Sunday, November 7, 2010

Writer's Toolkit/Reflection: Americans In Flight

I recently had to travel by plane.  Flying is a hassle.  I hate it, but it's the fastest way to get from one place to another.  My technique is to go into a kind of zenlike state when I walk into the airport and shuffle along with the other traveling sheep until I come out the doors at the end of my trip.  I don't complain. I don't ask questions. This time I didn't even wear my hearing aids, which meant I couldn't understand any of the announcements.  That was okay because 99% of the announcements are irrelevant. I don't listen to music or talk to people. I work on my computer in the terminal and I read on the plane. 

On this trip I was in the very back of the plane on all four legs of the journey. All four flights were totally full. Amazingly, the first three flights took off on time.  One flight took off early!  The last one was delayed for more than an hour due to mechanical problems.  Evidently the problems were so serious, they sent us another plane.  After three gate changes and a lot of uncertainty, we finally boarded only an hour and a half late. 

When we finally arrived at our destination, I noticed that it was very quiet in the plane. Usually there are people gabbing on cell phones or talking among themselves.  This group was totally quiet.  Perhaps they were as relieved as I was to have arrived with only a short delay.  I don't know.  I was fascinated to watch the passengers file out from their seats one at a time. Nobody tried to push ahead of anyone.  Nobody talked.  Seat by seat, row by row, people filed out into the aisle and waited in silence for the line to move. It reminded me of Communion at church.  

At first I thought it odd.  Then I realized that the entire group was evidently using my technique: suck it up and go with the flow.  

Americans can be obnoxious travelers, and usually there is at least one loud and demanding passenger on every flight.  This was a particularly docile group.  On the one hand, it was rather nice not to have to listen to bitching and crabbing or passengers making ridiculous demands of the crew.  

On the other hand, it was creepy to see a couple of hundred Americans behaving like sheep.   I fear for my country when Americans are willing to accept with such docility the terrible status quo that passed for "customer service" in the travel industry today.  I acknowledge that I am part of the problem. 


  1. Almost everyone can really experience what you've been experiencing when riding air crafts. And indeed, flying is such a hassle, especially when you had arrived at the airport early, and then you've been stuck there forever because of airplane's mechanical problems. It actually irked us.

    But not all airline companies have been doing that to their passengers. Their are still companies that have excellent customer service for their customers. One time, I booked a flight to Australia and to ensure that I'll fly safe and sound without any hassle, I called up the airline's call center and they really did a great job in ensuring me that everything's fine. At the day of my flight, there were no hassle, the flight took off on time and the crew handled their passengers very well. So airlines must really be like that next time.