What I have Learned about Modern Flying


New member

I am new here and LOVE that there is a forum about turbulence. I have flown as a passenger a bunch of times since the 80s. I loved it since the first time. I became addicted to and infatuated with flying. I would actually get depressed when I couldn't fly for a while.

But the world around me has changed in time and flying is different now. When I flew in the 80s and 90s I would choose the biggest planes, 767, L1011, DC10 to fly domestically in the US. I would often plan the flight well in advance to have great seats on the big birds. Even when I flew single aisle planes like the 727 and 757 they were bigger than planes I see flying now.

My last 4 flights have been terrible. Over several years my love of flying has turned into a complete phobia. I have had turbulence on all four flights that lasted for up to 6 hours straight (BOS-SEA on JetBlue actually a 5:56 minute flight)

(Just realized that this belongs in General discussion. Please move it there if this is the wrong spot. Thanks)

My last two flights I had a full out panic attack and literally said out loud that I couldn't take it anymore. I was totally embarrassed and tried to calm down. I couldn't believe I was the same person who flew so much and loved it.

So what changed? I figured it out.

1) Caffeine is not a good thing before flying.

It makes you want to do things, to move around, to work, to talk, to think. None of these things work too well on a plane with turbulence. I have stopped getting huge containers of soda pop at the airport. And I don't bring in on board with me now. I have since cut down to less than one cup of coffee a day.

2) The planes are smaller today and more tightly packed.

Like I said above, when I was flying years ago it was easy to find a 767, L1011 or DC10 flight. Even the 727 was wider and more roomy than some of the planes I fly today. Flying wasn't the cheaper mass transit way it is today. There seemed to be more room, more often I had an entire row to myself. It can be argued that turbulence is turbulence but I will have to disagree. My opinion is that size does matter. Although I have had some turbulence in DC10s before it was nothing compared to an AVERAGE flight on an A320 today. (Not slamming Airbus, just noticing that my worst flights are consistently on JetBlue)

3) It used to be easier to sit near at front of the plane.

I remember scoring the first row of economy a lot of times. It was a rare thing to even sit as far back as the wing. Now the rules have changed. Airlines reserve the front of the plane for economy plus and high mileage people. Or they charge extra for seats and are quickly sold out. Unless I fly Southwest and hit the button exactly at the time to check in there is a good chance I will have a struggle to be before the wing. This means flying in the back and there is nothing worse than that for turbulence (in my opinion)

4) I have learned to HATE flying Red Eyes.

Flying the red eye is like being locked in a dark cabinet and shaken about for 5 hours.

They lower the lights and people then pull down the shades (no idea why) and then I start to feel like I am traveling in the back of an 18 wheeler and can't see anything. Add turbulence and then the flickering strobe of hundreds of video screens flashing and it quickly creates and emotional overload. And watching AIR FLIGHT DISASTERS on JETBLUE while in turbulence is almost funny if it wasn't so freaky. I feel the bumps more on night flights because I can't look out the window and see that the plane barely moved.

So what will I have to do?

1) Fly during the day when I can see out the window
2) Not have caffeine before a flight
3) Pay the fee to sit as close to the front as possible. I have learned that planes fish tail (not sure of the real name) I have watch as the front of the plane was in a different place than the back (or seemed to be) And my last two flights on the JetBlue A320 were cursed with a constant side to side turbulence. (I love JetBlue by the way, just not too happy with smaller planes)
4) Not fly puddle jumpers. Flying coast to coast on an A320 has lost all charm. I know it isn't the smallest plane but when I fly Jet Blue it is a 5 hour flight and up to 6 going the other way.
5) Have a stop over. This way I can get out, de-stress, feel grounded, Flying SEA-BOS is too long on an A320 when EVERY SEAT is packed and it is turbulent the entire flight.

6) Stand up when I have to. Hey, I used to do it during the 80s and 90s. I don't know why but standing and moving around a plane is taboo now but sometimes standing during mild turbulence makes me feel better than being strapped into a seat.

Wish they had a section where you could stand. Heck, have a bar to hang onto like the bus. I would feel better. Flying seems tighter, smaller and more cramped. Even the exit rows on planes seem little different than regular rows now. I am not liking the change.

Anyways, this is just what I have found has changed about flying and taken something I loved and turned it into a nightmare. And those are things I am trying to do to make me love flying again.

Thanks for reading.
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100% spot on, Naimas. I couldn't agree with you more. Air travel has pretty much become a nightmare, and I relish those days when you could count on a few rows being open so you could stretch out and sleep.

Like you I am a JetBlue fan, but had a horrible experience flying from Boston to Vegas last year. I got stuck in a middle seat on the last row of the airplane on a completely sold out flight. The pilot told us before takeoff that it was going to be a bumpy ride due to massive storm systems in the midwest, strong head winds and a grumpy jetstream. It was all an understatement. There was heavy moderate turbulence the ENTIRE flight with a few really, really bad patches thrown in for good measure. The bumps were so bad that the flight attendants had to remain seated pretty much the entire way. You're completely right that a hundred flickering television screens do little to calm one's nerves. To make matters worse it took nearly six and a half hours to get to Las Vegas because of the winds. I swore when I got off that plane I was never flying again.

Needless to say I did fly back home to Boston recently and on my return flight had a stopover in Chicago. I agree that having an hour or so on the ground really helps. My BOS-ORD leg was pretty ugly due to weather and having a few minutes to walk around and decompress really helped get my nerves in check. My ORD-LAS leg was on an ancient American Airlines super 80 that was so jam- packed my body was sore for two days after getting off the plane. At least it was a silky smooth ride or I probably would have sworn off air travel forever.

I usually pop a couple Dramamine to settle my stomach, and the drowsy effect makes the trips at least somewhat more pleasant. Your tips are really great though, I hope all the nervous fliers on this board check them out.
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Super Lifetime Elite
Naimas and FormerFrequentFlyer,

What you say is true! That is a good summary of what many of us experience these days and of what we can do to make flying more bearable. I also don't like flying at night and I try to sit in the middle or front of the plane whenever possible. Dramamine is also the best medicine in my opinion, both for preventing sickness and for getting some sleep. Stopovers are also nice whenever possible. When it's not possible, I try to think of how it's better just to get the trip over with, but it's much easier to count down to four or five hours than ten or thirteen hours!

I reached a point last year when I really dreaded flying and started feeling ill nearly a week before my next flight. Thankfully I found this site and I learned more about flying in general and tried to remember the days when I didn't think twice about flying. Most of the time it's fine, but a few bad experiences can really affect how someone anticipates their next flights. When flying is unavoidable, we have to find some way to cope. Your tips are all good and I'd also probably add flying with a companion (when possible), choosing your favorite airline and plane (when possible, just to feel more confident), and purchasing changeable tickets if you can afford them in order to change the flight if you're just feeling too bad or if the weather forecast is extreme. Sometimes we won't have any control over anything and in those cases, just accepting the difficulties and realizing that the turbulence / discomfort / claustrophia is only temporary and that there's actually no danger is the only option. It's also nice to think positive and to be surprised with a pleasant experience every now and then. When I stepped off one flight the other week, the flight attendant smiled and gave me a rose. That was a really nice gesture and I remembered to appreciate those airline workers who spend their life flying and dealing with difficult people like us. :)