Airports: The Problem With Flying

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 28, 2007
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I don’t enjoy flying in airplanes. It wasn’t always like that. In the beginning, the thought of flying off into the wild blue yonder, ducking in and out of the big clouds and feeling the power of the engines was exciting to me. In the old days, the propeller-driven engines of Pan American Airways were noisy and there were steady vibrations. A lot has changed since the good old days.

In those days, just about everyone wanted to be a pilot, an airline stewardess or a baggage handler. Airline employees had flying privileges, good pay and flattering pensions.

They even had airplanes with sleepers on the transpacific flights. It took twice as long as it does now to make it across the ocean, and many of the old-timers were scared to death of flying even though it was a very safe way to cross the Pacific. Compared to the ships Lurline and Matsonia, it was the favorite mode of travel.

As Hawaii became a bigger resort destination, deregulation in the airline industry, frequent flyer miles, getting to the airport, finding a parking space and finally making it to the check-in counter became a real challenge. Fast forward to our high-tech world of traffic gridlock, home-land security systems and impatient passengers, flying is once again fearful and something to be avoided.

I had reason to make a trip to Kauai last weekend. The accepted behavior is to arrive two hours before departure, put on your Aloha Spirit face, stay loose and adjust.

After making it to the airport through unbelievable traffic on the freeway, I took my electronic ticket and waddled to the check-in counter. After standing there for a half-hour without moving, I started to get disgusted. I didn’t mind waiting, but the skycaps irritated me, as, one after another, they were cutting in front of the line to check in passengers who had purchased their assistance.

All of the clerks’and attendants’ behavior was exemplary. It’s the passengers who need lessons on politeness. In my unprofessional opinion, it all begins with the passengers’desire to beat the baggage claim dilemma by trying to carry on all of their luggage. It’s not against the law, because each passenger gets to carry on two pieces of luggage. Some of the carry-on bags are bulky and clumsy, and some not only don’t fit in the overhead bins, many of them cannot be wheeled down the aisle of the plane.

Probably the most disgusting practice, thanks to a terrorist’s attempt to sneak his explosive shoes onto an airplane, is you have remove your shoes and send them through the scanner. Simply put, many passengers have smelly feet and it makes the airport smell bad.

It’s interesting that many of the airlines these days don’t have assigned seating. For those that do, it’s a lot like playing the craps tables in Las Vegas - you could end up sharing an aisle with a real uncouth individual with no manners.

My last observation was that many of the passengers waiting for their boarding call have a habit of taking up two seats in the waiting area with their carry-on luggage. I, being the disciplined type, sat in a corner because I had a oneand-a-half-hour wait for the boarding call. I was one of those without the first-class privileges that allow you to be pampered in the executive lounge. There wasn’t anyone around when I took my seat, but in several minutes the boarding area was packed. A wimpy tourist guy, lugging his two massive carry-on bags, came up to me and said, “Ah, buddy, you’re in my seat.”

I replied, “Really, I didn’t see any bags or signs on the seat, I’m sorry.” He looked at me with disgust and his lady curled up her nose like she could smell my feet. I moved to another seat in the back of the waiting area and vowed to join the premier club of every airline I might ever fly again to protect myself from airport abuse.

I don’t mean to make it sound like the experience was a total loss, because it wasn’t. We left on time, arrived on time, the in-board coffee was grand and my lonely piece of luggage arrived on the same plane with me. It was like magic, and I was pleased.

Flying would be great if it wasn’t for the airport abuse you have to endure prior to takeoff.

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