Can’t I Just Have the Whole Can? Airplane Travel and Fixing a Dehumanizing Process
When did flying become so inconvenient and arduous? I wasn’t alive at the time but if episodes of Mad Men and vintage ads are to believed, flying used to be downright delightful. Large, comfortable reclining seats, friendly stewardesses, lobster and champagne…so much champagne. Also before 9/11 you had the chance of someone rushing to the gate to declare their eternal love for you. Airports were amazing places. Maybe it was only like that in first class. Maybe no one ever met you at the gate. Maybe coach has always been bad but it wasn’t this bad right?!?
Think about the process today. You arrive several hours before your departure time to go through security. You cue up and remove your belt and shoes. You're subjected to pat downs, X-ray machines, 3D scanning photography or worse, all while being herded like cattle through the line. While lugging your stuff, you rush to your terminal, only to stand in another line waiting to board. As long as there are no delays you enter the plane to fight over the last remaining bins overhead. You cram into an ever shrinking airplane seat and wait for the only real highlight of the plane ride, the drink service. All this and you’re only offered a half can of Coke. Can’t I just have the whole can?
I don’t want to come off as ungrateful or complaining. It is absolutely amazing that for a few hundred dollars you’re within hours of most places in the world. It is also amazing that airlines are able to move so many people around so efficiently, with as few delays and problems as there really are. Not withstanding the fact that you are literally soaring through the air like a eagle. But good lord it’s a dehumanizing experience at times.
How can you improve the process? How can you not only endure the flight, but maybe even enjoy it as well? Below are some suggestions.
1. Fly First Class
Sorry but this is the best way to enjoy it. Better seats. Priority boarding and security. Better service. It’s just the unfortunate truth that if you want the best flight experience possible you have to pay for it. But since most of us can’t afford it (we’ve never flown first class) how can we bring some of the fist class amenities to a coach flight? These next few suggestions will still cost you but not nearly as much as much as a first class seat.
2. Upgrade Your Coach Seat
Sometimes for as little as 80 dollars you can upgrade your coach seat to something that rivals the leg room at the front of the plane. If you’ve got a long flight or like to stretch out it could be well worth the cost.
3. Priority Boarding
Have you ever boarded in the last couple of groups, only to find out that there is no bin space left for your bag? Most airline credit cards offer priority boarding and you don’t even have to use that credit card to buy the ticket. Just add it to your frequent flier number and you can board right after first and business class.
4. Airport Lounges
Airports are busy places with a lot of noise and bustle. For the most part airline lounges are quiet and much more secluded. Plus free drinks and snacks. A lot of credit cards include lounge access with the annual fee or you can buy a day pass to the lounge. It’s usually around 50 dollars, depending on the lounge. If you have a long layover that money is easily recouped when you count the free alcohol and food. Plus it’s nice to use a private bathroom.
5. TSA Precheck and Global Entry
For just 100 dollars every five years, you can go through a shorter security line at the airport. You can skip customs forms and lines. You can keep your shoes and belt on and leave your liquids in the bag. You can even carry through a bottle of water. It all happens once you become a trusted traveler and pay the TSA a little money. The sign up process is akin to a long day at the DMV but it lasts 5 years and makes the security process a breeze.
What if you're on a budget? No more room to add perks? How can you fly coach without pulling your hair out?
6. Have a Good Attitude
This really goes a long way. Mentally prepare yourself for the worst from travel. Expect to be delayed. Expect long lines. That way when things go well you’ll be pleasantly surprised. A good outlook can really help. You’ll be calm and collected, while everyone else is freaking out.
7. Arrive Early and Plan Well
On our first flight to Paris, my boarding pass didn’t work on my phone and I had to leave security and go and get a printed pass. We were running late so thankfully we were flying out of a small regional airport. If it had been a bigger airport, we probably wouldn’t have made our flight. So arrive early so you can relax and not stress. Also plan everything out. Find a restaurant or bar to relax in at the airport. Know the layout of the airport and where your going. All of this can reduce the stress of flying and make it more enjoyable.
8. Enjoy the Downtime.
Unless you’re paying for the spotty wi-fi on the plane, a flight is a chance to disconnect. No one can call you. You can’t text. You can’t check Twitter or Instagram. Enjoy it. Kick back and use the time to read, binge watch some Netflix or just rest. You might as well make the most of the downtime.
While it has gotten much cheaper, airplane travel has gotten worse over the years. As airlines try to make a profit, many are cutting corners left and right. This trend doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, with budget carriers becoming so popular.
Flights and the problems that come with them are just part of heading out on vacation. Hopefully though, you're flying somewhere amazing. Hopefully these tips can make your journey there, a little more pleasant.