It's hard to imagine anyone arguing with the assertion that flying today is kind of a horrible experience. There's a reason it causes seemingly normal men to get into fistfights, drives people to drink, and is scientifically proven to harm your health. And, as amazing as the concept is -- I can be 2,500 miles away in six hours?!?! -- it's a flawed industry riddled with, by our estimation, at least 99 problems.
And while everybody who's ever flown thinks they have the "perfect" fix to said problems (we even came up with five easy ones, here), you know who really has the inside beat on what’s wrong with air travel? The people who do it every day, aka the flight attendants. Which is why we asked a whole ton of them: "If you could change anything about flying, what would it be? And why?"
Here are their five most common answers.
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If you fly fewer than eight times a month, you might not notice that pressurized air in the cabin is literally drier than the Sahara. But when you spend all your working hours in that air, it becomes a problem.
“Instead of A/C, I’d have a humidifying mist on the planes. And maybe the Westin lobby scent.”
“The worst thing is the absolute lack of humidity. Call me vain, but my skin's never been so dry.”
4. Eliminate roller bags and/or overhead bins
It’s not just us who think massive roller bags are ruining flying. Flight attendants agree, and some would eliminate the overhead compartments altogether.
“To the assholes that are too cheap to pay the [checked-bag] fees, you're more than welcome to bring them through TSA then check them for free at the gate.”
“I've seen people drop bags on other passengers’ heads because they can't handle lifting them up.”
“I’d just remove overhead bins. Check it all and [allow only] one personal item under the seat.”
3. Make the aircraft less cramped
Legroom isn't the only thing that's disappeared on newer airplanes over the past decade, flight attendant workspace has also shrunk and become more uncomfortable.
“How about aircraft that are designed with passenger comfort in mind, but [still feature] well-organized and ergonomically dynamic crew-work areas.”
“[I'd want an] appropriate amount of workspace for the job we are expected (and love) to do. Not expecting four people to work in a 3ft-square space and a little more space between us and the passengers [would be nice]. I'm feeling anxiety and lack of personal space more and more.”
“Aircraft that makes people say ‘wow’ when they board, although preferably with a walk-up bar that's NOT the galley.”
“How about lavatories located where they actually make sense?”
“I’d like bigger galleys so we could stage Fight Club events.”
2. Replace passengers with dogs and cats
OK, not really, but that was one suggestion. And it spoke to the bigger issue: flight attendants, not unlike folks in other service industries, would love to change the people they are serving, in this case, the flying public. It doesn’t matter if they’re in first class or coach, when it came to passengers, the overwhelming majority of flight attendants we spoke to wanted to do some good old-fashioned venting:
“[In my dream world], passengers would have to pass a written test before they’re allowed to purchase a ticket... So they know how to behave, what is acceptable, and the rules."
“What would I change? The human race, and all of them who are able to afford air travel.”
You're not the only one who wonders how -- after nearly 100 years of commercial aviation -- we haven’t figured out how to efficiently board a plane. The people who work in our friendly skies also think the current process is ridiculous.
“We don't deplane back to front, so why would we board front to back?”
“Have ONE group that just boards. They board the plane, we walk on, shut the door, and leave. What's not to love?”
“You know what I’d love? Boarding music that doesn't make me want to murder a small chinchilla.”
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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer for Thrillist who buys chocolates for flight attendants before every flight. They still don’t like him. Follow him on Instagram anyway: @meltrez1.