As Americans move about the country this Memorial Day weekend, experts say air travel will increase this summer, despite higher fares, sudden travel surcharges and checked baggage fees.
Aviation consultant Michael Boyd says the combination of more people clamoring for seats on fewer flights will guarantee one thing: "It's going to be uncomfortable up there."
Can't wait? A few deals are still available: bargain flights to Iceland — so beautiful in summer, when pristine white snows are melted by volcanic ash.
Because I'm on an airplane every few days, I try to remind myself of a few truisms when I encounter delays:
Airport security measures can seem absurd. Grandmothers with surgical pins in their knees get frisked, while hulking guys who look like Tony Soprano's henchmen are waved into first class. The belt that rings alarms in Syracuse sails through detection devices in Detroit. TSA agents check that the name on your ticket matches your identification, as if they were looking for college-age drinkers, even though terrorists from the 9-11 hijackers to the underwear bomber flew under their own names.
My family and I were on a flight from Boston where the only passengers stopped for special screening were our 2-year-old and the head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
But before you groan, remember: No matter how incisive and clever you think you are, you won't convince a TSA agent — Bill Clinton couldn't — that airport security screening is so silly, you should be waved through. Just take off your shoes and smile.
"Time is money" is now a business plan. Airlines short of money fire staff, raise fares and hope to handle more passengers with fewer people. They save money by making lines and waits longer, making you pay in time for what you may have saved on a fare.
But if you owned an airline — or even stock in one — would you give up profits for faster lines?
Also, the people you're likely to get snippy with if and when your flight is delayed or your luggage is lost are probably the least responsible. You may have missed a meeting, wedding or important rendezvous. Gate agents and crew members have had their wages and pensions cut, seen many of their friends fired and been told to do more things for less money. And now, they have to contend with angry passengers like us.
Finally, keep a sense of proportion. If you board a plane in Newark and get off in Los Angeles six hours later — or seven or eight hours because of delays — from a flight that's served only pretzels and water, you might feel hungry, grubby and aggravated. But you've also flown safely across a continent. You can see more places, from the Statue of Liberty to the Great Wall, in just a short time than your grandparents could in a lifetime. Count your blessings — and take off your shoes.