Amongst the Masses

Jeff and I went to Montana to visit his family. It was a great trip, and I will share more about that later. But, first things first. I have a theory about travel. And, here it is…if those who work with the flying public would actually fly once in a while, they would have a much better perspective and would treat the flying public differently.

Jeff and I usually buy tickets when we travel. Now, realize that, being a flight attendant, I could fly for free–even on carriers other than my own. It’s just that I hate to non-rev. That’s the term airline folks use when they use their flying benefits to fly for free. It’s not that I don’t like things that are for free, I do. It’s that Jeff has to buy a ticket since he doesn’t work for an airline. And, I really hate the stress of trying to get where we’re going at the same time by flying stand-by. Who wants to be sitting in an airport waiting for flight after flight, while your partner is already at your destination?

You see, amazingly, for someone who flies for a living, I am a horrible flier. Oh, I could manage through it, if I were traveling alone or with another flight attendant. But, I don’t like the stress of it…especially when I am on vacation. So…I buy a ticket and travel like everyone else. And, after doing this several times, I am convinced that every airline employee should do this once in a while. Here’s why: Airline employees need to know what the passengers go through.

Here’s my “airport experience” as a flight attendant…

A pre-arranged van picks me up from the hotel an hour before the scheduled departure time. I am dropped off at the curb and walk directly to the front of the security line, bypassing everyone. I am allowed to leave my belt and shoes on and I am not restricted by liquid bans or number of carry-on rules. I show up to the airplane before anyone gets on it and take my time getting settled before any passengers board. At the end of my day, I gather my belongings and walk straight to the hotel van. Someone loads my luggage into the back for me and I am off.

I am not saying that there are no stresses for me at work. I do have to deal with passengers who are difficult. I am bound to the plane often for 10+ hours. And, if there are delays or other circumstances, I’m right there with everyone else. But, from traveling among hoi polloi, here is what I have learned:

The “airport experience” of the masses…

Expecting long line-waits, I had to arrive at the airport at least two hours before my departure. I wait in my first line for the ticket counter. I check my bags, say a prayer that they’ll make it to my final destination and move on to the security line. I wander through the snake-shaped line, pausing for flight crews and passengers with special needs to squeeze in front. Finally, at the front of the line, I have to take off my jacket, my belt, and my shoes. My bag, which has no liquids, is chosen for further screening. I watch without touching, the agent ruin my careful packing job. I am left with my belongings in a pile, half-disrobed, and a TSA agent pushing me to “move on.” I finally get myself re-organized and head to the gate and wait some more. I finally start to board the plane and wait in line again.

Now, the fun begins. I am 6’2″ and sitting in a middle seat for two hours. It’s not exactly comfortable. But, I’m fine. It’s only a two hour flight. At least, I’m not flying international. I arrive at my first destination and have a connection. So, I have to go through the boarding process again, followed by another crammed flight on an even smaller plane. Once I arrive at my final destination, I then deplane and wait again for my luggage, hoping that it made it all the way.

The amazing thing is that this scenario doesn’t even involve any delays or cancellations or actually any of the really extreme situations which can happen on a trip. My point is that flying is not fun. There is no question about that. Even in writing this out, I empathize with the flying public. It’s interesting to me that while I am at work, I usually think that people should be better mannered. But, honestly, now, I think that most people are just doing the best they can with a rather unpleasant experience.

And, I know as a passenger and a airline employee, it is just nice to know that someone understands and cares.

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