— How was your flight? That's what United Airlines asked me, by email, a day after I returned from flying on their New York JFK to Los Angeles route. And you know what? It wasn't half bad. OK, it was really wonderful.
The flight attendants were cheerful and polite, the flights were on time, there was plenty of space in the overhead bins, if there were any screaming kids I didn't notice because I was listening to the excellent in-flight entertainment on my Bose noise-cancelling headphones. I wasn’t bumped. I got a great fare. The Wi-Fi worked. For each question in the survey, I clicked the “extremely satisfied” option.
Yes, one of my scheduled flights was severely delayed, but I arrived at the airport two hours ahead of time and as I was checking in at the kiosk a helpful United ground agent approached me, asked what flight I was on, and in two minutes had me on a flight leaving in a half hour.
Which got me to thinking: Is air travel really all that bad? Sure, things happen. But I've flown about 10 round-trips on various airlines (Virgin America, JetBlue, Delta, United, British Airways) in different classes of service over the last few months and actually had a pretty good time.
I just got back from Los Angeles and was perfectly comfortable in seat 2C on a JetBlue Airbus, with extra legroom for which I gladly paid $40 more. On the way out, I used 15,000 United miles, mostly earned through bonuses in the United shopping mall and with my MileagePlus credit card, and sat in a luxurious business class seat on a PS flight that I paid $189 for, plus a $50 upgrade co-pay. They even handed out menus with three meal choices, like in the old days. Because my first choice wasn’t available, the flight attendant gave me a bottle of Chardonnay as we were deplaning.
Grumpy flight attendants? Nope. On a recent Delta flight to the West Coast, my flight attendant was so chirpy she reminded me of Flo, the Progressive Insurance girl.
On my Virgin America flight, my flight attendant was so nice I wrote an email to the company commending him.
I did a 36-hour trip to London on British Airways during their recent strike, served by volunteer flight attendants, and experienced nothing but civility.
And because I pack light, I didn't pay a dime in baggage fees.
Yes, my email is full of horror stories about air travel. And not every flight is as pleasant as the 20 I’ve taken so for this year. But is it just possible that most flights go off without a hitch and that, even on airlines with less-than-stellar reputations for service, you can have a pretty good time? Maybe I’ve just been lucky so far, but I’ll bet if you think about it, the skies are friendly more often than not.