I loved to fly when I was younger. It was such a wondrous adventure, flying high at 35,000 feet and feeling like you could see forever when you looked out the window. Practically all flights over an hour in length served full meals, the stewardesses were all attractive and friendly and you were really made to feel special.
That's not the case anymore. Flying today is more like having a seat on a Greyhound bus than an adventure in the air. You're packed in tight with three seats to a row, it's rare to find yourself seated next to a pleasant person who enjoys conversation, the flight attendants are, for the most part, old and not very accommodating, mixed drinks are seven dollars a shot, and it's rare that you even get a bag of peanuts or almonds, much less a meal.
And all flights start off on the worst foot possible; the intense, personal screening by the Transportation Security Administration before we even board the plane. I'm not a great fan of our local air carrier but when I fly, I usually fly out of McCook because the screening here is less invasive and faster than it is at any other airport I fly into or out of.
We all know about the "forbidden" items we can't carry on the plane but the list keeps changing and I've had things confiscated that I never got back even though they were acceptable the last time I flew. In larger airports, we have to get partially undressed, taking off our shoes and our belts, and putting on the conveyer belt practically everything we have on our person so that the alarm doesn't go off when we walk through the protective doorway that TSA monitors like a hawk. If we DO set off the alarm, then we instantly become a candidate for a full body search.
Since some travelers think the intrusive nature of airport security is worth it, I thought I would try to find out how effective it is at making flying safer and found some of the answers in the March 19th copy of Newsweek magazine.
Since 2001, 57 billion dollars has been spent on TSA. There has been a 400 percent increase in TSA staff over the last decade. The average yearly salary of the TSA's 3,986 administrative personnel in Washington is $103,852. That totals up to around 413 million dollars. Education and work experience is at a minimum. TSA agents have to have one year work experience if they lack a high school diploma. The airlines lose about 1.1 billion dollars a quarter because of the inconvenience of TSA screening. One agent was accused of stealing $5,000 from a passenger's coat. 57 percent of the people who fly say they'd be angry or bothered by a full-body pat-down.
You might say this is all worth it if we're keeping the skies safe and capturing terrorists. The only problem with that conclusion is that the total number of terrorists apprehended by the TSA is zero.
So I think I'm going back to driving. I can leave when I want, take breaks when I want, stop and see things I haven't seen before, have myself a meal, and carry on a conversation with myself. The last time I flew, I was on the ground in lay-overs longer than I was in the air. In a car, there are no layovers. It takes longer and is more tiresome since I travel by myself but today is just the reverse of the way it was 20 years ago.
Flying isn't glamorous anymore.