passengers like missing a connecting flight reserved during their trip.

Technical problems leading to flight disruptions and their solutions

Different minor and major technical difficulties with the plane or airport can cause flight delays or disruptions in the flight process. It can be a minor issue with the plane engine or fueling, problems with loading baggage, a maintenance problem with the aircraft. Extremely bad weather conditions or air traffic problems can also affect the flight process. Any technical difficulties with plane discovered before the flight, which might endanger the safety of passengers or the crew, must be fixed before the aircraft can fly. Otherwise, the flight should be delayed and appropriate procedures have to be put in place in order to ensure safety.

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Health Problems

Taking a flight can be a stressful situation that puts the body under unusual strain, leading to more or less severe health problems. In-flight medical emergencies (IME) are actually rare and only in unusual occasions lead to serious complications, but there are a number of symptoms that every traveler should be aware of, as well as simple precautionary measures, like drinking water, that can be taken to minimize risk. Below is a list of common health issues that might be encountered on a plane, but anyone with a pre-existing medical condition should consult their specialist before flying.

Venous thrombosis

Venous thrombosis can occur when a blood clot forms in a vein, which can lead to a life-threatening situation if the clot enters the lungs. There are general factors which highly increase the risk of venous thrombosis, particularly old age, but during a flight the risk is increased due to lack of mobility and dehydration. Passengers who are at particular risk should wear pressure stockings as prescribed by their doctor, but for most passengers without any serious health problems it will be sufficient to ensure proper blood circulation by getting off their seats to walk or stretch at regular intervals. Airlines can offer advice on simple exercises that only take a few minutes and are enough to avoid the risk of venous thrombosis during a flight.

Aerotoxic syndrome

Aerotoxic syndrome is one of the long-term health problems experienced by cabin crew members, but it can affect anyone to a certain degree. The syndrome occurs when some contamination from the engine enters the plane's air supply. Its symptoms can be acute if there is a high level of contamination in one episode, or long-lasting in the case of regular repeated exposure to low levels of contamination. Symptoms to watch out for if they occur suddenly during a flight are dizziness, vertigo, tunnel vision, loss of consciousness, seizures and other neurological disorders.

Ear barotrauma

Ear barotrauma is quite a common health problem on flights, although rarely serious. The term refers to pain, discomfort and possible damage to the ear caused by changes in pressure, which occur in every flight. Discomfort is often experienced during ascent and descent, when the cabin pressure changes, and swallowing or yawning can help. Some regular fliers find that chewing gum during take off and landing is enough to prevent the pain, but those with pre-existing medical conditions should be particularly careful to avoid permanent damage to the ear. Having a blocked nose due to a cold or an allergy can increase the risk, and it is highly recommended to take precautionary measures in these cases.

Back and lower body ache

Back and lower body ache is common in flight passengers, due to the increased strain that taking a flight puts on the body. The reduced space and mobility in the cabin contribute to this, but also the fact that before and after a flight most passengers experience some level of stress, stand in a queue and carry heavy luggage with them. Some simple exercises, making use of trolleys and available assistance can help prevent strained muscles, and drinking plenty of water is essential to prevent all health problems associated with flying.

Medical emergencies

Medical emergencies are rare, normally minor, and often the result of a pre-existing condition. The most common health problems are related to the gastrointestinal system or heart conditions. Airplanes are equipped with equipment and trained staff to treat emergencies on board, which means flights rarely have to be diverted due to a medical emergency.

Labor and birth

Labor and birth rarely occur on a plane, because there are strict medical guidelines that prevent women from flying at an advanced stage of their pregnancy. However, it is not unheard of for a plane's crew to have helped a woman give birth prematurely on a plane, but there are normally no further health problems if the baby and the mother can be taken to a hospital soon enough.

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