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Flight or Fright?

Author: Adrienne L.
Date of Trip: September 2011

Do you remember when rock was young? Do you remember when airline travel was fun? Neither do I. As I write this blog I am crunched up in the coach section of a B767-300ER plane on a 10-hour flight from Istanbul to New York, trying to make the best of a bad situation. Since I’m returning home from a fabulous luxury vacation I really can’t complain. So I’ll just share a few random thoughts about airline travel in the 21st century.

If you’re a baby boomer you remember the good old days when air travel was a much different experience. Airplanes were spacious and comfortable and they even cleaned them between flights. Imagine that! These days, passengers are packed in like sardines and there is so little time between flights that when you sit down, the seat is still warm from the previous passenger. I shouldn’t give the airlines any ideas or they will start charging a fee for “pre-warmed seats”. Nowadays there are additional fees for practically everything. The Department of Transportation reported that in 2010 one airline made $952 million in baggage fee revenue; almost twice its 2009 take of $481 million. So now, in attempt to avoid paying those fees, everyone tries to cram as much as possible into their carry-on luggage. I was almost hit on the head by a lady who was attempting to hoist her carry-on bag into the overhead bin. Although it was the allowable size, it clearly weighed as much as a Volkswagen Beetle.

The flight attendants of yesteryear were quite glamorous; impeccably coifed and dressed to the nines in their tailored uniforms. Some of them still are — others not so much. But I can’t really blame them. Those ladies and gents perform nearly impossible feats in very confined spaces. Their job requires them to have the flexibility of gymnasts and the strength of sumo wrestlers. Today’s flight attendant uniform should probably include a hardhat, weight belt and steel-toed boots.

The crew on this flight has passed down the aisles several times, offering what they refer to as “food”. I’m not sure what it was, but it was reminiscent of what high school students who to eat in the cafeteria call “mystery meat”. Today’s offerings included “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Chicken” and “Pseudo Pasta”. The snack was “Something Like Pizza”…. I did not partake. At least the beverages were plentiful — lukewarm, but plentiful. I wont’ even elaborate on what I’ve read about the questionable quality of the ice cubes and drinking water. Besides, the more you drink, the more you need to frequent the restrooms, which are tiny and usually “occupado”.

Experts issue warnings about the dangers of what sitting too long does to leg circulation. They advise us to get up and move around every hour or so. Move around, are they kidding? Obviously those experts have not been on a plane lately. There is no room for line dancing or the electric slide. And for those of us who are on the “hippy” side, sashaying down the aisle is not an option either.

I don’t mean to sound so cynical, but it’s hour 9 of this 10-hour sojourn and I’m getting a little stir crazy. I’m actually very thankful for the aviation experts and all that they do to keep us safe while we’re flying the friendly skies. There is a safety information brochure in the seat pocket of each seat that provides detailed instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency. I sincerely hope that I’ll never be faced with an emergency situation, because knowing that my seat cushion can be used for a flotation device is not very reassuring. The fact that the light on the life vest will come on automatically when I hit the water doesn’t provide much comfort either.

The captain has begun the descent so I guess I should wrap this up. I am about to be amazed by another phenomena that occurs at the end of every flight. As soon as the plane touches down everyone in coach will stand up immediately — even though the doors are not open yet. Now here’s the deal; we will exit the plane from front to back. So for those seated in rows 25-35 I’d like to say, “Sit down! It’s going to be a while.” Besides, standing in the aisles only increases your risk of suffering a concussion from one of those 2 ton pieces of carry-on luggage.

Even though I may sound cynical I’ll still continue to fly. For traveling long distances it’s the fastest way to go. So as I prepare to deplane I ask myself, “Was it flight or fright”?” The truth is, it was a little bit of both.

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