In addition to the infrastructure problems of US airports, there are the problems inherent in the dominant hub-and-spoke model, where passengers from smaller airports connect to their final destination through hubs such as Atlanta, Chicago or Denver. Bad weather then ripples through the system, causing hundreds or thousands of delayed or canceled flights. Although this model emerged after airline deregulation in 1978, it has flourished since 9/11, Safdie said.
“The worst part is being at an American airport when bad weather starts to delay flights,” he said. Almost a quarter of flights in the United States were delayed this summer.
There are ways to avoid the worst of the flight system, like signing up for TSA PreCheck, a Transportation Security Administration’s traveler trust program that speeds up the security process at the airport. The PreCheck website sums up its value: Trusted travelers “experience a smoother selection process – no need to remove shoes, belts, 3-1-1 fluids, laptops or light jackets.” As of March 2020, PreCheck had 10 million members. Other programs include Sentri (for the US-Mexico border), Global Entry (for international passengers), NEXUS (for the US-Canada border), and Clear (a non-government option). For those who combine their status as a trusted traveler with an airport lounge membership and business class or first class seating, the flying experience can be totally different. Sometimes even pleasant.
Membership has its privileges, as the saying goes, but it also requires money and a willingness to have governments dig into your privacy. For the lucky ones, the flying experience can sometimes come close to what it used to be. For the most part, however, it’s a chore, something to endure. Some travelers experience even worse lives because of their religious beliefs or the color of their skin. Security and customs checks or the screening of flight attendants can lead to the stress of “traveling Muslim” or “flying brown” – profiling based on skin color or religious affiliation.
It can be hard to remember, but at one point flying was considered part of the vacation, not just the way to get there. Emily Thomas, professor of philosophy at the University of Durham in England and author of “The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad”, remembers, as a child in the late 1980s, being in the cockpits of airplanes in flight. . “It was quite magical; that dark cabin filled with lights, ”she said, remembering a“ visceral thrill of standing in a cockpit and seeing clouds below you and thinking, my God, there is. has a person here who makes sure that this metal box doesn’t fall through the clouds. “It’s impossible today.