CategoriesTastesTravel

How I Fly with Craft Beer Without Spilling a Drop

Whenever I travel, I’m on the lookout for craft beer that I can’t find at home. Often, I want to take some home with me. That was the case when I visited Curitiba, Brazil. I found a thriving, varied craft beer scene that was a welcome surprise (and seriously, Curitiba is now one of my favorite cities). The question is, how can you fly with craft beer without turning the inside of your luggage into a sticky mess? I have one tried-and-true method, a second iffier method and now a third new system that I look forward to testing.

The Sock and Shoe "Fly with Craft Beer" Method

I found some great bottles at Clube do Malte in Curitiba. My method for getting them home safely was to slip each bottle into a sock, wrap it up in a plastic bag and then stick one bottle each in a shoe. Being a fairly low-maintenance guy who doesn’t bring a lot of clothes when he travels -- well, that limited the number of bottles I could bring.

fly with craft beer
A visit to Club do Malte in Curitiba is a must.

Both those bottles in the shoes survived the flights from Curitiba to Sao Paolo to Houston to Phoenix.

The "T-Shirt and Pray" Way to Fly with Craft Beer

I had two more bottles to bring home from Curitiba. Those, I wrapped in t-shirts and plastic bags. I used rubber bands to secure all the goods and hoped for the best. I was worried the whole time about these two bottles, but they also made it.

I’ve used this scheme more than a few times, and it’s always worked. But it’s not exactly good for piece of mind. And you only need a bottle to get crushed once to make your day suck. I’m convinced that I’m running on borrowed time using the t-shirt method. My wife has a perfect record for flying with craft beer, and I suspect this – or something like it – is the way she does it. Still, it’s the dicey way to fly with craft beer.

fly with craft beer flexi-growler, beerpouch
The Craft Beer Depot in Nelson, NZ. Definitely a place that should have Flexi-Growlers!
A "Capri Sun" Pouch to Fly with Craft Beer

Some clever characters formed a company called BeerPouch, and then begat a work of art called the Flexi-Growler. And just like I said a sentence ago, it’s a Capri Sun package for beer. But stronger, thicker and bigger so that you may fly with craft beer without a second thought. This is perfect in the age of taprooms that are willing to fill growlers.

And that stack a lot flatter than glass bottles, and can’t get squashed like a can or a crowler.

I’m ordinarily not this effusive about a product I haven’t yet tried, but this just makes sense. It also appeals to my interest in sustainability – according to the BeerPouch website:

Pouches of this nature are well known to require a fraction of the carbon footprint than found in a comparable sized bottle or can. The BeerPouch uses far less energy to manufacture, fill, ship, and store beverages than virtually any comparable package.

fly with craft beer, crowler, beerpouch, flexi-growler
The Aegir brewery in Flam, Norway. If you find craft beer in a place that remote, chances are you’ll want to fill up some growlers.

Speaking of the BeerPouch website, let’s not judge the product by the website. Because that website is terrible in literally every way that’s possible for a website to be terrible. May they soon sell so many Flexi-Pouches that they can afford a web designer who knows SEO, UX, design and all that other good stuff.

The best news for me is that they’re working on smaller versions: Sixty-four ounces is a bit much for my wife and me. But taking home a few different 32-ouncers from a vacation is exactly the ticket for us.

So, what’s your solution when you have to fly with craft beer?

CategoriesTravel

TSA’s Security Circus Snags Wrenches

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball. But your wrench can’t dodge the TSA if it’s too big. (Image from carolramsey.net)

My brother J.D. probably didn’t expect things to turn out this way. It was just a quick visit to Arizona and a meet-up with Sarah and me for gelato. So how in the world does the Transportation Security Administration come into play?

Well, it started with a shrieky sound and a burning rubber smell from my Subaru Forester about an hour before we were supposed to meet. I made it home, popped the hood and saw the soon-to-be-shredded final remnants of my fan belts. They were past due for a change (thanks so much to the guys who changed my oil last week and didn’t mention this as part of their 40-point "inspection").

I mentioned this to my Subaru-driving brother around a mouthful of gelato. Soon after, we had flashlights aimed on the offending belts and developed a plan of attack. A few problems emerged: All the auto shops were closed, we had some inadequate tools and a bolt had fallen into an awkward place.

