Thursday, December 27, 2012

So, about those thoughts from seat 18D...

 (Written last night enroute from SEA-DFW, posting from the DFW T-D Admiral's club on the way to Cancun!) 

View from Alaska Airlines Board Room- Seattle


Well, Winter 2012 mileage season is well past now.  As is the rest of the year itself.  I’m currently in the midst of the holiday travel rush full of oversold flights, long security lines and crying infants.  What a difference a week makes.

Tonight I’m at 37,000 ft. someplace over the Cascade Mountains, heading on the first leg of my trip to Cancun for a little family time and relaxation to end the year.  So far, so good on my way to 100,000 qualifying miles, the last of which I should be earning while over the Gulf of Mexico on my return from CUN.

Each time I fly for the sake of flying I have a few scattered introspective moments.  Maybe it’s the time away from the usual routine, maybe it’s the length of the flight, or just the altitude.  Still, here’s my ‘takeaways’ from this year’s mileage season-

Every now and then let yourself take a moment to realize and appreciate what you’re actually doing.  The depth of human ingenuity has reached the point where we can build a machine that reliably can carry over a hundred people, and their bags, coats….dogs, etc, at 35,000 feet going 500mph & cross the continent twice in a reasonable day.  The next time you’re annoyed at the minutia of travel, just look out of the window at the topsides of the clouds and allow the luxury of being proud of your species for a change.

Okay, that’s done… for some practical advice for the next time around-

Prepare and pack for delays-
Delayed and cancelled flights happen, no matter what your status is.  Know if you’re on the last flight of the night from any of your connections, and pack enough to wait it out until the next day.  If you see things going South fast, consider booking a refundable hotel room right away.

Airport lounge memberships:
They may seem like a waste of money, but if you’re going to be spending time in airports monthly, or even every other month, they can be well worth it.  They offer not just comfortable surroundings to work or relax before your flight, but free food and drinks, and even showers which are worth a lot after that overnight flight (some are better than others amenities-wise, but I’ve yet to encounter one that was superior to decent-hotel quality, and some are downright spa-like).  More importantly though, they generally entitle members to a staff of agents who can check on seat assignments, upgrade and standby lists, and save you in the case of cancelled or delayed flights.  I have had times that entire trips have been salvaged by this service when a plane came up with a mechanical failure, or a delayed flight would have meant a missed connection.  Even one of these occurrences in a year is worth the membership fee.  For deals, check discounts for your airline status, as well as offerings by some of the higher end charge and credit cards. 

In-flight preventative health care:
Couple simple tips- vitamin C, sleep at least a little on every flight you can, Tylenol PM over booze for overnights, move around on and between segments (no shame in doing a few stretches in the airport club), and….water, water, water.  Also, be aware of your original timezone no matter where you might be along the way and if you can try and eat and sleep on your regular schedule.

Safety first:
When they say to keep your seatbelt on, it’s good advice.  Some of the most common injuries on planes are due to unsuspected moderate to severe turbulence.  Your pilots are trained to fly in these conditions and the plane is designed to withstand these forces- your head is not.  Buckle-up.  Also, stay alert and prepared in the take-off and landing phases of your flight.  These are the times when if the extremely rare happens and something does go wrong, you can do something about it.  Fly in shoes you can move in, keep them on and your headphones off until you reach at least a few hundred feet. Know where your exits are.

There’s plenty to say here on all sorts of pet peeves I’ve developed but for now I’ll just remind you of the boarding procedure: Roller-Bin, Bag-Floor, You-Seat.  This should take 10 seconds.  

Overall, try have a good sense of humor about flying, whether for miles, business, or pleasure.  It’s a time when even the most meticulous of us will find many things out of our control.  Storms roll in, things break, flights are oversold, and babies are cranky.  When you find yourself nearing that breaking point when you can’t sleep, the movie’s a repeat of the one you saw the last Westbound flight, and they’re out of ginger ale…. look out that little window at the stars close above, the lights of civilization far below, and get some perspective.

Until the next departure, fly safe.


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