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Reflections from the friendly skies

Although I usually bring a computer with me when I travel, I generally don’t use it when I’m on an airplane. Since I can read what’s on everyone else’s laptop, I know they can read whatever’s on mine. I value my privacy. I prefer to pull out a paper notebook and a pen and write in cursive. Even someone sitting next to me would have to strain to decipher that.

On that note, here’s an assortment of my reflections, gathered during my recent flights from Phoenix to Orlando and back:

  • If you’re flying on a US Airways Airbus A321, the choicest seats in coach are without a doubt in row 22, seats D, E, and F. It’s an exit row with no bulkhead and no obstructions blocking the under-seat storage. There’s more legroom than most of the rows in first class. Kathryn and I were in seats E and F — middle and window. The captain who was flying the plane back to Phoenix was in seat D — the aisle seat. The seats on the other side of the aisle in row 22 — seats A, B, and C — are less desirable. They’re right behind the lavatory, so there’s no under-seat storage available.
  • As I noticed many passengers boarding with Burger King bags and Starbucks cups, I couldn’t help but think about a flight I once took from Washington Dulles to London on Virgin Atlantic. I think it was in 1997. A few passengers tried to board the plane with bags from Burger King. The purser refused to let them. They were told to throw it out or eat it before boarding. I miss those days when flying was still somewhat dignified. On the other hand, you were assured of something resembling a proper meal back then.
  • Although I make sure my phone is turned off when I board the plane, I go an extra step and take the battery completely out. On at least two occasions in the past two years, I’ve arrived at a destination to discover my phone had turned itself back on during the flight.
  • The advertisements for the iPad would lead you to believe everyone who owns one is doing something brilliant with it. On our flight, all the iPads were being used to watch movies. Not even particularly good movies. I’m sure someone in the back of the plane was using his iPad to compose a symphony, and I just didn’t see it. I know Apple wouldn’t lie to us.
  • US Airways has adopted a no-cash policy for in-flight purchases. I find this appalling. I’m not pulling out a credit card to make a $5 purchase, period. When any merchant adopts a no-cash policy, it’s not about providing the customer with a better experience. It’s about making sure their own employees don’t steal from them. Airlines like US Airways are essentially telling the flying public they don’t trust their own flight attendants. Should we?
  • With our vantage point near the lavatory, I was surprised to see how many passengers were using some form of smokeless tobacco during the flight. I guess three-and-a-half hours is a long time to go without a smoke.
  • On the return flight, the captain announced the birthday of one of the flight attendants. He said she was 35. She looked closer to 45. Flight attendants must age prematurely. Keep that in mind if you’re a young woman who’s thinking of trading her youth for free travel.