Flying The Friendly Skies

You define a good flight by negatives: you didn’t get hijacked, you didn’t crash, you didn’t throw up, you weren’t late, you weren’t nauseated by the food. So you are grateful. ~ Paul Theroux

Clearly this is an old quote since they don’t give you food on flights anymore. Remember when you used to get those funky little TV dinners? They weren’t usually very good but they were free.  Eventually the microwaved dinners were phased out and were replaced by soda and smoked almonds.

That got me hooked on smoked almonds – I already had a diet Coke habit. Before long the almonds were gone and it was a soda and little pretzels. Then it was a soda and… well, just a soda.

So, before flying the friendly skies, I usually toss a few protein bars in my backpack. This habit indicates to me that subconsciously I either fear we’re going to crash-land and be Lost or I can’t fathom going 4 hours without any sustenance. Most likely the latter.

We flew Southwest for the first time in a long time.

Flying Southwest these days is different from my past airline experiences in several ways.

1. You get to check 2 suitcases (under 50 lbs) and a carry-on and a “personal item” (purse, briefcase, violin) for free. Actually, this is just like my past flying experiences, but certainly isn’t standard anymore.

Since neither of us can lift a suitcase over 50 lbs, that was a given. After years of traveling, we’ve learned to travel light. We each had 1 suitcase and a backpack (for 3 1/2 weeks of vacation). This only works if you believe black is the new black and you re-wear everything but your underwear.

I’m not sure why I included the shoes in the picture, but I have to say, it’s lot quicker to get in and out of ones you don’t have to tie. We had no problem with the security screening and for the first time in forever, Heidi wasn’t pulled aside and searched. I’ve always figured they picked her because she was so un-terrorist looking. The fact that we both made it through without a special search may mean our Secret Agent status is beginning to carry some weight.

I have no fear of flying but I always have a niggling bit of apprehension that my luggage will end up in San Diego while I’m landing in Seattle.

It’s never happened to me, but according to Fly.com, it happened 40,000 fewer times in 2011 than in 2010. I’m sure that’s supposed to be comforting, but something about saying 40,000 fewer times just doesn’t set my mind at ease.

If I were a newbie flyer, I would recommend buying ugly luggage. Since we have average looking luggage (although the red is way easier to spot than black or grey), we bought a roll of gold duct tape and wrapped a swath around the bags and then made big gold X’s on both sides.

They were so seriously uglied-up, I felt certain that if they made it to our destination (since we had to switch planes once each way), no one would want to be seen walking off with them. I was right. They came down the shoot and everyone stepped back!

2. The second thing that is different with Southwest is that you don’t have assigned seats. You just stand in line at the gate, based on your number. We printed out our boarding passes as soon as we could (24 hours in advance) and got assigned to a group.

In all but 1 of our flights, we were in the first group. On the long flights we headed straight for the back row. It’s not a popular spot. You’re the last off and your seat doesn’t recline – but it’s blissfully quiet behind you – and we had ample connecting time. After we returned, I learned that it may also be the safest spot on the plane according to a simulated crash test re-played on the Discovery Channel.

No matter where I sit, inevitably, some man will sit by me and use both arm rests. Even on a flight with many open seats, when I’m in the very undesirable back row, this happens. Because we did a lot of flying in 25  years of seminar presentations, we’ve learned that Heidi, who’s kind of claustrophobic and has a LARGE personal space issue, is better off on the aisle.

This means that for someone to sit by me, they have to go all the way to the undesirable back and crawl over both of us to claim the window seat and both arm rests. This invariably happens and we sit on our hips and tilt toward the middle the entire flight. It’s a complete mystery to me.

Blurring the Space Offender out of courtesy and because he said he works for the government and was reading Defense Weekly with great intensity…

3. Southwest is still feeds you. They were kind of insistent on it even. They give you baby (I mean the smallest I’ve ever seen) pretzels and a packages of peanuts and soda and coffee (which promises to give you a LIFT) and refills on all of the aforementioned.

If you have a flight in your future, my advice is to ugly-up your luggage, travel light, head for the back and enjoy the ride. This is a real quote from a pilot on another Southwest flight:

Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines!