Infrequent flyer

I fly infrequently; perhaps once or twice a year, if that.

Having just returned home from a recent round-trip jaunt on a commercial jet, economy class, in the interest of documenting the experience of modern travel by air, I offer the following reflections.

From one excursion to the next it seems as though the seats in economy class are being adjusted closer and closer together such that at some point I fear I shall be forced to check my legs as well as my bag at the gate. Should this occur, all passengers will have to be boarded by travel aides, of course.

Although the airlines currently allow one carry-on bag and one personal item such as a laptop, briefcase or purse (to be stowed under the seat at your feet, thus further limiting leg room), most passengers show up at the gate with suitcases on rollers, over-sized satchels and fat backpacks, none of which fit under the seat. Because overhead compartment space is limited, if you happen to be in the latter half of those boarding, chances are pretty good that you will be required to check your one carry-on bag, as there will be absolutely no room remaining for it by the time you get to the cabin.

Airlines board passengers in zones. First class is always first, of course. But after those folks are comfortably tucked into their seats, magazines or books spread leisurely in their laps and ear buds in place, the next zone to be called will be those passengers with seats directly behind the first class section. This means that instead of filling up the aircraft from the rear (which would be most efficient), folks in zones 3 and 4 end up standing in the aisle waiting for those in zone 2 as they attempt to stuff their over-sized bags into overhead compartments too narrow to accommodate them.

(Just for the record, I boarded in the Twilight Zone.)

If you have been assigned an aisle seat and happen to arrive first in that row, you can rest assured that you will have to get up at least 2 times before departure to allow fellow passengers to squeeze into the middle and window seats. After everyone is buckled in, invariably the passenger in the middle or window seat will suddenly recall that it is imperative that they get something out of their bag in the overhead compartment. This means that you will have to orchestrate the entire seating process all over again; but rest assured, practice makes perfect.

Because 99 percent of air travelers will be wearing ear buds or headphones for the duration of the flight, there will be no need to engage in any sort of verbal interchange with another human being apart from perhaps a nod of the head should the steward or stewardess ask if you would like a small pack of peanuts, pretzels or cookies and a complimentary non-alcoholic drink.

At your final destination, as the plane rolls into place at the gate, every passenger without exception (the only exception perhaps being you) will unbuckle their seatbelt. Those occupying aisle seats will immediately rise to their feet, pry open the overhead compartments, wrestle out their over-sized bags and remain standing motionless in the aisle where they will spend the next 10 minutes checking their smartphones for missed calls and text messages. Obviously, there is only one aisle, and no one can exit until those in front have departed first.

Which has me thinking: perhaps the airlines should deplane passengers the same way they board them — by zones.

Of course if they did it that way, they’d most likely start with the zone in the very back — after first class, of course.


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