Paul has been passionate about travelling for over 35 years. He has been on many flights, rail, and road journeys in the US and Europe.
I've experienced many journeys as a plane passenger over the past 35 years or so, and while I still love flying, I am also acutely aware of the downsides. Long-haul flights can be particularly trying.
While not exhaustive, this article lists and looks at the 10 main negatives that are commonly associated with plane travel.
10 Downsides of Air Travel
Here are my 10 disadvantages of flying.
- Going Through Security
- Cramped Economy Flights
- The Food
- Expensive Airports
- Inconsiderate and Noisy Neighbors
- Delays, Cancellations, and Lost Baggage
- Passports, Bureaucracy, and Luggage Collection
- Traveling To and From the Airport
- Fear of Flying
- Environmental Impact
I go into each negative in more detail below and give some of my experiences.
1. Going Through Security
Let's face it, nobody enjoys going through security; it's just something that we passengers have to endure in order to enjoy the benefits of flying. Part of the problem is the waiting around in long lines. I've had numerous occasions where going through the security screening has taken virtually as long as the flight itself.
And while I understand why it's necessary, having some stranger in a uniform pick through your personal possessions for bombs and other forbidden items is far from fun, not to mention the pat-down.
2. Cramped Economy Flights
Unless you are lucky enough to be able to afford first-class or business travel, then—like me—you will be stuck in economy. For sure, the price deals can be great, but the conditions are often uncomfortable, especially on long-haul flights.
I've crossed the Atlantic many times and it never gets any easier. The lack of legroom, tiny eating space, and having to squeeze past other passengers every time you want to visit the restroom fills me with dread just thinking about it.
3. The Food
In-flight food has a reputation for being poor in quality, and that's deservedly so in my experience. To be fair, making fine cuisine is perhaps not easy in confined conditions at 36,000 feet, but even so, the end result is often disappointing, if not downright gross.
Limited menu choices can also make it hard to order something you actually want to eat. The drinks situation is no better. If like me, you desire a little alcohol to help you snooze through a long flight, you can end up paying what seems like a small fortune for a few tiny cans and bottles.
4. Expensive Airports
Once you've checked in your baggage and passed through security, you are effectively stuck in the airport until your plane boards. They know that they've got you captured, so they bump up all the prices. Refreshments and products that are reasonably priced just a few miles outside the confines of the airport are now out of reach.
5. Inconsiderate and Noisy Neighbors
One of the worst things that can happen to you on a flight is to be sat near inconsiderate or noisy neighbors. Screeching children, bickering couples, as well as people who are constantly in need of the restroom or rummaging in the overhead lockers can be just some of the causes of irritation.
Worse still, you rarely have any opportunities to change seats, so if you are on a long flight, the annoyances can go on for hours.
6. Delays, Cancellations, and Lost Baggage
I guess the underlying frustration with flying comes from knowing that most things are out of your control. You commit to a journey and then you are stuck with it, whatever happens or goes wrong.
Flights can be delayed for many hours, sometimes creating further delays as you then miss your connecting flight. Cancellations can be even worse and leave you stranded. Losing baggage is also a potential cause of stress, although it's thankfully less common nowadays, as the threat of terrorism has resulted in baggage being tracked more diligently.
7. Passports, Bureaucracy, and Luggage Collection
So you've successfully arrived at your foreign destination airport and you are tired and hungry, but the bad news is that your ordeal is far from over. Now, you have to wait in a long line to present your passport, as well as deal with any travel visas, restrictions, or customs procedures.
Then it's off to collect your luggage, which could be at the other side of the airport. Waiting for your baggage to arrive on the carousel, identifying it, and then lugging it away is not what you need after a long journey.
8. Traveling To and From the Airport
Okay, some airports are close to city centers and well-integrated with other transport, but others are miles from anywhere and not easy to get to. The time of day when your flight leaves or arrives can also have a bearing on the difficulty and stress levels.
If it's rush hour, dragging your baggage around on crowded public transport is a nightmare. If you are traveling late at night, or very early in the morning, there may not be many travel options available to get you to or from the airport.
9. Fear of Flying
While I did experience a little anxiety in my early days of flying, I can't really say that I've seriously suffered from this issue, but for many people, the fear of flying is a crippling problem. Some people avoid getting on planes altogether to avoid the psychological discomfort. Others get on flights because they feel that there is no other practical way of getting where they need to, but experience extreme emotional stress in the process.
10. Environmental Impact
It's fair to say that plane travel is not good for the environment. According to the European Union's Transport and Environment Department, the combination of CO2 emissions, other gases, and water vapor trails make flying responsible for 5% of all global warming.
This figure may not seem that large to some, but it's important to note that only a small proportion of the world's population flies, and most live in the richer countries of Western Europe, Australasia, and North America.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Paul Goodman