Alexis Powers: Plane travel wasn't always awful

Low-stress airport experiences, relatively comfy and uncrowded flights and dressed-up people are fond memories
2012-09-20T00:00:00Z Alexis Powers: Plane travel wasn't always awfulOpinion by Alexis Powers Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A news article caught my eye that said a U.S. Airways plane bound for Dallas had been ordered back to Philadelphia International Airport due to a bomb threat. Scary! Happily, it was only a hoax, although that is bad enough.

My mind zipped to an incident when flying to New York. Not long after takeoff, the oxygen masks dropped. The captain explained there was a problem and we were returning to LAX. When the oxygen mask fell in front of my face, I thought we were doomed. My life passed before my eyes. Before we could land, the fuel was released from the plane into the Pacific Ocean. Always ready with my camera, I took pictures of the fuel, wondering if anyone would ever see these photos.

I eventually arrived in New York six hours late.

While travel-related incidents have occurred since man took wing, flying was not the crowded, noisy, grueling experience it is today. A few years ago, when flying with a friend from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, we arrived two hours before the scheduled departure.

The line to go through security took so long we would have missed the flight if the flight had not been delayed. While going through the endless procedure, I began to think that standing on I-10 with thumbs up might have been a faster way to get to New Mexico.

Going through security reminds me of being found guilty before you can prove your innocence. Returning from Florida a couple of months ago, I was wearing a hat. The hat was so comfortable I forgot it was on my head and neglected to take it off. A security guy walked over to me pointing to his head to indicate that I needed to remove the hat. Which I did! Gladly! But security was convinced that this little old lady might have a bomb in her belfry. I was ordered to go through the X-ray machine.

"Raise your hands," a security woman shouted. As I raised my arms, I said, "It won't be a pretty sight." No smiles from anyone.

The trip continued with a three-hour layover in Atlanta, possibly the world's largest airport. The atmosphere reminded me of a carnival. All that was missing were stands where you could buy three chances to knock over some wooden milk bottles. The shops were filled with customers, kiosks had lines of folks waiting to buy food or drink and most of the terminal seats were occupied. With no inviting place to sit, I went shopping, spending money I didn't have on things I didn't need.

I've noticed that seats on planes have gotten narrower as passengers have broadened. Recently, a very tall man sat down next to me. The seats were so close together that he couldn't help but crowd my space with his long legs. To alleviate being uncomfortable with him so close I engaged him in conversation. Turned out he was a soccer coach. We enjoyed our chat during the short flight.

I was the first person in my family to fly. For this exciting event, I bought a new outfit, including a tailored suit, hat and high-heeled shoes. My poor father was so nervous thinking of me in an airplane that he called the airline every hour to find out if the plane was still air-bound.

Fondly I remember Pacific Southwest Airlines ("PSA"). While living in San Francisco, I would take a cab to the airport. No reservations needed to fly to Los Angeles. Just hop on board at a cost of $15. The flights left every hour and the planes were relatively comfy and uncrowded.

One morning I flew to Los Angeles, realized I forgot something, cabbed it back to the airport, flew up to San Francisco, then flew back to Los Angeles to take care of business before returning home that evening. I took those flights so many times I'm surprised PSA didn't ask me to be its poster girl.

All of this has been brought to the forefront of my life because a few months ago, I published my memoir "Don't Die Before Paris." The title came into being from a remark my older daughter made as we were discussing plans to meet in Paris next April.

Getting to Paris from Tucson boggles my mind. As I get closer to making reservations, my mind strays to all the things that might go wrong. If I could take one flight, even if it took 14 hours, I'd be thrilled, but that is impossible from Tucson. How many hours will it take? How will I feel when I arrive? Should I fly first class and forego eating for the next month or so, to save for the ticket cost?

As I continue my fatalistic fantasy excursion, I wonder what will happen if one of the flights is canceled or bad weather causes an airport to close. I remember the blizzard of 2006 when Denver was snowed in for three days. What if that happened to me? My imagination went wild as I envisioned taking four days to get to Paris while my daughters visit the Eiffel Tower without me.

Isn't there a hotel in Vegas called "Paris"? Maybe I can talk my daughters into meeting me there instead.

On StarNet: Read recent columns by Alexis Powers at azstarnet.com/alexispowers

Email Alexis Powers at northwest@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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