In 2007, a leading neuropsychologist likened passing through Heathrow to facing a riot. Two years on, we consider whether the air travel experience has improved and list 20 of air travellers' biggest gripes.
On the ground
1. Surprise charges
An all-too-common practice that begins when you book the tickets and continues at the airport. The "headline fares" may look astonishingly good value - but they rarely represent the final bill.
European airline Ryanair's website might advertise "free" flights but once you've added on the "optional" extras - online check-in (£5 [A$8.80] per person per flight - unless you have a Visa Electron), card payment handling fees (£5 per person per flight), baggage check-in fees (£30 for one bag per return flight, £100 for two), fees for carrying sporting or musical equipment (£80 for a return flight) - the true cost is often considerably higher.
Australian airlines are no longer allowed to advertise 'free' seats, but must include taxes and charges in advertised fares.
There can be other surprises when booking though. Tiger Airways, for example, charges a $6 'convenience fee' to pay for fares via its website and $5 to select a seat. Choice yesterday gave Qantas a 'Shonky' award for its $7.70 credit card surcharge per passenger for domestic flights.
Fall foul of an airline's myriad regulations and you'll pay even more at the airport. Ryanair recently removed all its airport check-in desks, meaning all passengers must print their own boarding cards. Misplace yours and the airline will print out another one for you - at a cost of £40 per person. If your bags are too heavy you'll face yet more charges.
Tip: check in online, without hold luggage and don't lose your boarding card
2. Getting to the airport
From the very start, your patience will be tested. For those with young children, there's additional packing, extra passports to carry and restless minds to occupy. For everybody else, there is a slow crawl along overloaded roads, and - with regional airports losing routes as airlines seek to cut costs - we are being forced to travel greater distances.
Tip: pick your departure time carefully; avoid premium train services; try staying at an airport hotel.
3. Airport parking
Airport car parks can be expensive and are often miles from the terminal.
Tip: book a parking space well in advance or get a friend or relative to drop you off
4. The airport
Where do you start? With a few notable exceptions they are overcrowded and poorly-designed. The gates are often too far from security and the seats - with rigid immovable armrests - are impossible to sleep on.
They are built with little thought other than how to best accommodate more shops.
Tip: book a club-class lounge
5. The shops
For a start, there are far too many. Removing just one sprawling duty-free from your average airport terminal would create enough room for everyone in the airport to sit down.
And they're expensive. Does $3.50 represent a fair charge for a bottle of water? Especially when you're probably going to have it confiscated by security 20 minutes later. A sandwich is likely to set you back $10, and the only place to enjoy an alcoholic drink is usually a grotty pub.
Tip: pack your own sandwiches
6. Ridiculous exchange rates
Head for the high street: airport kiosks are farcically uneconomical. A Which? report published earlier this year revealed that holidaymakers will lose as much as 10 per cent of their holiday spending money if they utilise airport bureaux.
7. Surly or unprofessional staff
Everyone has their own story to tell. From stone-faced check-in staff to surly security...
Earlier this year Jet2's chief executive Phillip Meeson unleashed a foul-mouthed tirade at his own staff due to the length of time it was taking them to deal with customers.
8. Carry-on baggage allowance
If all airlines adopted the same policy, things would be far less stressful. But rules on dimensions and weight vary considerably. Jetstar and Qantas allow one main piece of cabin baggage (plus one smalller item) and the dimensions must not exceed 115cm (the total when width, length and depth are added together). But while Jestar allows a maximum weight of 10kg, Qantas allows only 7kg. However, Jetstar and Virgin charge $10 extra on the fare if you want to check-in a bag.
Even if your brand new trolley case meets these criteria, once you've stuffed it with a week's worth of clothes (in a bid to avoid costly baggage charges) it may have expanded beyond the limit, leaving you with little option but to pay to check-in your bag anyway (at up to twice the normal cost).
Tip: check the rules and play it safe
9. Security screening
It was recently announced that the dreaded liquids ban is likely to remain in place for a further five years. Airports have even started to cash in on the policy: clear plastic bags are no longer dispensed free of charge at either Luton or Manchester airports in the UK, instead passengers must pay £1 (A$1.80) to purchase them from a vending machine.
