Tag Archives: Air travel

Friendly Skies My @ss!

Photo credit: B. Snyder.

Photo credit: B. Snyder.

PortsAreCalling approaches writing about travel from multiple perspectives and this week’s post comes to us courtesy of Joseph Mosomillo. A frequent traveler, below are his observations on a recent flight experience.

Corporate greed and the separation of classes could not be represented any better than when traveling by air today. The bottom line is clear—you get what you paid a lot for to begin with.

It starts the minute you enter the airport.

The lines are longer for economy because of cutbacks and, possibly, there are less qualified people at the service counters. The premium class counters are brighter. The people who serve you are more attentive, and your baggage is not scrutinized because it may be a few pounds over the limit.

As a coach passenger you’re offered numerous up-charges, just to make you feel like those fortunate enough to pay for premium class. It starts with priority boarding, this eliminates the anxiety of not getting your carry-on stored above you or somewhere on the aircraft without being forced to check it because they have run out of room. Then there’s the additional leg room so you can stretch out three more inches, it usually runs about $25 an inch.

Then there’s the baggage.

Last year the airlines made two billion dollars in additional baggage fees. Two billion! Still not enough to give us that small bag of peanuts. Peanuts to them but not peanuts for us.

They also offer you the option of buying more miles at the time of check-in so you can possibly upgrade in the future, just in case someone is asleep at reservations and doesn’t sell that same ticket for hundreds or even thousands more. Imagine you’re sitting in first class on an upgrade and some schmuck paid thousands more for the luxury of free food and extra room. Hey, more power to you if you can afford the ticket.

That brings me to the whole food thing. Here I am sitting about three feet away from first class with that imaginary wall made of cheap polyester fabric separating me from a reheated meal. Instead, they offer me a beverage along with a list of prepackaged garbage food to purchase, while I’m watching trays of food being served through that polyester curtain. Boy do I feel like a second-class citizen for that moment, or that hungry kid saying, “please sir, could I have some more?” I think the worst part is the ice cream sundaes.

I don’t think the Wright brothers had this in mind. Their ideals were meant for the world to experience the invention of flight, to soar above the clouds, look down at the beauty from above, and feel free. It was a way to get people from point A to point B, to connect people to different places and faces, and share different parts of the world. Flight would be a thing of beauty and convenience, it sure seemed to start out that way.

Boy, did we overshoot the runway. How can such a beautiful thing have turned so ugly?

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Getting ‘Used To’ Travel.

FtrainSeveral years ago when some friends and I and boarded my local F train that’s part of New York City’s lovely subway system, a very funky odor greeted us. Basically, it smelled like crap. I suggested we move to another car, while another friend said, “You’ll get used to it.”

Are you kidding me? Why should we have to get used to it I wondered, as other passengers sat there reading or staring blankly in the practiced effort of avoiding eye contact.

Airline travel can sometimes be a similar experience. We’ve gotten “used to” things we feel we can’t control. Last week on a flight to Seattle, the flight attendant asked all passengers if they would kindly remain seated upon landing so a family traveling together could exit first. The plane had been delayed an hour leaving New York and it was going to be a tight connection for these folks to make their next flight. No problem, I thought, what’s a few more minutes? Apparently, it’s a big deal to a lot of people. The family could barely make it though the gauntlet of passengers who just couldn’t wait to get off the plane first.

We may be captives for a few hours in a flying can but that doesn’t mean we can’t be civilized. We may not be able to move to another subway car to get away from an offensive smell, or passenger, but we can show good etiquette.

Earlier this year Jaunted posted 8 Ways to Avoid Being ‘That Annoying Passenger’ on a Flight, I figured it bears repeating and, hopefully, you’ll pass it on:

Ah, airline travel. Could there be a more perfect example of a love/hate relationship? We feel fortunate for the opportunity to travel anywhere around the globe in a day; however, we’d be lying if we said the experience was always a relaxing one.

Airline travel is no longer comfortable in economy class, and it’s up to us to do our part to stop the bleeding. Some of these recommendations may seem small and trivial, but a little goes a long way at 30,000 feet!

