On flying

Much as I dream of a more genteel age of modern airship travel, I’m a
pretty happy jet traveler. I get the feeling I’m the minority in this.
It seems popular to complain about flying.

I’ve flown four times this year so far, and every single trip has been
enjoyable, at least as far as the actual flying part. I might get a
little jittery in the days leading up to a trip, but once I’m at the
airport I’m happy as a clam.

Sure, security sucks, but I can’t remember the last time I was in a
badly backed-up security line.

Airports have bookstores that always carry Terry Pratchett novels.
They usually have a wide variety of tasty food, fancy coffee, and beer
available. A little overpriced, but darned convenient.

Airports are one of the few places I can find a shoeshine stand.

I pay the extra $10 so I always get an A-group boarding pass on
Southwest, so I can find myself a window seat on the right side of the

As a smallish person I find airplane seats perfectly adequate. Sure,
the legroom could be a bit more, but it’s enough. And as a general
rule I’m not averse to sitting for long periods.

I carry a travel pillow, and I’ve had some of the best naps of my life
on board planes. The white noise of the engine, and the gentle
vibration lull me instantly to sleep. On one or two flights I’ve
fallen asleep at the departure gate and woke up taxiing to the arrival

I try to always fly Southwest, and I just love their flight crews. On
my last flight one of the crew led the whole plane in a sitting
stretch routine midway through the flight.

I actually enjoy turbulence. That’s not a joke or a tough-guy thing; I
think it’s fun. I know the airframes are built to stand it so it
doesn’t worry me.

There’s always something to see out the window. Today I saw a crater
lake. Nightime lightning strikes in distant thunderheads are

I always check a bag. No worrying about 3oz bottles or my razor being
a “weapon” or trying to fit a bag in overcrowded overhead bins. I
love being able to walk around with just a backpack while my luggage
follows me from airport to airport.

I don’t get how everyone bolts up from their seats at the end of the
flight… then stands there for 15 minutes while the people ahead of
them filter out. I’ve never been THAT desperate to get out of my seat.

Air travel is expensive, and I hate that it takes me away from my
family. But the actual process is just as magical and fun as it was
when I was a kid, and with the exception of tall people who don’t fit
in the seats, I don’t get why people hate it so.

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One Comment

  1. Dave Aronson July 31, 2011 at 16:05

    Seems like most people dislike it because of several factors:- Long lines to check in. Yes we can use online check-in but we still have to wait in line if we’re checking bags.- Long lines at security. You’ve apparently been lucky on this one. I’ve sometimes had to wait literally an hour in the security line. This is made all the more annoying by the arbitrariness and futility of the so-called “security” measures taken. Don’t get me started on Security Theater.- Depending on the airport, long waits to claim baggage. PDX was a very pleasant surprise last month, and I’ve usually found small airports to be pretty quick, but most large ones seem to take forever, even afer a long march from the plane to the carousels.- *You* might fit easily into an average airplane seat, but let’s face it, the average American makes *me* look fit and makes *you* look anorexic. Even if you fit well, if you’re stuck next to someone who needs more room, and can’t help but take it out of yours….- Your points about napping and turbulence are very much personal preference, and I suspect most people do not share those. For the rest of us, I find that earplugs help a lot with the noise (engines/props, screaming babies, etc.), especially in combo with noise-cancelling headphones. For the turbulence, the crew also try to avoid it, so I just accept it and deal as best I can.- I do agree about the people bolting up from their seats though. These are probably the same jackasses that cluster around the gate and the baggage carousel, just getting in everybody’s way and not really saving themselves any time.A lot of it really boils down to poor planning on their own part. If you KNOW you’re going to be in that situation, plan something to occupy yourself. My choice is usually a netbook preloaded at home with my latest RSS feeds, or some document or program I’m writing. In case I can’t just sit somewhere, I bring an iPod full of podcasts and audiobooks. These are exactly the same things I do on my daily commute. As you noted, airports also usually have coffee, beer, food, bookstores, etc., so there’s really not much excuse, unless the timing relative to other events is very tight.I usually find flying a reasonable experience, and generally enjoy the time in the air, plus of course the overall savings in time versus a train, never mind a bus, and the time *and hassle* of driving any significant distance. If it were really as horrible as some people say, hardly anybody would fly… and that would take care of some of the problems caused by hordes of jerks. :-)One other thing working in your favor: a lot of it is self-reinforcing. If you go in with a bad attitude, you’re going to find every reason to justify it, and it will rub off on everyone around you, feeding back on itself. Start with a smile and a kind word, and you’ll get much better service. Of course it helps that you’re flying Southwest in the first place, who (I’ve heard) put a much higher premium on pleasing the customers.

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