Tag Archives: airlines

Flying the Friendly Skies

Flickr photo by David Jones

Next week, SuzyQ and I will be headed off on a college visit.  The college is a time zone away.  You know what that means.  We have to fly there.  And I’m dreading it.

This isn’t about fear.  I have never understood people who are afraid to fly.  Hasn’t anyone ever pointed out to them that they are a whole lot more at risk driving?  How many car wrecks were there in your area today?  On any given day here there are at least 3-4 major crashes that tie up the morning and evening rush hours.  A couple of those a week will involve a fatality.  Now, when was the last plane crash? 

The whole terrorist threat thing doesn’t really scare me either.  Common sense tells me that any terrorist worth his salt isn’t going to use the same method twice.  It’s the element of surprise, being caught off guard, that makes terrorist attacks work.  My theory is that I’m more at risk attending a major sporting event, going to a big shopping mall, or visiting a major tourist attraction than I am getting on a plane.

No.  My problem with flying is the whole pain in the rear end that it has become:

Air Fares:  I graduated summa cum laude from college.  I’m a Phi Beta Kappa member.  I’m married to a nuclear-trained engineer.  How is it then, that between us we can’t figure out the best time to purchase an airline ticket without getting gouged??  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that within 4 days, the fare for my upcoming trip doubled and then got cut in half again.  Same trip, same dates, same airline.  Let’s face it, there is no formula for pricing, no calculus, no rules.  It’s just the airlines screwing around with us.

Packing:  I could be wrong, but I believe you are not supposed to bring luggage of any kind when you travel by air these days.  Want to check a bag?  Fine.  That’ll be $25 for the first one and $35 for the second.  Decide to save money and just bring a carry on?  Good luck.  Not only is the competition for an overhead bin cut-throat, but most planes flying domestically are those mini-planes.  You’re lucky if you can fit your balled-up coat in those overhead bins.  Besides, you can’t bring anything you really need in your carry-on bag anymore.  Long gone are the days when we could fly with 5–count them, 5!–huge suitcases at no extra charge.

The kids insist on not revealing their secret identities!

Food:  This is one of the biggest scams to come out of the tragedy of the 9/11 hijackings.  In order to cut costs, airlines quit serving meals on domestic flights.  Sure, you can buy their over-priced snack box and get a sandwich (age: undetermined) and piece of fruit.  You can also grab something from one of the fine restaurants in the secure part of the airport ($8 for a slice of warmed-over pizza).  But whatever you do, NEVER EVER bring your own food from home.  It will be confiscated by security.  If you do manage to get it through security, it will be crushed, crumbled, or otherwise inedible after being squashed into your mini carry-on bag.

Screening:  Wonder what the procedure will be on the day of my flight.  It seems like every time you turn around, the TSA has decided that something else needs tweaking.  Shoes off; no belts; empty pockets; jewelry off; coats off.  Get ready to set off the alarm if you wear an underwire bra or can’t get your wedding ring off.  And you know what that means!  Pat-down!  You will be searched in a way reserved up until now for suspected criminals.  Or choose the naked body scan:

Yep.  All the glamour and fun are gone from air travel.  Unless you are flying international and first class:

British Airways

 Well, a girl can dream.

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Children on Your Flight? Lord, Have Mercy.

Herded like cattle through long lines and subjected to fierce scrutiny.  Strapped down.  No fresh air.  Packed in so tight you can barely move.  No meals.  Enduring incessant banging and shrieking for hours on end.  What sort of torture is this?  Just a routine flight on any commercial airline.  And more specifically, a flight in which you are seated near an unruly child.

There has been lots of chatter about airlines beginning child-free flights.  Recently, The New York Times ran this article on the subject.  Apparently, a survey released in August found that a majority of travelers support the idea.  Message boards and complaint forums have been active with the notion of kid-free flying, and there is even a Facebook group called “Airlines Should Have Kid-Free Flights.”  Airlines aren’t talking about the idea.  Given the logistics involved and the potential costs to the airlines, it’s no wonder.

This is a tough one for me.  I have spent my share of hours giving the evil eye to the parent of  kids on my flight after enduring screaming, banging, hair-pulling as they grab my seat from behind, and nosiness as they stare at you from the seat in front and interrupt conversation or sleep.  Notice I said “the parent.”  Because really, the fault lies with the parent.  It’s the parent’s responsibility to pack enough distractions to keep the child from bothering others.  The parent should know how much noise will freak the child out, how long the kid can go between meals, the length of the child’s attention span, etc.  Isn’t that what being a parent is about: anticipating your child’s needs?  And with all of the books, magazines, and websites full of information on easy traveling with children, there’s really no excuse for attempting to fly unprepared.

Now in some cases, travelers need to cut the parents some slack.  Well, in only one case: flying with infants.  Babies cry.  That shouldn’t be news to anyone.  Sometimes babies cry for no reason at all.  And that magic thing you do that always gets the baby to stop crying will sometimes fail, probably once the place starts to taxi down the runway.  There’s nothing the parent can do except keep trying and ride it out.  Get over it, people.

A 3-year-old is an entirely different matter.  I have little patience for the parent of a bratty toddler or school-aged child who apologizes and says, “I just can’t get little Mackenzie/Tyler to settle down.”  That parent’s troubles started long ago, when she decided that discipline was an archaic style of parenting.   I have no problem relegating those families to the back row with the seats that don’t recline, right by the restrooms.

I have been blessed with kids who are terrific travelers.  They have flown over oceans and across the International Date Line.  Now, they are certainly not angels.  My carry-on bag was loaded down with pacifiers, bottles, juice boxes, Goldfish crackers, lollipops, crayons, Etch-a-Sketch-es, Barbies, Hot Wheels cars, portable tape/CD players, and so on for many trips.  Now they’re old enough to carry their own junk.  And when all else failed, I had no qualms about drugging them with gentle antihistamines that made them sleepy.  Dimetapp, Bendryl… just call them Mommy’s Little Helpers.

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