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Flying For Seniors Gets Tougher, But Still The Best Way To Go Print E-mail

Flying for we grey-haired travelers is getting tougher every day. Forget the slogans. The skies United flies are no longer friendly. American Airlines isn't something special in the air any more. Delta can no longer claim they love to fly and it shows. These days, Continental won’t move its tail for you.

However, whatever the problems, flying in the U.S. is still the best way to get around the country economically and quickly. You can make your journey easier by knowing how to ease your way through as best you can. So, next time you fly, just grit your teeth, natural or store-bought, and join the rest of us oldsters in the air.

I flew Southwest just a few days ago out of Los Angeles (LAX), one of the busiest airports in the world. From the moment I stepped on the curb into a milling, frantic mob, I was swept up into an hour of at least three different, time-consuming, long lines for security checks.

The finale before I got to the waiting area was the now-enforced emptying of pockets, taking off shoes, dragging my bag up on the table, pushing those plastic boxes full of my stuff into the maw of the x-ray machine, having my carry-on bag defiled and being personally prodded with a body-search bar. The flight was jammed full, and at least a dozen unhappy stand-by volunteers were left behind in the airport. Southwest's ad slogan of, "You're now free to move about the country" must sounds very hollow to those stranded flyers.

Of course, I'm well aware of the reasons for the heavy security, and the fears that more Middle East religious maniacs could pull another suicide disaster in America at any time. However, despite the happy flying advertisements, the myth of enjoyable air travel is now just a pleasant memory, and we senior travelers should be well aware of it and do our best to cope with the ordeal.

Do airliners recirculate dirty, already breathed air that could make vulnerable seniors sick? If that were ever true, it’s false in today's modern airliners. The cabin air is captured and thoroughly filtered, and along with mostly outside air, is circulated. Cabin air is totally replaced about every 20 minutes. On the ground, inspectors constantly check the air filter systems of aircraft, and there has never been any scientific proof of foul cabin air making any passengers sick.

On the other hand, in today's crowded airplanes, where five-across passengers' faces are no more than a few inches from each other, airborne illnesses, such as colds and flu, do get passed around by those who were sick before they boarded. There's not much you can do about it except ask for another seat or wear a surgical mask during your flight. Some Asian airlines actually do provide masks when requested.

It is a myth that X-ray machines in airport security check-in areas can cause cancer, or worse, see right through your clothing or erase your computer's hard drive. Radiation doses put out by those machines are about 1/100th of the radiation power of the X-ray machine in your doctor's or dentist's office. You'd have to climb into an airport x-ray machine, turn it on and sit there for a couple of months before it would have any negative radiation effect on you.

Many senior travelers believe that weekend flights are always the most expensive. If you're savvy about airline reservation surfing on the internet, and are prepared to do some grab-your-bag-last-minute weekend flying, you may find some lower prices on the web. To get more information, check websites on weekend and red-eye night flight discount policies with travel agencies and the airlines, such as at American and Delta .

There are many negative myths about airline flying that were either never true, or are no longer in effect. Flying is still the best way to get from nearby here to faraway there, but you must always realize that no hassle boarding, cheap and comfortable flights, free in-air meals with booze, and non-stop cross-country schedules are fast fading into a happier past.

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