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airplane seatsA couple of weeks ago, we highlighted The Most Bizarre Travel Stories of 2011 and invited readers to share their own tales of travels gone awry. You responded with a raft of uncanny anecdotes about everything from holy rollers in Nigeria to a harrowing van ride in Rome.

But our favorite story came from Christina S., who shared a tale of a truly “breath-taking” flight to Chicago. Christina has won a set of packing cubes and a pair of SuperSmartTag luggage tags. Her winning story is below. (Editor’s Note: This comment has been edited for length. To read the full version, see Christina’s original comment.)

“We boarded American Airlines flight 547 in a relatively orderly fashion. Our flight pushed back from the gate a few minutes early, but then we stopped and sat on the tarmac for a few minutes before the pilot came on the intercom system and said, ‘I love working for American Airlines, I do. I love flying. Except on days like this. We’re getting a message from the control center that there’s an issue with our air-conditioning unit, which also controls the cabin pressurization system. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to pull back into the gate to let maintenance take a look at it.’

“They put the entertainment system on, because apparently some people want to watch ’30 Rock’ at 6 a.m., & flight attendants even came through the aisles to hand out water while we were waiting. A little while later, maintenance had finished up their fixing & we were on our way. Before taking off, the captain said that we would be flying at a lower altitude — only 28,000 feet — as is required when maintenance is done on the cabin pressurization system. My husband commented to me that he hated to fly on planes that had maintenance issues worked on, to which I responded, ‘Well, if you’re going to have an in-flight emergency, having the oxygen masks drop is probably the best one to have since it’s not that big of a deal & it’s not like the plane is crashing.’

“Psychic?

“Perhaps.

“Soon, our flight was on its way, cruising over to Chicago at 28,000 feet. The flight attendants were about halfway done with drink service & I was snoozing on my husband’s shoulder. Some yelling & loud voices woke me up. A woman across the aisle was having a medical emergency. The flight attendants hopped to it in a controlled, professional manner. Emergency bags were fetched. Giant oxygen tanks appeared out of nowhere. A doctor was summoned (a young man in a hoody responded). After the woman had come to from being out cold with the supplemental oxygen, the woman next to her fainted. Then someone else complained about not feeling well. Meanwhile, my husband & I were half watching the situation/half trying not to be nosy. I said to him, ‘I bet we divert, this seems like a big medical issue.’ Almost simultaneously, the flight attendant came on the intercom & said, ‘There’s a problem with the cabin pressurization. We’re going to drop the [oxygen] masks.’

“Once our masks were on, I looked at my husband & we both laughed. What kind of adventure had we gotten ourselves into? Here’s the Twitpic seen ’round the world of the masks down (it was even picked up by a U.K. newspaper!).

The Worst Airplane Horror Stories

“By the time the flight attendants got around to make sure everyone had their masks on & to check to see that everyone was okay, we were below 13,000 feet, the level where supplemental oxygen isn’t necessary. I took my mask off & could breathe normally. The pilot announced that we were diverting to the airport in Dayton, Ohio.

“We flew at a low altitude for a while & landed normally. As we taxied to the gate, we saw a fire truck & ambulance speeding across the tarmac toward our plane. I commented that it was surely the most exciting thing that had ever happened to these emergency responders. They boarded the plane (the firefighters in metallic, fire-resistant suits) & attended to those who needed medical attention. Once those folks were off the plane, the rest of us got off like normal.

“It was definitely the weirdest, craziest travel experience of 2011 — and probably one of the craziest travel experiences I’ve ever had!”

Can you top this story? Share your most bizarre travel tale in the comments!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

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