Flying commercially these days is unpleasant. And by unpleasant I mean that even on the best days, most people would prefer to have an infected tooth extracted by a sick toddler wielding a wooden spoon than fly anywhere.
Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. But it’s ALMOST that bad.
It used to be that as soon as the gate agent said, “Now boarding zones one and two. Zones one and two only,” there would be a mad stampede to get on the aircraft, zones be damned. Now, business travelers (and even travelers with small children) have gotten used to waiting (in a disorganized clump, but waiting nonetheless) patiently for their zone to be called before boarding.
Which is why I think that now the airlines have decided to mess with us a little bit. Or at least the gate agents have discovered a new game. It’s called “Guess Who’s Boarding Next.”
It starts about 30 minutes before the flight departs.
“Good afternoon, passengers. Welcome to Flight 219 with direct service from Tampa International Airport to Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. We have a full flight today, so please make sure you have one bag that will fit in the overhead compartment and a small, personal bag that can slide under the seat in front of you.”
This is when that guy with a full-size suitcase, a duffel bag large enough to carry a human being, a hanging bag, and a briefcase looks around to see if anyone notices. He usually stacks the bags one on top of the other and stands in front of them as though he is a clever, luggage-disguising Ninja.
“We’d like to invite those seated in First Class, and our Platinum, Gold, and Frankincense card members to board first.”
Luggage ninja rushes to the gate with his ticket. Not so secretly, I hope the airplane isn’t actually at the end of the ramp and that he will simply fall out onto the tarmac and be crushed beneath his luggage. Luckily, the flight attendants have less patience with this guy than they do with a cabin fire, and they make him check every single bag. And then they charge him a fee. Hee!
“Next, those passengers requiring assistance, World Preferred Members, passengers with children under the age of five on or before January of this year, women with a distaste for saturated fats, and those traveling with someone more immature than they are, you are invited to board.”
There are still 116 people standing at the gate, looking nervously at the gate agent like he’s choosing volunteers for the Hunger Games. He pauses for effect and we take a step closer.
“Would those standing to the left of someone with a red suitcase, those who have never traveled to Spain, those with an aisle seat in an odd numbered row and Visa card members please line up under the blue boarding zone flag?”
I picture a galley full of flight attendants laughing hysterically, texting the gate agent with the next set of requirements. “Tell ppl w blu eyes 2 board. ROTFLMAO!”
About 25 minutes later, I realize I’m the only one standing at the gate. The agent hooks his little speaker mic into the holder and turns it off. I walk up to him and say, “I’m in zone five. Did you call that yet?”
He looks up at me with pitying eyes. “We don’t have a zone five, dear.”
“Yes, but that’s what it says on my ticket,” I say, feeling weepy.
“Oh yes, it does say that!” He seems surprised, and he scans my boarding pass.
I head down the jetway, hoping there’s a smidgen of overhead space for my bag, when he calls me back.
“Is there a problem?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says. “The aircraft has already departed.”