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Flying Doldrums

December 16, 2013
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I took my first real business trip by air in the early 1980s (with much fanfare and anticipation), and while I’d flown on small private airplanes before, it was nothing like the experience on the big bird!  From take-off to landing I relished the experience, and for the most part, it was quite relaxing. My one complaint was the there was a dedicated smoking section where all of the smokers huffed and puffed non-stop until the flight was finally in its final descent. Breathing in second hand smoke is just bad. The ventilation system was apparently the same one for the entire airplane, as I recall the reek of cigarette smoke lingering on my business suit every time I flew commercial back in the day. I flew over 100,000 miles a year for over 20 years selling HCIT software and services to hospitals and clinics (in total visited 49 states - missing Idaho). 

 A lot has changed since then, and flying has suddenly become enjoyable again.

  • The new rules banning smoking on commercial flights in the US was a game-changer for me. As an asthmatic (ok, that’s a HIPAA violation) breathing in second hand smoke is very problematic for me.
  • The introduction of WIFI on flights has been a big help - now I can check e-mail and respond to key deadlines that would've been missed due to my time in the air. A definite bonus, even though there's a small fee to play.
  • The variety of carriers is also a big bonus compared to the three options that served my local SE market and charged whatever they could get away with. Another bonus.
  • I will admit the downside of extra security does create anxiety and stress for many, but once you get through TSA security, the stress is mostly behind you and you can relax. I use the downtime to get some work done, or to kick back with a movie on my iPad or take a book along for the ride.

Hold that thought…

The serenity of relaxing at 30,000 feet is about to change for many, and I for one will go down fighting! Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to consider lifting its ban on in-flight cell phone use. Many people (like me) consider the idea of allowing cell phone usage on a plane a nuisance and maybe even a violation of their consumer rights. I mean, sitting next to a screaming baby is no fun, either, but having to endure 20-30 minutes of loud back and forth conference calls over a 2-3 hour flight while I am preparing for the meeting at my destination is, well… unbearable. Add a couple of narcissistic “look at/listen to me” types and I can’t even think about why I would enjoy flying.

I am all for technology - I’ve spent almost 30 years in the HCIT business - but I have to draw the line on this one. Allowing text messages and the ability to use email should be enough to keep anyone busy for 2-3 hours while flying. Lifting the ban will be a game changer for me will no doubt lead to an investment in a nice high-end noise canceling headset. It's really the only option if I want to close my eyes and relax, or read a book, or use my computer until we start our final descent.

This new proposal has given me a lot to think about, but mostly I've thought about how much I will miss the good ole days before cell phones were allowed to be used during flight. Yep – those were the days…