Air Travel

December 12th, 2008

My air travel these days is done on the Internet. While hardly anyone has noticed, I’ve boycotted the airlines since 9/11. I can’t see paying good money to be harassed by people who can’t tell honest citizens from hard-core terrorists. 

I used to love to fly in airplanes. In Vietnam, I flew in all sorts of Army, Air Force and Marine aircraft, as well as back and forth across the Pacific in various commercial airliners, without a worry. I flew around the Soviet Union, with a group of other Americans traveling deep behind the Iron Curtain, in Stalinist-era Aeroflot airliners. I’ve been sniffed by dogs looking for drug-smugglers in Mexico City; stopped and questioned by federal agents in New York City—to make sure that, because I had a beard, I wasn’t planning on hijacking the shuttle to Boston and divert it to Cuba.  

I never felt harassed by airport security agents doing their jobs in pre-9/11 days. But I was appalled by the security lapses that enabled the 9/11 hijackers to commandeer four commercial airliners—and by the arrogant, unprofessional overreaction afterwards. So I decided to boycott the airlines. Hardly anyone joined me, except some bemused colleagues at the newspaper where I worked until my retirement, when the publisher flew our investigative project team in the company jet to Fort Worth, Texas, to accept a prestigious journalism award. But I sure heard and read lots of tales by other folks of bizarre behavior at airports in which the paying traveler was mistreated beyond belief. 

So while I’ve stood up for the principle, the consumer’s right, the ancient commandment, of not paying to be insulted, I’ve hardly been a hermit since Sept. 2001. I’ve traveled hundreds of miles the old-fashioned way, by car, train and boat. Thanks to some clever minds who invented the Internet and its continual improvements, I’ve done a lot of long-distance communication with family and friends around the world.     

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2 Responses to “Air Travel”

  1. Tom |

    Jan, I wish I could join your boycott of the airlines! But, since I travel usually twice a year between Europe and the U.S., I don’t have much choice. I just try to relax while passing through all the security hurdles–most of the time, anyway. I’ve only been singled-out for special checks a few times, and that was even less pleasant.

    But…I guess I’m glad they’re doing all the security. Makes me feel like I’ve got a better chance of getting there in one piece. It’s just unfortunate that things have to be that way.

    All things considered, though, I’d rather not fly. One nice thing about traveling in Europe is many places are within reasonable driving distance, and there are good train and bus options.

  2. tabbi |

    I concur. I was almost extradited to Morocco on my return trip from there in August. I was held in Customs for what seemed an eternity. They took my passport and my boarding pass and asked me to take a seat “over there”. I sat beside two Iranian women and a young man from Great Britain who had not completed his visa paperwork properly and made it all the way to Michigan.
    I was a little peeved as my flight was to leave in 35 minutes.
    It seems that, if you put an outside the US address on that little immigration paper you fill out upon returning to the US, they feel the need to question you as to why you have said address.
    I am the least Moroccan looking person I know, so I am sure it had nothing to do with profiling.
    Thanks guys, and girls for doing your job, but try a little harder next time to pick out the people that are really suspicious.

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