Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Economy of Flying...

Just a quick post today as I'm back from my trip and work is calling to me. The perils of getting up at 4:30 a.m. and going straight to work involve having a fuzzy head, no guaranteed source of caffeine save for nasty airplane coffee and a meeting the minute you walk in the door.

That being said, getting up that early to fly is always an interesting experience. You see all sorts at airports at 5:30 a.m. in the morning. For the most part, it's prime business travel time. This means you see lots of people in suits groggily clasping giant cups of coffee and tapping away on their laptops. There's also the recreational travelers, like me, who probably had to get up that early for a reason and are desperately trying to look awake but not having much luck. Then you see the ones who are so heavily asleep that the sound of their snores is the only thing you can hear. I can't tell if they're travelling for fun or purpose.

Me, I'm not a fan of flying. I used to be, back in the days when flying was fun. I never thought I'd be one of those people who said, "when I was younger...." but I'm saying it: When I was younger, flying was fun.

I'm not talking about the magic of flying because I'm still astounded at that. Every time I'm in a plane travelling at top speed down the runway, I imagine a giant bird building up speed and then gracefully hopping up into the air to soar to the destination of choice. I don't think I'm so far off with that. When we land, I love the comforting bump of the plane's wheels hitting the tarmac of the runway because it means the flight was safe, we made it and it's almost time to get off.

No, I'm talking about the fun of flying. Those were days when you could hand your luggage in at the ticket counter and not have to pay to put it on a plane. Those were the days when you got to choose chicken or fish. Yes, the food was generally revolting but having the food carts come down the aisle without having to debate whether it's really worth the $5 for the snack box that you could probably throw together for about $2, was still a nice feeling. The food broke up the flight, seperated it. Then there were the movies. Some airlines still show movies. Most don't. Now, if you get a packet of peanuts, you're very fortunate.

I remember the best flight I ever had. Granted, it was to the UK and international flights do still provide food and movies but back then, only about 8 years ago, flying was fun. Not only did we get free wine with dinner and any time the drink cart came round and we all got hot towels to refresh us, not just the spoiled first class folks. The flight attendants brought baskets of Toblerones around as a mid-afternoon snack. Yes, that really happened. No, I am not making it up.
Nowadays flying has become a rote thing. It's a means to an end. I miss the days when the flight was part of the vacation/adventure. I miss the days in which people could get on a plane and have a few hours of uninterrupted peace with no telephone, no internet, just an excuse to blissfully read for pleasure. My last flight offered in-flight internet service which meant that had I been travelling for business, I, like so many others, would have felt guilty for not working when I could, for not checking my email instead of curling up with a Sookie Stackhouse novel.

The sad thing is that I know airlines had to cut the luxuries to cover costs but I haven't noticed that ticket prices have gone down. I suppose we need the airlines as much as they need us. Yet it doesn't mean I don't miss watching a bad movie on a plane or complaining that my dinner rolls is still frozen in the middle. My honest theory is that when you're trapped in a giant metal box with no way out for several hours, that frozen-in-the-middle-dinner-roll and gelatinous chicken dish is still exciting because it breaks the monotony.

Still, I suppose as long as I can get where I need to go without having to panic about connections, that's something. Of course, if you fly Delta/Northwest, that doesn't happen's hoping. I therefore dedicate this blog to my parents who had to spend the night in Atlanta because they were delayed on their connecting flight and missed their flight to London yesterday.

On the bright side, mum and dad, at least they'll feed you. Then again, maybe that's not such a bright side.

Happy Wednesday.

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