Service of Lines II

January 23rd, 2012

Categories: Airlines, Anxiety, Lines


The Frommers travel guide team came out with a list of ten worst airline terminals. Some familiar names in this list are: Chicago Midway; Newark Terminal 2; Laguardia’s US Airways terminal and JFK Terminal 3. [Terminal…what a word for an airport anything! Whew.]

submissiveThree friends who recently returned from Florida, California and Brazil, complained about airport travel. Grievances related to shabby and/or silent treatment by airline staff and all noted that they were especially frustrated because they couldn’t demand a change in attitude. As one put it, regardless of affront, the level of being ignored or of crabby responses, “Submissive passenger behavior is vital so as not to be tossed off a flight.” 

In spite of their vivid descriptions of missing numerous connecting flights then faced with no information, unhealthy over-salted snacks, increasingly miniscule seats with no legroom that are a squeeze even for petite passengers and examples of offhanded, cavalier, inconsiderate behavior by stewards, I decided to focus on the waiting in line aspect of travel.

longgrocerylineI chose lines because I relate to this anxiety. I hate looking like a klutz. I feel slightly nervous when waiting my turn at the wonderful Trader Joe’s on 14th Street in NYC and this store does everything right. There are two lines feeding into as many as 20 cashiers and a “starter” who points to a customer and tells him/her the number of the cashier waiting to ring up their order. The cashier holds up a paddle with the number. I’m apprehensive that I won’t see the paddle among the scramble of carts, customers and cashiers all around and that I’ll cause collective eye-rolling.

Seems I’m not alone in feeling befuddled in line confusion. The Transportation Security Association retrieved over $400,000 in change in the US last year, almost $47,000 at JFK and $19,000 at LA International to name just two airports.

tallbootlaces3One of my friends, a young man who just returned from Florida, said that he wanted to advise/prepare a buddy who hadn’t traveled since the security regs started so as to help smooth the process for him. He didn’t know where to start. He said “Some airports make you take off belts, others don’t-so I’ll suggest he best wear pants that don’t need a belt.

How many layers of clothes should he wear to simplify the undressing process?” [In winter, I routinely wear three and a coat.] Airports differ so we decided the friend best leave any sweater and/or light jacket in a carryon. Forget boots with lots of laces or even sneakers with laces: Slip-ons slip off  fastest. We left in the air the answer to the next question: What’s the best place to store your ticket and passport/driver’s license after you’ve shown it so you don’t leave it behind along with your change, keys, smartphone and other stuff slated for the tray. 

And I thought I felt apprehensive about promptly finding “my” cashier at Trader Joe! What advice do you have for travelers so as to alleviate travel stress in lines, conversations with airline staff and otherwise?


8 Responses to “Service of Lines II”

  1. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    My experience has steeled me to be polite and obliging. I’ve never
    had trouble with any “body handlers,” even when one of them decided it
    was necessary to pat me down.

    Being pleasant helped me in one crucial instance. For some reason, I
    left my passport behind and didn’t realize I’d done that till I was
    putting my shoes back on and gathering up my jacket and tote. Of
    course, I couldn’t remember which line I’d been on and, as it
    happened, personnel were shifting at that particular hour. One man I
    approach—very humbly, as I recall—said, “Why don’t you check with. . .
    ” and pointed me toward someone who looked as though she might be a

    She looked me over, asked my name, heard my story…and handed me my passport. I could’ve kissed her, but didn’t of course.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I left my camera in the overhead at an airport going to an International Furnishings and Design Association meeting.

    A bunch of us were changing planes. Two people you know well engaged the flight crew in conversation + somehow I didn’t miss the connecting flight after running back + forth from the original flight which was at the other end of the airport [natch]. This was ages ago. I doubt that as charming + interesting as these two were that they could have pulled off the same delay tactic these days!

