Why I Hate Flying

Fair warning: this post is going to be something of an extended whine. I am writing this in a hotel room with the inevitable “joy” of hotel internet after attending day one of a testing conference on the left coast of the US.

I live on the right side of the country, so this meant a plane flight.

Since this particular conference comes with two optional events – a pre-conference meetup the night before and a post-conference meetup on the night of the last day, I naturally wanted to attend both. Since my experience with the same setup last year was that after connections I really didn’t want anything to do with any kind of activity after checking in, I naturally booked a nonstop flight so I’d have a nice early-ish arrival with plenty of time to take a nap so I’d be able to go to the pre-conference meetup.

Yeah. Riiiight.

First, the non-stop flight is cancelled. The replacement has a moderately tight connection, but isn’t too bad. Then the first leg of the trip runs late. It lands with room for me to make the connection if I hustle… Except that the airport is having a little issue finding enough gate staff to bring the flight into a gate. So we sit on the taxiway for half a bloody hour before we can get into a gate.

Naturally, I book it for the connection. Arrive just after the doors close, to be told that I’ve been booked onto a different flight leaving an hour later, and due to start boarding in the next 1/2 hour. Yay…

Time is spent with phone notifying the hotel that my check in might be a wee bit later than planned since instead of arriving between 11 am and 12 as I’d originally booked, or even between 2 & 3 according to rebooking version 1 I now don expect to reach them before 4.

I am in fact correct. The connecting flight loads up on time. Leaves the terminal on time. Sits on the taxiway for half an hour before getting to takeoff. The rest of the trip, no real problems.

Heck, the flights themselves weren’t too horrible, mostly because both were very lightly booked – instead of the usual “we’re completely full so expect to have your carryon changed to booked baggage” it was “we’re very empty so for weight distribution reasons we need people to volunteer to move to the rows behind the wings or we’ll move you ourselves.”

The extra space was nice, and I’ve got to admit that if I have to choose between a mini TV screen in the back of the seat in front or a power point built into the thing, I’ll take the power point thanks. I can flip the phone or the tablet into flight mode and do what I want instead of having to deal with having something I don’t care about shown at me. Or course, I may be one of the few people in the universe this applies to.

I miss the days when flying was an adventure. When it was a big thing, and you didn’t have to deal with TSA lines (no matter how efficiently they’re set up, the whole thing is still a big vulnerable mess). I don’t know how they’ve managed it, but the combination of government mandates, airlines looking for the cheapest options, customers looking for the cheapest options, and airports looking for the cheapest options, the whole experience has turned into a kind of hell.

I’ll be glad to get home Friday (late) and recover. No matter how much fun the convention is, getting there and back is a trial.


    1. Old enough myself. In fact, I remember when, as a child, I was taken by the stewardess (they were all “ess”es then) to the cockpit and the pilot, copilot, and engineer (a dead breed now), were all very good to me.

      Yeah, right. These days, my policy is that if the trip does not cross an unbridged body of water, I’ll stay out of the unfriendly skies. (And I’m not going anywhere, sans kidnapping, that does cross one of those obstacles.)

      1. I remember when you could drop your kid off at the terminal with a ticket and luggage and expect they’d make it to a different state or a foreign country without any problem, and you wouldn’t have a half dozen types of officialdom howling for your blood.

        1. Did that once around 1963, I’d have been 11 or so. Detroit to Chicago, full meal service. I passed on the 4 pack of cigarettes offered with the meal. 🙂

          (I’m pretty sure this flight was on a DC6 prop plane. Not sure there would have been time for meal service on a 707 on that flight.)

        2. When my mother did that to/for my brother (at 11yo, maybe a bit older), she told the gate staff that he was retarded and needed minding.
          Somehow, the entire family bursting out laughing did not derail that plan. He was not pleased.

        3. Well… I was the kind of kid that would have had half a dozen types of officialdom running for their lives. So I didn’t get to have that experience back then.

          (I am better now. Yes? Maybe? They only walk away and don’t come back these days…)

  1. “I don’t know how they’ve managed it, but the combination of government mandates, airlines looking for the cheapest options, customers looking for the cheapest options, and airports looking for the cheapest options, the whole experience has turned into a kind of hell.”

    Government naturally selects for this. They’re working as hard as they can to bring this hell to everything we do, from work to recreation. They’d very much like to do this on trains, buses and subways as well, while banning private cars. They’ll eventually do it at the grocery store, if we let them. Ration cards.

    Dear Lefties, this is how you get more Trump.

  2. The lack of leg room has gotten a heck of a lot worse. Its at the point where the “economy plus” is at roughly the distance that the regular seats were five years ago, and the regular seats are usable only by paper dolls. My husband can pretty much only fly in the exit rows, since there’s a limit to how narrow they can make those.

    1. I’ve been only flying Southwest from Buffalo to Phoenix the last 10 years or so, and the seats are agony. My hip bones touch the sides. My knees touch the seat in front when my back is hard up against the seat.

      On the bright side, the seats didn’t get any smaller during that time. If they had I’d be forced to drive down. Three day trip, worth it.