J.D. picked the parts the next day at Camelback Subaru. And he grabbed some wrenches designed for hard-to-reach places. The repairs went off easily after that. J.D. figured he’d keep the tools since A), he paid for ‘em and B) he’s more likely to get repeat use out of them (I concur). And off to the airport he went to head home to Missouri.

Some Tools Are Too Big to Fly

The TSA agents snared J.D.’s shiny new wrenches in their security gauntlet at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. All but one, apparently, was at least three-eighths of an inch too long to get through security.

These are not sharp objects – what? No, I mean the wrenches!

"Three-eighths of an inch is what makes us safe?" JD mused as he told me the story.

According to the TSA website’s Prohibited Items page:
Wrenches and Pliers (seven inches or less in length) OK OK

JD sought some flexibility from the agents, including having me drop by to collect the tools. They were having none of it – they offered no ideas other than tossing these objects that are too dangerous to fly into a trash bin (is that any place for something too dangerous to fly?). And I can’t help thinking that these are now stored somewhere in a TSA employee’s garage.

The policy and "unsafe" length seem arbitrary. And it confirms a big knock against TSA: that it wrings its hands over objects rather than assessing who’s carrying the objects. They’re looking for stuff, not people with intent to cause mayhem.

TSA Keeps Authority and Sense Separated

This makes me think of Tokyo Narita International Airport: After we checked out baggage, a polite security agent pulled Sarah aside: "Excuse me, please – you have two cans of shaving cream in your backpack. Can you tell me why?" Sarah told her that she thought she’d left one behind earlier in the trip and picked up a second one. The agent thanked her and sent us on our way. She exhibited tact and good sense.

The point isn’t the $20 cost of the tools. The lack of good sense, unwillingness to solve problems and security theatrics, though, are the crux of the matter.

TSA made no one safer today by preventing a bunch of wrenches from flying. And that’s the organization’s mission, isn’t it?

 

CategoriesTravel

Hearing Impaired Fliers – How Can Airlines Help?

What would you do if you couldn’t hear all the announcements during a flight?

On a recent flight, I wound up sitting next to a passenger who was on the quiet side. It only took me a few moments to figure out she was hearing-impaired. I can’t tell to what degree. All I knew: She didn’t respond to announcements – from the “no electronics” announcement to beverage service.

I’m pretty sure the crew had to realize the passenger was hearing impaired. I can’t say they went out of their way to help her or keep her aware of what’s up; they didn’t even say anything to her about keeping her eReader on during the last bit of the descent. Of course, I chalked that up as evidence that consumer electronics have no affect on the airplane’s instrumentation (the FAA is even seeking comment on the topic of consumer electronics). The crew was very nice overall, but they seemed to overcompensate in not treating a hearing-impaired passenger different from anyone else. Her window seat probably made the situation a bit more difficult, too.

The situation made me wonder – how should airline cabin crews deal with hearing-impaired passengers? Do any of you know about their policies? If you’re hearing-impaired, how would you prefer to get information from the cabin crew? I know that I’d be willing to help out a fellow passenger in that situation.

CategoriesTravel

Scandinavian Airlines Review: O’hare to Arlanda

 Scandinavian Airlines review
Our ride to Stockholm.

My flight to Stockholm marked two firsts for me: my first flight on an Airbus A330, and my first flight on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). And I was eager to write a Scandinavian Airlines review.

I boarded the SAS flight at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. I found a very friendly cabin crew -- and a sweltering-hot cabin. That’s coming from a longtime Phoenix resident, so take that seriously. We were airborne for a good 30 minutes before the cabin cooled down. I didn’t see any of the air nozzles that are common in most aircraft. This may be a quirk of the A330: I found other flyers who said the same thing about the Airbus A330 (this one, for example).

The economy class seating seemed more cramped than I recall on other airlines’ long-haul flights – Asiana, IcelandAir and Qantas all seemed to have more room. Most of the cabin was arranged in a two-four-two configuration. But our economy-class seats were where the fuselage narrows, so there were just three seats in the middle row.

 Scandinavian Airlines review
The cheap seats of the SAS Airbus A330.

