flying

With a 25% increase in flying costs over the past year, one too many of the proverbial “olives” has been removed from the salad, leaving the passengers with a bad experience.

An old black and white advertisement from the 70’s comes to mind where a couple are seated on a flight with their meals and drinks in front of them. The one says to the other “If this is what flying is like today can you imagine what it will be like in the future?” Flying used to be glamorous, working as an air stewardess was every little girl’s (and some boy’s) dream, seats were plush and spacious, and you could even smoke on a flight. The thought of which repulses me now, but that’s beside the point. In 1987 American Airlines removed one olive from each salad served and saved $100,000 a year. Ever since that one olive was removed, airlines have consistently sought to cut costs in numerous other ways to the detriment of the customer.

This was most evident on our recent long-haul flight from Cape Town to Frankfurt with Lufthansa, we experienced numerous issues checking in. The airline had no record of our pre-paid extra baggage and were initially unable to check us in due to a system glitch. An item that was not on the prohibited list was also removed from our luggage, one month later and Im still waiting for them to reply.
Onboard, we were not provided with a menu as there was no meal selection. You ate what you were given or went without. There was no toiletry bag containing the much-needed eye mask, ear plugs and toothbrush set. I have never seen anyone use the socks and slippers that you sometimes get in these bags, but the aforementioned three are essential. There was no alcoholic beverage selection, it was beer or wine served in a plastic cup. Some airlines will charge you extra if you don’t check in online and you will be required to pay extra if you select a seat. It’s pay, pay, pay, anything to get the airline profits up. Yet, airlines cancel flights without notice and delayed flights are a regular occurrence. Once onboard, you’ve got to contend with cramped and uncomfortable seats, crying babies and luggage that often goes missing.
Let’s face it…. flying is not as glamorous as it used to be!

Flying Long-haul.

If you must get from one continent to another then flying is obviously the fastest and sometimes the most affordable option. Here are some tips I’ve picked up that might make your journey a little more bearable:
* Unless you’ve got noise cancelling headphones, pack your own earplugs. It’s not a total noise block out, but it does reduce some of the background noise making it easier to fall sleep.
* Eye masks are a must. Cabin lights, reading lights or the flickering from a screen in the seat next to you can be a real bother.
* After dinner, pop a melatonin/sleeping tablet to help fall asleep. Even if you get three or four hours sleep on a flight it’s better than nothing.
* Travel size deodorant and a toothbrush set are a must to freshen up at the end of the flight.
* I found inflight entertainment options very outdated, so I always download my favorite series/movie prior to the flight.
* Some airlines no longer provide pillows. A neck pillows is a real help and will save you from a stiff neck in the morning.
*Slip on shoes. You’ll have a better chance falling asleep when you’re comfortable, so kick off your shoes. The only problem is that the reduced space makes it almost impossible to put them back on again so consider slip-ons especially for those who suffer from swollen feet due to the altitude. 
* Limit your alcohol consumption. Probably not worth mentioning because the airline’s going to do that for you anyway with their limited selection. It should hopefully help you sleep better and you’ll be less dehydrated when you get to the other side.

Alternatives....

Sea – We just LOVE cruising. Look into “repositioning” cruises. This is where a cruise ship relocates from one region to another due to changing seasons. They are very cheap and it’s a luxurious way from getting from point A to B. You can often do a transatlantic repositioning cruise for less than an economy airline ticket so if you’ve got the time, it’s really worth considering.

Rail – Traveling by train has come a long way since I last travelled on one many years ago. For longer journeys, pre-book your compartment, get some sleep, eat in the dining car, and enjoy a drink at the bar. For the shorter rail trips, comfortable seats with a table and free Wi-Fi can be booked in advance. Rail travel is often cheaper than flying and might even by quicker. If you consider that you must be at the airport two hours before your flight and the location of airports, the train might well be a quicker option especially in places like Europe.  You’re also guaranteed to arrive at your destination feeling more relaxed.

Road – Another of our favorite forms of travel is by motorhome. If time is not a factor this is a great way to enjoy the sights, stop over when and where you like and save money on accommodation while on route. The faster option would be by car. Hire one and drop it off at your destination. When you feel tired and need to stop, book last minute accommodation for the best deals. You’ll also see a lot more along the way.

Of course, there’s flying business and first-class as an options. This will alleviate some of the negatives associated with airline travel, but we’re reluctant to pay the significant premium required for the upgrade. After all, the economy passengers will arrive at the same destination and at the same time as the first-class passengers albeit a little worse for wear. Come on airlines, please add a few more “olives” back into the salads to make economy travel more bearable. In the meantime, we’ll use alternate forms or travel where we can.

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