I have decided that I don’t like flying. I used to like it. It usually meant that I was going somewhere new and exciting, a long way from home. Flying was novel, a rarity. The excitement of security checks, navigating huge airports, getting a window seat, the stomach dropping feeling of the take off, in flight meals, movies and the luggage carousel that you just want to ride. Now it has all changed.
It has become the drag of security checks, navigating huge airports, getting an emergency exit seat near the front so you get enough leg room and are one of the first off the plane, sitting on the runway waiting for the take off, tasteless in flight meals, movies I’ve already seen and the luggage carousel that you fight your way to get to just to find your bags are damaged. You could say my flying cup is no longer half full; it’s half empty.
So why is flying so glamorised? Airlines battle each other to be the most prestigious and their advertising suggests that the best part of your trip is going to be the ‘experience’ of getting there. The vocation of being an airline host/hostess stirs thoughts of being paid to travel in suggestive yet professional uniforms, however, isn’t it really just a waiter/waitress? Why don’t bus attendants command the same respect? They both perform similar duties, one just wears more makeup and does their duties a few thousand feet above the ground.
If we were to believe what the airlines suggest, then they would be at our beck and call, doing everything they can to accommodate our every need. But I have found it to be totally the opposite. From the moment I check in. Lining up in the ‘economy’ queue for around an hour as I slowly weave my way around the maze of posts and strapping. Did the person at the front get stuck? Can they not find their way out? Are we all just following them blindly? Making sure that I meet the luggage weight requirements despite the fact that I am literally half the body mass of some of the other passengers, and then charging a small fortune for any extra. Begging for an emergency exit seat so that I am not sitting with my knees jammed into the back of the passenger in front of my for 8hrs.
As I wait to board, I am patronised by hostesses in bizarrely impractical uniforms for what they do, as they try to make me feel like I am the most important thing to them. Then, as I board the plane, they bring me back down to Earth by making me walk past First Class, just to see the REAL most important people and all the comforts that I am missing.
Then it’s time for the ‘food’. There are always two choices but I always feel that they try to push the least popular one. ‘Hello, Sir. Would you like the spinach pasta with organic sautéed button mushrooms in creamy béchamel sauce? Or the noodles?’ Tough choice.
And what is with all the alcohol? I once paid attention during the in flight safety video and they clearly tell you to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. But getting water on a flight is almost impossible. For starters, you have to discard any water bottles at the security check. Then you stroll through duty free, where it’s like walking into a night club filled with neon alcohol advertisements and models that are trying to force you to try one of their samples. On the plane, the water they do serve is barely enough to pop a couple of asprin but when the drinks cart rolls around, Jack Daniels and wine flow freely. Maybe this is the ‘experience’ they want you to have?
After the flight, I wait again in economy, waiting for the VIPs at the front to exit first so that I can stand and shuffle in single file to the only exit that is open. Then, after more lining up in immigration and watching the flight crew walk straight through the priority desk, I make my way to the luggage carousel, where, without fail, my bags have come out with some sort of damage. From rips and tears, to broken handles to bent parts on my bike.
Maybe it’s just because I have been sitting in an airport for four hours after a long flight waiting for a connection. Or maybe it’s because I have another 8hr flight ahead of me. Either way, I have decided that airlines are liars. I wonder if I would have looked forward to family holidays more when I was a kid if my parents pitched an 8hr car ride in the same way that airlines do? Sitting in a cramped back seat is pretty much the same thing... actually, I’d go as far as saying it’s better. At least you can stop when you want. Airline advertisements should show tired and disgruntled travellers just happy to get off the plane at their destination. Don’t dress it up, don’t make it out to be more glamorous than what it is. Flying is overrated.