Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Flying

Recently, I've not taken as many flights as I did in previous jobs. It means that when I do take a plane anywhere, it's less routine and I actually think about it more.

There was a time - when I was flying back and forth to Stockholm on a stupidly regular basis - that I could literally have found my way through the appropriate terminal buildings at both ends blindfolded had I been so challenged.

I noticed today that I'm really quite a grumpy traveller. Sitting next to me on the plane was a woman who had put her handbag into the overhead locker, and another passenger managed to knock her bag out and onto the floor and she smiled and said "that's OK, don't worry about it". Had it been my handbag, I would've been furious. Metaphorically speaking, of course - given that I don't tend to travel with a handbag.

Today I chose a seat in the emergency exit aisle. It means that in the event of an emergency, you have to remove the door and "be able to follow instructions given in English". It also means you get extra leg room. The flipside of that is that you're sitting next to a part of the fuselage which you know is - by definition - removable. It reminds me of sitting next to the door in a helicopter and desperately trying to avoid leaning on the door at all, despite the fact that it's locked firmly shut - on the approach this evening I would look out the window, but avoid leaning just in case - it is a door, after all.

I'm always torn on the "hand baggage" vs. "checked in bags" decision too. There's something attractive about giving your bag to someone at one end, and not having to cart a heavy bag around the shops at the terminal and not struggle onto the plane with it. It's nice sometimes to just walk onto the plane with a paperback and your ticket and grab your bag at the other end. Of course, the price for this is the time you have to stand waiting at the other end. Unless you're flying Ryanair of course, in which case the price is a few extra euros on the ticket price.

Besides the rush to get your bags in, I've never understood the rush onto the plane as soon as boarding starts, either. The time at which the plane leaves is dictated by the slowest passenger to board, not the quickest. In truth, it's usually not even dictated by that, but by air traffic control. And yet, as soon as the "Please Wait" sign changes to "Boarding" there's a stampede towards the desks as though there's a substantial cash prize for being the first to get your boarding pass scanned by the people at the desks.

And then at the other end, there's another stampede to be the first to get up out of your seat and grab your bag. And those brave souls who stand up before the seatbelt sign has gone off do it quietly and slowly as though by being very quiet nobody will notice that you've taken your sealbelt off and stood up.

I often say that if you bumped into me at an airport, you could tell instantly by my demeanour whether I'm travelling for pleasure or business. Can you tell by my grumping above that I'm travelling for business at the moment? :-)