Seattle, Washington On the Subject of Air Travel

It would be stupid for me to claim the traveling I’ve done has made me an expert on the subject. By most standards, I’m actually terrible at it. But there are a few things I’ve learned, and those things are fresh in my mind after taking four flights in the last five days, totaling 17 hours in the air. For lack of anything else to say today – or at least anything it’d be prudent for me to talk about – I’m going to launch into it.

1) How about we start with the real gobsmacker? Here’s the big secret I’ve figured out. From what I’ve seen, no one else who’s ever boarded a plane is privy to this knowledge. Ready?…

When the plane stops moving, you don’t have to get up.

There is absolutely no reason to leap into the aisle, be the first to grab your carry-on, then cram for the door. You’re just hurrying so you can wait somewhere else. Nevertheless, this is what 99% of passengers do on every plane I’ve been on, in every country I’ve visited. It seems to be some strange impulse originating from the approximate level of consciousness that zombies operate on.

Here’s what I do: Nothing. If I’m reading, I keep on reading. If I’m sleeping, I keep on sleeping. Yes, it freaks out the flight attendants. But that’s okay. When the aisles are clear, I casually stand up, stretch, sort my belongings out, and eventually, quietly, languidly, deplane.

You wanna know what I do next? I usually go to the bathroom – if even just to splash water on my face.

After that? I look for a newsstand, maybe a place to sit down and get a drink. Any kind of distraction.

And then? Yes, I go to baggage claim. And if I’ve wasted enough time, I get there just as my bag is coming onto the carousel. If I haven’t dawdled long enough, I do some laps to get the lead out while I wait.

Even when I don’t have to claim baggage, I still follow this lackadaisical policy. It makes the whole ordeal more pleasant.

Granted, when customs is involved, it’s a different story. In that situation, I grudgingly advise bolting for the exit as it will get you to the immigration line before it swells up.

2) Checking in online before going to the airport. This seems to be something airlines have only recently started doing. Why they do it, I have no idea. Isn’t the whole point of checking in to make sure you’re actually there? Doesn’t it defeat the purpose if you check in from home? It makes no sense to me, but it saves waiting in line and gives you much better odds of getting a good seat.

3) Which brings me to seats. This one isn’t so much a tip as a gripe. Can we resolve that the unfortunate sap who gets crammed in the middle of a row is implicitly entitled to at least one arm rest? This should go without saying. But most people are selfish and evil…at least on airplanes.

4) If you’re big enough and you can remember, press your knees against the back of the seat in front of you for at least the first ten minutes after the seat belt sign turns off. If the person tries to recline, lock your legs in place and hold firm. Eventually they’ll decide it’s broken and give up.

5) Requesting the Emergency Exit row is not a bad thing. Window seats are no good because the door usually juts into your leg room, but the row is usually longer than all the others and getting an aisle seat can be the next best thing to first class. And as for your additional responsibilities in the event of a non-fatal crash, you will be one of about eight people in the history of commercial air travel with the opportunity to open one of those doors and slide down that inflatable ramp. Enjoy the privilege.

6) Noise-reduction headphones. Worth the money.

7) Until someone rules that laptops and Game Boys are not interfering with navigation, books will continue to beat gadgets. With gadgets you lose about 15 minutes at the beginning and end of flights, which on shorter flights can be a good chunk of the time you spend seated. I go for the puzzle books they sell in airport newsstands. They’ve got some brilliant time-suckers in those things, including the all-time greatest time-sucker ever invented: Sudoku.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll fix this and add more later, but right now I’m tired. I mostly just wanted to put something up to replace my previous post, which looking at it now seems pompous and self-involved. I can be that way. I’m not quite as humble about the attention I’ve gotten as I’d like to be. Sorry about that.

18 Responses to Seattle, Washington On the Subject of Air Travel

  1. Cara Forshaw

    17 hours is a lot….after that amount of time on a plane you have the privilegde to be in whatever mood you want.

  2. mattozan

    8) Realize that the ability to check luggage is not some cunning trap of the airlines, but actually a convenient service.

