The reality of air travel


International air travel can provoke many emotions. Airline adverts suggest we will experience a non-stop world of glamour, indulgence and pampering.  But what is the reality? This is a look at how you’re more likely to feel after a typical journey through an airport.


First you’re made to feel like a rather stupid child as a voice on the escalator repeats continuously, “When using the escalator please hold the hand rail at all times and take care”. I’ve survived 43 years and many thousands of escalators but suddenly I’m gripped by a niggling anxiety. Have I been doing wrong all this time? After the third repetition I cover my ears and run quickly up the stairs to get away from the annoying voice.


“Could someone have tampered with you bag without your knowledge?” I fight the urge to tell the truth. Yes, of course they could have. If a professional thief can slip a watch from a man’s wrist without him knowing I am fairly sure that someone smart could have added a mystery item to my backpack while I was sitting on the train to the airport. “No”,  I answer with the confidence of someone who has told this lie far too many times.

Terrorist Suspect 

Those of us who travel regularly will be used to the feeling of guilt and shame if we’re pulled up by security staff for having half a bottle of water in our hand luggage. It’s rather like the time you tried to buy a four-pack of cider at the local newsagents. They knew you were only 16 because they remember your parents coming in for their papers with you in the pushchair. It all comes back to you as you get a withering look that says, “Did you really think you’d get away with it?”

Aid recipient

You know those images of the food truck arriving at the make-shift camp, delivering rice and water to a few thousand hungry faces? You can find that same look of desperation on the faces of most low-cost passengers moments after the call to boarding is announced. There are even the same minor scuffles and looks of indignation as the determined few force their way to the front and get the best of the spoils.

Unwelcome visitor

We have all arrived at a friend’s house and got the distinct feeling that they’d rather we hadn’t come (no? maybe this one is just me). Those questions of how long we’re staying and the need to know exact details on our onward plans are asked too quickly. A similar welcome awaits at many airports, where customs staff are trained to make you feel unwanted and a nuisance. I can sort of accept it when it happens at US immigration (it’s what they do), but it’s not nice when you get a grumpy or rude welcome on arrival back in your own country.


What have I missed? How else are you made to feel on a typical airport experience?


Author Information

Freelance travel writer

8 Responses to “The reality of air travel”

  1. Haha, I agree with the idiot point. At least, the escalators still say “Please”. When I was connecting through Miami a couple of years ago, I felt like I was a slave being sold at a slave market, when I was passing through TSA security. They shouted at everybody, “Remove all things from your pockets! Take off your shoes and belts!” I could only imagine what a person whose knowledge of English is sub-par would feel like, in a foreign country, being yelled at by these rude airport employees.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:25 pm
  2. Sometimes, once through the security shenanigans and having replaced my belt, I feel like an International Playboy. It’s the posh shops and first Gin and Tonic. It doesn’t last long. But it’s definitely there as a feeling. But only on departures. On arrival back usually hungover and grumpy.

    June 6, 2012 at 10:42 am
  3. Good as per Andy

    June 6, 2012 at 10:44 am
  4. Hehe – nice One, Andy. sometimes i feel very much like that – but most of the people who travel not that often still have the image of the “world of glamour” as you said it right at the beginning of your post 😉

    June 6, 2012 at 11:59 am
  5. Awesome post. I would suggest cattle as well. Just picture cattle in line waiting to get milked. That is how I feel while waiting in security lines.

    June 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm
  6. Why do some people think that a photo of part of the fuselage of an aircraft through a dirty departure lounge window is worth sharing on social media? I don’t believe flying is at all glamorous. Even the First Class sections of aircraft seem to have got their inspiration from cubicle offices.
    As for the queues, questioning, surveillance and searching; this was all common practice for the citizens of a totalitarian, Soviet Block country.

    June 29, 2012 at 11:12 am
  7. And don’t ever think ahead! I was recently at the security check and I opened my bag unasked to take out my notebook. Because they always want the notebook outside when the bag goes through the x-ray. The guy at the x-ray got really nervous, don’t know what he expected… some weapon of mass destruction maybe… and I was treated like a real terrorist suspect. So my advice is: pretend to be stupid 🙂

    January 15, 2013 at 9:05 am
  8. Dora #

    Twice, unintentionally, I have got through Heathrow security only to discover I had forgotten to discard bottles of water from my hand luggage!

    Although I am a 70 year old female, I was given a ‘thorough’ pat down and frisking by a very butch female security officer at Luton airport on my way to France recently. A horrible and uncomfortable experience.

    Unfortunately, once travellers arrive at an airport , they are at the mercy of every egotistical airport employee who wants to show their superiority and so-called efficiency!

    January 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm