The first time I ever flew on an airplane was January 5, 2004 from Austin, TX to Nashville, TN. Since then, I have logged more than 134 hours in the air on 62 flights.
I like to think I’ve become something of a pro at flying, even though I know I’ve not flown even half as much as someone like my husband has flown.
My longest flight was from Atlanta, GA to Honolulu, HI in 2006. It was 8.5 hours on a plane, but obviously the end result was worth it. Crystal clear blue water. Drinks served in pineapples. Leis at the airport. Spam on the menu — even at fancy restaurants. July 4th spent with the military. Memories that I can’t even begin to list in any sort of coherent or concise manner.
The flight back from Honolulu to Atlanta ranks as one of my worst flights due to a stomach ache half-way through the flight. It’s not funny to have a cramping stomach when your right in the middle of a row of four or five seats, and you still have about four hours to go in the air.
My absolute worst flying experience occurred in 2005, when I was flying from Nashville to Austin, and I’d opted to have a layover in Houston, TX at Hobby Airport.
First off, Hobby is probably my least favorite airport of all that I’ve flown through to date. For one thing (and San Diego, CA comes in a close second for this very same reason), I will never understand why an airport would ever be set up to where, when you change planes you have to come out of security and then back through security. Luckily, both times for me, it was just an annoyance. For others, like in San Diego, I watched full bottles of wine purchased as a keepsake behind security at one airport being thrown away because they couldn’t take it BACK through security to change planes. At least all I did was lose time and almost be late for my flight. For others, they lost a lot of money.
However, Hobby became my least favorite airport when I got stuck there, due to bad weather, for around six hours. It wasn’t the weather that was frustrating for me. It was the total lack of information from the ground crew as to what was going on that day. We were constantly told our plane would be arriving shortly, when in reality it wasn’t. Going to get something to eat, or even going to use the restroom, became a gamble. Would our plane arrive when we were gone? Or are we being fed another line?
Its absolutely the only time I’ve had a “bad” experience with Southwest Airlines. Its absolutely the only time I’ve had to deal with airport personnel that really didn’t have a clue what was going on around them. It’s been four years, and I’ve not flown through Hobby since. It just left me with that bad of a taste in my mouth for air travel.
I’ve never had a bad experience flying due to fellow passengers. Perhaps the only “annoying” experience was when my husband and I took a somewhat last minute trip up to Oregon to see his family. We booked our flights late and the only seats we could get together were one behind the other.
The first leg of the trip, a young man happily traded seats with my husband so we could sit together. The second leg of the trip, however, the ladies around us practically turned up their noses and snapped, “No!” when we asked if they would trade. I grumbled and in my mind I pretended to put a curse on the rudest one that someday someone would refuse to let her sit near her husband on a long flight, too.
On a whole, though, my flying experiences have been good. I’m always braced for the day my luggage gets lost, or my flight gets diverted somewhere else due to weather or a plane malfunction. (I did once get stuck on the tarmac for about half an hour due to an engine issue, but that was pretty mild of an experience.) I’ve really gotten pretty good, though, at being prepared for as much as one can be prepared for when flying.
My top tips to novice travelers:
— grab a drink in the airport before boarding. While most flights do offer drink service, its usually a good half hour into the flight before that happens. You’ll probably get thirsty before they get you your drink.
— chewing gum has been a life saver for me in the past when cabin pressure changes. So have these earplugs called Earplanes. They make a HUGE difference if you have sensative ears for any reason.
— if you’ve got sinus issues, try to re-book your flight. I’ve had to fly with sinus pain and pressure, and it was the WORST flying experience ever. The last half hour of my flight was pure torture, and I had one ear plugged for several days after. It would have been worth it to reschedule my flight a couple days later.
— don’t get upset if your bag gets chosen to be searched. They’re just doing their jobs. If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about. They see super-sexy underwear and other unmentionables every day. You’re not unique in this, and they aren’t going to remember you from all the other bags they see in a day. (The only thing I still get heckled up about is when they search my bag and leave it in total disarray. That does grate on my nerves.)
— if you have an item that MUST get there, pack it in your carry-on. While a majority of the time, your luggage will arrive the same time you do, the chances of a lost bag when you need that bag most seem to double. Bridesmaid’s dress? Uniform? Medication? Favorite team’s jersey for the game? Put it in your carry-on.
— this goes for your expensive jewelry, electronics, etc. Unfortunately, things like that have been known to mysteriously disappear out of checked luggage.
— fly Southwest. I don’t work for SWA; I’m just a fan. The last six times I’ve flown with them, they’ve been between 5 and 20 minutes early to arrive. Their staff is friendly (and most really funny, too!) and professional. They don’t charge for your bags, still offer free drink and snack service, and they have the easiest procedure for changing your flight of any airline I’ve used. Last week, they called my cell phone while I was going through security to notify me of my gate changing in the last five minutes! THAT really blew me away.
I am going to close here with some of my favorite airline travel sites.
— Flight Memory: Lets you keep track of flights you’ve taken and flights you will take. It gives you your stats on all your flights, and it is just an all-around interesting site. (For example: I’ve flown 53,892 miles, and my average flight is 869 mi, 2:10 hrs.)
— Flight Explorer and FlightAware: Track any flight as it progresses. These sites are really handy when you are waiting to pick someone up at the airport. It shows what path their flight took, their altitude, speed and projected time of arrival. I use both as sometimes, as weird as it sounds, a flight will be on one site, but not on the other.
— Seat Guru: Everything you want to know about what kind of seat you’re getting on your flight. Leg room, whether the seat reclines or not, etc. are all taken into account while rating a seat. Check it out ahead of time to decide if you will even have room for that pillow, or if you need to make sure you can stow your carry-on above (versus under the seat in front of you.)