Airliner Angst

It’s been ages since I have had to set foot in a commercial airline terminal, let alone board one of those people haulers.  Besides having the benefit of flying private, I have taken to driving myself to destinations I know I will be at for at least a week and are within more or less a seven hour circle of Houston just to avoid what I consider a very painful experience flying commercial.   Not to mention that I get to take my two Jack Russell Terriers and my own pillow.  On this day I am forced to subject myself to the trials and tribulations of modern day commercial aviation travel in order to reach my destination.    I do this you know not just because I have to, but to remind myself as to exactly what I am selling prospective buyers of our business jets and to help keep my skill set sharp and sensitivity acute.   This is my recurrent training and an experience no simulator can replicate.

I am surely preaching to the choir when I say airline travel is not what it used to be.  I know this but why does it seem like it is just getting worse each time I attempt it?  It’s not just the fact that one is subjected to at times a long and embarrassing screening process (I swear I will just strip the next time), or that the oh so smart security personal think they are the experts on packing and want to lecture you on the technique.  Hello! Excuse me, but this is a seasoned, experienced, more miles than I will ever use in my frequent flyer account traveler you are speaking to!  Go talk to the guy with keys, change, pen knife, phone and car charger stuffed in his pockets and trying to walk through the X-ray machine.   I can overlook all the bureaucracy and the invasion of my privacy because I have to in this brave new world that we live.  What I can’t seem to overlook though is how my fellow passengers have lost their sense of decorum and respect and control of their children!

I still show up for an airline flight well put together, even if today I opt for jeans instead.  As I ready for departure I have imprinted in my brain the elegant photo of my mother in hat, gloves, little bag and foxes draped around her shoulder standing on a landing at JFK waiting to board a TWA flight to somewhere.  (It’s an old photo…older than me)   It wasn’t just that flying was special…it was about respect…for oneself and for the people with whom you would share close quarters for hours on end.  Today I just want to shout “what were you thinking” when I look at the dude headed to NYC in board shorts and sandals or the clearly size 12 woman who squeezed herself and her thong into jeans half of what they should be, all the while smacking gum down the jet way.  Or the man sitting next to me who decides that personal grooming at his seat is a right and totally ignores the impact it may have on those nearby.  What happened to manners, class, consideration and accountability?

What happened is I got old.  While I have upgraded, modified or adjusted everything else in my life I have not changed my style and sense of propriety.   I suppose that if the world really does end in 2012 I will have had my nails and hair done for the occasion.   After all I am still a firm believer that first impressions are everything and manners never go out of style.   I do think of what my fellow passenger thinks of my toes and no I do not want them to wonder if I use deodorant or not.  Yes, seats have gotten smaller, but it does not mean I own both armrests and am going to stake claim.  Or that carry-on means attempt to bring your largest suit case possible just to have it gate-checked so you don’t have to wait at the luggage carousel to retrieve it.  Yeah, you know who you are you space invaders.

But I also got lucky.   Lucky to work in a business that helps to maintain some of the old graces and style associated with travel, even if it is to a small percentage of the population.  Lucky to meet other people who wish to maintain decorum while delivering new technology and performance in state of the art aircraft.  Lucky to experience firsthand the benefits of business aviation travel.  Lucky to meet pioneers in every respect and great thinkers who work to develop increasingly cost effective and environmentally friendly airplanes.   I am selling convenience, simplicity, speed and flexibility.  I am also selling peace, serenity, graciousness, relaxation and comfort.   When did you actually experience all of that on a commercial airline trip?  Private aviation means no lines, no lost bags, no one picking at you about only two carry-ons allowed, no dirty feet.

Sure, if you own your own aircraft you can travel how you see fit and my whole soap-box approach to manners may mean nothing.  The truth is though, I think most people see the ability to make use of these time machines as special and treat it as such.   Frankly, I don’t disagree if you are single engine, non-pressurized flying on a 90 degree Fahrenheit day that shorts are in order.   Common sense never goes out of style.   Just make sure the shorts fit before walking across the ramp.