I’d hoped that Scandinavian Airlines would have something really cool on its A330 that Qantas and Asiana have on their 747s and 777s: a water fountain. Several times during those even-longer flights, I refilled my water bottle and kept dehydration at bay. The Scandinavian Airlines flight attendants looked puzzled when I asked, but they did have a "do-it-yourself" water station aft. Once I figured out that it was there, I drank my fill (it would be nice to know about amenities like that -- maybe mention it in the in-flight magazines?).

The A330 did have something cool of its own, though – cameras facing forward and downward. You could select them from the on-demand entertainment system. The resolution was a little low, but it was nice for a look outside.

Now, about Scandinavian Airlines itself – its social media team is very responsive, and the cabin crew seemed to take a great deal of pride in the airline. I overheard one flight attendant answering a passenger’s question about the chicken-and-rice meal they were serving: "It’s excellent -- it’s SAS!" There was a certain charm in that answer. And it was a fairly tasty meal.

This was only my third flight on an airline with a Scandinavian flavor. IcelandAir did a better job at showcasing its roots – the most visible manifestations were the Icelandic language program in the on-demand entertainment system, the Icelandic phrases with translations on the headrests and the Icelandic-branded bottled water waiting on each seat. It would’ve been fun to learn a bit of a Scandinavian language en-route; maybe I just didn’t find it.

 Scandinavian Airlines review
Down the jetway.

Speaking of water, SAS had a bottle at each seat along with a pillow and blanket. They skipped the amenity kit you’ll find on Asiana and Qantas flights.

Boarding was quick and efficient – typical of twin-aisle jets.

SkyTrax rates SAS as a three-star airline. That’s a fair assessment, and one I can echo in my  Scandinavian Airlines review. Other than a hot (at first) cabin, I have no complaints. SAS just lacks a certain flair and sense of place that I see in other national flag carriers.

 

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CategoriesTravelUncategorized

Random Photo Fun – This is Air Travel!

This kid gets it.

Air travel sucks, and you know it. There’s the bad service. Nickle-and-diming passengers for every item of checked luggage, every in-flight beverage. The Transportation Security Administration and its fear-mongering brand of crazy. The dry cabin air. The delays. The cancelled flights. The airport traffic. The corpulent passenger whose bulk spills into your seat. It’s blaring TVs in the concourses, lost luggage, overpriced water, taking your shoes off to get through security. Laptops out of the bag, everything out of your pockets!

This is air travel.

Now, look at the photo. You can only see a nose, one eye, a bit of a mouth … and a glow, a manifestation of wonder. This kid holds no grudge about being herded like cattle or being treated like a potential terrorist. The swirl of air travel-related angst you experience? It never reaches him. It only reaches the older, “smarter” people. He looks down on the earth. The houses shrink. The cars are tiny. And look at the mountains from here! He ate breakfast in a desert, but lunch will be by the seaside. And he’ll get to do it again when he goes home, probably the only good thing about the end of a vacation.

This is air travel!

CategoriesUncategorized

Remembering a Favorite Veteran

Col. Cecil flew the F-4 Phantom II - is that not an awesome-looking machine?

It’s perfect – a cool-looking bag to stash guitar cables and assorted gear for going out to gigs. In its previous life, it was an Air Force pilot’s helmet bag. I hand $15 to the owner of the antique store and scurry home with my prize.

I rifle through it, discovering all its pockets and nooks and crannies.

Then I feel something – a small, leather rectangle. It’s stuffed into an inside pocket. I yank it out. It read, along with a stamp of senior aviator’s wings:

Cecil (Name Redacted for Privacy)
Lt. Col. USAF

(The actual wording may vary – I don’t have it in front of me right now)

I wonder who this is or was, and how his helmet bag wound up in an antique store. I have a vision of him that I don’t like -- that he sold his possessions because he was down on his luck. This helmet bag seems too cool a memento to give up easily. I wonder if I can track Col. Cecil down and return a bit of his better times in the form of his bag. I can find something else for my music gear.

And sure enough, I find him thanks to the Internet. I call. I explain that I have his bag and wonder if it’s something he regrets parting with. If he does, it’s all his.

