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These days, air travel becomes a test of perseverance – and patience

Monday, May 5, 2014 - 8:56 am

Flying was once such sweet pleasure.

Oldtimers can remember the white glove days. Now it is torture. Take off your shoes, belt and jacket, prepare to be frisked, pay for bags, fight for leg room, sit in narrow seats flanked by overweight grouches.

We are all grouches anymore, all frustrated with the indignities of travel, the trudging from terminal to terminal.

In the last year, I have been delayed six times on … six flights. Weather is usually the excuse, but as often as not it is the lack of equipment, malfunctioning equipment or the design of the air control system that convolutes the options from here to there and 9/11 compounded the misery.

So, getting there is now like running an Algonquin gauntlet. Each step, each stop is a beating. There are no more friendly skies.

From Fort Wayne it took four hours and some minutes to get to Chicago. The airline's app stubbornly read “On Time.”

We sat one long hour on the runway waiting to use a gate where another plane was being de-iced, or so they said. It rained outside. We were still on time, according to the app, but four hours late by my watch.

My sprint to the next gate was coupled with a ride on a VIP cart that just happened to go my way. The driver was a cheerful woman whose kindness, bright smile and thumb on the horn got me to my gate by a whisker.

It was a trans-Atlantic flight. Miss it and wait 24-hours.

I have slept in terminals, been delayed for interrogation, had to pay ransom for a fellow traveler and been pushed to exploding by rude TSA agents.

Does it really have to be this way? Is our technology so bad that we have to take off shoes and belts and jackets, raise our hands in the air to stand like a captive spy?

In Greece, I walked across something that examined my shoes while they were still on! In other countries, I have been waved through.

Here in the United States, the airlines sometimes designate fliers for speedy, less intrusive processing. Why not for more of us? Why not for all of us? Less intrusive technology exists … .

Ahead of me at security in London, an elderly, diminutive Chinese woman had been stopped. The English agents repeatedly told her to take off her money belt. She emptied it. No, they said, take it off.

They spoke increasingly loudly with exaggerated enunciating hoping to penetrate the linguistic barrier. Finally, the agents rolled up her blouse and took it off while all in line diverted their eyes.

The airlines are notorious for trying to cram as many poor souls into each flight as possible, for touting comfort but delivering agony.

GPS? No they still use the old inefficient radar systems. Where is that Malaysian Boeing 777, anyway. Garmin would know.

So, now, we 250 fellow travelers, all sit quietly on our own 777-200, except for the few toddlers who are crying on behalf of our suffering. I don't mind at all.

I am inured to the “friendly skies,” and I make faces for the closest baby. I am just glad to have survived another set of hurdles on the way to a cafe on Crete.

Jim Sack is a Fort Wayne resident. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.