The Five Minutes Before Takeoff blog is a project of British Airways. We felt the need to include it because we agree with the premise—that your journey begins when you leave your front door. When you arrive at the airport, it should be time to relax and enjoy yourself. But first you have to check in, and that can often be a stressful time. There are queues, surly staff and the worry that you’re going to miss your flight because of all the other people queueing up.
The blog is written by Scott McCartney, who is also the author of The Wall Street Journal’s Middle Seat column and was named Aviation Writer of the Year by the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His view is that airlines should start taking responsibility for their passengers from the moment they get out of bed until they arrive at their destination. He has a point; if you’re flying long-haul, there’s no point in having lie-flat beds if you’ve spent the previous two hours struggling through customs and immigration and waiting for your bags.
The blog features news on airports around the world, travel tips and reviews of airport amenities such as restaurants and lounges, which will help make your pre-flight wait less painless
You’re probably going to be wrong. No one is more surprised than I am that this blog exists, but here we are.
It’s not the most original idea. There are some very good blogs out there on the five minutes before your flight takes off. The internet is full of them. But right now it’s 5:02 PM on a Thursday and I’m sitting in the airport trying to get to Florida for my friend’s wedding, so that means it must be time for yet another blog about how I’m stuck at an airport gate and I hate it.
This was also supposed to be a podcast, but after I thought of the name, I had no idea what else to do with it. And then someone suggested that maybe it should just be a book instead. That would be great, except that I don’t know anything about books or publishing them. And since everyone else who has a book like this one seems to have a podcast too, why not just have a podcast? Except then you realize that you think podcasts are really annoying, and now you’re stuck with this blog post that you didn’t really want to write and which no one will probably read anyway because why would anyone?
But here we are anyway. Flight delayed by thirty-three
No one ever tells you that the worst part of flying is the five minutes before takeoff. You’ve done what you can: you’ve got your headphones, your pillow and a book. You’re ready for hours of uninterrupted reading and sleeping.
And then the delay begins. It’s not so bad at first-an extra 15 minutes in the departure lounge, an update from the pilot about unexpected turbulence, not to mention an explanation of said turbulence. But then it becomes clear that this may not be a minor inconvenience after all.
This is the time when you could really use a good book-and we’ve got a few suggestions for you.!
I’ve been on this flight for hours. I’m in the middle seat, and my elbows are killing me. Why can’t I just get on the plane and sit down already?
It’s because so many people have been getting on airplanes lately, that’s why. Since 1974, annual passenger enplanements in the U.S. have risen from 238 million to 648 million. As a result, the airlines have adopted all sorts of new systems to make boarding more efficient: “zones,” “pre-boarding,” and other meaningless terms that move us along like cattle to our assigned seats.
Of course, these systems aren’t really designed to board planes more efficiently; they’re designed to make airlines look as if they’re boarding planes more efficiently. And they do a good job at that because they all obey one simple rule: never allow anyone to board until exactly five minutes before takeoff.
That rule is a perfect example of what I call The Law of Conservation of Hassle (LCH). This is the law which states that no hassles are ever destroyed; they simply change form. In the old days, we’d wait in line for fifteen minutes before boarding and then stand around in the aisle for another five or ten minutes until everyone got
I enjoy the hustle at the airport. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a trip. I especially like the bustle of business travel, with everyone rushing around trying to make their flights and meetings. Even if I have only five minutes before my flight takes off, you’ll often find me sitting at the gate.
I can’t help but notice how many people are still standing in line at the American Airlines ticket counter when the world has moved on to kiosks and a simple mobile app. There is always a mad rush across the airport terminal, as people run from one end to the other, hoping they don’t miss their flight.
I usually don’t check any bags, so I can check-in on my phone and breeze through security. I love how easy it is for me to fly these days: it’s all automated and everything works like clockwork.
If only everyone else could say the same thing!
Last year, thanks to the wonders of online check-in, I spent less time waiting in the airport. But it turns out that was only part of the story.
The problem is not just the time you spend in airports. It’s also the time you spend worrying about your trips before you leave and after you get home.
My travel schedule for last year was:
12 days total traveling
10 days total in airports
3.5 hours total waiting to check in
2 hours total checking in
9 hours total waiting at gates
11 hours total flying
18 hours total traveling to and from airports (by car)
That’s a little over two weeks out of my life. About half of that was spent worrying about upcoming trips and catching up from previous ones.
The airline industry is a complicated and often frustrating business, but we love it and the adventure it brings to our lives. We are not affiliated with any airlines, and our advice is based on 25+ years of combined experience in the airline industry. We have worked as flight attendants, customer service agents, gate agents, and operations supervisors.
We love talking about all things aviation, so please use this site as a forum for discussion. If you have questions or comments about your travel experiences, we’d love to hear from you!