As it turns out, Col. Cecil is doing just fine. He just had a bunch of memorabilia and gave that to his son-in-law for his antique store in Phoenix. Col. Cecil is in his 60s -- a former F-4 Phantom II pilot. Recently remarried, living in Texas. But he comes out to Arizona often.

On his next visit, we meet. Col. Cecil spins great stories about flying the Phantom (the afterburners of jealousy are aflame – I’d love just one ride in anything remotely resembling an F-4). He has me howling with his tale of showing up for a formal soiree at the Turkish embassy clad in a custom tuxedo made from camouflage material.

Something funny occurs to me: Will the next senior that irks me for driving 10 miles under the speed limit be the same person who once flew a jet at twice the speed of sound?

CategoriesTravelUncategorized

Remembering my T-6 Texan Warbird Flight

I always had fantasies about flying in one of these. Carl’s T-6 brought me a little closer.

I catch the 10 p.m. newscast as it’s about to go to commercial; the anchor teases a story to come in the next segment.

“A vintage airplane crashes in the desert, killing two,” she says.

It could be any vintage plane, any pilot. But I know it’s not. I turn the TV off. Moments later, my phone rings. It’s Alexa, a friend and colleague at The Arizona Republic.

“Justin, there’s been an accident,” she says.

“I know.”

Where Pilots Are Born

It’s an ungainly beast, this T-6 Texan. No enemy fliers feared it. The Japanese didn’t give it an ominous nickname like “Whistling Death.”

But the sunlight and its deep-blue coat of paint make it look just enough like Pappy Boyington’s F4U-4 Corsair to reach the 6-year-old boy I used to be — the boy that refuses to miss an episode of Black Sheep Squadron.

And really, the T-6 Texan made the Corsair – and the P-51 Mustang and sundry other American fighters. Or at least the most important part of those planes: the pilots. Yes, every fighter pilot of the era started here. A few hundred hours in a T-6 Texan, then into planes twice as fast, twice as powerful and heavily armed. Into the fray against the Luftwaffe or the Japanese.

Carl Schmieder is only 6o — too young to have flown in WWII. But he’s a member of Cactus Squadron, an aerobatic outfit flying the T-6 Texan to its limits at airshows. He’s fairly short, fit, genial. But I expected to see him in a vintage flight suit. In his striped button-down shirt and slacks, he looks like a jeweler sneaking out of work. Which he is.

I climb into the cockpit behind him. There’s a plaque bolted to the instrument panel: Intentional straight and level flight prohibited.

The Takeoff Roll

The radial engine harrumphs to life. The vibration reaches me at the cellular level. I’m more excited than I’ve ever been. We taxi, wagging around so Carl can see what’s in front of the Texan’s elevated cowling. We gather speed, and we’re in the air.

The next hour or so is the stuff of my dreams. Carl starts slowly, with aileron rolls. It’s the first time I’ve ever been upside-down in an airplane. A laundry list of combat maneuvers follows: Cuban 8, Immelmann turns, steep banks, barrel rolls. Carl explains every maneuver – I hear the still-awestruck young boy in his voice. He’s done this countless times, and the little boy still lives.

I learn what a four-G turn feels like. I grunt and tense every muscle in my lower body – quads, core, arms … all clenching to force enough blood into my head to stay conscious. Still, I feel an invisible electric blanket cranked to "HIGH" settle over me. The edges of my vision distort just slightly. It’s amazing.

Back Down to Earth

We land, and I’m physically wrung out, nauseous, over-heated. Carl slides the canopy, and I drink the air. It smells of exhaust and is barely any cooler – but it’s refreshing as lapping water straight off an Icelandic glacier.

I’m delighted, maybe as much as Carl is. He got to fly — and share the magic of aerobatic flying.

But Carl is gone, along with his final passenger and his priceless, dynamic piece of flying history. The National Transportation and Safety Board report can tell you why. A sad piece of aftermath: The Arizona wing of Cactus Squadron disbanded after the crash.

Maybe we shouldn’t embrace risk. No aerobatics, no mountain climbing, no polar expeditions. It’d save lots of lives.

But it would sure make living a lot less interesting.

(UPDATE: Jan. 2020: My original story for the Arizona Republic is no longer online. I’ll see if I can find it somewhere else or even scan it. It wasn’t great, but I was new at this newspaper thing!)

