It’s a pain sometimes. They’re late, they’re noisy and create a huge mess. I’m not talking about the kids, they’re lovely – mostly. I’m talking about aircraft and airports and actually the entire aviation business. Flying has lost some of its magic since the glamorous old days shown in movies like “Airport” or “Aviator”, right? Today, it seems like it’s only about shipping huge crowds to Atlanta, Dubai, Barcelona or Shanghai. Almost everyone can afford it, because flying has become a lot cheaper, it’s no longer an exclusive or individual means of travel. It has turned from an exceptional delight into a chore!
But wait! Flying is still great and it enhances our lives. Even at the really busy pre-Christmas period with crowded check-ins, gates and aircraft, there are still plenty of reasons to enjoy a long-haul flight from now until Christmas. At least 24 reasons.
- Check-In line: Talk to new people or use the opportunity to scroll through your timeline or the news.
- Baggage Drop-off: Get rid of your heavy luggage as soon as possible and rest assured knowing it has never been as safe or as sure to reach its final destination as today.
- Security Check 1: Today safety standards are so high with the most sophisticated technology available ensuring your safety. Try to be grateful – safety comes first.
- Security Check 2: The body search is a thing of the past. No strange person in rubber gloves will scan you by hand anymore. Thank god!
- Security area 1: Observe people and experience their dramas, fights, weariness and boredom. After that, lean back and enjoy your favorite magazine, book or journal. The old-school printed edition you just bought.
- Security area 2: Buy a ridiculous amount of Toblerone or Cadbury in the airport tourist edition for your loved ones. You know you’re going to eat it all yourself.
- Boarding: Open the wallet on your smartphone, hold it very high and wave a little. Let the world know you are so sophisticated and don’t use the ridiculously out of date printed boarding passes. If the check-in employee at the boarding gate insists on one, search your bag furiously for the stupid little piece of paper buried somewhere in the shoals. Delay the entire boarding process for two minutes, blushing. Just a sec, I almost got it ...
- Find your seat: It’s about as well-ordered and funny as the Muppet Show. Mind the lady with the three little kids. And the gent with the two bags. Oh, just wait … let me … oh, that was your seat? Just let me check. No. Yes. Oh. There. Thanks. Sorry. My pleasure. Dream of Business Class. One fine day …
- On the runway: Time to put your electronic devices into flight mode. Time to rest, to relax and not be available. Listen to the safety instructions of the crew and memorize the emergency exits, just in case.
- Takeoff: You hear something like “Cabin crew, ready for take-off”. Then you hear that mighty roar, also called max-thrust. The acceleration pushes you gently into your seat. You pretend to be extremely cool, maybe like George Clooney in “Up in the Air”. It doesn’t help. It’s going faster. Faster. Faster. Take-off. A short moment between shiver and magic – an exhilarating feeling.
- Ascend: Take me to the clouds above. It might get a little shaky in the clouds. For a second, through the mist you see something like another aircraft passing by right next to yours, but the silhouette looks a little strange. Then you realize: That was Santa!
- Cruising altitude: It gets quiet as soon as you’re up there. Watch the clouds from above and imagine they consist of cotton wool or cotton candy.
- Turbulences: Don’t worry. No flight has ever crashed just from turbulences, no matter how strong they are. Aircraft are built to resist much stronger forces than that. The statistics say that flying has never been as safe as it is today.
- Meals: I admit, it was more lush and lavish in the earlier days. The hot meals were larger and you could select a meal. But, the older ones will remember, if chicken was no longer available as the cart got to your row, you were stuck with the less popular pork. Today you can preselect online and have a larger variety of choice based on many diet restrictions and preferences – and you can be sure it’s available.
- Onboard shopping: It’s not a must of course, but try out sky-shopping and purchase a fragrance or a chocolate plane in case the Toblerone has already vanished mysteriously.
- Have a rest: It’s getting more common to have WiFi access even above the clouds. Ignore it and enjoy to be offline if you can. Try out your new sleeping mask, earplugs and travel pillow. Turn off the world!
- Entertainment: If you forgot to download enough “Friends” episodes on your tablet for a long-haul flight, book the premium board entertainment if available. For a few extra bucks you’re mostly provided with a decent variety. On my last long-haul flight I watched the “Aladdin” remake. It’s okay.
- … and now for something really far-fetched: You could read a book. A real one, with paper and pages and without a comment section. I recommend “Flight or Fright”, a short story collection edited by Stephen King. Guess what it’s about.
- Standing up: One of the biggest underestimated pleasures of a long-haul flight is simply getting up and stretching after hours of sitting. Joints and muscles are grateful to be released from the rigid position. Already standing, it’s also worth taking a walk along the seat rows and secretly observing your fellow travelers and their social behavior.
- Ponder on gratitude: Remember being a child eager to enter an aircraft and fly for the first time in your life? Now you’re there! By the way, only one-fifth of the world’s population will enter an aircraft in their lifetime.
- Descent: Once the descent has begun, you will once again have the opportunity to look at the world from above as you approach it. Besides, now you have a perfect excuse to eat sweets – for ear pressure equalization, you know?
- Touchdown: Statistically speaking, an emergency or accident is most likely to happen during the landing process. As soon as the thrust reverse on the runway unfolds its effect and the aircraft slows noticeably, the minimal risk is over. Make fun of it and applaud the pilot, probably as the only one aboard – it's just so much out of fashion.
- Approaching parking position: No matter how often the crew asks for the opposite, some people will always open their seatbelts early and jump up to grab their hand luggage. Never in the history of civilized aviation has a passenger been able to leave the aircraft before the doors have opened, but that’s not holding them back. Lean back, watch and enjoy.
- Exit: When leaving the aircraft, say to the crew “Thank you for the wonderful flight”. They will almost hug you with tears of joy. You will be the big exception among all the grumpy, bad-tempered complaint passengers. Bringing others into a good mood will put yourself in a good mood, too – let them know it’s Christmas!
Any other reasons to enjoy flying? Let us know – and Merry Christmas everybody!