I’m 6 feet tall, travel abroad more than a couple of times a year, and have only flown economy class. But here’s why I will never complain about air travel

12 Nov

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There’s a lot of hassles that today’s Americans (and people in other developed countries) love to write about and be angry about: dealing with banks’ customer service phone-lines, the cost of rent in cities with a decent number of jobs, the corruption in politics, and the cost of college. Many of these are things that they should rightfully be pissed off about. But if there’s one of these types of hassles that gets way more criticism about its modern form than it deserves, I think air travel takes the cake.

People just love to hate the airlines. Airlines, to be fair, can do shitty things in certain individual situations. Illegally discriminating against customers in wheelchairs, suggesting that passengers pay to use the toilet, and having non-white passengers kicked off planes for no valid reason are terrible things that airlines in developed countries have been guilty of throughout the last couple of decades.

What bothers me is when people complain about the general state of modern air travel. Air travel, as the popular narrative goes, was so much better back in those good old days (the boundaries of which can range anywhere from the 20s to the 90s, depending on who you talk to). People dressed nicer. Economy seats had more legroom. The TSA wasn’t a thing. Full meals were served in economy class on domestic flights. Air travel, back then, had a sort of magic to it that came with its novelty as a new invention.

What is never said by these people is that in those days, smoking was allowed on planes, safety standards were overall much lower, far fewer flights were available, airfares were far more expensive, and many passengers would pass the time by getting drunk if there was no inflight entertainment.

Need I say more? Yes, I think I should.

I would love it if there was more legroom on flights. But I’d far rather be able to get a safe, affordable flight where I know that I will not be inhaling cigarette smoke. I also love the fact that wifi is being added to more and more flights.

Yes, flying can feel like a hassle relative to most first-worlders’ typical living circumstances: it’s a 1-15 hour stretch we have to endure in a cramped seating position, away from our bed or our home. But that doesn’t mean we need to teach ourselves to view it that way. For thousands of years, humanity could only dream of the passenger flights we have today. Now that we can fly, we should appreciate our progress rather than complaining about the legroom. And it shouldn’t be something anyone takes for granted. There is still plenty of the world’s population that has never flown.

Am I unusual? Maybe. I am a bit of an aviation geek, so there’s a bias there. But I also think we should be glad that we have the opportunity to fly 30,000 feet in the air and go to new places. That reality, not the legroom and food on past flights – is the true magic of air travel. And today, it’s accessible to more people than ever before. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

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