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Writer Kaufman is right. Good manners, and showing respect to those one is dealing with, be it in airports or elsewhere usually wins the day. If all else fails, and I’ve lucked out, with few exceptions, a stern letter with a legitimate complaint, to appropriate entities usually brings results.

    As to current measures, perhaps airlines will be forced to retreat from radical procedures if and when the clientele opts to taking buses and trains when traveling on the continent. Those of us who don’t need speed might cause a great deal of trouble by spending money elsewhere. I have always liked trains, and see it as a much better way to see a great deal more of the countryside than one does from 35,000 feet in the air!

  4. Claire Coleman Said:

    I’ve switched to trains whenever possible. There’s no baggage hassle, no pat downs, infinitely more comfortable seating and generally accomodating personnel, not to mention lower prices . There’s no comparison.

  5. Jeremiah Said:

    Since 1941, I’ve flown between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 miles — I lost track long ago — on everything from piper cubs to Lear jets, old Ford tri-motors to the Concorde. I know something about the subject of airplanes and service.

    I’ve never liked flying, but I’ll admit that having your driver drive you out on the tarmac to your plane, bypassing all the officious airport nonsense did do something to puff up one’s ego and was a pretty darn luxurious way to go. I’ll also admit that that commercial service back in the 1970s was not bad at all especially for frequent fliers. Ground and flight crews were pretty great too. (On my last fight four years ago, there was an ex-Pan Am stewardess from its old Africa run – she was old enough to have outlived her eligibility for Medicare and what she was doing working, I don’t know, but more power to her. We recognized each other and had a good chat. She regretted as much as I did the decline and fall [no pun intended] of commercial air travel. Her job was a grueling grid now, and she saw no hope for it getting any better.)

    Airline service was getting worse before 9/11 due to the growing volume of traffic and archaic governmental regulation, but when I saw those two airliners crash into the twin towers, my third or fourth thought was to buy stock in private aircraft manufacturers and operating companies. I knew that our government would, self-righteously but needlessly, do everything in its power to make air travel as miserable an experience as it could. It did. Had it used a little common sense, and established a few undemocratic, elitist policies, such as prescreening responsible citizens and racial profiling, the vast majority of us would still be able to travel un-harassed in reasonable comfort.

    I’m not going to fly anymore. I’ve had enough of the nonsense. If I want to go abroad, I’ll go by sea, and the places I’m likely to want to go to in this country, I can get to easily by train or car. However, you asked for advice to pass on to your readers. Mine is: Make a lot of money and rent a private plane if you want to go somewhere — I would if I could afford it — or get a job that doesn’t involve travel.

  6. Hank Goldman Said:

    Do they contribute the $400,000 to charities? …like they do ON THE PLANE when going international, they ask for your “small change”, to distribute to charities, you can’t use it or trade it in other countries anyway. That’s a good use of the funds. P.S.– Charities should NOT include the “Pilots Retirement Fund!”!! * * * * * * 🙂 🙂 *********

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    This is what Keith Laing wrote on

    “Historically, if no one comes back to get the leftover money, it stays with the TSA.

    “A Florida lawmaker is trying to change that, however: Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) filed a bill in April of 2009 that would require TSA to transfer money that is not claimed by passengers when they leave airport security checkpoints to United Service Organizations.”

    It will be interesting to see what happens.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    If Lucrezia, Claire and Jeremiah represent a significant segment of the population, then we see a trend that should snap airline staff back to providing a service along with transportation.

    Time is on the airline’s side. It’s impossible to visit a faraway place on a one or two week vacation, attend a business meeting several thousand miles away or visit a very sick relative and use anything but the airlines. On the other hand, businesses like Kodak and the US Postal Service thought we couldn’t live without what they provide and both were wrong.

    About the airlines, stay tuned!

    Jeremiah, there are so many accidents with private aircraft that you couldn’t get me in one of them. I’d rather wait in line at an airport, dress for the occasion and bring a good book or friend to chat with.

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