Cheap flights and how to board the plane
Have you ever had the experience of going to the gate only to find it empty of passengers? There’s something strange about the way airport communicate with those in search of planes. In theory, there are speakers located at strategic points about each terminal and, no matter where you sit or stand, you will always be able to hear each announcement perfectly. Indeed, when you pay attention, you can always hear calls for other flights. Yet when it comes to your own, there’s a strange disconnection as if the message suddenly enters a parallel dimension and fails to reach your ears. So then you find yourself in the wrong place and, naturally, there’s no one around to ask where you should be. When you do finally track down where you should be, have you noticed how everyone gets asked to board the plane before you? By the time you get to your seat you always find that the overhead compartment space has been taken up all up and down you aisle.
When you are finally in your seat with baggage stowed, you realize you’re not yet in the air. You’ll be pleased to know there are federal regulations that limit the time you can be held in the plane on the ground. For domestic flights at the larger airports, you have to be offered release after three hours. The airline is also to ensure you have enough to drink and the toilet arrangements are adequate. There are fines for both US and foreign airlines if they leave your international flight on the tarmac for more than four hours. This means that returning to the terminal is less economical that actually taking off, in theory.
Let’s say you’re now in the air. Have you noticed it’s difficult to get anything to eat or drink unless you pay? It’s well known food has never been great but, in the days before pricing got less than transparent, you used to get one of those trays with something edible on it as a part of the ticket price. Now the airlines seem to think the only thing you get for your ticket is permission to sit in a seat. Remember, never ever say anything that could be interpreted as insulting about the airline or any of its staff. Even more important, never joke about terrorism. Indeed, until you get in the air, it’s probably safer not to talk to anyone about anything connected with flying. Any perceived risk to security and you will probably be arrested, taken off the plane and put in a holding cell by an air marshall due to the high level of paranoia that can be found everywhere.
In a perfect world where you have realized the American Dream, you have your own private jet and people bow and scrape as you walk majestically through the airport and board when it’s convenient to you. Until that day dawns, you’re in the cheap flights with the rest of us and pathetically grateful because, if you were thinking about using the train as a substitute, it would take you more than fifty hours on the California Zephyr to get from Chicago to San Francisco. A cheap flight may be more convenient than a train no matter how comfortable to train will be.