Airplanes have a near-ubiquitous reputation for being uncomfortable, inconvenient, and just generally a miserable ordeal to go through. From awful food to atrocious customer service, sometimes it feels like that tin tube you’re flying in was designed specifically to torture you.
Arguably one of the most inconvenient parts of flying is how early you must arrive at the airport. Airlines recommend you get to the airport a minimum of two hours early, and more often than not, you end up wasting a whole day at the airport. Seriously, why does it take you slowpokes so long to get me on my flight? I could’ve gotten there faster by flapping my own wings. First, you must check in with the company you’ve chosen. Some opt for the larger, more well-known airlines while others, such as myself, choose to spend wisely, using low-cost airways. And for those daring, or idiotic enough, there are budget airlines. They’re pretty touchy about giving any money back though. If the plane falls apart mid-flight, don’t expect a refund.
After checking in, you have to forge your way through TSA. They say it stands for Transportation Safety Agency, though I’m pretty sure it means This Shit Again. The entire process is tedious and often incredibly frustrating. First, they send you through long, maze-like lines that confuse the hell out of everybody. It reminds me of an Ikea, except without any of its redeeming qualities. Instead of aesthetically pleasing Swedish furniture, I’m stuck looking at an unappealing assortment of travelers, from college frat students on spring break, to stuffy businessmen in their penguin costumes. Eventually, you’ll get to the front of the line, only to be greeted by a dour-faced TSA agent who could beat a bulldog in a scowling contest. The agent gruffly reminds you to remove metal objects from your person to put in the x-ray machine with the rest of your things. Invariably, there’s always one object you forget, be it your wallet, your phone, or your belt, and you must go through the metal detector again. I think TSA agents are secretly blessed by God, after all, only saints would have the patience necessary to not whack every tourist upside the head. On the other side of the detector, an equally sullen agent removes items from the conveyor belt, and you begin the laborious process of reacquainting yourself with your various personal belongings. Shoving your phone and wallet into your pockets, praying that TSA doesn’t suddenly decide the chocolate bar that you bought an hour ago is a threat to the integrity of the plane and its occupants, you meander towards your terminal, looking for something to entertain you while waiting for your flight.
After finally boarding the plane, you begin the exhausting preparation process necessary for take-off. They pack us in, three seats on either side, like sardines in a can. I settle down into my seat, ducking my head and silently judging that one passenger from the other side of the aisle as he shoves his overstuffed carry-on in MY luggage compartment. As soon as the doors close, one of the flight attendants begins babbling about safety procedures, in-flight accommodations, and where the restrooms are. Holding up a model seatbelt, she demonstrates how to buckle it. Gee, I never knew how to buckle a seatbelt. It’s not as if I drive a car every day or something. She begins explaining how the safety devices work; pull down to release your oxygen mask, press that big red button if you need assistance, there are brown paper bags in case you feel nauseous. Oh, by the way, your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device if necessary. Yeah, I’m sure that your chair floaty will really help when I’m falling from 40,000 feet. I feel safer already! They request passengers to put their phones on airplane mode (not that anyone ever does), and soon enough, we’re ready to take to the skies.
To quote every comedian ever, what is up with airline food? As soon as we hit cruising altitude, flight attendants begin wheeling out a little culinary shop of horrors. Now, airplane food has a history of being tasteless and disgusting, and for good reason, it usually is. For instance, Southwest Airlines offers three snacks for their flights. The animal crackers are awful, and taste vaguely like sawdust, while I think Southwest must have distilled all of the salt in the seven seas just to put in that one little baggie of pretzels. I’ve never gotten to try the peanuts but assuming they’re equally crappy, I doubt I’d want to. However, every once and awhile, you hit a gem of an airline, a service who understands what good, quality food should be like. By this, I mean that JetBlue just realized how terrible they were at making their own food, so they started handing out Cheez-Its and Chips-Ahoy snack-packs instead. Learn from JetBlue. We, passengers, are like preschoolers. Just feed us junk food.
Airlines are an easy target to pick on. There’s no doubt that they’re difficult to deal with, and the quality of the service often leaves something to be desired. However, I think we often overlook the benefits of air travel. Trips that previously took weeks and even months can now be made in hours, and that’s something I’m definitely thankful for. Well, at least until my next flight.