Me vs. the airlines: a battle plan

Your riposte to bad air travel - en garde! (courtesy e-mago at flickr)After a week spent flying in coach from Austin to Washington Dulles to Chicago and back, I am in full-on rant mode about the horrid state of air travel in the U.S.

Never have I felt like such an underappreciated sack of potatoes; an abused commodity and not a customer. Although I’m normally a glass-half-full sort of gal, it’s time to shift into “hostile mode” about air travel.

Nothing personal here; I know several pilots and flight attendants and they’re great people, but for the foreseeable future, I recommend that anyone who travels by air must always assume that the worst is going to happen on your trip, and plan accordingly.

Ready? Dukes up.

** Airline attack plan — overbook flights to ensure that every seat is full, then bump the excess people (that’s you, sucker.)

  • Your riposte: check in as early as possible, preferably always online 24 hours prior, print your own boarding pass and get to the gate early. Stragglers lose.

** Airline attack plan — cramp your style by squooshing maximum human flesh into teensy seats with minimal seat pitch (legroom.)

  • Your riposte: Don’t be obese or tall (control whatever aspect of this that you can.) Check with SeatGuru for the least-abysmal legroom options on your aircraft. When you can, always pick your seat ahead of time online and make it an aisle seat, for your own mobility and comfort.

** Airline attack plan — save money by not providing food or drink unless you pay for it.

  • Your riposte: Never travel without at least an energy bar with you; assume you’re in the Sahara or some other place bereft of food. Carry an empty water bottle through security, then fill it at the water fountain. Never assume that anyone will feed you, so bring your own sandwich from home, or a box lunch from your hotel, or pick up something at the airport. Don’t let ’em starve you or leave you thirsty and dehydrated.

** Airline attack plan — make checking luggage miserable by charging you for bags, then losing them.

  • Your riposte: Never let ’em get their paws on your stuff. Never check your luggage unless you want to go to Alabama or some mystery place at Heathrow to claim it. Get over that pack mule syndrome and travel light (2 pairs trousers, 3 shirts, 2 pair shoes & do laundry during your trip) then put all that in a carryon with wheels. Be sure that you can lift your bag into an overhead bin yourself and don’t expect any help. Women, figure out how to carry only a laptop bag and be sure you can fit your purse into it, because you are only allowed one personal bag and even though sometimes that’s ignored, don’t give them an opening to force you to check anything.

Your ultimate attack move in return to all this is to refuse to fly unless you absolutely, positively have to, or at least adopt a personal no-fly list for the most egregious airlines.

Factor in some additional time and try the train or the bus (yes, the bus and these guys have free WiFi aboard.) It couldn’t be much worse than the cattle car airlines, and you’ll sure have more seat room.

Make it a pleasant road trip and drive yourself, perhaps carpooling with office mates for business travel.

If you do have to fly, pop those B-complex vitamins for your nerves, and gird yourself for battle. I’ve got your back.


  1. Christine Gilbert May 9, 2008
  2. Sheila May 9, 2008
  3. Tim May 12, 2008
  4. Matt Adams November 5, 2018

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