I’ve become a crabby flyer.
I didn’t used to be this way. Just a short while ago I would happily stand in hour long security lines and have flight attendants force me to check my bag. What did it matter, I reasoned? I was going somewhere.
To quote Louis CK: “Wow, you’re flying! It’s amazing! Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, ‘oh my god’, wow, you’re flying, you’re sitting in a chair in the sky.”
And I am appreciative of the wonder of air travel. Once I’m on the plane. Getting on the plane, though…that’s another story. Which I have become quite jaded on, and I think I know why:
And I’m not just talking about the fact that the TSA now lets children and adults over 75 keep their shoes on, further proving that’s a stupid rule that they don’t want to admit their stupidity on yet. (So TSA…you’re saying there’s no way children and old people can be part of terrorist plots that involve shoes?) While I appreciate the fact that the line moves faster as a result, it’s not consistent and therefore, annoying.
Inconsistencies are also part of the reason why I’ve gotten into not one, but two arguments with boarding gate attendants this month. (Oh dear. What has happened to my easy-going flyer self?)
The first argument was partly my fault, I admit – though not for the reason you may think. I wasn’t breaking any rules, but I’ve been an idiot and haven’t updated my new married name on my miles reward clubs with the airlines, meaning my current no mile status under my new name relegates me to the last boarding zone.
Which, when traveling with a carry-on roller suitcase, is not any fun.
Last weekend I was traveling to Boston with a layover in Salt Lake City. I was one of the last in line for the last boarding zone and when I was almost to the plane after walking down the ramp, a flight attendant stuck her head out the airplane door and announced everyone else would have to check their bags.
I was in a hurry to get to my sister’s once I landed in Boston so I really didn’t want to have to wait at baggage claim.
I explained this to the flight attendant at the front of the plane as the people who had previously been in front of me were getting their luggage checked on the ramp.
“Can I just try? It’s a really small one? Maybe it’ll fit under my seat?” I pleaded.
She looked skeptical, but told me to give it a try. I’m pretty sure we both knew it wasn’t going to fit under my seat. (I was well aware, but also pretty confident in my ability to find some overhead space.)
I boarded and there were still a few open overhead bins in the back. I got there and noticed a roller bag put in sideways (rude) so I moved it the other way and voila! My bag fit.
But wait. The top wouldn’t close. Technically that meant the person’s bag who was up there was oversize since you’re not supposed to be allowed to put your bags in sideways (at least that’s what flight attendants around the world tell you…again, inconsistencies). I’m sure whoever that suitcase belonged to was glaring at me since I caught the attention of the flight attendant chilling in the back.
“I don’t think it will close with that suitcase that way, but here,” she moved a coat aside in another bin (a coat! Before everyone had boarded! Aren’t flight attendants supposed to regulate that?) and gestured to me. “It will fit here.”
And it did! Victory! And thank you to the nice flight attendant who let me try to fit my bag.
On my next flight after Salt Lake City, I was the last zone again but I made sure to be ready this time so I could be at the front. My suitcase was making it on.
The plane had been delayed and so the airline employees were in a hurry to get people boarded. Which was about to make my flight boarding experience exponentially more difficult.
I perked my ears up when I heard the gate attendant explaining to a couple a few people in front of me in line that they were going to start checking bags in case there wasn’t enough room in order to save time.
They didn’t even know for sure that there wouldn’t be room.
When I got up, they explained the same thing to me. I nodded. “But the checked tag is just done now as a precaution, right? To save time later? I can still try to get it on, right?”
“No, you’ll leave it up here to be checked.”
“But on my earlier flight this morning they still let me try.” With the same airline, I’m thinking grittily.
While the gate agent continues on her diatribe that makes no sense about why she has to check it, I was watching people behind me in line pass me by with big duffel bags the same size as my suitcase. I instantly panicked. They were going to take my overhead space!
“Ok, ok, ok, ok!” I said frantically. “Just put the thing on.” Let me get back in line!
She secured the tag and I instantly spun around to secure my space in line.
“I wasn’t done,” she scolded me irritably. She added the baggage tag sticker to the top of my suitcase. “And I told you that you can’t bring it with you.”
“But it’s small one,” I protested.