Here are a few ways for you to help make someone else’s flight more enjoyable, and to avoid being “that guy” at the center of happy hour horror stories:

Don’t use the seats for balance as you walk down the aisle. Instead, use the overhead compartments. If you reach up and slide your hand along it, you’ll be able to catch yourself if there’s a sudden bout of turbulence. Every time you grab the corner of a seat, you create an earthquake, and if you’ve ever had someone do it to you while you’re nodding off, you know how annoying it is.

Along those same lines, don’t use the seat in front of you to pull yourself up when going to the rest room. Use the arm rests to push yourself up, as grabbing and pulling on the back of the seat is on par with kicking it.

Turn your bags back to front in the overhead. Time and time again we watch people put their bag sideways and take up the space of two. Don’t do that! It simply delays takeoff when the last people can’t find space and the flight attendants have to go around and turn the bags themselves.

Look behind you before reclining. We know you have the right to do it, and most times it’s all right, but sometimes, especially in smaller planes, we’ve wanted to knife the person sitting in front of us. We’re on the tall side – six foot two – and we’ve had situations where one minute we’re working on our computer, and the next the laptop is under our chin and we couldn’t type a word comfortably even if we had Tyrannosaurus arms. Take a peek behind you and just make sure you’re not making someone more uncomfortable than the comfort those extra few inches will provide you. That’s not too much to ask, right? By the way, if someone does it to you, all bets are off and everything is fair game. That particular time, we felt no hesitation or guilt for having to push on the seat to access the bag at our feet. We hate to say fight fire with fire, but sometimes it’s the only way.

Don’t eat aromatic food. Notice how we didn’t say bad smelling food, as that leaves too much up for interpretation. You might love the smell of tuna, but the other hundred people on the plane most likely do not. We had a man next to us eat canned octopus in garlic sauce once, and we spent the next three hours keeping the woman on our right from shoving the can down his throat.

Introduce yourself to your seatmate. You have to walk a fine line with this one as we’ve all heard people complain about the person next to them who “wouldn’t shut up,” but at least say hi to the person next to you. We find most people are up for some conversation, and sometimes it turns into a pleasant back and forth. That said, feel it out and pick up on people’s signals. If they’re fiddling with their earphones, casually give them a chance to end the conversation. But, at the very least, make an effort during takeoff and landing. To us, it’s weirder to sit next to someone for three hours and not say a word than it is to introduce yourself.

Wait until the row in front of you deplanes before deplaning yourself. We’re not sure why there is so much confusion about this (cough, Europe!). It seems like it should be common sense and common courtesy, yet inevitably there always seems to be someone who thinks they shouldn’t have to wait and who tries to push past us as we’re trying to exit our row. We were once in the second to last row of the plane and had the man in the last row almost knock us over as we stood up from our aisle seat and stepped out. Needless to say, words were exchanged – it’s just plain rude. If you happen to have a tight connection, be nice and quietly ask permission to go ahead (there’s nothing worse than a panicking person screaming about their connection… it’s a rookie traveler mistake and no one takes you any more seriously whether you ask nicely or act like a knucklehead. In fact, it’s the people who are pushy that we want to help the least).

Don’t stand in the aisle when waiting for the bathroom. We know you have to go, but we really would rather you not stand over us while you wait. It’s already tight quarters, and hovering over someone sitting in an aisle seat doesn’t make it any better, not to mention that certain body parts tend to line up with our face when they’re standing next to us (this is also a common time when people tend to rest their hands on the back of seats). Stay in your seat until there’s no line, or wait in the food galley until the person in front of you comes out. Thankfully, airlines have started to police this themselves and it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

Deep breath, rant over. Happy flying!

Thanksgiving–Let The Games Begin.

(Photo credit:  Daily Telegraph)

(Photo credit: Daily Telegraph)

The holidays are upon us and the general consensus seems to be that they’ve somehow come around faster this year. No one knows how this happened but I have a feeling age might have something to do with it.

If you’re holding out to score a last-minute airfare for Thanksgiving travel, you’ve probably waited too long. With the Wednesday before and the Sunday after this holiday being the busiest travel days of the year, all you can do now is bite the bullet. In which case, you might want to think about flying out on Thanksgiving morning to avoid the madness and the possibility of a slightly lower fare. While you’re at it, you may want to grab the book you’ve been meaning to read or load up your Kindle. The only thing worse than waiting in a long security line, being delayed at the airport, or being stuck in the middle of coach is not having a juicy piece of literature to help you escape. I don’t care what it is—from the New York Post to Proust—be sure you’re packing something to avoid getting sucked into a bad travel energy field.

