To Fly or Not to Fly by Harper Dimmerman
I wonder if it's the rank suffocating city air that's making me want to get out of dodge more than ever on these dog-day afternoons. Occasional weekend excursions to the Jersey shore just aren't cutting it, despite the allure of riotous prepubescent teens and toxic seawater. Frankly it's a major pain in the rear getting down there, not to mention the mind-numbing anticlimactic cluster I refer to as the long-ride-home-that-wasn't-worth-it.
And I blame it all on the infrastructure. The government's development of lackluster roadways, in a perpetually dilapidated state and designed with the sole purpose of making our travels as hellish as possible is emblematic of our masochistic American tendencies. Despite billion dollar budgets and grandiose visions, somehow we always manage to drown ourselves in mediocrity. It's as if we secretly crave aggravation, or rather need it to feel alive.
Anyway, perhaps I've been naive to think a simple car-ride could do the trick. Maybe I just need to get airborne, amongst other things you're probably thinking. Fly the friendly skies as they say. I can picture it now... a small fortune for a near fatal cab ride down to Philadelphia International Airport, electronic check-in followed by a humiliating cavity search, nepotistic commissaries complete with price gauging and gloveless tatted up food handlers sporting demonic grins and sharing inside jokes (never a good sign), inevitable delays and finally taking my place in an absurdly diminutive blood-clotting little chamber. How tempting.
In the midst of these recent escapist musings, an article caught my jaded eye, only to confirm two things I already know. Number one is that I need to get away, other side of the world far away. Number two is that airport rage is pervasive these days, coast to coast. The city of brotherly love isn't the only major city apathetic about the mental well-being of its travelers. And as far as airports go, the rankings are in. Not one American airport made it into the top ten in terms of popularity. In other words, if people are going to be layed over, they’d prefer to do it abroad, in places like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Munich, Germany.
According to msnbc.com, the staff at Munich's airport aims to relax passengers with miniature golf, a 60-seat cinema, and cosmetic and physiotherapy services, among other cutting-edge amenities. Singapore Changi airport boasts an indoor orchid garden, a rooftop swimming pool, themed television lounges and a free sight-seeing tour for those who have at least five hours prior to their connecting flight. Compare these wonderful trappings with the innovation taking root at Iowa's Sioux Gateway Airport, which includes finding creative ways to profit from a crushing airport identifier code, “SUX”. In 2007, T-shirts, caps, mugs, luggage tags, and bumper stickers branded with the airport's "Fly SUX" logo generated more than $3,500 for the airport. Boy. That’s turnin’ lemons into lemonade.
At Denver International, commercial real-estate projects and land leases to farmers who plant soybeans, sunflowers, and wheat are all the rage as are more than 50 oil and natural-gas wells. At the 10,000-acre George Bush Intercontinental Airport and the 2,500-acre Ellington Field in Houston, airport officials are banking on the land. "As they say, everything is bigger in Texas, and here in Houston we have lots of open land at our airports," says Rick Vacar, director of the Houston Airport System. Sounds like a true visionary if you ask me.
Clearly these other nations are light years ahead in their approach to air travel, opting for accommodation and luxury over rigid utilitarianism and profiteering. And everyone, not just the high flyers and spendthrifts, are reaping the benefits of this customer-centric approach to airport real estate development. Just the other day, members of the New England Revolution soccer team helped subdue an unruly passenger, during an LA bound flight from Boston. The erratic passenger kicked off his skivvies and made a mad dash for the emergency exit door. He wanted to fly like a birdie. Fortunately the burly players quelled the insurrection, saving the day and unwittingly repressing the real message underlying the mile high burlesque show – this Fascist approach to air travel makes me want to commit harikari. Now there’s a guy who should’ve flown Virgin.