Airport travel is one of those ideas that, at least lately, seems to work a whole lot better in theory than it does in practice. It is certainly very neat that you can get on a plane in, say, Boston, then get off the same plane a few hours later and be in Seattle. The stuff you have to endure while on the plane (and prior to boarding) is way less neat. More and more people are traveling via airplane these days, but fewer people are happy about it. It’s seen more as a necessary evil rather than the luxury it once was.
Economy class is going downhill
Airplanes are safe. You’ve probably heard the statistic that says you’re much safer on a plane than you are in the car driving to the airport. There’s truth to that. Passengers can be grateful for the safety but still resent the choices they’re forced to make before they board. Take “basic economy” for instance. Airlines claim it’s a great way for you to save a few bucks, but that doesn’t work as well if you’re paying the same price but getting less. Airlines want to charge you a few extra bucks to pick your seat assignment, or, in some cases, to bring a carry-on bag and store it in the overhead compartment. That seems crazy to most people, but not to airline shareholders, and in a lot of ways, they’re the only opinions that really matter. When you search for airfare now, you have to be careful not to accidentally pick basic economy, or else you might be in for a rude awakening once you get on the airplane and are stuck in a middle seat with no carry-on. Your luxurious waterbase pillow won’t do you much good if you have to check it at the gate.
A lot of people feel like they absolutely must take the cheapest flight no matter how poor the quality is. So is the airline consumer to blame? Maybe a little bit, but we shouldn’t have to be nickled-and-dimed to receive a bare bones level of customer service, and the lack of competition means airlines know they can get away with more. If you’re looking to get any sort of rest on a plane, you’re going to have to pay extra. Airlines want people to fork over extra cash to not be miserable, and to some degree that’s working, even if it sets up an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between the customer and the company.
Self-care at the airport
Do what you need to do to be as calm as possible before you board. You don’t want any surprises. If you’re traveling internationally, make sure your passport is up to date before you book your ticket. If you’re traveling domestically, make sure your driver’s license isn’t about to expire. TSA agents aren’t going to have much sympathy for you. Once you’re past security, have a drink or two if it helps you relax, but don’t mix alcohol and that Xanax prescription you got from your doctor. Pick one, but not both, or else you’re risking an overdose. You want to be relaxed, but you don’t want to be so relaxed that medical professionals have to perform resuscitative measures.