Flying and airports..just thinking about it can cause us stress. So much has changed in the past several years. Once upon a time we didn’t have to worry about security, concern ourselves with the weight of our suitcases or think about how many ounces of liquid we had in our purse. We didn’t choose our shoes based on how easy they are to remove while going through security.
We didn’t choose an airline based on whether we were going to have to pay a baggage fee or not. Of course we felt confident that if we checked our suitcase, it would be waiting for us at the end of our destination in the same condition in which we checked it. We certainly didn’t feel like it was necessary to plan our air travel snacks, because the airlines offered some fairly good options.
If we were frequent business travelers, or just wanted to splurge to sit in “first class”, we could afford the increased ticket costs to do so. Boy times have changed. Most of us can remember when meals were freely offered, no matter which seats you were sitting in. Now mind you, they weren’t gourmet, but one could always manage to find a bite or two of this or that, enough to hold you until you arrived at your next layover or destination. Gradually, those meals changed to tiny bags of mini pretzels, peanuts or a Lorna Doone shortbread type of cookie if you were lucky. We could at least still count on our signature flared, clear plastic cup with 6 mini ice cubes and the beverage of our choice, and on some airlines, could even snag the whole 12oz. of pop.
For Your Flying Comfort..
I can vaguely remember when customer service on any airline was the priority. Yes, airlines were about making money, but they seemed to really care about our comfort, or did I just dream that? I suppose as airline budgets shriveled, so did the idea of passengers as the priority. When taking my first international flight, I remember thinking how cool it was that I could actually watch and listen to a movie on an airplane. Wow. But there just seemed to be something incongruent about the luxury of watching a movie with earphones which left my ears very sore for days afterward. Or listening to only parts and pieces of the movie because of the inevitable static in one of my “free” ear-buds, or the battle to keep them in my ears at all. It wasn’t too bad if you were among the lucky part of the population whose ear canal could accommodate the wide base of the cheapo earphone design. At some point, I had to pay money for the privilege of using those sub-standard ear-buds. And I even thanked them for the opportunity.
The Perks Of Flying
Not long ago I had an occasion to fly to a different state for a family wedding. The total trip duration was approximately 3 to 3.5 hours. I didn’t check prior to the flight, but had the expectation that I would likely be served a drink and snack. After arriving at our cruising altitude, I busied myself with my reading material. Periodically, I would look around to see where the flight attendants were & whether the refreshment service had begun yet. And sure enough not long after, I saw the flight attendant come through with a large, gleaming smile and a bag.
I wasn’t quite sure what she was doing until she came a bit closer. I realized that she was moving through the cabin and offering passengers the opportunity to throw away any garbage they might have. Hmm, I thought to myself that this seemed a bit odd since we had not been served yet. I decided that perhaps they did not have time to fully clean the cabin before the passengers embarked on plane for their flight. No worries. I continued to read.
Inflight Bites Anyone?
Periodically, I would look up and around to see if orders were being taken or how close the attendants were to arriving at my seat. In another half hour or so, here came the smiling attendant, again offering the garbage bag for anyone wishing to donate. This stuck me funny and I thought to myself.. this is really strange, we haven’t been offered any refreshments to generate any trash yet.
On the attendant’s third run through the aisle, I thought that maybe I was being “punked”. Here she came again with her gleaming white toothed smile, graciously offering the refuse bag with her plastic gloves on. I didn’t see any cameras..but what the hell? No cookie or peanuts even?! Truly, it was the most efficient non-service I had ever received on a flight. I wasn’t mad as much as it struck me funny. Why not just ask the passengers to release their seat belts and each clean their own space?!
As the plane door opened upon our arrival, there was our friendly attendant at the door. With her commercial-worthy smile, she thanked us for flying with her and said that they enjoyed having us…really? I’m not used to that kind of hospitality…I’m not sure I believed her. Well at least we were safely brought down (in more ways than one.)
Let’s be clear. There are no travel frills or extras on a plane ride anymore, unless you can afford to pay for them. We all know where we stand (or sit as it were.) We have now been fully conditioned to expect nothing..not even great customer service. In fact, when we get it, such as a funny joke on Southwest Airlines, it is an unexpected surprise..and the only one we don’t have to pay for.
Plan ahead. Take your own drinks, snacks and sanitary neck pillows. Airlines will, if you are lucky, get you to your destination by the time that is printed on your ticket. Expect delays, expect hassles, expect airline personnel who have previously been beaten down by angry passengers to be totally emotion-less to see you. In the event that these expectations are un-met and you have an enjoyable flight, consider yourself lucky. And thank you for flying the friendly skies. Ya’ll come back now, ya hear!