Hamel: The real disadvantages of flying economy


Columnist Peyton Hamel thinks that there are more reasons than just the obvious for flying economy. She points out that people who judge others for flying economy are even worse than flying economy itself is. 

Peyton Hamel

Traveling economy is the worst, but not for the reasons that you might think.

We could complain about how the seats in Frontier are reluctant to recline, or how they charge an obscene amount for a carry-on or even complain about the lovely accommodations of airport customs and security.

All while we grumble through the airport process, they attempt to hide these deficits through “customer service initiatives.” I definitely do not go skipping through the airport like I am in a field full of sunshine and daisies; however, this does not make flying economy crummy.

Despite everything I have said, I actually love flying economy. If you choose the right airline, it’s pretty tolerable.

I can buy a cheap $10 neck pillow to be more comfortable, since as a college student, I am a frequent flyer. I don’t mind the $10 sacrifice. I love flying economy because I have met the most incredible people, from all over the world, either waiting for my flight or during the flight, who are just living their life care-free and for themselves.

One of the more recent lovely people I met had a doctorate in psychology at Iowa State, and we bonded over The Office. All was well before the dreadful happened.

While on the plane returning for this spring semester, traveling from Denver to Des Moines, I took my place in the fourth row of the plane and set an alarm so that I did not forget my carry-on bag in the overhead bin. (I usually forget. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have to go back on the plane because you forgot your luggage?)

While I was twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the plane doors to close, these younger, white men walk down the aisle. They were so intentionally loud. They wanted to be heard as they walked through the aisles. I nearly put my earbud in when I heard, “Flying economy is absolute garbage. It’s cramped, babies are screaming, and the people are poor and whiney.” His friend laughed.

I accidentally stared him down with my mouth slightly gaping as he walked past. I could not get over his judgement the whole hour and twenty-minute flight. These are the demographics who fly economy: those who are trying to make ends meet, those who care more about the destination more than the journey, those who know they need to save a penny later and those who live within their means.

I had not quite experienced a privilege-check on someone who was entering a plane full of economy-flight regulars. These flights are not just convenient, these flights are the ones that make the puzzle fit.

Flying economy is not the worst, but dealing with the people who are ignorant to their socioeconomic privilege is.

Know where you come from. Maybe you were born with a little more economic margin, maybe you weren’t.

Wherever you come from, always remember that somewhere down the line, someone worked extremely hard to put you where your family is. If not, it is in the process. It is too common of a theme in our decade. Respect your origins, and respect others.