Broker Check
The Wooden Nickel:  The Friendly Skies

The Wooden Nickel: The Friendly Skies

June 30, 2023

It’s summer, and for a lot of people that means travel! Julie and I travel a lot by commercial air.  As somebody who flies a lot, I have a few observations.

My favorite airline is Southwest. Why? Because it’s my contention that all the airlines disappoint us, but at least Southwest is honest about how they are going to disappoint us. Southwest will cancel your flight at the drop of a hat, we passengers are going to have to fight for seats in a “Hunger Games” free-for-all, and we’re all packed in a 737 like cattle. They are very straightforward with their disdain for the niceties.

The other airlines? They charge me for every damn thing: bags in the cargo hold, seats with ¼ inch more legroom, any food besides peanuts, last-minute schedule changes, etc. There are 27 boarding groups with names like “Tiffany”, “Platinum” and “Tungsten”…which one comes first? Last?  I have no idea.  At least Southwest is honest about how little they think of me: no leg room, no airport lounges, and no extra food.  “We’re Southwest:  here’s our plane, get on, sit down somewhere, now get off.”

The rest of my family loves American or Delta. I can’t understand why.  I guess they like the different boarding groups.  I know pilots at both American and Delta, and they seem like happy people. But the pilots get on first, they have the best seats and don’t have to pay for their bags, so of course they’re happy. On second thought, I’ll bet even the pilots on American have to pay for their bags…

Anyway, here are more air travel observations I’ve had from 35,000 feet:

Only Check Your Bag When You Must! While I realize there are different schools of thought on this, I am firmly in the “only check my bag if I have to” group. Even “free” won’t make me part with it.  Yeah, most of the time the bags make it to the final destination, but holy cow, what a hassle if the bag gets “misplaced”!  Then it’s three days of wearing the same underwear.

If You Have to Check It, Track It:  A four-pack of Apple tags is $90.  You can put tags in your bags and track them as they are misplaced in the Denver airport and driven by sketchy van to Boise.  At least your bags will get the scenic vacation you were hoping for.

TSA Pre-Check is Worth It:  Definitely get it. Why wouldn’t you?  You’re worried about privacy? They scan your ID regardless of which line you are in, so the government is already tracking your movements. You might as well go the whole way and give them your fingerprints upfront so you don’t have to take off your shoes and get nuked by those gamma ray machines every trip. 

When You Get to Your Seat, Get Off the Phone: Please shut up. Unless your house is on fire and you are giving driving directions to the fire department, STOP YOUR PHONE CALL. You aren’t that important, and neither is this conversation. We are too close together and there is literally no level of volume to your conversation that doesn’t bother me. Chill out. You’ll talk to that guy in an hour when you land.

Let Your Baby Scream: Conversely, your screaming baby doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s not your fault; she’s a baby, for heaven’s sake. The rest of us should just grin and bear it because this is out of your control. Screaming babies don’t bother me because they aren’t mine. Kids are freaked out, tired, hungry and bored all at the same time. And besides, aren’t we all screaming inside just a little bit already?

You’re Safer in the Air: You’ve heard it before, but air travel is safer than any other type of travel, including walking. It seems counter-intuitive because you are hurtling 500 miles an hour six miles above the earth, but it’s true. Do you go through a safety checklist every time you get in the car? No. Are you and every other driver trained over and over on one specific type of car and for all conceivable traffic situations? No. Air travel is safe. Car travel is perilous – and all other types of travel are also perilous (mostly because they interact with cars).  We all know at least one cyclist who has been hit by a car.  Airplanes don’t hit other airplanes.  Or cyclists.

Pilot Announcements: To all of you pilots out there: we can’t understand you!  It’s not your fault; it’s just really noisy back here, with the engines and screaming babies and all. I think you’re telling me about the weather at our destination or you are thanking me for flying the friendly skies, but your speaker is worse than the Jack-In-The-Box drive-thru. Keep doing it, though. You are all super chill and just your tone makes me calm, even if I don’t exactly know what you are saying.

We Can All See Your Movie, Buddy:  Ok, they don’t really offer porn on the plane (not that I’ve checked!), but you really shouldn’t even watch R-rated stuff from your seat.  Other people are really close.  We’re all human, and if I can see your screen, I’m going to glance at it from time to time. Don’t be That guy or gal. Whether it’s “9 ½ Weeks” or “Bridgerton”, they’re not “Plane-Appropriate.” Watch something wholesome like Modern Family and leave the racy stuff for home viewing.

Dude, Where Do You Think You’re Going? When the plane comes to a stop and we are getting ready to unload, there’s always some idiot who gets up and races ahead. Seriously? Where are you going?  The door’s not even open. We all are getting off. Unless you are missing your connection (and I’m gonna need to see your boarding pass to prove it), just wait.  You’re in the back of the plane. You’ll get out when you get out. They lost your bags anyway, so you might as well take your time hearing that news.

No, Thank YOU: I think it’s great that the flight attendants and the pilots stand there and thank me for flying when I am walking out. They probably have a lot to do cleaning up after passengers (especially us slobs who fly Southwest!). But they all stand there and thank us! That’s really nice, especially since we just spent the last few hours complaining about how cramped/loud/annoyed/scared/baby-screamed we’ve been on their plane. 


Commercial flight is a modern miracle that we just take for granted. As a once-famous comedian said, “you are flying in a CHAIR in the SKY!” We should appreciate what an amazing thing was just done in a routine manner, and gaze in wonder every time one of those planes takes off. Dolphins are pretty smart, but they didn’t create air travel. That was us humans.

So, if you’ll just take a few minutes on your next trip to appreciate this modern and daily marvel instead of griping about how slow the Wi-Fi is, maybe we can turn our energies to inventing a practical flying car and do away with commercial aviation once and for all.

Just kidding.  That actually would be horrible. But seriously, get off your phone.