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Make your air travel better… (part 2)

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In yesterday’s article I talked about trip preparation making for a happier trip. Today I will cover off two other areas where trips can go awry and over which you have total control…

Excessive consumption of alcohol

Every alcoholic beverage sold in every airport should come with a label that says “INSTANT ASSHOLE: JUST ADD ALCOHOL“. This section is sort of a special case of “preparation”, but it merits its own discussion. As an experienced traveller, I am telling you that it never pays to drink alcohol before flying. NEVER. Here’s why:

  1. It’s expensive. Airport booze is stupid-expensive. Airplane booze even moreso. It’s throwing money away. Boozing up during travel is financially stupid beyond words. Showing up at the airport pre-drunk is a good way to not get allowed on the plane in the first place.
  2. It’s a diuretic. Unless you like having to drain the lizard in a cramped little airplane bathroom, possibly after a considerable wait, don’t get liquored up before boarding a plane. Alcohol makes you pee. Duh. You’ve known that since you were a teen, why forget it when you’re an adult?
  3. In the thinner air of a cabin pressurized to 5000 or 8000 feet, the alcohol affects you more. That’s right, regardless of your weight, every drink you have or had will hit you a lot harder in the plane due to the reduced pressure. Less air = more effective intoxication. Sure you might be able to handle a drink or two on the ground, but at altitude you might well be in the hurt locker. The last think you want is to have to pee while barfing because your fist full of tequila shooters at the airport bar hurts a bit more 2 hours in to the flight to Hawaii, at 39000 feet. If the flight is long enough that your boozing wears off, you can expect the after effects to be worsened as well. Save yourself and your fellow passengers this grief.
  4. It’s a mood affecting drug. You’re already a bit tense when you travel, do you really need to make it worse by boozing? There will be plenty of time to sip margaritas on the beach when you get to where you’re going. Even just a drink or two can turn otherwise pleasant people into raving asshats (re: the label I mention above). Airlines have no qualms about cuffing people on the plane and having them hauled away by police – or, as I like to say, “Riding on the inside of the plane is a privilege.” Unless you’re absolutely certain beyond all doubt that you’re going to behave yourself, and who is so sure, is it really worth the risk to drink?

If you’re thirsty, drink water… and don’t forget to go before you board the plane. Believe me, you’ll be making your life easier.

Unreasonable expectations

This one (often combined with the previous item) is, in my experience, the primary cause of “air rage” and similar passenger misbehaviour in airports and aircraft. I have been trying to find a nice way to word this section but I am at a loss, so I’ll be blunt with it: If you’re travelling on some ultra-cheap, mega-discounted excursion fare, you should not expect to be treated like a king or queen.

Back in the day, people would get third-class tickets on ocean-liners and be herded in like cattle. Generally, they were happy to be on board at all, and delighted to be travelling wherever it was they were going. Today, people buy fourth-class airline tickets and bitch and moan about being herded in like cattle.

As a general rule, the less you paid for your ticket, the less the airline (or anyone else) really cares about your personal convenience. If you accept this fact, frankly, you’ll have a happier journey. The truth is that the first class customers will get more perqs and better treatment than the business
class customers. The business class customers will get more perqs and better treatment than the full-fare economy class customers. The FFE customers will get more perqs and better treatment than the excursion fare discount customers.

Please get over your own self-importance before boarding the aircraft, especially if you are travelling on some ultra-discounted ticket. Really, it is a fact that your $200 worth of business is worth less to the airline than the business of the guy who paid $2000 in first class. Sure, an airline is a commercial enterprise, and they will try to accommodate you in the name of customer service, but how much they’ll bend over depends largely on how much you paid to get on the aircraft. This also includes the guy sitting beside you who is also on a $200 excursion fare, but has 500000 frequent flyer miles. The airline is going to kiss his butt. If you have flown to the moon and back (that’s what 500000 miles represents) with the airline, they are pretty interested in keeping you happy.

If you really want to travel in style and be treated like royalty, travel on business or first class tickets. It costs more, but it really makes a huge difference. If you fly a lot, your frequent flyer program will start sending you free upgrades too, thus reducing the cost. That’s something to bear in mind.

It may surprise most readers to know that in my travels I’ve seen about a dozen incidents of “passenger rage”. In all cases but one, the raging passengers were middle-aged women, possibly with some booze in them, travelling (it seems) on baggage-class tickets, and not being treated like the queens they thought themselves to be. This resulted in them being abusive to staff, rude and abusive to other passengers, and generally making everyone live out the script of Throw Mama From the Plane (without the happy ending). Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom gets to chew out airplane staff for the seat being too small. Debbie from Hoboken gets to sit in row 28 and shut up. That may not be fair, but it is the way of things.

Set your expectations correctly. In fact, do yourself a favour and expect the worst. Air travel is one place where it really pays to be a pessimist. If you expect screw-ups, delays, and a waking nightmare, you’ll usually be pleasantly surprised and arrive at your destination happier for the trip.

In summary then, here are the Squid’s Tips For Simple Travel:

  1. Don’t be a cheapskate – some $ spent up front on better classes of tickets means you have less restrictions on your travel.
  2. Prepare yourself – carry proper travel documentation, pack in advance, pack lightly, consider your personal comfort when purchasing tickets, and be prepared to control your children.
  3. Don’t get liquored up.
  4. Set reasonable service expectations – expectations that should be based on the class of your ticket, and your status with the airline.

I hope you find this useful! Good travels to you all.