Air Travel Review

I took the family to Disneyland way back near the end of summer 2001. I stepped off the plane on September 10, 2001. I haven’t been on a plane since; therefore, I haven’t been on a plane since 9/11 which occurred less than 24 hours after our trip. So when it came time for me to go on a business trip last week, I was pretty apprehensive. All I knew about flying after 9/11 is what I’ve heard in the media. I expected strip searches at the security gates, dogs sniffing my unmentionables, troops with M16’s patrolling the gates, angry flight attendants, $20 honey roasted peanuts, no drinks and trigger-happy air marshals mistaking anything I say for “I have a bomb in my rectum”. Thanks CNN.

As it turned out, I couldn’t be more wrong. I arrived at the airport at 4AM. The TSA agents were friendly and professional. On my return flight I was randomly flagged to have my shoes tested for explosives and the TSA agent was apologetic for the inconvenience. I have absolutely no complaint about these fine people. They have a tough job and are doing it above what could be expected.

Airports have become more commercial. There are so many more restaurants, bars and newsstands than ever before, and I liked it. After I arrived at my destination, I was near baggage claim waiting for my ride to the hotel. They were delayed so I wandered over to buy a sandwich and a bottle of water from one of the kiosks. The worker there blew me away when she said “Are you flying out, because you don’t want to buy this water if you are.” I explained I had just arrived and she’s like “Oh good, because I didn’t want you to waste your money”. I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have been that nice. I would have charged them 20% more and claimed “This bottle is TSA safe”.

Being a fat guy of hutt-proportions, one of my major concerns was fitting in my seat. All I’ve heard for the last 10 years is if you don’t fit, you have to buy a 2nd seat. But I fit fine, with almost a full inch of slack left in my safety belt.

The only snag I ran into was trying to turn on the personal overhead light. I wanted to read so I pushed it but it was the attendant call button instead, and I was trying to turn it off and kept pushing all the buttons up there and was starting to freak out. I just knew the air marshal was putting away the dagger he was sharpening and had drawn his gun. I was never going to be able to convince them I wasn’t trying to light the fuse in my underwear or shoe. But then a gentle hand came to rest on my shoulder and one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen reaching with her other hand and turns off everything I had turned on and smiles at me and says “How may I help you.” Of course I turned to mush and ended up saying something like “uhhhhhhh…..light?”. She turned on my light and said “There you go, just let me know if you need anything else” and ended her gentle caress of my shoulder with a slight double-pat.

This lead me to start asking “What the hell is going on here?”

The real test came with the snack and sodas. The captain said something about it but I found myself wondering how much they were charging and just knew I would have to look stupid and ask. Turns out it was free. This was unexpected. I got a small clear plastic cup with ice and coke and some peanuts. It was great. I soon realized that 1 small cup of coke was not enough. When they passed by again, I timidely asked “How much would it cost to buy a whole can of Coke.” She smiles and says “Oh sweetie I’ll get you a Coke for free, no problem.” Of course by my final leg of my return flight I was acting like the General at the end of The Incredible Hulk, slamming my empty Coke can down and barking “RELOAD!!!”. I must have drank a 6-pack on what was the shortest leg of my trip.

In conclusion, everyone was nice at every possible point in the flight from curbside to curbside. The planes were comfortable, plenty of room in the overhead bins, flight was smooth, pilot was not drunk, stoned or asleep at any point (as far as I could tell) and I’m alive to write about the whole damn thing. What else could anyone ask for? I give commercial air travel five stars. OK, OK, I know I only have 2 data points for security and 4 data points for everything else I've talked about, which is typically not enough to draw a good conclusion from, but hey if that little data is sufficient for climatologists, then it's ok for me.  Mainstream media can suck it!


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