If someone were to ask me why I like to fly, I really don’t know how I would respond. For those who get it, they just get it, and usually don’t have to ask. For those who don’t, it’s a little hard to explain why I would voluntarily fly around the country for 24 hours just to get the miles.
“Didn’t you just get here?” I was asked by the woman as I boarded the plane and took my seat in row 1.
Confused by her question, as I had in fact just boarded an aircraft, I simply responded in the affirmative.
“No, to Miami…didn’t you just get here?” she persisted.
I was in the middle of a SFO-LAX-IAD-MIA-ORD-SFO mileage run. Redeye + same day turn with a total of 38 minutes at my destination. Same plane. Same crew. IAD-MIA. MIA-ORD. I had just been caught.
I tried explaining to the woman, a flight attendant, that I needed the miles. It was January. With eleven more months to qualify for elite status, I could tell she wasn’t buying my argument. Then I told her proudly what I paid for my ticket, $64.50 for 6752 miles. That’s less than 1cpm (cent per mile)! Surely she’d be impressed! Granted, I did use a customer relations certificate that was about to expire to get such a cheap fare, but I thought it was pretty cool. I mean, it was going to expire anyway and…I….I….I just like to fly? She looked at me with pity, smiled a little, and then shook her head.
You think someone who chose to fly for a living wouldn’t be so judgmental of someone like me who does it for fun. Who was this woman? Like, really? I began to feel more like I was in timeout than in first class. I’m not one to complain about a free upgrade but Seat 1A on a regional jet kind of feels like that.
I had a long flight to Chicago to think about it. Since there was no one next to me to talk to, I began to think about my behavior. How did this happen? When did I stop flying to get from point A to point B, and start doing this? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when flying went from something I did out of necessity to something I did for fun.
Flying for me is an incredibly relaxing experience and I never feel more content as when I am on the airplane. There are no distractions, no phones ringing, no interruptions. I am truly free. Free to do whatever I want really. Free to watch a movie, play a sudoku puzzle, free to read a magazine. I could just sit there and look out the window if I want, or I could just sit there and be bored…but I never am. I really don’t get why people are so stressed out by traveling. It’s not like you have to fly the plane. Once you get to the airport and check in, you’re really just along for the ride. There is something incredibly liberating about that lack of responsibility. Maybe it’s because I’m also a pilot and know how much preparation it takes to go flying, but as a passenger all you really have to do is show up. How hard is that?
Then there are the people. Some of those coolest people I’ve ever met have been on the airplane. Just last year I had the privilege of sitting next to a Pearl Harbor survivor on a flight from Sacramento to Los Angeles. He told me his entire life story to include how he’d worked for Lockheed Martin building P-38′s during the war. I guess it was just a coincidence that I was headed to Honolulu that day. When I was in college, I landed an upgraded seat one row in front of my university’s president, who was also on the flight. That was weird. Then there was that guy from across the country who grew up in my hometown and the United captain who turned out to be one of my neighbors. It truly is a small world.
There are also the memories. I save all of my old boarding passes and almost every one has a story to go along with it. I can easily pick one out and be like, “Hey, remember that one time…that was a good trip.”
Finally, there’s the view. For me this is a big reason why I love to fly. The world is just more beautiful at 36,000 ft. The clouds over the Pacific. The colors of a North Atlantic sunrise. The sunsets. I’ve seen a lot of interesting stuff from the airplane: the Northern lights, the lights of Manhattan, and the fiery glow of burning oil wells in the Middle East. From the snow covered peaks of Siberia to the rugged coastline of Vietnam, I’ve seen the world at its best.
So why do you like to fly? Please share your comments!