      1. Back in 1986 I swore I’d never take a commercial flight again. So far, so good.

        If I can’t drive there, I’m not going.

        Even criminals on a prison bus get more room and better treatment than “pax.”

      2. I remember when Southwest was the “no-frills, we’ll get you and your luggage there as cheap as possible” airline. Now, all of their commercials are about the free checked bags and how the heart on their plane means they care. They’re trying to be the luxury airline.

        Southwest, of course, hasn’t changed.

        1. naah, sorry. There’s a point where too much time is consumed… esp if its on someone else’s dime.

          1. It’s not a waste when they got wi-fi and you bring a reasonable amount of adult beverages in your carry-on. (Not that *I* would even dream of doing that.)

  3. I’m the oddball here. I fly international on a regular basis, and I actually enjoy it.
    But, the trick is avoiding the big American carriers as much as possible.
    The other trick is booking early, and being willing to pay for an exit row well ahead of time.

  4. I will never pick Frontier on price, again. Since they charge you for everything, including picking a seat whether you want to or not, the actual price is almost $100 more – EACH WAY – than advertised.

    The plane (Airbus 320, maybe?) also did not have reclining seats. They are hard plastic with very upright posture. Even getting an exit row (as long as I have to pay for my seat, why not?) didn’t help because the seat back was so vertical that I couldn’t stretch out my legs without uncomfortably slouching.

    I’ve had nice transatlantic flights on Lufthansa and Icelandic Air. Delta was awful. “Your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device” may have been true when the plane was new, but those formerly-known-as-cushions were so flattened down that they’d drag you to the bottom of the ocean, which of course means they are very uncomfortable to sit on for that long.

    The last avoid-flying trip I made was from Denver, CO to Lawrence, KS. The Intertubes say that is 568 miles. That was a LONG drive. It’s the current fly/drive limit.

    I fly back to Wisconsin because 16-18 hours of driving is just too much, now. I tried the train, but after Enterprise gave away my rental car on Thanksgiving – in Chicago – because the train was late, I’m never doing that again (neither taking the train nor renting from Enterprise). The train to/from San Francisco wasn’t bad, but we budgeted a day on each side for slop, which of course costs an extra two days of hotel rooms (and the vacation time).

    1. I recently booked a flight, and noticed a tantalizingly-priced Frontier flight as an option. Then I saw that even a carry on bag had a fee, while the next-cheapest flight, via Delta, still had free carry on. After taking bag fees into account, Delta was only about $40 more – and offered about four additional inches of legroom.

  5. Count me in on the “I’ll drive” crowd. I’ve clocked a lot of miles in our GMC van crammed full of merchandise and store fixtures, and am very familiar with the sight of a double ribbon of asphalt stretching out in front of me over that big steering wheel.

    As it happens, we’re on the road this weekend. I just put in an eight-hour day loading in and setting up for Grand Rapids Comic Con, a process that was complicated by a broken-down freight elevator. Tomorrow we go back downtown to finish setting up and then try to sell as much as we can. (However, after we load out and go home, we’re done with the on-the-road sales season for the year, and shift to focusing on our online presence).

  6. I have flown once since 9/11 midwived the TSA. It was either fly to Bogota or drive the length of Mexico and a few other odd Central American countries. Plus, the internet was undecided whether or not the so-called road from Panama to N.Colombia was passable even with AWD trucks part of the year. Two weeks maybe, if I hustled and the Travel Gods blessed me. The only alternative THERE was to take a boat from Panama to Colombia. So I swallowed my pride, rescinded my blood oath, and flew from Houston to Bogota by way of St. Pete. Boring, but otherwise OK. I passed most of the time practicing by very broken Spanish with a native, who wanted to practice her broken English. Never since. BTW, international airlines are not full of security theater BS. At least Avianca was not.

    1. I’m curious if you’re referring to the Darien Gap? The boundary from Panama to Columbia? I’ve been reading about that part of the world, just because it sounds as if the Gap is one of the last places on Earth where people can go there and vanish, never to be seen or heard from again. It’s not clear to me if the Gap would still be utterly unsurvivable even *if* the FARC and drug dealers weren’t part of the fauna living in it, too. I mean, the bad guys are apparently not getting eaten by the jaguars or whatever else is there. Probably because they’re armed, but it still sounds like the Gap requires significant intestinal fortitude just to enter it.

      Most descriptions I’ve seen of the Gap suggest that it’s excellent horror-movie terrain; I wouldn’t be surprised if it inspired the setting of the first Predator movie. And my biology classes provided a lot of nightmare fuel about the dangers of South America’s wilderness areas.

      TSA or the Darien Gap? Hard choice, but I think TSA has a *slight* edge 🙂

  7. You are spot on Mrs. Paulk and I miss those days as well. Stressful, but a fun stressful.

    And there’s this awful suspicious part of me that thinks that the whole sorry mess was some folks idea of a feature, not a bug.

    More likely unintended consequences, though.

  8. Iy was ominous enough, and slow enough to cause me to fly. Maybe with a platoon of Marines, but logistics is a bitch. (They’re gonna wanna get paid.) But crossing that gap could be a plot for book fodder. Hmmm.

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