When I was a kid, traveling on an airplane was exciting. It was different. Luxurious. We would watch the farmlands of Kansas become a patchwork quilt as we soar higher and higher in the air. And a stewardess would give us a free Coke and a little bag of peanuts. Sometimes you would even be able to watch a movie, complete with earphones as to not bother your neighbor.
Picking up someone from the airport was just as exciting. You could watch their plane land and wait anxiously to see them come through the arrival gate, sometimes with homemade signs that read “Welcome home.”
That was then.
Now airline traveling has become such a process.
It starts at home.
Tickets and fees
This USA Today article indicates that airlines are not disclosing extra fees associated with your flight. And that’s annoying. You’ve already spent a couple of hours finding the best flight online and paid $300 to $400 on a roundtrip ticket. Now you might get stuck paying at least $50 more if you check a bag. So, do you really need to check a bag? Yes, of course you do. Because the size restriction for a carry on bag will not allow you to fit everything you need in a carry on…unless you’re my husband. After you have stuffed your bag full, make sure it does not exceed the 50 pound weight limit because guess what? More fees.
Can you fit everything you need in ONE bag? Well, you’re going to have to because you don’t want to pay $70 extra for a second checked bag. Check your liquids to ensure they follow the 3-1-1 rule.
At the airport
Arrive at the airport at least an hour and a half before your flight (in Wichita, KS, you can usually get away with just one hour, unless it’s a holiday). Stand in line to check in. Pay $25 to check your bag and hope that it does not weigh more than 50 pounds.
You must show your boarding pass and ID, so you need to make sure those two items are easily accessible. Hopefully you remembered to wear shoes that you can get on and off easily. No one likes to hold up the line while untying and tying their shoes. If you happen to bring your laptop with you, you must remove it before it goes through the scanner. Then remove all metal object before walking through the “human” scanner.
After successfully passing the security test, you must put gather up all your items you had to take off. Put your shoes back on, put your laptop back in your bag. Keep your boarding pass and ID handy, just in case an airport security personnel does a random check.
Wait for your row to be called. And wait some more. Good thing I have a BlackBerry to keep me entertained.
Have airplanes become smaller or is it just me? I’m not a big person, but I find it difficult to walk down the toothpick aisle with my purse and carry on bag, hoping I don’t bump into someone who is already seated.
Finally to my seat. Stuff purse and carry on bag under the seat and try to adjust the air (because you HAVE to have cold air…my sister will back me up on this). Wait 30 minutes for the flight to finally take off. If you are lucky, you can taxi to the runway and take off in moments. About half the time, though, you end up sitting on the runway for 30 minutes to an hour, waiting, for…well who knows?
And why does the air go OFF while idling on the runway? Don’t they know that is the WRONG thing to do, especially while sitting in 90 degree weather on a concrete runway in a metal plan stuffed to rim with people?
The airline has touted that it has wi-fi. Score! Oh wait, it costs $10. Lame. The stewardess asks me what I would like to drink. I get one little cup of Coke. No food. Not even an airy bag of three pretzels. But I could buy snacks for $5-$8. Come on. I can see limiting snack offerings to only flights more than an hour and half, but my flight from Washington DC to Dallas was three hours long. Over the lunch hour. Thank goodness I packed my own crackers.
What if I’m cold? I can buy a blanket and pillow for $8. Seriously?
And the seats. Talk about strangers invading your personal space.
Arrival at destination
No one is waiting for you at the gate. No fun signs. Because only ticketed passengers are allowed to wait in the gate areas. Your party can wait for you at the baggage claim, with the herd of people all looking for the same black bag with rollers.
When did all this happen? After 9/11? Or am I just an adult now and all the irritations of traveling have turned me into a grumpy old lady?
I’ll fly if I have to, but I’d rather be in the minivan.