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Taking Flight

Submitted by AB on August 19, 2010 – 10:00 amComments

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Well here’s a great idea… let’s squash about three hundred strangers each into a seat 18 inches wide for six hours with only four total restrooms, one aisle, and six whining babies. Only the few, privileged elite will receive cushiony seats, spacious legroom, and immediate service.

In theory, the advent of the airplane was remarkable; people are able to jet across the globe in a matter of hours by soaring above city congestion and natural obstacles in temperature-controlled units.

Yet the current airplane configuration seems like an archaic hierarchical structure. The lowest class of passengers is packed into the rear of the plane and constantly face tough choices, like whether it is worth it to poke their slumbering neighbors in order to crawl over them and wait in line to use the restroom or not. The upper classes, on the other hand, enjoy the luxury of early loading, comfortable seating, attentive service, and all sorts of extra perks and amenities provided for them.

Whoever thought seat discrimination ended with Rosa Parks was wrong.

I flew from New York to Los Angeles on Tuesday in coach class. The experience was anything but pleasant. While I tried to tune out my surroundings, the woman sitting next to me had the tendency to burst into single cackles and hum along to her music (which finely accompanied the cacophony of baby shrieks echoing throughout the plane). I waited for fifteen minutes for the restroom only to get caught in a turbulent quake while attempting to squat over the urine-splattered toilet seat. I just kept trying to fall asleep, realizing that time seemed to pass faster when I was not conscious of my surroundings.

And then I thought of the people in first class. The round-bellied man in the business suit sitting comfortably in his roomy chair. The botoxed female fitting the sleeping mask over her eyes. The upgraded twenty-something year old man confused as to what to do with the warm towel daintily dropped into his hands by the fawning steward.

As much as I envied the privileged flyers, I realized that the airplane is only a means to an end. I wasn’t traveling for the sake of the flight itself.  I wanted to get home and see my friends and family. I wanted to be in Los Angeles. It is worth it to suffer six hours of discomfort in order to travel back home without depleting my work savings.

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