To fly or not to fly: that is the question

Commercial flying has seen some rough turbulence lately. Not like the good old days - last century - when flying was fun.It was an adventure. You could arrive at the airport a few minutes before your flight and get right on the plane. Airline personnel had a smile on their face and a warm greeting. The passenger was in a good mood and well dressed. Children, if there were any, were well behaved. Delays were rare and once underway you got free drinks and a meal depending on the length of the flight. Everyone was courteous. No more! Now you need to arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before your flight. You spend more time waiting than flying. Then there are the lines to check in, go thru security and get on the plane. To get thru security you have to remove your belt, shoes and jacket and maybe get a full body scan or a pat down. You may have to pay fees for bags or extra weight. You also have to worry about overbooking, delays, cancelled flights and missing connections. Once on the plane, small seats, no free drinks or meals. And, of course, you may sit on the taxi way for hours. Not a lot of fun. But wait. It's not that bad. Here are five reasons to fly: It's Fast. Certainly if you are traveling over 500 miles it's not even a close call. It is far better to be flying along at 550 miles an hour at 30,000 than driving on the highway at 60 mph. The plane also goes in a straight line to its destination whereas the car has many twists and turns and must follow the road which was determined by terrain. The plane goes non-stop from airport to airport but the auto has to make many stops for lights, tolls, fuel, rest areas, traffic and accidents, which sometimes ties you up for hours. Nothing is worse than sitting in a long line of cars, moving at 1 mph, waiting for an accident to clear. Buses are subject to the same problems as autos. Of course, there is the train, but on long trips not nearly as fast or efficient as the plane. However, on shorter trips, downtown to downtown, the train is a better alternative than the plane. France and Japan have bullet trains that do better than 200 MPH, unfortunately we do not have that luxury. It's Safe. Despite some high profile plane accidents air is still the safest way to travel. A plane crash that kills over a 100 people makes worldwide news and scares people. Even a small private plane accident that kills two makes the local news. Not only are planes the safest form of travel they are getting safer. Out of almost 11 million departures in recent years there were only 28 accidents involving large commercial planes. The death rate per million departures is only 0.2 while about 40,000 in the United States die in car crashes each year. And car accidents are up due to mobile phone distraction and drinking. Even train safety has declined. There have been more derailments, human errors, explosions and collapsed bridges. Interesting to note that as trains go faster they have more accidents. It's Cheap. People are moaning about the high cost of flying but when compared to cars and trains for long distance the plane is actually much cheaper. A 1000+ mile trip on a plane might cost you several hundred dollars for the ticket but that is your main expense. If you go by car it will take several days and you need to factor in lodging, meals, tolls, fuel as well as the stress of driving. Even a train trip of that length will be more expensive. Of course, expense will vary with the number of people on the trip. A plane ticket for one is a lot less than tickets for four. The Alternatives. If you do not go by plane your choices are car, bus, train, or boat. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. For short trips planes do not offer many advantages but for overseas trips there really is no other option, you cannot drive or take a train. You could go by boat and that would be great fun if you have the time. Generally speaking airports are clean and safe whereas bus and train stations are often dirty and in some cases not in the best section of town. For longer trips your best option is the plane. It's Relaxing. This may sound like a strange reason to fly but think about it. The greatest stress is worrying about all the things that could go wrong and they generally don't. If you expect everything to be perfect you are sure to be disappointed. The best advice is to expect the worst and then if something good happens you will feel good. So bring a good book or your laptop and relax, you will get there. Focus on how happy you will be when you get to your destination whether it is for business or pleasure. Despite all the stress of flying and there is considerable, it certainly beats the other choices for trips of long distance. Ideally, you'll be able to fly non-stop since many of the stresses, delays and maintenance problems occur at the hubs -- that is where you make connections and the airlines make repairs. Just remember: when your plane is late, it is better to be waiting in a nice warm terminal than sitting for hours in traffic behind an accident or stuck in a snow storm. Dr. Douglas A. Lonnstrom is the author of "JFK Jr. - 10 Years After the Crash - A Pilot's Perspective." Visit him online at

********** Published: December 23, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 36