Dealing with airline hassles can feel eerily like being trapped in a bad relationship. Airlines, like too many exes, specialize in poor communication, have perfected the bait and switch, and come with serious baggage issues. Here are 10 sometimes-surprising ways that airlines borrow from the bad-ex playbook and may leave you ready to search elsewhere for a healthy relationship.
2. They’re Poor Communicators
Poor communication dooms a relationship. Your ex may well have had trouble sharing his or her feelings, leaving you frustrated and clueless. And while airlines don’t have feelings to hide, they do a stellar job of making passengers feel frustrated and clueless all the same. Carriers regularly bury key information about ancillary charges such as baggage fees. They often do a poor job of announcing delays. And, for whatever reason, they love to change departure gates at the last minute without keeping passengers in the loop effectively.
3. They Take Your Money
Did your last relationship make a mess of your heart and your finances? With a few weird exceptions (Virgin America, we’re looking at you), airlines tend to avoid matters of the heart, but like an ex, they’re perfectly willing to challenge your solvency. If it were just a matter of airfare prices, we wouldn’t resent it so much. But the degree of nickel-and-diming that takes place after you’ve purchased your ticket—including baggage fees, seat-choice charges, and even added costs to print a boarding pass at the airport—can easily start to seem like the mooching of a good-for-nothing significant other.
4. They’re Masters of the Bait and Switch
At first, things seemed perfect, right? In the early days, your ex was thoughtful, interesting, and bad-habit-free. But then he or she started to let it all hang out, and you discovered that the person you considered spending your life with actually hated travel, bad-mouthed your friends, and shunned deodorant. The bait and switch is not only a relationship mangler, it’s also a favorite airline tactic: They run a sale that tempts you to envision yourself lounging under a palm tree, drink in hand. But when you try to book the low price, you discover the advertised fare is a marketing lie designed to crush your dream.
5. They Want You to Settle for Less
Airlines, like exes, hate working too hard for your loyalty. “Stop being so critical, take me for who I am,” they say. What’s so wrong with eating Chinese takeout in front of reality-TV reruns every night—or with wedging yourself into a tiny seat for a bumpy cross-country flight? Why aren’t peanuts enough? (Weirdly, they both ask this.) Maybe it’s time to trot out the breakup line, “It’s not me, it’s you.”
6. They Disappoint Your Parents
Maybe your parents waited until you broke up to tell you (or perhaps they let you know sooner), but they never thought much of your ex. They knew you could do better. Turns out, they think the same about the airline that delayed your holiday flight home and caused you to miss the big family dinner. Airlines, like exes, are perfectly capable of—and often quite good at—disappointing those who depend on them. So the next time you absolutely have to be somewhere at a specific time and are choosing between two airlines, take a look at current on-time-performance statistics and opt for the carrier with fewer delays and cancellations. Your parents will thank you for it.
7. They Won’t Take Responsibility
So your ex ignored your request to take out the trash half the time and shrugged when you found the overdue electricity bill hiding in a magazine. At least he or she never invoked the Act of God clause to shirk responsibility. Airlines, like bad exes, don’t want the financial or emotional hassle of looking out for you when things go wrong. Airlines can invoke the Act of God defense, also known as force majeure, to dodge the legal responsibility to help passengers with lodging, transport, or other expenses incurred as a result of bad weather, airline strikes, labor or fuel shortages, and a whole host of other conditions “beyond the control” of the company. Check your carrier’s contract of carriage (hidden somewhere on every airline website) or our Ultimate Guide to Airline Contracts of Carriage for details about what constitutes such an event.
8. They Have a Lot of Baggage
Think your ex had a lot of baggage? Your airline has plenty too, and chances are it has lost more of it than your ex ever had to begin with—about two million pieces of luggage are misplaced, damaged, broken into, or delayed each year. In both relationships and air travel, you don’t always know what you’re getting into: Regrettable exes tend to unveil their baggage well into the relationship—and airlines? Airlines are perfectly happy to take your money first and then ask for more when it turns out you’d like to check baggage instead of dragging it onto the plane with you. Spirit Airlines even goes so far as to charge for any baggage at all: Its carry-on bag fee runs $25 to $100.
9. They Won’t Cook
If that gnawing in the pit of your stomach isn’t your gut telling you you’re in the wrong relationship, it’s probably just hunger. Most airlines—like exes who never pulled their weight in the relationship—don’t cook. These days, you’re lucky to get a tiny bag of mini pretzels on a flight. Even airlines that offer purchasable meals often limit their offerings to snack plates or sandwiches. Here’s a memo to airlines and exes: Don’t you know that the way to peoples’ hearts is through their stomachs?
10. They Bring Turbulence
Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. At least most pilots have the courtesy to announce when to expect turbulence, which is more warning than you get in a rocky relationship. But while you can look forward to smoother sailing after the relationship ends, you can expect a rougher ride in the air in the coming years. That’s because in some parts of the world (including the North Atlantic corridor connecting North America and Europe), turbulence is likely to get worse by mid-century.
11. They’re Cheap
Practical with money: a trait you could have lived with and admired. But your ex being downright cheap? That really wears on a relationship. Airlines exhibit similar tendencies: Think cost-cutting measures, such as fewer amenities and tighter seats, and the overall feeling that you’re getting the bare minimum (and sometimes even less). Is it too much to ask for an occasional glimpse of generosity in relationships and airline experiences? Perhaps.
The airplane bathroom is a crude and scary place. Make the experience better for everyone by heeding these simple, easy-to-follow behavioral guidelines.
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