Air travel it’s not What it Used to be

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A couple weeks ago I had to travel on a business trip to attend some meetings at one of our other offices. It all started early in the morning, I had the alarm set for 4:00 AM, but I woke up at 3:30 AM. I thought about trying to grab few more minutes of precious sleep. As I tossed and turned a few times I worried about oversleeping. It was inevitable, I had to get up and get ready for an early 6:00 AM flight at the airport.  I reluctantly slid out of bed, and slowly walked to the bathroom and brushed my teeth.  With the sleep still in my eyes trudged into the shower to wake myself up. It’s amazing how refreshing a shower can feel so early in the morning. After my shower, I quickly got dressed, and made some final adjustments to my luggage. As I prepared to leave I looked over at my wife, she was in bed and sound asleep. I was glad I didn’t wake her. I then silently walked over and kissed her goodbye. She incoherently mumbled something, I think it was “I love you” It was still early in the morning, and now just a few minutes after 4:00 AM. Maddi the Border Collie was still sleeping at the foot of the bed. I said to her; “Maddi are you going say goodbye”? She only made a grunting, sound like an angry Grizzly bear waking from hibernation, and didn’t even lift her head. It was even too early for the dog to get up. I grabbed my luggage and my computer bag headed to the car. It was slightly overcast and still very dark outside. It was quiet, and very peaceful as I loaded the car and drove away. I thought about the little sleep I had, and the long day that was waiting ahead of me.

The 30 minute drive was very easy there is very little traffic on the roads at 4:30 AM in the morning. I was at the airport in less than 30 minutes. I parked the car went into the airport to establish my preflight check-in.  If you have flown before, you know the routine, go to the ticket counter receive your boarding pass and prepare to go through security.  Getting the boarding pass is easy it’s all done through an electronic computer kiosks. The line at the security check in was longer than I expected. As I looked at the long line everyone seems to be robotic, but very adaptive to the security check process.  A worker hollers the following orders “take off your shoes, take all electronic devices out, and make sure your pockets are empty”. As I prepared my bags for the x-ray machine, and then walked through a large body scanner putting my hands up in the air, Whoosh! it made one pass and I was done, as the scanner takes a quick picture of your body. The person on the other side said; “Step out please, okay you are clear to go”.  As I quickly gather my belongings I was off to my assigned gate.  I had enough time to buy a bottle of water, before preparation to board the plane started.

After waiting 20 minutes at the gate they started boarding the plane. The plane is a large with five zones. The lady on the public addressed announced the flight would be completely full.  It is not unusual for the planes to be completely filled as the airlines try to maximize their profits for each flight. Nowadays everyone’s trying to avoid paying extra cost to check their baggage, and they try to bring it on board hoping to find a space in the overhead baggage compartment. Lucky for me I checked my bag this was a last-minute flight, and I ended up in zone five. I knew from past experience finding room for your luggage when you’re in zone five, is like waiting until the day before Christmas to buy that toy everyone has to have. Forget it! Zone five is normally the last group to board the plane. I was already tired did not want to deal with it. This plane filled up quicker than most, by the time they got through zone three, they start asking people to check their bags at the gate they were out of room. After about 20 minutes of boarding I am finally at my seat. Did I mention I booked this trip the last-minute for coach and the only seats left was in the middle (in zone 5). I am not a big guy, but I have broad shoulders, so sitting in the middle seat is not very comfortable. As I buckled my seat belt I said my usual pray for traveler’s mercies.  I was hoping to get some sleep on the 1000 miles flight that will take two hours and 20 minutes. Just my luck there was a 2 year old child seated in the aisle across from me. This little one was not very happy, and already crying so loud my ear buds could not buffer the piercing sounds. Don’t get me wrong I like children. I can deal with a child crying on a plane, that really doesn’t bother me. It just that makes it difficult to sleep, and I was hoping to try to get a little sleep on this flight. Some young children have problems flying It is probably do to the pressure on their ears making it uncomfortable for them.

I found myself thinking how air travel has changed over the years. Gone are the days when traveling in coach made you feel like someone special, as you were treated to meals and snacks and had plenty of room to stretch out in your seat. The seats continue to get smaller, and if you’re on a long flight a coach seat can be a chair of torment. Today the average seat size is 17.2 inches wide and in some cases 16 inches, while in the 1990s it was up to 18.5 inches. [1] If you’re sitting on the outside seat you’re a prime target to get whacked by the drink cart. The isles are now so narrow when travelers walk down the aisle they are hitting everyone already sitting with their bags. Airlines now herd people on to the plane like cattle being crammed into a box truck for transport. As you stuff yourself into the small seat, and if you’re lucky enough to establish positioning on the shared armrest with the person sitting next to you. If not, you may end up sitting with your arms crossed like an angry person the whole trip.   Over the years as airlines cut costs, meals shrank down to snacks and then went away. Some flights still offer peanuts or pretzels other times there’s nothing to eat at all. While some planes still carry blankets and pillows for passengers, there are fewer to go around. Oh! How I wish we had more Bullet trains in the United States, but I digress, and that is another topic I’ll save for another day. So I quickly shifted my thoughts to the positives of air travel. It is pretty neat to think that because of air travel I can work in an office over 1000 miles away on the same day. For this trip after a 40 minute drive to my destination I should be ready to start working at 10:00 AM.  So maybe it’s not all bad! Today the air travel reunites loved ones, connects cultures, expands travel destinations that would take days by car, and allows business meetings to take place in various locations across the globe. Air travel provides people around the globe with the freedom to make connections that can change their lives and the world. While many complain for the good old days of airline travel, their memories usually doesn’t include past days of high price fares, limited routes selections, and cigarette smoke floating in the air. Yes air travel has changed, but people are very quick to acclimate and make the best of their circumstances.

Happy Travels!

May this find you well and happy, God Bless

Reference:

  1. http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/07/travel/feeling-cramped-battle-airline-seat/ By Daisy Carrington, for CNN; November 11, 2013

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