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Airlines Are Making You Miserable On Purpose - Here's How And Why They Do It

Updated September 23, 2021 4.2k votes 947 voters 54.4k views11 items

List RulesVote up the worst things you have to deal with during air travel.

There's no question about it: airlines want you to suffer. From waiting in long security lines that move at a snail's pace to the struggle to find a cab at your destination, every moment of air travel is an exercise in hellish inefficiency. That's not to mention all the terrible people on planes. Flying really is a nightmare.

It would be one thing if air travel had to be the worst for some reason. But in reality, the ways airlines make you miserable are not only calculated, but they are a part of the business model. There are endless ways airlines make flying horrible, and they do it to make more money. These are just some of the dirty facts about flying that make it clear airlines care more about the bottom line than they do about the comfort of their customers.

  • Photo: Keith Williamson / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    They’re Literally Trying To Make Air Travel Worse

    The airline industry makes money off something called "calculated misery." The majority of their money comes from charging extra fees for perks like more legroom, extra luggage, and faster boarding time. That means the baseline service needs to be intolerable, so people are willing to pay more for a modicum of comfort.

    This cruel model makes money for airlines, so there's no incentive for them to stop.

    Is this the worst?
  • Photo: Mark Hodson Photos / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    They Intentionally Overbook Flights

    Airlines overbook flights on a regular basis. Why? Because they know not everyone will show up. They use algorithms to determine when they will overbook, how much to overbook, and the likelihood of needing to de-plane a few passengers. And while airlines ask for volunteers before involuntarily kicking anyone off a flight, every airline is legally allowed to choose the people they remove.

    Unfortunately, there's no federal law dictating why airlines boot passengers, meaning the selection process can be all up to the crew of that particular aircraft.

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  • Photo: Chimpanz APe / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    They Don't Clean Their Water

    The water in airplanes is absolutely disgusting. It's so disgusting, in fact, that flight attendants usually even refuse to drink the coffee or tea. Bacteria levels in a plane's spigot water can be well over the allowed US limit. And while airlines will often claim to comply with EPA standards, that usually only happens after they are forced by the EPA to retest their water after it fails to meet regulations.

    Failure happens shockingly often; one in every eight planes fall short of the EPA's standards on a regular basis. And, the longer your flight is, the dirtier the water.

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  • Photo: Pat Guiney / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    They Delay Food Service Until More People Fall Asleep

    It seems like food is rarely served on planes anymore. When it is, you'll be lucky to get a meal yourself. According to an anonymous flight attendant, "On night flights, we sometimes hold off on meal service as long as we can so that you’ll be asleep and we’ll have less to do."

    Is this the worst?