For my current job and many of my previous jobs, I have had both the fun and annoyance of travelling. Some examples include waiting in line through two levels of security in Frankfurt, flying half-way to a destination only to return to the origin airport because of a snow storm, deplaning after initial boarding because someone flooded the planes water tank and lastly spending hours sitting on the tarmac waiting for clearance for takeoff. I understand that airlines do what they can to accommodate passengers, but sometimes they fall short. At the same time, it seems that some travelers do not understand the principles of flying or common courtesy.
First, flying is a privilege and not a right. Hurricanes, snowstorms, thunderstorms, and mechanical delays happen and sometimes there is nothing that can be done besides canceling a flight. I don’t want to get on a plane with a broken electrical system or landing gear that won’t go down, do you? Although it may be annoying when flights are delayed or canceled, we just have to accept it and then decide what is next. The airlines often neglect to communicate information so people can get on with their day, leaving them lost and confused. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if other passengers were there to help and console instead of whine and complain?
Several months ago I was on a flight departing out of Kansas City when we were informed by the pilot that due to bad weather in Phoenix (the destination airport), the flight was going to be delayed several hours until the storms could pass. Unfortunately for us, we were stuck on the tarmac for hours. A man sitting in front of me yelled into his cell phone to his friends about how crappy the airline was, and how they were making up the excuse about the weather delay. I quickly got out my blackberry and with a quick search confirmed the weather report that the winds in Phoenix were very bad. The airline didn’t make this stuff up. Usually these things (delays) are about safety (which is a good thing). I know it stinks to have to change your plans sometimes, but I would rather get there late, than never at all.
At the same time that airlines could improve on communication, passengers could do their part to improve the experience of traveling, particularly when it comes to carry-on baggage. With all the new baggage charges, flying has become more and more expensive unless you carry-on your bags. Even though some airlines (like Southwest) do not charge for bags (which is really nice) many people still carry-on for convenience. Airports like Denver seem to have problems getting luggage to passengers in anything under an hour (or three), so if you don’t have that kind of time to spare, I completely understand. However, if you do want to carry-on, can you at least be courteous to others?
I travel on a lot short trips and use a bag that most people think is a laptop bag. What I see most people bringing through security as carry-on are too tall. The maximum height is 22 inches (and that includes WHEELS!) People are not measuring their bags and then they bring on these enormous bags that will only fit in the overhead with a lot of jockeying and twisting, resulting in no room for anyone else’s bags. Last week I saw a man with 3 carry-ons (not sure why that didn’t get flagged during boarding?) and although two were fairly small bags he put ALL of his stuff in the overhead. At the end of the boarding process, another poor man had to check his bag because the first guy was selfish and hogged all the space. Why don’t people know how to put their bags into the overhead? If you carry-on, can you at least take a class in how to stow your luggage? There is a variance in aircraft in regards to what can fit, but typically wheels toward the aisle is best. If it fits with the handle facing the aisle, congratulations because you get air travel courtesy points from me! Why does anyone think that when there is one overhead bin for about 6-9 people that they shouldn’t be frugal with it? Can’t you pack the overhead bin efficiently? Some might say, “Why should I care about leaving space for someone else?”. For one thing, flights might actually depart on time. How often are airlines waiting for people to find a place to put their luggage?
Although airlines could do a better job at communicating delays and flight changes to passengers, passengers can do their part to provide a better experience for not only themselves, but the people around them. Why shouldn’t we share luggage space, a magazine or a piece of gum? My best flights have been the ones where the person next to me chatted my ear off for 2 hours. Sure, I didn’t get much work done or didn’t get past page one in my book, but I made a connection and that is a lot more important than being a grumpy and scrooge-like traveler. With more sharing and camaraderie, traveling would be a lot more fun, even if I think your carry-on is too large.