Observations of an infrequent flyer…

Pat Gibson
4 min readSep 14, 2023
People waiting at an airport.

Thanks for a picture that shows it exactly. 10 most annoying people you meet in airports | escape.com.au

This past June, I went on a visit to my best friend in Mobile, Alabama. This involved flying from Austin to Houston, then to Mobile on a much smaller plane. To say it was a successful flight is to ignore the totally unexpected nature of the flight.

I had made my reservations with the airline’s web site and given myself a reasonable layover at Bush International Airport. I have done this trip before, so I knew I had a long hike from one part of that huge facility to another. My husband was concerned about my getting through the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) lines, so he delivered me three hours before boarding. (Yes, I know that is for flights out of the country, but he heard three and that was it.)

I checked my bag (I was staying for two weeks.) and found the gate where we would be boarding. People watching is one of my favorite things to do so I found a good seat and made some observations. First, air travel has changed from the first flight I was taken on.

The United States Army flew my family from San Francisco to Nashville when we got home from Korea in 1947. It was on a leased, commercial plane that stopped at least twice to refuel. My father was in his most formal military uniform. My mother was in heels, hose, and her very nicest dress and coat. I was dressed up as only a four-year-old can be, in a dress, lacy socks, and Mary Jane patent-leather, new shoes. We looked like we were going to have pictures made for the ages, not spending the next 12 to 18 hours on a noisy, crowded aircraft. But, in those days, you dressed up to fly. Not today.

Many people around me at Austin Bergstrom International Airport were dressed for bed at two o’clock in the afternoon. Some were obviously just off work, in suits or hard hats and jeans, but no one was dressed up like Sunday church. Some were barely dressed at all, and I wondered how they would survive the air conditioning on the plane. A group of teenagers who were on an escorted summer trip to Europe were mostly sobbing since they had missed their first flight. The airline was sympathetic but there were no more flights to London from Austin that day and no connections that would get them to Paris by the next day. Their trip was maybe over. I had an extra package of tissue in my bag and passed it across to the sobbing girls. When the plane says it leaves at that time, you had better be there. Expensive lesson but if we never fail, we never learn.

Our plane to Houston was delayed because of bad weather somewhere in the northeast. I was not concerned because I had given myself plenty of time to make it to my next flight, or so I thought. We finally boarded almost two hours late but that still gave me time to make the next flight. Arriving in Houston, I found that the next leg of my journey was also late. I made it to the gate, walking about half a mile, a train ride, and then another quarter of a mile, and found the plane there was not ready to fly. It seems the pilot had checked the plane and declined to fly it. He felt it was mechanically unsafe.

That was an ambivalent occurrence. You are glad he was that careful but scared that the next guy might not be so picky. We sat for another hour while they found a different plane but by that time, the pilot and crew were at over time and…we needed a new crew. Another hour wait. The new crew finally showed up and we were on our way to Mobile. The plane was full, amazingly.

I was in contact with my friend in Mobile through all this. My initial arrival had been timed to be after rush hour but not after dark. We were now predicted to arrive at 11 PM. So much for planning. I met her just before midnight, long after our preferred bedtime.

My return trip was almost as bad. The flight from Mobile to Houston was full but late because of the weather in Nashville. We arrived in Houston long after my plane had left for Austin. The airline gave me a voucher for a dinner sandwich which was a nice gesture. Because that particular route is popular, and more than one plane was late, they brought in two planes to get all the late people to Austin. Instead of getting home around dark, (nineish that time of year) it was past midnight by the time I got home.

My friend, who flies more than I, stressed to me, “Fly in the morning!” She has weathered many delays and changes as she travels. My next flight to Mobile will leave early and allow for the multitude of possibilities that plague the airline industry in our new, post pandemic, disruptive weather world.

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Pat Gibson

A fan of Liad, Valdemar, Pern, and Narnia, I am a writer, an educator, and my first book is Surviving Higgins World available on Amazon.