    Imagine: you don’t have to lug your bag all through the airport, into the bathroom, through the food line, down the jetway and into the airplane aisle! You don’t have to slip a disk trying to lift it over your head and cram it into a space the size of a breadbox. You don’t have to bang it into other peoples knees and noggins as you fight with all the other like-minded passengers over the last overhead bin.

    The airlines actually built a whole space into the plane just for your bags! And they employ people who get paid to do nothing but haul it to and from the plane for you! You’ve already paid for it–all you have to do is check your bags at the entrance counter, and “Voila!” Easy Peasy!

    Seriously, I am amazed every time by the number of people who, with blatent disregard for those little allowable carry-on dimension-measuring displays, come onto the plane hefting what appears to be a medium-sized pipe organ wrapped in a pup-tent of some kind. They have to hold it above seat level, since it won’t even fit in the aisle, and then they try to cram it into a bin along with all the other car doors and pony kegs and God knows what else that people pretend is No Larger Than 22″ x 14″ x 9″

  3. Ginger

    We’re talking about you on our breakfast show this morning! Great site you have and your entries are very funny. I hope you’re going to bring out a book about your travels when you’re done. If ever you cross over to England – feel free to come and see us!


  4. Rich Rossi

    That’s great stuff.
    You forgot to mention the initial boarding. It’s important to try to sneak in as soon as possible while they are boarding the back of the plane so you can block the isle when you are in row 10 and they are boarding rows 27-35.
    Oh, and if something happens with the plane (missing plane, missing pilot, bad weather, mechanical problem) make sure to have a meltdown and yell at as many people as possible because this will assure prompt service and the best possible alternative flight.

  5. Nicole

    WOW! you have been to some amzing places! Many people i know are very jelous! you made the right decision to quit your job to persue travelling! Congrads! and keep up the dancing!

  6. cb

    I have been to many places on your video but my travel was done at a later time in my life. I watch your video and imagine how it must feel to be young and to experience traveling the world. Thanks for making the video, I enjoy it every time I watch it.

  7. CygnusX1

    Hi Matt,

    cool video, it’s one of my dreams to travel the whole world like you did :) Can you tell me the name of the song thats played in the video ? I really like it :)

    Greets from Hamburg, Germany.

  8. HM

    Can’t believe you published the best-kept secret about putting your knees against the back of the chair to keep the undoubtedly shorter person in front of you from reclining…it is my very most favorite trick to use on business travel. And, in case the person does manage to recline their chair into your lap, when they get up to use the restroom, you can usually push is back into “upright” position again with your knees. :) Gotta love long legs on small planes….

  9. Sara

    I’m pleased to be in the 1% of passengers who remain seated until the wrinkled pant legs in the aisles start moving. It has always baffled me when everyone stands up right away. Surely they can’t all be first-flighters… can they not remember how long they must stand with their necks bent at a 90 degree angle?

  10. Crystal

    I couldn’t agree more with Matt. You learn alot when you start to travel constantly. It always amazes me to watch the ones who instantly turn crazy when they enter airports, bus/train terminals, ports, etc. The whole point of travel is to relax until you get to your destination. Save the “crazy” energy for wherever it is your going – don’t waste your energy just trying to get there. It’s not a road trip everyone – it’s just a plane!

  11. James

    When I first saw your video on google I just had to track down your website. What Fun! What a concept!

    Do you plan to come to New Orleans? I’d like to dance in your video if you do come.

  12. lindsay

    that’s totally true about people jumping up into the isle as if there life depended on it, myself included ,why is that, it’s just like when people speed up just to get to the red light. I live in Las Vegas and people do that all the time! I love your web site dude it’s awesome !!!!!!
    travel safe,

  13. Bond

    Em…can anyone tell me that how should i kill my time on my coming plane trip from NYC flying to Australia? it’s a 22 hours flight including wait in Japan to change my flight…and i can not sleep on the plane because i will be scared the hell out of myself…I scared of flights.

  14. Nancy

    On Southwest Airlines after landing, it was announced “In the history of our airline, no passenger has ever made it to the gate before the aircraft, so please remain seated.”

    Awsome stuff I love your dancing and writing. Thanks

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