What part do we play in flying problems?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

I started flying in 1986, my first out of country jaunts were to Mexico, the Caribbean, Germany, and Italy. From the fall of 2011 through the spring of 2013 my husband’s job included travel to Europe. Every so often I was fortunate enough to join him. This was an exciting introduction to more places, going to France, Spain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and more Germany and Italy.

A great deal has changed from my first flight from Pennsylvania to California. The prohibition of smoking is wonderful. The lack of leg room and delicious meals in coach is sad.

After 9/11, we saw security measures put in place across the board. As we traveled more extensively, we paid for and went through the enrollment process for TSA pre-check and the Customs Trusted Traveler program for expedited border crossing.

Boarding a Plane

I’m always amazed by how difficult it is for people to understand the basic concept of getting on a plane. The flight attendant, or even the captain, can repeatedly state the simple instructions: “Find your seat, step out of the aisle, put your bag in the compartment over your seat and your smaller bag at your feet…” and yet, there is chaos.

Airplane Overhead Stowing

Someone sitting in row 29 decides he’s special and puts his bag in the compartment above row 12 so that it’s easy for him to deplane. The person belonging in row 12 is stuck carrying his bag to the rear. When it comes time for deboarding, he’s holding up the works to get to the back for his bag. [My brother once called out a man who did this and the flight attendant made him moved his bag! Bravo, my bro!]

Baggage Fees When Flying

Who in heaven’s name thought this up? Now that the airlines charge for checked bags, people cram more into their carry-ons making the above even more difficult. If they HAD to charge for bags, why didn’t they simplify things and charge for carry-ons, not checked luggage? Think how much faster they could load/unload us.

The second part of this that is humorous is that storage is limited on certain size planes, so then we have gate-checking of bags—for free.


Since they stopped serving food except on ocean-crossings or extra long flights, we are assaulted by the odoriferous scents of greasy McDonald’s, et al. The smells from fast food restaurants can be nauseating to those with sensitive noses—same as folks wearing heavy colognes or perfumes. Please don’t.

First Class

United Airlines First Class
Rare first class seats–love the pod

This one always provides a chuckle. Note that I laugh the way same about this on the rare occasion when I have been in these seats: They’re trying to get passengers loaded on the plane and at the same time the flight attendant is going back and forth serving drinks to the first class people.

You’ve got him/her swimming against the tide of on-boarders, you have the first class people being jostled by coach folks, bags whacking their elbows, knees and heads, and the whole process is ridiculous. 

Seat Sizes

This is such a point of contention for me. Why can’t they sell seats by size? I’m 5’2” and top out at about 120. On a recent flight from Pittsburgh to Denver, I had the window seat and a large man had the middle seat. He was at least as tall as my husband, who is 6’2”, but he weighed a lot more—let’s say 240. He had no choice but to use my armrest and part of my seat. I was not happy about this and felt claustrophobic for a thousand miles. 

Row Closeness

Seester and her Window Seat to Italy
Jackie and her Window Seat to Italy

This goes along with seat sizes. If the airline bigwigs had to fly coach, ever, they might realize how inhumane their new rows are to anyone over five feet tall. Again, even as short as I am, these seats hurt. Do they think we haven’t noticed that the seats and the windows no longer line up? Yep, sliding those rows closer together has thrown the alignment off kilter.

Sometimes it’s possible to do computer work during flights. Another recent flight was truly a joke. The rows had such little room between them that as soon as the woman in front of me leaned her seat back, my work space shrunk to about four inches. Luckily there was no one in the middle seat so I turned sideways, opened that seat’s tray table and typed with my arms bent out to my sides. There was a large man sitting opposite me who had his computer’s lid tilted into a “V” so he could work. The airlines are touting that Wi-Fi is available, but they’ve squashed the rows so tightly together that it’s a tough chore to accomplish much.


On the Billings flight, some good old Pennsylvania boys (I hate to claim them) were flying to go hunting. There were a half dozen of them including the aisle guy in my row and his buddy behind him. They thought this was a party plane. They drank from boarding (at 11:50a.m.), talked at full-volume, and found it necessary to repeatedly use the f-word. Since they helped short people with bags, I assume they knew what manners were, they chose not to employ them. Why the flight attendants let this bad behavior continue was a mystery.

Summing Up

All in, I’m amazed that the flight attendants don’t snap a bit more often. I couldn’t deal with passengers for all those hours day after day and not want to slap some heads together and ask: Really? Really? You seriously don’t know how to buckle the seatbelt? Have you never ridden in a car?

All these negative observations aside, here’s what it comes down to since 9/11: If the plane goes up and comes down properly, I’m a happy person. If the plane(s) arrive on time, even better. 

There’s a lot to be thankful for these days, right?

Burt & Muggins like to fly


Read: Leaving Traces of Ourselves Behind