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Monday, June 11, 2012

Flying the Friendly Skies? Yeah, Right.



 
This past week was a very stressful one for me. First, I needed to wrap up the third book in my Brides of Waterloo Trilogy. But I was also flying out to Atlanta on Friday morning. I work really well under a deadline, so I set myself a finishing date of Thursday at 4:00pm. I made my deadline, which meant that I wrote 15,000 words in two days. Which explains why I arrived at DFW airport the next day looking like I had been shot from a cannon.

Here’s the thing about flying. I hate it, but I view it as a necessary evil. I think of it like my yearly OB-GYN appointment—something essential but to be dreaded at all costs. The only way I can make it manageable is to arrive EARLY so I have plenty of time to be herded through security, find my gate, and then sit there for an hour staring at CNN while waiting for my plane.

DFW is, generally speaking, more efficient than a lot of airports when it comes to security—there’s not one big human funnel, like at LAX, but several small security checkpoints. Even so, when I arrived, the security checkpoint I went to had a 90 minute wait. OK, fine. I had about 90 minutes before my plane started boarding. I would squeak in just in time. Perspiration began to bead my brow. But then an airport employee walked by, muttering that there was “NO one in line at gate A15” so about 15 of my fellow travelers and myself filed out of line like a military brigade to find the elusive gate A15.

Down the escalator. Outside. Walk along the special construction zone sidewalk. Up the escalator. Inside. WE looked like a bunch of baby chicks dawdling along without a mama duck. And guess what? Gate A15 had a line that was about 45 minutes long.

“Too bad they don’t know about Gate A10,” one employee laughed to another. Our ears pricked up, and all 15 of us went in search of Gate A10.

Did I mention that I was wearing new high-heeled sandals that are adorably cute but were now rubbing huge welts on my big toe? I didn’t? Let me mention it now so you can get a good idea of how I felt at this point, hobbling along in pain.

At the checkpoint of the mysterious gate A10, we all queued up like good little ducklings, and immediately someone had to cut in line. “I’m sorry,” she breathed, toting 6 carry-on bags and a laptop past me, “but my flight leaves at 10:30.” I didn’t mention to her that mine left at 10:15. She was determined that line jumping would be the thing saving her from sprinting through the airport, so more power to you, sister.

Except...she loaded all of her carry-on bags on the belt without pushing them through, waltzing her way through the metal detector without so much as a by-your-leave. So I couldn’t put my stuff down. Is there some FAA regulation that prevents you from giving your fellow traveler’s bags a jolly good shove so you can be on your way too? Was a SWAT team lurking nearby, waiting to take me out if I laid a finger on her stuff?
I took a chance. Poke. The bags didn’t move. She waited patiently on the other side. My other ducklings were beginning to grumble. Poke. No movement. I looked at the security guard for guidance. He stared at his screen. Poke. Finally, he looked up. “Just push it.”

“It’s not mine!” I yelped, and shoved with all my might. Then I loaded my single backpack and those dratted sandals on the conveyor belt, but Miss “My Fifteen Minutes Are More Precious Than Yours” was still clogging up the qeue on the other end, her half-dozen traveling bags, shoes, laptop, travel pillow, and heaven knows what else still piled up.

I walked to my gate, blister-inducing sandals in hand, and longed for the days of luxury travel. A porter carrying my bags. No security lines. Large, roomy seats. A hot towel. A free soda and something to nibble. Instead, I was wedged between two 250 pound men for the duration of my flight, my arms crossed at my elbows so I wouldn’t rest against either of them. I couldn’t reach my wallet, so I went without food or water for the whole flight.

I hate to fly, and it shows. If you could change one thing about air travel, what would it be? I fly home today, and this time I selected my seat--a window one. What else should I do to make it bearable?

17 comments:

  1. Flying sucks these days. And you can take that from the travel manager side of my persona. 40+ hours a week, I manage the travel for a fairly high maintenance consulting firm. But I get why they're high maintenance. They travel twice a week 50 weeks out of the year. I'd be high maintenance too (and more of a diva than I already am.)

    Their secret - airline status. Makes life a whole lot easier. Better seats, less time in security. Not something the rest of us have, however. So flying still sucks for us.

    I travel Southwest if I can, that way I can check bags for free and not have to worry about what I have with me on the plane other than my purse or my laptop. But they don't fly everywhere, so that's a problem.

    Listening to your story, I don't have anything to offer except maybe more comfortable shoes. I always look like a refugee. An oversized comfy shirt. Jeans and either slip on shoes or comfy sneakers. If I have to travel, I'm going to be comfortable. I can look good whenever I get to my destination.

    And I never care if I have to shove someone else's bags. I've done that more than once. ;) I do hate the attitude of most TSAs out there. Give anyone authority over someone else and you have the makings of a power hungry termagant.

    Sorry your airport experience was less than ideal. But you're right. The days of flying the friendly skies have come to an end. Flying is a necessary evil.

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    1. Ava, I love those suggestions. I will definitely take your advice about comfy shoes next time. I was ready to leave my sandals in a trash can in Atlanta, but vanity prevailed. LOL!

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  2. I agree with Ava. I've stopped caring what I look like. I come to the airport in yoga pants and flip flops. Because I live in Bangalore, India. And when I travel, it's usually in the company of two small children.

    Believe it or not, there are plus sides to the kids. #1 I'm guaranteed to sit by two 30lb boys, instead of wedged between two 250lb boys. More leg room too! #2 Airlines so far have been very good to me. We always manage to get seated in the bulkhead area, which means we generally have all the room in the world for our legs. At 5'2", you'd think the leg room wouldn't matter; but try not moving them for a 23 hour journey. And #3, my kids so far have been troopers, and my four year old has never experienced a complete breakdown.

    So my advice matches Ava's - dress like a refugee. And if possible, travel with kids. :)

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    1. Hi Lorenda! Thanks for stopping by. This is great advice. Usually I travel with my daughter and husband, and you're right--that way you get a whole row to yourselves! And next time, it's yoga pants and flip flops all the way.

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  3. Lily,

    That sounds like a miserable trip. I always take the aisle seat because I can get up when I need to and I can lean into the aisle if I need to get some breathing space. I also pack snacks and carry on a bottle of water. Then I get everything set up before we take off. Water bottle, snack, and book in the pocket in front of me. That way I don't have to get under my seat if I have no room to move. I also dress for comfort and carry a light jacket in my bag just in case.

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    1. Hi Samantha! I got an aisle seat on the way home. I flew Spirit and they make you pay to choose your own seat. I paid $18 for a window but when I got to my seat, a father and his son were there. "Can he pleeease have the window? It's his first flight." What could I say? But I lost $8 because the aisle seats are cheaper. I'm never flying Spirit again. They charge for EVERYTHING!

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    2. I won't book Spirit for my clients. I don't care what the fare is. They have so many hidden costs and they are a nightmare to work with. And like I said, my clients are very high maintenance. ;)

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    3. Ava, the guy who was flying next to me with his son was charge $80 to gate-check a bag. While it still technically fit under the seat, it was also technically an inch over their size limits. I thought that was ridiculous. Spirit lost 2 customers just on that flight that day.

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  4. All my nice clothes and cute shoes get packed. LOL. I wear comfortable slip on shoes, a wireless bra (because, yes, my underwire bras have set off the security people before, who've then decided they have to pat me down), and jeans/t-shirt/sweatshirt.

    Ava has good advice on taking Southwest if you can. For some of the flights I've taken lately, I've flown American because it was significantly cheaper--and then paid the upgrade fee when I checked in to fly first class. That means I get to go through the shorter security line, I can check up to 3 bags for the fee (which is less than the cost of checking 3 bags!), and they bring the hot towels and a full meal around. Well worth the extra money, IMO. But that's just for me...if I was traveling with hubby and kiddos, it might get to be too cost prohibitive.

    I totally agree that flying is one of those necessary evils. I actually loathe it more than I can possibly explain. I am terrified of heights, and how much higher can you go than when you fly??? I'm one of those people who sits with the window closed, white-knuckling the arm rests of my seat if there's even the slightest bit of turbulence.

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    1. Can you believe I have never flown first class? I should, because I would LOVE it, but the frugal side of me wins out every time. And like you, I hate turbulence. No one ever seems bothered by it but me!

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  5. I think we should get the best of both worlds. Tight security to keep us safe, but once you are past, we should all get treated like kings and queens. Bring back the days of smiling stewardesses, handsome captains, comfy seats, drinks and appetizers in the air. If I have to fly, I want it to be a party!

    Hey, a girl can dream....frankly, I think it is a genius business model.

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    1. I'll pull up a seat and dream with you, Deb!

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  6. I'm all about comfort. If I look like I just got out bed I don't care. I dread flying. After flying with children it's no fun. I have no tips on flying, because we rarely do anymore since moving back to the west. Since most of the family lives on the west we tend to drive. A lot easier with small ones.

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    1. I much prefer car trips too, Melody May!

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  7. I wear shoes that are easy to take off with socks so I don't have to walk with bare feet on the dirty floor. I always choose an aisle seat, that way I have the aisle to lean out into for breathing room, I'm only sitting next to one person and I don't have to climb over anyone to get in and out to go to the restroom. I bring snacks in my purse so I don't have to buy their food, but I always ask them for water.

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  8. UGH! What a horrible experience! I love to fly despite being afraid of heights. My worst flight was to Las Vegas to see my sister get married, but it wasn't the airline's fault. It was some drunk-tail passengers making it miserable for the rest of us.

    I'd never been so happy to get off of a plane in my life. :(

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  9. Lily,
    I am so with you! I don't enjoy flying either. I used to love it until I had kids and now all I do is worry if my plane comes down in more than one piece. Eek! I would really like someone to invent a teleportation device. Here one second, there the next. Of course, I'd really like to have all my parts in the right place and considerably smaller if we can manage that. ;}

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