I used to love flying. I used to love doing internet searches for flights, pushing the “purchase” button, and then being flown off to some far off part of the world in a matter of hours. Flying has revolutionized our perception of time and distance, Shanghai is now just as close to New York City as Chiapas, Mexico. I use to love the power of flying, I use to dig being treated like a king even though I was occupying a cheap-o seat in coach. Then something happened, flying became an incredible hassle — so much so that I avoid it at all cost.
It all begins with searching for a flight. No longer can you browse through all the websites, write down the cheapest prices, and then expect to get the same price a few days later. No, the prices change fast, the process of landing a ticket now feels like a race. Even when going through the flight selection and purchase process, all too often I’m getting little notifications saying that the price increased.
What? The price went up in the past five minutes?
When I was buying flights from Mexico City to Rochester, NY last year I remember the prices going up once between transferring from the Kayak.com results and again just before going to the payment screen. Now I feel a sense of stress and urgency when purchasing flights so that I can get the fare I initially find before it increases. I suspect this may be by design.
And this is just where the stress begins. At the airport you must show up hours early, stand in a line to be checked in, be interrogated as to whether you have an onward ticket (if you don’t you have to buy one before checking ing), often go through a pre-security check, then the real security check where ever last trinket you have in your possession is fondled and then they try to X-ray you and then pat you down. When I refuse to be X-rayed the real annoyances begin . . .
Checking into a flight feels more like entering into a prison than a luxury you paid thousands of dollars embark upon. Then you get on the plane and the stewardesses act like they’re breaking some major rule by giving you a complimentary glass of water. Some service.
I choose to avoid flying whenever possible. The intrigue, wonder, and convenience of air travel no longer usurps the annoyance and stress of the security theater that is now inherent to this mode of transport
When I have the option, I take ground transport.
So when I look at my choices for getting from Rochester, NY to New York City this March, I don’t think for a second about taking the plane. Rather, I go over to Amtrak.com and I book three tickets on the train. $117 for my entire three person family to go on the eight and a half hour ride. Not bad. Granted, the flight would only have been $180, but the extra hassles are not worth the slightly faster travel time and $60+ more.
When you ride a train, all you need to do is show up 5 minutes before departure time, walk through the station, go to the tracks, and get on. No security check, no bag checks, no identity check, no public safety theater. You are treated with dignity and respect, not as a criminal. It is an enjoyable experience: you sit back and watch the scenery pass by.
Quality of the journey — not fast arrival times — is a big part of the enjoyment of travel.