"Leaving on a Jet Plane"–Flying out of Portland

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, just back from my annual trek to Malice Domestic and down with a post-conference head cold that may affect how coherent this post is.

One thing stands out when I fly these days—flying isn’t as much fun as it used to be. For one thing, even the shortest trip kills the entire day. Wilton, Maine to Bethesda, Maryland? A little over an hour and a half in the car to arrive at the Portland International Jetport two hours ahead of the flight. A delay of half an hour. Then about an hour and a half in the air followed by an unknown amount of time on the runway at Reagan and waiting at baggage claim followed by nearly another hour in a cab in rush hour traffic. No wonder I’m worn out before I even get to the hotel!


Once upon a time, a trip like this was much more relaxed. Before security became so tight, prohibiting anyone who didn’t have a boarding pass from the gate area, Sandy and I used to arrive at the airport, check me in and check my luggage, and then go upstairs to a lovely restaurant with views of the runway and have a nice meal together while waiting for my flight to be called. That hasn’t been possible for a long time now.

In those days, Portland News had a store that anyone could access, before you went into the gate area. In addition to newspapers and sundries, they had lots of books by local authors. I was even part of a display there once.

photoIn more recent memory, the Portland Jetport had a business center in the gate area. There were desks with sound baffles where I could go and work on a manuscript while waiting for my plane to board. Plugs for laptops. A printer was available. Not high tech by today’s standards, but away from the bustle and confusion of the waiting area. I was often the only one using the area, which probably explains why they did away with it in favor of adding more seating space to the Shipyard Restaurant.

The latest upgrade (and I use the term loosely) put in three kinds of chairs in the waiting area: a few wooden rocking chairs, I suppose for local color; massage chairs, for which you have to insert a dollar; and chairs that are ergonomically correct if you want to lean back a bit and read a book or people-watch, but which don’t work at all well if you’re trying to type. Flat surface for your laptop or tablet? Forget about it.

258sBack in those “good old days” flights were rarely cancelled even if they were only half full. I can remember having two empty seats next to me and being able to curl up and take a nap while flying. There was more knee room, too. The airlines offered freebies, everything from food to playing cards, and supplied an assortment of current magazines to read. Their routes were more convenient, too. Delta used to go through Cincinnati when you were flying from one coast to the other. Now everything goes through Atlanta. Excuse me? Hundreds of miles south when I want to go due west? What kind of sense does that make? And don’t try to get from Portland (or Bangor) to Boston these days. Where once several airlines ran regular flights between those points, now there are none.

I could go on. I’d rather ask readers to share their pet peeves, and ask a question: does free WiFi in most airports even come close to making up for all the creature comforts we’ve lost?fallsbooks1

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award in 2008 for best mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2014 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (The Scottie Barked at Midnight) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com

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4 Responses to "Leaving on a Jet Plane"–Flying out of Portland

  1. Julianne Spreng says:

    I’ve loved to fly since I was a young teen. It used to be possible to arrive at the airport in Cleveland, OH, sign in at the gate where you could ALWAYS find a knowledgeable employee to answer questions or give assistance, wait for the flight, and jump on as a stand-by passenger for $27 dollars to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The flight was straight-through. You got a meal, snacks, beverages, and flight attendants in classy uniforms. The flight deck would keep up an interesting patter of information about the scenery below or what was happening in the cockpit. It was a great package.
    Today it costs a couple hundred and several hours of your time What a disappointment.

    I still love to be in the air, but to say I love to fly would be incorrect. The flight connections are ridiculous and usually inconvenient. Wait times are glacially long. Employees absent or unhelpful. The cabins are claustrophobic and over-crowded with no amenities. The airlines are completely unapologetic about all of this.

    I am so sick of the dollar being the bottom line for business decisions. The customer experience is important, too.

  2. I hear you.Exactly the way I feel every time I fly. Except for the personal service from Cape Air at the airport in Owls Head, ME>

  3. Amber Foxx says:

    I quit flying. I drive to Maine. I drive from New Mexico to Virginia and back. I’d rather spend 13 hours a day in my car with mystery and thriller audiobooks than hassle with air travel. My way is slow, but it’s actually fun, and I’m making trips where I stay a while, so it matters to me to be able to bring all the luggage I want.

  4. dragons3 says:

    The last time I flew, I sat in business class. My knees were up around my chin the entire flight. I’m 5’1″. I shudder to think what it’s like for tall people. I’m not a fan of flying to begin with, but these days it would take an extreme emergency to get me on a plane. I’d rather drive and listen to a cozy mystery or two on my CD player.

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