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How to Endure the Insanity of Air Travel

I spent some time on an airplane today. As I sat in the airport watching people go by, I couldn’t help but think back to a time when flying was rather glamorous. Passengers would get dressed up. Families would walk to the gate and wave to their loved ones as the plane took off and would be waiting at the gate with enthusiasm upon the return. And if you were fortunate enough to fly in First Class, it was a pretty special experience.

Those days have been gone for more than a decade now. The attire for most passengers is determined by where they’re going or where they’ve been. Even worse, for some it’s a matter of what they woke up in.

Based on the fact there continue to be some really bad people in the world who want to make a statement by killing innocent people, security continues to drastically change the air travel experience. Increased security long ago eliminated the farewell or welcoming ceremonies at the departure gate. In fact, we’ve taken all the excitement out of arrivals by the creation of “cell phone lots.” And a First Class travel experience just means you have a little bit bigger seat and free wine in a plastic cup.

Regardless of what I think about flying — I’m reminded today that air travel is a choice. I choose to travel by air because I need to travel long distances in a short period of time. With the exception of international travel, I could drive. I could contact Greyhound and buy a bus ticket. I could contact Amtrak and buy a train ticket. The added travel time makes those choices impossible for business travel. But ultimately, it’s my choice.

If I choose to use air travel, I have to agree to the terms. There are times I would like to carry three pieces of luggage on the plane, but since the rules limit me to two bags, I live with it because I have chosen to use air travel. There are times I would like to work on my laptop during take-off and landing, but since the rules indicate large electronic devices must be turned off during take-off and landing, I live with it because I have chosen to use air travel.

The days of glamorous air travel are gone, but I still choose to fly. Rather than focusing on all the inconveniences and longing for the day when air travel was more exciting, I have a few things I do to make the experience better, including:

Appreciate why I need to fly

Nearly every time I get on a plane I’m flying somewhere to work. Occasionally I’ll fly to get away with my wife for some free time (not nearly enough). Either way, I’m appreciative of that opportunity. I then have another choice — appreciate the fact I get to work and have the resources to get away, or complain about the inconveniences of air travel. I choose to look past the inconveniences and appreciate my need to fly. There are some people who would be happy to tolerate the intrusion of a pat-down by TSA if it meant they had a job. I’m thankful for the need to fly to speaking engagements, and thankful for the business.

Keep it all in perspective

We have ongoing battles with terrorism. Natural disasters are devastating countries around the world. People’s lives are being turned upside down because of lost jobs. Yet some people act as though the biggest issue of our time is dealing with a TSA agent in an airport security line. Is it an invasion of privacy? Absolutely. But when I put it in perspective to what is going on around me, I’m reminded of its insignificance in the big picture.

Be glad you’re not a TSA agent

While we may struggle with dealing with enhanced security at the airport, it seems we have forgotten one group of people — the TSA agents. I can’t imagine there are many of these agents who look forward to having to pat-down each passenger who refuses a full-body scan. Perhaps the least desirable role in this whole issue is the one held by the agent who puts on the blue rubber gloves and goes searching for explosives.

And finally, perhaps the most important thing I focus on is the fact that air travel has never been (and never will be) a right. It’s always been a choice. Given the alternatives, I’ll choose to fly, and play by the rules as I do.

Clint Swindall

© 2016 Clint Swindall — Clint is the president & CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., a personal development company with a focus on leadership enhancement. For information about how he can enhance employee engagement in your organization, please visit, or contact him directly

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