Why Flying Sucks: Beyond the TSA

horrible air travel storiesKevin Smith is battling an airline again after not being allowed on board. This guy really can't catch a break when trying to fly the very unfriendly skies.

After being kicked off Southwest Airlines for being "too fat to fly," Smith stopped flying until a recent trip required he and his wife get on board. Only Virgin Atlantic said he couldn't because he wasn't there early enough. Even though it was before departure time and the jetway was still attached to the plane. Why? A nasty employee wasn't interested in cutting Smith and his wife a break.

If only every celebrity who had a bad flying experience would be as vocal as Smith, perhaps air travel could go back to being a luxury rather than necessary evil. I've seen Jessica Alba at the LAX Chili's and Jason Alexander on a JetBlue flight, so I know you're not all chartering private jets, and therefore are suffering the same indignities as the rest of us. So, if you're famous, and you fly, here are some talking points:


Getting There

I realize no one wants to live next door to a noisy airport, but the fact that airports are so remote and usually require sitting in a traffic jam before you even get close enough to pay outrageous parking rates creates the first level of stress. More public transportation that is also handicap-friendly (and therefore family-friendly) to the airport could loosen up the traffic jams and relieve stress about getting to your flight on time.

A Personal Touch

If I'm traveling alone with no bags to check, the self-serve kiosk is a sweet thing. But for most people it's not that simple. So why are ticket counters sealed behind lines that you cannot cross until you beg someone to let you please discuss your seating arrangement that has your 9-month-old baby three rows behind you? Going back to dealing with people instead of machines is a good thing. Unless --

Surly Employees

The difference between a good flight and a bad one (as seen in Kevin Smith's story) can be as simple as one person. If the ticket agent, TSA agent, or boarding agent is pleasant and accommodating, you're off on a grand adventure. But one a-hole can ruin your entire trip. More customer service training and perhaps a-hole screening would be most helpful.


Whether someone is touching your junk or just giving you a dose of radiation, the security line is the most fraught place in the entire airport. The whole thing starts by having to remove your shoes (thanks, shoe bomber!) and removing and opening your laptop. The people behind you are already grabbing the plastic bins as you struggle with belt removal or medicine or baby food claims, as well as trying to fold up any car seats/strollers/tricky carry-on bags. Then one jackass of a TSA agent can take your pain to a whole other level: humiliation. Let's re-think this process, shall we?


I get that first class passengers paid more for their extra room, and therefore want to sit down before the rest of us. But how about some common sense? About 50% of the airlines I've flown have accommodated senior citizens, babies, and people with disabilities. Which means 50% do not, and let Gold members clog up the line while people with actual physical needs stand around on the sky-bridge in pain, or at the least in extreme discomfort. Priorities with humanity, please!

In-Flight Indignities

Depending on your airline, you can forget about complimentary meals, or even snacks. You'd like a pillow or blanket? Cough up some extra cash, or, "Sorry, we just ran out." Movies will cost you extra as well, so let's hope you brought your own source of entertainment on board. Thank god some are offering happy hour drink specials, or we might have to start packing a flask to deal with everything above.

Baggage Claim

How many times have you staked out a spot in front of the carousel just to have someone nudge in front of you and shove you backwards? If never, you clearly don't fly into New York. Short of hiring a concierge to schlep your bags to you, there should be some civilized way to work the baggage claim so the bullies don't always win. Of course, after you've been subjected to all of the above -- you might be willing to knock over a little old lady just to get the hell out of the airport too.

Hence, the circular problem of air travel. Everyone's stressed, stressed people snap, everyone has a crappy experience. Alternately, that one lovely airline employee can turn things around. As a passenger, you should try to be that one lovely passenger so that airline employee can remain positive and make all of our lives easier.

And if you're a celebrity -- consider this issue the next time you're looking for a humanitarian cause to champion. Everyone in the world will LOVE you, and I'll personally pay full price to see all of your movies.

Thank you for your consideration.

What's your least favorite part of flying?


Image via lunchtimemama/Flickr


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