Thursday, August 6, 2009

Fear of Flying

If only getting to Brussels didn't involve getting on an airplane. What with the luggage fees, carry-on restrictions, demeaning, assembly line-ish removing-of-the-shoes security, and the lack of any decent in-flight service, flying becomes less and less pleasant every time I do it. That would be bad enough on its own, but on top of being wholly uncomfortable, air travel is also downright scary. I've never felt at ease at 30,000 feet, and this week's story of violent turbulence isn't helping. For some travelers, the skies are anything but friendly.

The aforementioned realities of flying explain why, when given the option, I much prefer to travel by train. Taking the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) in France, for example, is downright enjoyable. You can show up as little as five minutes before your departure time, there are no security lines, there are no liquid carry-on restrictions, the seats have more legroom and are only two to a side, not three or more, there is usually a bar car for your enjoyment, and an upgrade to first class is often very reasonably priced. Now, some might argue that the absence of security checkpoints is not a positive thing, or that flying is not scary at all when you remember that riding in a car is far more likely to get you killed and we do that all the time without really worrying about it, but I disagree. I enjoy boarding a train with my dignity in tact (as well as my shoes), and I don't care what the statistics say; I feel better without the possibility of plummeting to my death hanging over me, however minuscule that possibility might be.

Alas, if one wishes to travel, one will at some point likely need to ride in an airplane. The best those of us who despair at the thought can do is to minimize the headaches of flight: try not to check bags, wear easily removable shoes, and take deep, reassuring breaths when the ride gets a little bumpy. It should be said that I've also met travelers who turn to medicinal solutions, the non-over-the-counter kind. And for goodness' sake, whenever possible you should avoid purchasing tickets that require you to change planes. I'm happy to report that my flight from DC to Brussels is blessedly direct.


Greg Wesson said...

I feel your pain. I just flew from London to Toronto to visit family, and it was awful. I can't believe I used to do that so much!

Have a good flight, at least as much as you can.

Sara said...

I love airports and flying! I just think they are so exciting - the adventure! That being said, I will do anything I can to have direct flights because I've missed more than my share of connections due to delayed planes. But, I also love train travel too. The only one I would rather do without is by boat...but, I get seasick.

trav said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TravMonkey said...

Hi Tanya,

I never really minded flying until I had a bad experience on a tiny plane flying into the amazon! Now that was scary! We were thrown all over the place.

Given the choice though, I'd take the train!


Paul @

Zhu said...

I feel exactly the same!

When I started traveling, about twelve years ago, I loved flying, the long the flight, the better. I actually enjoyed my 32 hours flight to New Zealand at the time! :D

But in the last few years, flying has became more and more of a hassle. Airport security is a big one for me. I'm sorry, I don't like terrorists either. But I can't believe all the crap we have to put up with! I wrote a post on my blog about that a while ago and some called me crazy, anti-patriotic and anti-Americans. Er... just because I think the current security system does nothing but bother regular legit travelers???

Second, airlines are really stingy now. I remember just five or six years ago, the service was good, with entertainment on flight etc. Now, most companies are late, have poor service and overcharge for everything. And I usually fly long haul, I'm not even mentioning short domestic flights!

Finally, I was dreading to connect through the US, which most Canadian flights do, no matter where you go. Because French now have to be fingerprinted etc. and ask for an electronic travel authorization beforehand, even for just a connection flight!. Fortunately, now I'm Canadian :$

Melina said...

If only there was an easier way to see family while living abroad..but as there isn't I'm stuck to these longhaul flights, for who knows how much longer ;)

Tanya said...

@sara, I have a friend who says the exact same thing about airports and flying. And it's true: it is exciting and it is adventure. Airports can be fun when you're at the airport bar, but I just wish I didn't have to get on that plane!

@TavMonkey, That experience in the Amazon would have totally freaked me out. Scary!