She pointed to the metal checkpoint for the size carry-on bags are supposed to be. “Actually, it’s not. It doesn’t meet regulations.”
Now I got seriously annoyed and was done playing nice. “Really? You’re actually comparing it to that? No one’s carry-on suitcase fits those diameters and everyone knows that!”
She glared at me and defiantly took the suitcase out of my hands and placed it by the door to the ramp with the suitcases of three other poor souls.
“But…” I stuttered, still not sure why I couldn’t try to get it on. It’s already tagged. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. They can then check it. But judging by my position in the line, I was 99% sure there’d be space left. If the last lady let me try to fit it on when they were actually sure they were out of room, why wouldn’t this one? When I got up to the ramp door a minute later, I looked surreptitiously behind me that the gate attendant wasn’t looking and grabbed my bag in defiance.
It was a long wait on the ramp to get in the plane. I kept expecting the attendant to come yell at me and ban me from flying at any second.
Finally, I was able to board the plane and there were still three (three!) bins free. They could fit at least another nine suitcases! So mine was definitely fitting. I plopped it up there and sat down in defiance of the gate agent (who was luckily not also one of the flight attendants).
Less than a week later, I found myself yet again arguing exasperatedly with a gate attendant. This time I was on a layover in Denver, about to board a flight to Billings, Montana.
Whenever I fly without checking luggage, I usually have three things: my roll-on suitcase, my laptop backpack, and my small, clutch-size purse.
I always leave room in my backpack in case a gate attendant makes me consolidate it, but here’s the thing: no one ever does. They’re both small and easily fit under my seat so I guess most note that fact or simply don’t care. When I got ready to board the plane to Billings from Denver, I was getting ready to board the ninth plane I’d flown on in the past two weeks and as keeping my purse out of my backpack hadn’t been a problem on those, I figured it would be fine on this flight.
One of the gate agents – who had just previously been telling a mom her stroller was supposed to have been checked, which the mom was disagreeing about, and which the gate agent subsequently told her she’d let slide – spotted my bright teal purse and immediately told me to put it in my backpack before turning back to the mom.
I walked past her to the wall to do so, but then the process of having to stuff my purse in my backpack only to pull it out as soon as I got on the plane seemed too pointless and – with the memory of nine previous accommodating gate agents in my head, including five for this very airline, I said “screw it” and got back in line figuring she was too busy with the mom – who she apparently wasn’t being quite as strict with – to notice.
Ignoring her directions turned out to be a mistake. The drill sergeant gate agent noticed and came running up to me as my ticket was being scanned, telling me I was not to board the plane until my purse was in my backpack.
“This is ridiculous,” I told her. “It’s super small and I’m going to have to take it out the second I get on the plane.” The fiery side of me was in full force today. Careful, Gina, I told myself. This isn’t a big deal and you don’t want to get kicked off the plane for being disobedient. Plus, I wasn’t even in a hurry on this flight to board. Bags automatically went below since it was a small propeller plane.
“It is NOT ridiculous,” she replied. “Do it now or l’ll make you check it.”
I sighed, feeling like a scolded, petulant child and took off my backpack and consolidated the two, trying to figure out why I felt so annoyed by all this.
Technically, she was right and I was wrong. I knew this. I’m well aware you can only have one hand held object when boarding a plane in addition to a carry-on suitcase.
Yet I was frustrated and it wasn’t because I had to put my purse in my backpack. It was because I was tired of flying inconsistencies. If all gate agents made me put my purse in my backpack, I’d automatically do it. But they don’t, so I don’t, ultimately wasting time.
I boarded the plane feeling a bit bad for ignoring the gate agent the first time around and vowing to start following all regulations to save myself frustration later (and to update my name on my miles reward programs), but I was still irritated with the whole boarding process. I sat down and began fumbling for my seatbelt.
“Yeah, better get that on before the Nazis come through,” the guy next to me muttered conspiratorially.
I laughed, immediately thinking of the Seinfeld “soup Nazi” and picturing the flight attendant walking down the aisle and yelling at everyone without the seatbelt on “No flight for you!”
I grinned at my own private joke, and then nodded at the guy in agreement.
The rules at the airports may be inconsistent, but hey – at least we’re all in this crazy flying world together.
Have you ever broken any flight rules or regulations? Were you called out on it?