Tip: pre-pack your liquids (under 100ml) in plastic bags
The latest figures show that Australia's airlines have shown some improvement this year compared with the same time in 2008. Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics figures for September 2009 show airlines averaged 83.2 per cent for on time departures, and 82.1 per cent for on time arrivals, while 1.2 per cent of flights were cancelled. The equivalent figures for September 2008 were 79.6 per cent for departures, 77.6 per cent for arrivals and 1.6 per cent for cancellations.
But that still means almost one in every five flights leaves late.
Tip: for information on routes most frequently delayed, see www.flightstats.com
In the air
11. Leg room
No matter how often you fly, it's still a shock to see how little leg room economy class passengers are permitted. And in-flight comfort is unlikely to get any better: earlier this year Ryanair even proposed upright seating.
Tip: visit www.seatguru.com to see which airlines offer the most leg room.
It's hardly preventable, but even the most confident fliers are left with an anguished look on their faces when the aircraft suddenly lurches 50 feet towards oblivion. As for the nervous fliers among us...
13. Expensive food and drink
A survey last month by Nowfly revealed that Ryanair charges the most for in-flight snacks and drinks. A 187ml bottle of wine (a small glass) will set you back £5.35 (A$9.44), while a 330ml can of beer costs £4.05 (A$7.14). Other low-cost airlines fare little better: the cheapest cup of tea in the survey was offered by Bmi, at £1.80. In Australia, Jetstar charges $6.50 for wine and $6-$7 for beer. Tiger Airways charges $6 for beer and wine.
And don't drink too much, Ryanair has also talked about a £1 charge for using the toilet.
Tip: pack a sandwich in your hand luggage; fly with a full-service airline
14. Terrible food
On board your average no-frills flight, options are unlikely to extend beyond the obligatory ham and cheese or chicken salad sandwich. And what you get for around $8 is almost inevitably two slices of soggy bread, a sorry looking morsel of poultry and a token slice of unripened tomato.
15. Constant salesmanship
Once you're in the air all most passengers want to do is switch off or sleep. But the constant stream of announcements offering unnecessary services and goods renders this virtually impossible - from perfume and cuddly toys to car hire, train tickets and scratch cards.
Tip: invest in ear plugs and an eye-mask
16. Mobile phones
Despite many complaints, in-flight mobile phones have arrived. A host of foreign airlines now offer the service, including Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airlines and Royal Jordanian. Ryanair now permits mobile phone use (including voice calls) on a number of its aircraft, while British Airways permits text messaging and emails on its London City-New York service. Qantas is planning to allow mobile phone use during flights in the future, but does not have a start date yet.
17. Polluted cabin air
An investigation by London's Telegraph into the quality of cabin air last year revealed worrying evidence of toxic fumes contaminating aircraft, a problem that may cause major health problems. The issue has been an open secret among pilots and cabin crew for years, and is caused by cabin air being drawn directly from the aircraft's engines.
Earlier this year, further evidence was uncovered by a German television network. It claimed that 28 out of 31 swab samples secretly collected from on board passenger aircraft contained high levels of tricresyl phosphate, found commonly in jet oil. Some medical experts claim exposure to the toxin can lead to drowsiness, headaches, respiratory problems and neurological illnesses.
Tip: Nearly all types of aircraft have been affected by contaminated air, but CAA records show that the British Aerospace 146, the Boeing 757, the Airbus A319 and the Embraer 145 seem to be particularly susceptible.
18. Other passengers
Smelly, scratching, sniffing, sneezing, snoring and portly fellow passengers. And crying babies.
Tip: travel with a large group of well-groomed friends or family
19. Lost luggage
A perennial problem. Even when your airline has lost your luggage, don't expect to be refunded in full: a report issued earlier this year by the Air Transport Users Council claimed that airlines frequently short change passengers when issuing compensation for misplaced bags.
Tip: don't lose the luggage stub given out at check-in; take a change of clothes onto the aircraft (read more on how to avoid losing your bag)
20. You've arrived - but not where you expected
You're actually 80 kilometres from your destination. Anyone who has arrived at Barcelona Girona will understand this grievance. As will any foreigner arriving at the recently rebranded London Oxford Airport.
Tip: double check your destination and plan your onward travel; check our guide to misleading airport names
What we didn't have room for... forcing passengers to purchase headphones to listen to in-flight entertainment, trolley services keeping people up on night flights, the queue at the car rental outlet...
- The Telegraph, London with Craig Platt