Flying High: FAQs for Air Travelers

Humorist Dave Barry's take on what to expect when flying "the friendly skies."

drawing of an airplane and a long armed passenger picking a flower from the ground. Source:

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drawing of an airplane and a long armed passenger picking a flower from the ground. Source:

So you’re planning to take an airplane trip. Good for you! Every year, millions of people “take to the skies” for business or pleasure, and statistically only a small percentage of them are killed.

Nevertheless, if this is your first flight, or you haven’t flown in a while, or you’re simply one of the many stupid people found in airports, you’re probably unsure about what to expect. So let’s review the basics:

Q: I have an infant or small child. Are there any special preparations I should make for flying?
A: Definitely. Before you leave home, gather together whatever toys, books, or games you will need to keep your child occupied. Then remain home, occupying your child, until he or she is a minimum of 16 years old.
Q: When should I leave for the airport?
A: You should already be at the airport.
Q: Should I check my luggage?
A: That depends on several factors, the main one being: Do you ever want to see your luggage again?
Q: What are the “do’s” and “don’ts” of airport security screening?
A: We’ll start with a “do”: Relax! Airport security is handled by the Transportation Security Administration, which is an agency of the federal government (Motto: “A Gigantic Bureaucracy Working for You”). Some TSA procedures may seem ridiculous, but remember this: There are real terrorists out there, and it’s the TSA’s job to make sure that these terrorists do not get on an airplane until they have fully complied with TSA procedures.

Make sure your carry-on luggage does not contain any prohibited items, including liquids, gels, gases, or solids. If you plan to wear underwear, wear it on the outside of your other garments so that it is clearly visible to the TSA agents. The heart of the screening procedure is when you go into the “scanner,” which sounds scary, although, in fact, it’s nothing more than a giant microwave oven that bombards your body with atomic radiation.

But there’s no need to worry: The scanner is completely safe for humans as long as (a) you do not remain in there longer than the recommended eight-tenths of a second and (b) TSA agents have remembered to change the power setting from POPCORN back to HUMANS after their break. The scanner serves a vital security function: It “sees” through your clothing and captures an image of your naked body, which is transmitted to a room where specially trained TSA agents decide whether to post it on Facebook. If you would prefer not to have this happen, simply ask to have an agent grope your genitals manually. It’s your right!

The main “don’t” of airport security is: Don’t make inappropriate jokes. TSA agents are responsible for your safety, so they must take every possible threat seriously; if you engage in inappropriate humor, they have no choice but to shoot you.

Q: How do I know which seat on the airplane is mine?
A: It will be the one directly in front of the screaming infant.
Q: When the flight attendant announces for the third time that all cell phones must be turned off immediately or the plane cannot leave the gate, does that mean I should turn my cell phone off?
A: That announcement does not apply to you.
Q: I’m a little nervous about flying. Is this normal?
A: Absolutely! Believe it or not, even many airline crew members admit that flying gives them the “jitters.”
Q: How do they handle it?
A: They smoke crack.
Q: What if something goes wrong with the airplane while it’s flying?
A: There’s nothing to worry about! The pilot will simply land the plane on the Hudson River, where it will float until rescue boats arrive.
Q: What if we’re not flying over the Hudson River?
A: Then you will die. Basically, you should restrict your air travel to flights between New York and Albany.
Q: But I don’t want to go to Albany.
A: Good, because that flight has been canceled.

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