Flying 2006


Random vignettes from the world of passenger air travel in the last two weeks …

Belting out: We’re taxiing to the gate in our small plane, and as per usual, a passenger undoes his seatbelt. In four-seat rows, he’s across the aisle from me. The flight attendant comes over and asks him to re-do it. She’s polite but firm, and it is an FAA regulation.

Naturally, the passenger is a complete ass about it.

It’s taking a few minutes longer than usual, and he grumbles with the passenger in the row before him.

When we pull up to the gate and the seatbelt light turns off, he suddenly screams, “CAN WE TAKE THEM OFF NOW?” just about in my ear.

No one says anything. If only an air marshal had shot him, or at least winged him …

As we “de-plane,” he makes another smart remark to the flight attendant, who merely points out to the pilot that he was the one causing a problem earlier. The pilot simply muses aloud, “Smartass.”

I see him walk through the terminal and am tempted to rat him out to security. It’s guys like him that take all the fun out of being cooped up in a tiny flying deathtrap with no snacks.


As long as you’re trapped: The worst part of US Airways’ decline is the nonstop shill foisted upon us passengers. The sad male flight attendant didn’t offer snacks or drinks. Instead, he walked up and down the aisle, always facing the back of the plane, with a fan array of application brochures for the airline-branded credit card.

The pilot made an announcement, not about seat belts or flying time or weather conditions, but about how we could earn points fast with the card.

On a different flight, the video monitors that pop down (still cool) to give the safety demonstration also gave a nonstop, all-flight loop of destinations, credit card pitches and weird Cranium-branded trivia.

And at the terminal, a table with several employees hawked the damn credit card.

Even worse, I thought of a way for them to make more money during the safety video. It shows a passenger putting away a cell phone, but the airline could’ve easily sold a product placement for, say, a RAZR that would be seen by thousands every day.

Shoot me now — I’m helping the enemy.

Reboot the airport: After dragging my tired self up and down the long corridors of airports, I say it’s time for some changes.

More moving sidewalks or bumper cars that zip people from one end to the other would be nice. Or make the damn terminals smaller. Walking down four football fields past passengers while lugging a briefcase is ridiculous.

More power outlets would help (I saw a clever kiosk: charge your cell phone with the corresponding cable), as would some organized planning (every hall is wide with people milling about and causing congestion).

Every airport seems to be content with this outdated floorplan. But it’s past due for a makeover to address security concerns, passenger flow and the whole mall-within-the-airport trend.

Escape from Abilene: Idiot me forgot to put my tiny pocketknife with my checked luggage and stuck it in my briefcase.

As they scanned my bag a second and third time, I realized with dread what I had done. The choice: play dumb or ’fess up.

I played dumb. They never could figure out where it was, which shows you how tiny a knife it is.

Which is why we have to take off our shoes and dump our lotions before getting anywhere near the gates.


About this entry