Traveler's Recital

When Did Flying Become a Pain?

Let me say right up front, I have always loved flying. Whereas my mother is terrified by the simple idea of it, I have reveled in the experience since my earliest days. However my attitude has changed somewhat and I am not sure if it is me that changed, or the experience itself.

Like most people who love to travel to new and exciting places, I love the planning and fantasizing about the trip to come. I love getting up early and catching the shuttle. I even get a kick out of security and hanging out in the airport. Layovers are just mini-vacations in a new city. Airport food sucks, and it is too expensive, but I still enjoy eating in an airport (there are exceptions…Gatwick). But somewhere along the line, the actual flying part has become less enjoyable. It could be that I am just getting old and sitting for hours is more of a chore than it used to be. It could also be that flying itself has become a pain.

I will admit that there is a huge chasm between the US domestic flight experience and the typical international experience. Even the US airlines manage to create a more enjoyable flight when it involves taking off in one country and landing in another. That said, let’s focus on domestic travel…and since most people will never fly first class, let’s talk about the dreaded “coach” class.

Let’s start off by calling a spade a spade…this is second class travel. No more pillows. No more blankets. The same mediocre food (I am being kind here) that used to be free, now costs you extra…no cash, credit cards only please. Many airlines are now selling  legroom. This is nothing more than an admission that the standard 2nd class seat is only suitable for kids and those adults never selected for the basketball team in PE class. Less room for carry-ons. This happened because flyers are trying to avoid a separate budget line-item for checked bag fees. The fix? Simple…fees for carry-on bags of course. First, they incentivize us to use carryon instead of checked bags. Then they incentivize us to leave stuff at home. What they are really doing is incentivizing us to take the train. That is quite a business model.

Where are the movies? I am of the opinion that some movies are only 90 minutes long because that allows them to fit in a two hour flight. When was the last time you had a 2 hour, domestic, 2nd class seat that included a movie?  If you can’t make us comfortable, at least distract us.

OK…so my rant is done and I am still as willing as ever to climb on a plane. Why the hell is that? Because it is not flying I enjoy, it is traveling.  Because the moment I step off that flight in India, or Chile, or Nepal…the bad memories of the flight seem to fade away. The airlines are obviously pumping some type of drug into the A/C system that dampens our short term memory and allows me to conveniently forget the crick in my neck, the bad food, and the cramps in my legs. Could they possibly increase the dosage so I can forget the flight entirely? Where is that comment card?

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