Full Airplanes

Dwayne Phillips

Revision History
Revision 1.028 November 2005

It is 7:24 PM EST on Monday, November 28th. I am sitting in an aisle seat on a flight from Dulles to San Francisco.

This plane is full - not an empty seat.

There is nothing unusual about the situation on this plane. A full plane is the norm - the monotonous norm. Every flight I have been on in the past six months has been full. There have been no empty seats on any of the flights, and I fly 1 1/2 to 2 times a month.

Planes didn't use to be this way. I could always depend on one-third of the seats being empty. Someone would sit in the aisle and someone would seat next to the window. No one sat in the center seat. I could always put my arm on the arm rest because no one was sitting next to me.

Sometimes the flights were half empty. That was really nice. I would put my under-the-seat baggage under the seat next to me and stretch out my legs in front of me. No one would lean their seat back into my lap because the weren't sitting directly in front of me. People tended to scatter their seating. That was comfortable.

Full planes exhaust me. I am sitting crowded in on myself. The person next to me - the unfortunate person in the center seat with people on both sides of him - is pleasant enough. He isn't bothering me; he isn't a large person; it is quite pleasant to sit next to him. My neighbor being pleasant is part of the problem. Almost everyone on this plane is pleasant. That too is the norm.

All these pleasant people don't help any. There are simply too many people on this plane for me. Maybe this is part of being an introvert as people drain energy from me. I need some solitude to gain back some of that energy. There isn't much solitude on an airplane that has zero empty seats.

I liked empty flights much better.

That is probably why I prefer the aisle seat. I can stand, walk back to the bathroom, and be alone for a couple of minutes. I splash water on my face and breathe. I gasp at air and hope to reclaim some energy.

There is, however, a conflict on a empty flight. Empty flights are not profitable for the airline. If a particular flight is half empty too many times, the airline cancels it. I suppose that is what has happened in the past couple of years. Lots of the flights were one-third or one-half empty. The airlines reduced the number of flights so that the ones remaining were full.

I am reminded of an old saying, "Flying is not popular anymore. Flights are too crowded."

Flying is not as enjoyable as it once was. Sometimes I think I am getting too old to keep flying.