Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The “joys” of air travel

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The current social climate has given rise to conflict by travel by air, making the experience less than desirable. Photo by flickr.com.

Prior to spring break last week, I hadn’t been on an airplane or even stepped foot in an airport in nearly five years. It probably sounds like I don’t get out much, but I had no desire to be stuck in a tight, enclosed cabin 50,000 feet in the air with a global pandemic raging. I also didn’t want to be stuck with one of those obnoxious and sometimes violent anti-maskers who would go viral on Twitter for yelling at already exhausted flight attendants just trying to do their job. But I snapped this five year streak when I flew down to the not-so-free state of Florida last week. While I was initially excited for this, I quickly remembered all the aspects that make air travel such a weird and sometimes stressful situation. 

First, let’s talk about flight delays, a phrase that nobody wants to hear when traveling. Flight delays are an all-too-common scenario in air travel, as around 20% of all flights in the United States last year experienced some sort of delay, or one in every five flights. It turns out that my flight down to Florida was that one out of five. As my family and I made our last preparations in the morning, we found out that our flight was delayed by an hour and a half after my dad checked the airline website. While we weren’t particularly surprised by this, we were confused by the lack of communication from our airline, as we didn’t get any notifications about the delay. This is made even more strange given the fact that I downloaded the app on my phone so I could get notifications for something like this. With no notification or alert, the app became as useless as Truth Social.  

But then something weird happened: Our initial flight delay of an hour and a half got reduced to only an hour. After some quick research that morning, I found out that delays can be reversed in some scenarios, something I didn’t realize was possible. This seems like a bad practice by airlines, as moving the flight time around from delayed to less delayed creates confusion for passengers about when to get to the airport. It’s especially bad if passengers change their plans based on a flight delay and the flight is scheduled back to its original time, leaving them in a mad dash to get to the airport. Once a flight is delayed, it should stay as such for the sake of the passengers.  

With our flight time now seemingly all over the place, we decided to head to the airport just in case it got moved back to its original time — spoiler alert: the flight didn’t leave until two and a half hours from when it was supposed to take off. Once there, it was time to go through airport security, which leads me into my next point of ire. Everything was going smoothly until the walk-through x-ray machine started buzzing as I went through. I emptied my pockets completely, so I’m not sure what set it off — maybe my fly wasn’t all the way up. As a result, I had to deal with my first airport security full pat-down. If you’ve never been “randomly selected” for one of these, consider yourself lucky since it was quite awkward getting felt up by a male TSA officer checking to see if I had any metal or other illegal materials like travel-sized containers larger than 3.4 ounces. After it was done, my dad high-fived me and said “welcome to the club,” as he’s usually the one getting stopped by airport security. TSA claims that these checks are random, but I have a feeling that this is going to happen whenever I fly next. Such is the life of a long-haired Deadhead I suppose.  

From long TSA lines to delays and cancelations, many travelers get a headache just thinking about flying. Photo by publicdomainpictures.net.

Despite the flight delay setback and getting too much action at airport security, the flight itself actually went surprisingly well. We didn’t hit any turbulence, I enjoyed a nice Diet Coke — which apparently flight attendants hate — and got to watch one of the best movies of the 90s, “Space Jam.” The only inconvenience that occurred was when my dad held up the beverage service by talking to the flight attendants for too long, much to the chagrin of other passengers.  

I know that this was a departure from my usual more formal political writings, but I hope this provides some insight for anyone who hasn’t flown in a while or is relatable to anyone who travels frequently. Air travel can be weird and downright annoying sometimes, but a smooth flight with Diet Coke and “Space Jam” makes up for some of the less enjoyable aspects.  

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