My View: In air travel today, the entertainment is free

By Bob Shannon

According to the Air Traffic Controllers Association, more than 87,000 flights take place in the U.S. every day. If you do the math, the number of airline passengers is staggering. My job requires me to travel frequently, and the escapades can be as numerous as the passengers. Today I have an early morning flight and I Uber my way to the airport terminal, check my luggage and print out my boarding pass. So far, so good.

Now at the security line, there’s a woman ahead of me adorned with 17 pounds of gold necklaces, bracelets, wristbands, and assorted jewelry headed for the X-ray body scanner. This doesn’t go well.

She’s politely asked to disarm her body armor by the security guard and angrily retorts, “It’s ONLY jewelry!” to no avail. She complies with eye-rolling disdain, but it’s better that she didn’t set herself aflame by creating sparks in the scanning machine. Hmm … makes me wonder, too, if donning that much on-board metal could create aircraft communication signal interference.
I meander through the security line, gather up my bag, belt and shoes, and realized I still haven’t had my morning coffee.

I get in line at the Tim Hortons before my flight and I hear two large dogs barking at an adjacent gate. Two “service dogs” were having a little conflict. And I’m chatting with the guy in the coffee line behind me, and I ask him, “So, how does that work? Does the larger dog have to have his own boarding pass and his own seat?” He responds, “Oh, those are certified emotional support animals and they are permitted to sit in front of the owners on the flight.” He said he also had one and they cost about $300 to become certified. Bummer. That’s going to make traveling with my emotional support alpaca rather difficult and expensive now.

Finally, to my seat. I rarely read the in-flight airline magazines. Everything from the world’s best steakhouse advertisements to ridiculous home gizmos for the busy traveler, there are usually at least two or three meaningful and interesting pages.

Bob Shannon.

I enjoy doing the sudoku puzzles. My favorite was seeing one of the “difficult” ones partially filled out by a previous traveler with the word “IHATETHIS” written in the last row. Hey, it’s nine spaces and it fits.

I’m settling into my seat now, buckled in, iPod music track and earphones ready. But my final in-flight entertainment is watching other passengers trying to painstakingly crush-fit their obviously oversized luggage into the overhead compartments (wheels in, please!), only to remove it for gate-check.

Off we go! The best early morning flights are the ones where I fall asleep on takeoff and wake up when the wheels touch at landing. We taxi in to our arrival gate, I emerge out of the jetway to discover from the flight monitors that my next connection has been delayed. No problem, though, I’ll have time for another coffee and perhaps a baked good at one of the airport shops.

On my way to the café, I see an SPCA volunteer with a petting dog strolling through the airport approaching people with her pooch. I guess the idea is to reduce the stress of traveling with the comforting presence of animals. But there’s a 5- or 6-year-old boy nearby, clearly afraid of the dog and crying aloud, struggling hard to escape Fido. Comforting, indeed. Who needs Netflix or Hulu? My next stop at the airport is sure to hold all the daily drama and entertainment I need.

Bob Shannon, of Clarence, looks forward to flying with his support alpaca.

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