Remember how dignified air travel used to be, with hot meals, a choice of entrees, even warm chocolate chip cookies baked right on board those former Midwest Express flights?

Remember walking people to their gate for  a goodbye kiss, or waiting eagerly at a gate for a familiar face filing off the jetway?

Remember walking from the ticket counter straight to the gate, your carry-on chock full of full-sized liquids and Bic lighters? No security lines or shoe removals.

Ah, those were the days… But were they? Really?

Those were also the days (until the year 2000) of overflowing ashtrays in armrests, open flames in airtight tubes at 30,000 feet, and the stunning absurdity of non-smoking sections.

(“By all means, sir,  you’re welcome to get pie-eyed drunk and pass out in your seat with a lit cigarette.  The real danger lies in unclipping your seatbelt before we reach the gate. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAN, we landed safely and are now rolling slowly on pavement. Are you trying to kill us all?)

And don’t get me started on the suitcases we lugged with one hand and hefted off baggage carousels for an embarrassingly long time. We managed to put a man on the moon years before we put wheels on our suitcases.

So yes, some things have moved in the right direction, while others have taken a turbulent turn. And sadly, human behavior has sunk to new depths.

If you ask me, people have gotten way too comfortable aboard airplanes and inside airports, where they sprawl on the floor like a teenager doing homework, using their carry-on as a pillow while charging their phone or tablet.

Let’s start with some basics.

Can we at least agree to keep our shoes on while inside the airplane and seated just inches from six other people? I’m sorry, sir, but no one wants to see your nasty bare foot, hanging well into the aisle while you snore and cough behind your face mask. 

That was just gross. And that foot hung there for the duration of our recent flight from Atlanta to Key West.

We flew last weekend to my cousin’s beautiful wedding in Charlottesville, Virginia, meeting my parents, brother, sister-in-law and two nephews for a long weekend.

I will say I was proud of my fellow air travelers in some ways. No one was tossed from the flight for refusing to wear a mask. No one threatened or assaulted a flight attendant or other passenger over the efficacy of masks or the threat of COVID.

But is the bar really that low? Does any non-violent trip now qualify as a “nice flight?” If so, we’ve got problems.

Human behavior, empathy and insight (the ability to look clearly at your own thoughts and behaviors) are sorely lacking in today’s society. Common courtesy, self-awareness and personal responsibility have gone by the wayside, not just in the air, but in daily life as well.

Their absence is just more pronounced and noticeable in the close confines of a flying tube. So let’s review:

  • Keep your shoes on. 
  • Don’t cross the line. There’s an invisible barrier between my seat and the stranger’s next to me. Keep your feet and knees in your space.
  • There are typically three seats in an airplane row, three seats and three armrests. Each person gets one armrest. Don’t be greedy.
  • For now, face masks are federally required on flights and inside airports. The flight attendant didn’t make the rule, nor can she cancel it. So wear the damn mask and shut up. Be glad it’s not a muzzle.
  • The gate agent did not cancel your flight or summon the thunderstorm that did. Back off and be nice. She’s trying to help.
  • There are people waiting behind you. No one else can get to their seat until you stash your bag and move out of the aisle. This isn’t rocket science.

Other than that, have a nice flight. And if you didn’t, try calling an airline’s customer service line to complain. That oughta keep you occupied for a few days.

 

Remember how dignified air travel used to be, with hot meals, a choice of entrees, and even warm chocolate chip cookies baked right on board those former Midwest Express flights?

Of course, those were also the days of smoke-filled airplane cabins and seats with ashtrays in the armrests, so some things have moved in the right direction.

But if you ask me, people have gotten way too comfortable aboard airplanes and even inside airports, where they sprawl on the floor like a teenager doing homework, using their carry-on as a pillow while charging their phone or tablet.

Let’s start with some basics.

Can we at least agree to keep our shoes on while inside the airplane and seated just inches from six other people? I’m sorry, sir, but no one wants to see your nasty bare foot, hanging well into the aisle while you snore and cough behind your face mask. 

That was just gross. And that foot hung there for the duration of our recent flight from Atlanta to Key West.

We flew last weekend to my cousin’s beautiful wedding in Charlottesville, Virginia, meeting my parents, brother, sister-in-law and two nephews for a long weekend.

I will say I was proud of my fellow air travelers in some ways. No one was tossed from the flight for refusing to wear a mask. No one threatened or assaulted a flight attendant or other passenger over the efficacy of masks or the threat of COVID.

But is the bar really that low? Does any non-violent trip now qualify as a “nice flight?” If so, we’ve got problems.

Human behavior, empathy and insight (the ability to look clearly at your own thoughts and behaviors) are sorely lacking in today’s society. Common courtesy, self-awareness and personal responsibility have gone by the wayside, not just in the air, but in daily life as well.

Their absence is just more pronounced and noticeable in the close confines of a flying tube. So let’s review:

  • Keep your shoes on. 
  • Don’t cross the line. There’s an invisible barrier between my seat and the stranger’s next to me. Keep your feet and knees in your space.
  • There are typically three seats in an airplane row, three seats and three armrests. Each person gets one armrest. Don’t be greedy.
  • For now, face masks are federally required on flights and inside airports. The flight attendant didn’t make the rule, nor can she cancel it. So wear the damn mask and shut up. Be glad it’s not a muzzle.
  • The gate agent did not cancel your flight or summon the thunderstorm that did. Back off and be nice. She’s trying to help.
  • There are people waiting behind you. No one else can get to their seat until you stash your bag and move out of the aisle. This isn’t rocket science.

Other than that, have a nice flight. And if you didn’t, try calling an airline’s customer service line to complain. That oughta keep you occupied for a few days.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. She's married to a saintly — and handy — fisherman, and has been stringing words together in Key West since 1998.