Is Air Travel Now More Trouble Than It's Worth?
crowds at Pearson Airport, Toronto
Forget the lines while you wait to get on the plane, the real torture starts when you are in the air. Gizmodo lists the new rules, and flying has just become a far more miserable experience than it ever was before; we now have to sit on our hands:
- Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
- Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
- Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
- While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
- Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
The rules just get sillier and sillier. Have dinner and a beer and you can't get up and go to the bathroom. Or use an iPod or watch a movie. This isn't travel, it is torture.
Travelling by car at this time of year isn't a particularly good alternative. As Sami noted after getting stuck in the snow, we need a shift in mentality, that mobility is not a given.
Perhaps one of the most interesting lessons from this whole experience, for me, was how profoundly we have all internalized the idea that we must be able to travel how and when we want to.
Perhaps that shift in mentality is that we consider changing the way we travel; slow down, take fewer and longer trips, and consider alternative methods of getting there.
In Sweden, slow travel is catching on- trains that take two days sell out in seconds (and produce a quarter of the CO2 per person of a plane that takes two hours.) More at Slow Trains Heading South
In Britain, more people are taking the trains than at any time since World War II. (See Train Travel Hits New Highs) A lot of it has to do with the incredible convenience and ease of fast, comfortable trains like the Eurostar- who needs the hassle of the airport?
Alex writes that China's High Speed Rail Will Leave U.S. in the Dust.
The numbers alone are head-spinning: 16,000 miles of new track by 2020, requiring 117 million tons of concrete just to construct the buttresses on which the tracks will lie. Top speeds from Beijing to Shanghai will approach 220 miles an hour, halving the current travel time to four hours.
It makes America's $ 8 billion in stimulus spending on rail look like a drop in the bucket.
Perhaps this is the tipping point, when people will start demanding clean, fast, on-time service from North America's railroads. Perhaps air travel is now more trouble than it's worth.