Air travel as a child was a thing of luxury. I still remember the first time I flew on a plane as an 8 year old. The feeling of holding my own boarding pass, carrying my own cabin baggage, walking through security check, walking along the glassed windows watching flights take off, walking through the viaduct onto the plane, being welcomed by a very elegant air hostess, fighting with my younger sister for the window seat, being offered candy(in those days air-hostesses used to offer eclair toffees on a tray), trying to grab as many as I could in my tiny hands, buckling seat belts on, the final excitement of taking off, and that glorious moment when you are in air, wondering how such a massive airplane flies, of course, this was before I learned about the Bernoulli’s theorem in physics!
Things have changed a lot in the past two decades. After a summer internship as a management consultant, I have become quite the jet setter. Something that comes with the job territory is travel. Having now experienced airports in all the major cities in the United States, I have often found that frequent fliers are neither grateful nor enchanted…
Gone are the days of feeling like you were living a miracle when the plane took off. Welcome to the world of airlines trying to hold onto dear customers with frequent flier programs/incentives. Most people today don’t enjoy flying. It’s “torture” they say.
The ordeal of getting to the airport, long queues at the security check, unnecessary pat downs, opening and closing cabin baggage multiple times, commuting the gates, waiting a half hour early in line even when you have priority boarding(lest someone else takes your place in line), cursing your luck for a five minute delay, navigating annoying families(read kids) on vacation taking non-stop selfies, trying to stuff your baggage in the ever shrinking cabins abroad, having to check it in instead (for free), cribbing about the lax service in first class, about the five extra minutes the pilot takes to taxi, getting annoyed at the passenger who can’t get his baggage out in less than 3 seconds, waiting for your baggage at the conveyor(they get only about 95% of it on time), getting out of the airport finally to look for your Uber/taxi, and making it home in one piece for dinner with your family.
In-numerous flights later, I always find it amazing how most people are extremely irked by every single aspect of air travel. I think about just a few decades ago when it took us days on end to travel by water and land to get to our final destinations. Air travel was all but a distant dream. Even today, almost 75% of the world population has never flown!
As the summer came to a close, I found myself becoming one of these irked/cribby travelers, until I found a little girl, she looked about 8, with her colorful backpack and travel games beaming ear to ear, sitting across me at the airport gate. She clearly couldn’t wait to get on the flight. Her mother smiled at her restlessness. She asked, “Do you want mommy to exchange her window seat for your aisle?” The girl nodded and gave her a tight hug. Her excitement was palpable. She smiled at me, while I worked away on my power point presentation. I couldn’t help but smile back. Something told me this was her first flight ever.
And then, I spent that short flight looking out of the window thinking about what a miracle it is that I am flying thousands of miles an hour, in a machine that weights at least a few hundred thousand pounds. I didn’t let Bernoulli’s theorem ruin that feeling either.