If you’re driving, fill her up the night before and, depending on your destination, check traffic reports before you hit the road so you have an alternate route plan. If you use a GPS, it can be difficult to reprogram a new route into it if you’re driving solo. Whether you’re traveling with a gang or alone, take the time to plan in advance to avoid any hassles or chance of road rage. And don’t forget the entertainment. Audio books make driving a pleasure. Depending on who your co-passengers are, it’s a unique way to experience a story together and it makes the time fly.

I’d say anyone fortunate enough to travel by rail has it the easiest. It’s one of my favorite ways to go. Again, you can pack some snacks, reading materials, or just chill out to some good music and enjoy the view during the busiest time of the year without all the stress.

Most importantly, don’t forget to adopt a Zen attitude. It’s busy, it’s nutty—it is what it is. You’re one of the fortunate souls who got an invitation and can gather around a table with friends or family to bicker with a crazy relative and celebrate with loved ones.

Wherever you’re going and however you plan to get there, if you’re staying past the holiday, check out local happenings. Chances are that there’s something going on in or near the city or town you’re visiting that qualifies as an attraction.  Even if it’s a nature walk or hike.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it but family gathering typically entails a lot of eating and sitting in front of the TV. Use the opportunity of being away from home and treat it like a destination. Do a little research, you’ll be surprised with what you may find.

Last but not least, thanks to everyone who takes the time to visit Ports Are Calling and for all of the support and ideas towards keeping it going.   The web is full of shiny stuff that attracts your attention, so the fact that you read it means a lot.

Be well, travel safe and enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving.

It’s Been A “Pleasure” To Serve You.

Ellen Church, 1930. (Photo credit: Upmagazine-tap.com)

Ellen Church, 1930. (Photo credit: Upmagazine-tap.com)

Yesterday, in 1930, marked the day Ellen Church made history when she became the world’s first airline stewardess to work a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Cheyenne, Wyoming.   Her first career was as a registered nurse but Church was so thrilled by the idea of air travel that she took flight lessons.  The girl had moxie, and once she earned her wings she set her sights high by requesting a job as a pilot with Boeing Air Transport.  While that request didn’t fly, she still wanted to, so she swiftly parlayed that rejection into a savvy idea.  She offered up the suggestion to put nurses on flights to aid passengers’ fear of flying and it took off.

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United Airlines stewardesses.

Those of us who’ve been flying the friendly skies for a while can probably recall the days when airline travel was glamorous, but it didn’t start out that way for Church and her colleagues.  Back then stewardesses were more than just nurses in the sky.  They also had to help pilots push planes into the hangar, load luggage on to the plane, fuel the aircraft and screw down seats.  Then they had to work the flight.  Physically, these women had to be attractive and less than 25 years old, weigh less than 115 pounds and stand no more than 5 feet and 4 inches tall.

southwestOver the years registered nurses transitioned to an era of sexy stewardesses, and later to the equal opportunity title of flight attendants. The cost of airline travel over the last few decades has made it more affordable for folks to fly, it’s has also changed the quality of passengers.  As the size of planes has increased and more people travel, the role of the flight attendant has changed.  The glamour of air travel is gone, tickets are loaded with surcharges, and travelers can be unruly.  Flight attendants have more than their hostessing hands full these days—they’re underpaid and stressed out, their benefits have decreased, and heightened security adds another layer of responsibility to the job.
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Like flying, we often take flight attendants for granted. Ellen Church changed the lives of women when she turned her passion for flight into a career.  It seems only right to honor her this week, and the men and women who follow in her footsteps to help get us safely from point of departure to our destination.

Whether it’s for business or pleasure, the next time you fly, take a minute to look up and acknowledge the attendants who work your flight.  Be kind. Smile. Thank them for their service. The job may seem like no big thing, but anyone who works in the customer service industry knows that’s not the case.

A little gratitude goes a long way.