Recently, I’ve had an opportunity for several international flights. Although it’s always interesting to be in different places, the travel to and from can sometimes be tedious. Here are some random observations I’ve made during my recent travels.
- Boarding an aircraft doesn’t have to be traumatic. Some airlines seem to delight in having a complicated, multi-phased boarding process. As a result, boarding seems to take forever. Others keep it simple, and people just get on the plane.
- Business class is really nice. Normally, my company pays for the least expensive economy class tickets, and for our trips back to the US, we get premium economy. On rare occasions, when there are back-to-back international trips with no rest time in between, my company will provide business class tickets. It is much more comfortable. More space. Better food. And you can actually totally recline the seat to sleep. Very nice, but worth the thousands of dollars in extra costs? I’d have to say no.
- Some people just can’t seem to avoid being annoying. When you jam several hundred people into a small cylindrical space, having common courtesy and respect for your fellow travelers is important. But for some, it is seemingly impossible. On a recent flight, one passenger talked incessantly from the time he was in line to board, throughout the 13-hour flight. His voice was several times louder than necessary to reach his seatmate. Even noise cancellation headphones — and the annoyed glances of his fellow passengers — didn’t stop the drone.
- Flight attendants, by and large, do a good job. You sometimes hear about incidents where flight attendants have been real jerks. But in my experience, they work very hard to make flights as pleasant as possible. Crews on Asian airlines — JAL, Korean Air, ANA — are particularly courteous and hard-working.
- Sometimes, the best travel choice isn’t an airplane. For travel inside Japan, the Shinkansen is a fast, smooth, and comfortable (although not inexpensive) means of travel. We’ve also had good experience with the high-speed trains in Spain and South Korea. Using the train avoids all the inconvenience of airport security, and the trains tend to run right on schedule, particularly in Japan. Once on board, there is a lot of legroom and comfortable seating. One lesson we learned is to buy Shinkansen tickets a bit in advance on holidays. For one trip, we bought tickets with no reserved seats. Because it was a holiday weekend, there were no seats and we stood for an entire 90+minute trip across the countryside.
Travel often poses challenges, surprises, and downright inconveniences. I’ve found the best approach is to plan ahead, then be flexible and keep a sense of humor. Things don’t always go as planned, and that can be annoying. But if you have the right attitude, you’ll find that the surprises and adaptations often make for the best stories to tell in years to come.