Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The flying menagerie

     "Do you want the window seat?" my wife kindly asked as we finally reached our row toward the rear of a Frontier flight.
    "I do!" I said, then, recovering, "You can have it on the way back."
     There is a certainly childishness to gazing out the window during airplane trips. One that I've never outgrown. I not only gaze at the clouds all around and the landscape far below. Sometimes I'll even exude "We're flying!"
     Because most people never will.
     On my recent flight to Denver, I also had this colorful woodpecker on the winglet—the proper name for the turned up portion on the wing that decreases drag—to keep me company. 
     The bird helped. Otherwise, it was a typical full, charmless flight, the kind that really underscores the "bus" in an "Airbus 320." The typical, out-of-left-field mishaps. Someone on Frontier messed up the security check or, rather, misplaced the paperwork, and after all the passengers had finally filed on, we were immediately told to begin filing off, and half the plane was emptied before a pilot finally noticed the documents where they shouldn't have been, tucked behind a visor.
    To make matters worse, the flight attendant working the microphone fancied himself a comedian, and kept up a steady patter that was supposed to be funny—he welcomed the Denver-bound passengers to our flight to Salt Lake City—but quickly began to sound somewhat unhinged. 
     After we took to the air, in a very turbulent flight, I took comfort that somebody at the Denver-based budget airline had the graphic sense and presence of mind to add this avian companion. About a dozen years ago, as it turns out. It made up for the glitch when leaving and its companion snafu arriving, as the plane was left five feet short of the gate, causing another delay.
     I hadn't seen the entire plane on the way in. On the way out, I saw this row of Frontier jets. Obviously, the animal graphics is a Thing at Frontier. Good call. Now if they could only perfect the whole filing-security-check paperwork Thing.



  1. Ugh. Only thing worse than Frontier is Spirit, but I guess you get what you (don't) pay for. I'm glad you still get a sense of wonder from flying, though. Maybe I could if I tried!

  2. I used to like the window seat, but now try for the aisle. Otherwise, I never get up during a flight and that's a bit dangerous and possibly embarrassing. On Southwest, I'll even sit in the middle; you can get a primo seat even after half the plane is already full.


  3. Aha, now I know why Frontier planes have those cute animal graphics on their tails: when you are lacking the basic standards of a quality airline, you have to try to compensate in other ways.
    (The flight attendant’s poor attempt at comedy made me chuckle, though I guess coming after the various snafus was more than a bit cringe-worthy.)

  4. I would never have to give my wife the window seat. She does not enjoy flying and I love to fly and look out the window. I always try to figure out where we are. I remember times when the pilot would tell folks on either side of the plane what there was to see. I don't think they do that anymore. At night it is interesting to look out and see the lights of cities and towns far below. On flights to the west coast they can be very far apart and at times, almost non- existent.

    The crop circles and farmlands are beautiful from 30,000 feet. Always a joy to see various cloud formations and sometimes that is all you see below you. Watching other planes flying by, usually in the opposite direction, wondering where they are from and where they are going.

    Much like you stated in your column on commuting, the time spent in a plane is definitely not a waste.

  5. Been flying since 1965, and always, ALWAYS tried for a window seat, because it really DOES "feel like a bus" otherwise. But I also desired the window because I've been a "map junkie" all my life, going back to the days of the freebies at the gas stations. Amassed quite a collection, and studied them closely because I loved geography.

    Whenever I flew (which became less frequent as I aged), I tried to pick out cities, towns, and natural landmarks, and noticed the routes the commercial pilots used. They are just like road maps in the sky, and if you know your geography and topography, you can (silently) say: "Hey, we just flew over Iowa City!" or "There's Point Pelee!"--and have a reasonable chance of being right.

    Made the time go faster, too. Flying has become as boring as a ride on a CTA bus...maybe more so. Everyone is locked into their devices and they're in their own impenetrable bubble...just like on the ground. It's now the way of the world, and I've grown to hate it. Talk to a fellow traveler? Are you nuts, or what?

  6. Except for Coey's view, I like the more positive take on the flying experience. For Coey I would suggest a new viewpoint. Many people will complain that it took them 6 hours to get from O'Hare to Santa Anita and they missed the first race. I remind them, for their great grandparents, the same trip entailed 6 months in a Conestoga wagon, brutal heat and cold, unfriendly natives and snow capped peaks. Their grandparents needed a week or more on a train, or days of flying in the best of circumstances. We are incredibly fortunate to have such mobility, I recall my first flight across the country whenever I experience a snag in my travels. Flying from Glenview Naval Air Station to Fallon, Nevada, in 1970, in a C-54, the military version of a DC-4, a four engine prop plane with a cruising speed of 190 MPH. Eleven hours in a deafening roar, a cold unpressurized cabin, and seating arrangements designed by a chiropractor in need of clients. The only benefit, flying below 12,000 feet provided better views. I will take a few delays to not repeat that round trip, though I value the experience.

    1. Indeed we are fortunate to have this option. I just by far prefer Southwest or Virgin to Spirit or Frontier.


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