By Ginger Kuenzel, DLE Alum, Speaker, Author, Editor, Translator, Corporate Consultant, Adirondacks Enthusiast, Hague, NY/ Englewood, FL
For those who’ve forgotten how much they hated flying.
I read a report recently that travel is making a comeback. I, however, will continue to think twice before booking a flight. That’s because I have not forgotten what it was like to be crammed into a narrow seat, with the jerk in the row in front of me having suddenly and startlingly reclined into my lap with the force of a mild tsunami.
I have taken two flights since the start of the pandemic. Essential travel. The planes were nearly empty on both trips. It was pure bliss—and one of the few advantages of social distancing. This is how travel should be.
But it won’t be. Planes are already full again. So, as you start thinking about catching up on all the travel you’ve missed out on over the past year, I just want to remind you of what travel was like before the pandemic—and likely will now be again. In case you’ve forgotten.
A typical passenger experience
After checking in at the airport ticket counter, you head for security and take your place in line. Once the friendly TSA folks have checked your driver’s license and boarding pass, you’re directed to the stack of plastic bins, in which you must place your coat, shoes, belt and everything in your pockets. You remove your laptop from its case, hoist your carry-on bag and purse onto the conveyor belt and are directed to head over to the scanning machine, where you put your hands behind your head and let them take an x-ray peek at your underwear.
The next hurdle arises when you try to find everything you deposited on the conveyor belt at the other end. People rushing to catch flights are pushing and grabbing things. You have to watch carefully (while balancing on one foot as you struggle to get your boots back on) to ensure that they don’t grab your laptop by mistake.
So, here you are, running to your plane—at the far end of the most distant concourse. Why is it that every departure gate is always at the far end, forcing you to sprint a four-minute mile just to get to your flight on time? Do the airlines even ever use those gates at the beginning of the concourse? Perhaps the people in those waiting areas are just hanging out there because of the empty seating and available electrical outlets. With your computer bag slung over your arm, you hurry along, putting your coat back on while clutching your phone and driver’s license, which you’ll have to show one more time before boarding. And, if it’s an early morning flight, you might also be carrying a cup of coffee.
You get on the plane with your bag, which you’ve decided not to check, in order to ensure that it arrives at the same airport that you do. You throw your computer case on the seat, flip down the tray table and set your coffee on it. As you struggle to hoist your carry-on into the overhead rack — why is it suddenly so heavy? — you’re hoping that the tall guy behind you in the aisle might offer to help. But he’s on his cell phone and oblivious to your plight. Or pretending to be. Finally, you squeeze into your seat, being careful not to spill your coffee.
After settling in, you watch the other passengers moving down the aisle. Many have computer bags that bang into everyone in an aisle seat. Others are unsuccessfully trying to stuff their carry-on into the overhead rack before being told by the flight attendant that they will need to gate-check it. This means heading back toward the front of the plane, trying their best to squeeze by all the other boarding passengers, who are heading toward the back. When will the airlines realize that it would be so much smarter to let people check bags for free and pay for their carry-on luggage?
As you wait impatiently for everyone to get settled, you remember to fish your driver’s license out of your coat pocket and put it back in your wallet. After all, you certainly don’t want to arrive at the airport for your next trip and realize that this important document is in the pocket of a coat that is hanging in your closet. How do I know this? Need you ask?
Your thoughts now turn to the next item of critical importance: Hopefully, they’ll have Bloody Mary’s on the drink cart.