Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Flying Lessons

I saw more than my fair share of airports in 2010, not that I'm complaining.  I thought a bit about airports, airlines and flying in general a couple of days ago, returning to Chicago from the long holiday weekend back in Cleveland. Actually, I spent most of my time thinking about the items that travelers carry aboard airplanes.

Here's what I typically take:
  • A large shoulder bag with enough room for my purse, books and necessities
  • Reading material. In theory, flying is a great way to keep up with my reading. Perhaps it's just me, but there seems to be more books, magazines, papers and blogs that I'd like to read, but less time in which to do so. I have a stack of books by my bed and another by my easy chair. I am constantly jotting titles and authors on lists for future reading.

    So I tuck a few items in my carryon and let myself enjoy a few minutes while cramped into small spaces with inadequate lighting and deafening sound levels. For longer trips, I like to load up my ipod with ebooks - much less weight to drag through airports, less bulky to shove under the seat in front of me, and no worries about inadequate lighting. Unless I forget to charge the ipod before I go.
  • A shawl or wrap - the longer the flight, the colder the cabin seems to get
  • A snack - Seems silly for a short flight, but I have had flights delayed or canceled and been stuck in airports with either no food for sale or only very pricey items available. This is a life saver.
  • A laptop bag (duh)


When my mom travels, she packs her "necessary bag." This includes everything she could possibly need/want during her trip, including wine, cheese and crackers.

Need to sew on a button? Mom's got a sewing kit. Paper cut? Here's a bandage. Headache? Aspirin at the ready. Since she usually travels by train or car, she can get away with carrying things forbidden on planes, like a knife for the cheese and a corkscrew for the wine.
I try never to have to gate check a bag. Seriously, I don't want to be in the line of people who cannot wait to get off the plane, then queue up along with sides of the gangway (freezing, usually), blocking the way of others trying to leave because we purposely packed so as not to have to gate check anything. Phew! Sorry - got that off my chest.

Airports - you know what would make airports much better? Multiple power outlets in passenger waiting areas. In the Fort Lauderdale airport earlier this month, I searched a four-gate area for a power outlet. There was one (1) - behind the gate crew desk. Where does the cleaning crew plug in a vacuum? Not that the carpet looked very clean. In other airports, you can locate an outlet but must sit on the floor, your back to a pillar or window, to use it. I'm sure it made sense even fifteen years ago, when most of us did not carry electronics on our persons, but not today. The same with airplanes - what about making power available in economy class? How awesome that would be! =sigh=

I like flying, but airlines have made it harder to like. So many restrictions, rules, fees. Still, flying is often a convenient mode of transportation that makes possible my husband and I living and working in separate states. If I couldn't fly, I'd be able to see him less. So thanks, Continental, United, American, et al. Keep 'em in the air, keep 'em safe. I'll pack lightly and be courteous to my fellow travelers. And I'll try to remember to charge my electronics before I leave the office.