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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Monday, September 18, 2006

Air travel is better, not worse

I'm back from two weeks of travel in Europe and North America, tired but rejuvenated after seeing friends and family and doing a bit of work. I'll be writing more about all of this starting tomorrow.

For now, one comment, after taking eight flights in 14 days, through four countries and four states: air travel is easier, and generally better, than it was a year ago. Everyone seems to take the new security restrictions in stride, more or less, people show up at the airport earlier, the check-in process is longer but done efficiently most of the time. And here is the good news: less carry-on luggage means the airplanes' overhead racks are less congested and people get on and off planes faster. Maybe this is a factor in planes leaving on time: there is certainly an improvement on this score. Every plane I took was full. It's been a few years since I've seen this level of overall efficiency.

That said, a topic of conversation everywhere was the acceptability of the new security restrictions. This is a gross generalization, but it appeared to me that most people think the new rules are a good idea in general, but that they need to be applied rigorously. Inconsistency irritates people: one friend who flew to Phoenix, Arizona, to meet with me and other friends, saw someone's lip gloss confiscated (but a tube of lipstick was accepted), while the person sitting next to her came on board openly carrying a bottle of water.

The craziest case was another woman, rushing to catch a plane while closing a deal on the phone, who forgot that she had planned to check in her bag. She took it as carry-on luggage. It was x-rayed but never opened. It contained aerosol hairspray, several liquids, sharp objects. She admits that she heard announcements saying it was illegal, but at that point she was in such a state about what to do that she simply carried the bag onto the plane and hoped for the best.

You could argue that we should accept the occasional slipup because overall the level of security is much higher. The problem will be convincing people that they need to diligently observe the rules long-term if the authorities do not rigidly enforce them.

The rules also need a little refinement. I've never kept my contact lenses in on overseas flights because the cabin air is too dry. However, I need them when I board a plane and when I land, in order to read monitors and other information (such as security notices). I can't even carry the lens case, which has soaking solution, at the moment (some airlines allow this, but not all, and not in the US). People with bifocal contacts rarely have bifocal glasses, so wearing glasses is not a solution. I have old glasses that let me see things at a distance, but I arrived home with a nasty little eyestrain headache. Grumpy passengers with headaches can easily turn into unpleasant passengers, so the airlines and security people might want to find a happier solution to this odd problem.

I wouldn't mind a little hand and face cream, either, but I guess I can forego that. A business idea: a little stand next to luggage pickup areas, with 1-minute deplaning face and hand massages with deep moisturing treatments. Sounds almost as good as the massage therapy you now find in some airports - if you've never tried that, do so the next time you see one. Ahhhhh.


Blogger Expat Traveler said...

those are some great insights on travels. Ouch for contacts. I hope some of that is looked at and lifted.

4:41 PM  

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