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CategoriesTravelUncategorized

Airport Needs to Cut Specialty Lines, Improve Signs

Southwest Airlines, 737-700
All I want is a clear path through security and a seat on my flight with as little fuss as possible.

During a recent flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, I had a reminder that the security screening processes are concocted by people who are disconnected from reality.

It was actually a fairly light morning at Sky Harbor’s Terminal 4 as I was headed toward the checkpoint. I made sure I didn’t accidentally slip into the first class line and made my way to the agent. Her first words?

“Next time, make sure you don’t use the medical and family line.”

I told her I didn’t notice the sign.

“It’s there,” she said rather shortly.

I looked back again. All I remember is NOT seeing a sign for the first class line. But I also know that arguing with a surly TSA agent is not the way to get to a gate on time.

What I did was file the tidbit away for further reflection. And here are my conclusions:

1. There are too many specific lines that are too underused. There was not a single body in the first class line. There was not a single body in the alleged “medical and family” line. If nobody is there, why bother with them? It seems like a lot of effort for a tiny portion of the passengers. And why should TSA cater to airline customers? It’s not like you get frequent flier mileage for passing through TSA checkpoints.

2. When I’m headed toward a security checkpoint, I am driven for efficiency. That’s so I don’t hold up the line and consequently other people (who might be later getting to the airport than I usually am). I have my boarding pass and driver’s license in hand. Even though I thinks it’s a ridiculous mockery of true security, I’m unlacing my shoes to take them off already. I’m ready to clear the items in my pockets.

That’s where I focus my attention. If the airport has a bunch of lines for first class customers, medical and family, people with gluten allergies, passengers who prefer pot-bellied pigs to dogs and customers who drive hybrid cars … make clear, concise signs in large typeface. I am too busy trying to pass my way through the intestinal tract that is a TSA security line to notice tiny, poorly written signs. Make them big and make them concise, or don’t bother.

Better yet, test the signs out using real-world travelers – a nice mix of leisure and business fliers. If you have suits making these decision, they won’t be under the stress of getting to a gate on-time or the prospect of holding up a bunch of their fellow fliers.

CategoriesTastesTravel

Update on Flying with MREs

Before leaving for Iceland, I was a bit worried about flying the military-issue Meals, Ready to Eat packs.

The answers I got from the Delta Airlines and the TSA were less than definitive – Icelandair was crystal-clear: They’re okay in checked luggage.

The good news is that I had no problems flying with my MRE packs. I went through security screening at three different airports (Phoenix Sky Harbor, JFK/New York and Keflavik International) and customs at two of them, and had nary an MRE-related problem (the monosyllabic and surly “instructions” of the wonderful Customs staff at JFK, however, was another story. Only one of that lot was even remotely pleasant.).

Based on my experience, you should have no problems if you put your MREs in your checked luggage and keep the packages sealed. Still, always check with your airline. Policies and regulations are always a moving target, and a terrorism-related panic du jour always seems to be around the corner waiting to monkeywrench travelers’ plans.

CategoriesAccommodationsTravel

7 Cool Ways to Recycle an Airplane

These days, recycling is cool. And so are airplanes – even the Honda Civic of the skies that is the 737.

That makes recycling airplanes an off-the-charts, Ricardo Montalban-level of cool. I’m not talking about turning Cessnas into aluminum cans. I’m talking about turning Boeing jumbo jets into backpacker hostels, or shady old military cargo planes into jungle restaurants.

Here are a few really cool places where you can eat, sleep and/or drink in a recycled airplane. The small but vibrant Costa Rican town of Manuel San Antonio seems to have the largest number, per capita, of such projects. (NOTE: If you know of any others, e-mail me and I’ll include them in a future post).

Not So High-Flying in Costa Rica

El Avion (Manuel San Antonio)
Photobucket
This Fairchild C-123 is linked to the Iran-Contra Affair – but these days, it’s as benign as a glassful of house-made sangria. You’ll find ticos and touristas side-by-side chomping bar food and downing cans of Imperial. And enjoying an unmatched ambience – perched on a cliff, with the occassional monkey cruising by (especially if there’s an unattended trash can nearby). El Avion has history, scenery and a low price. Some of these aircraft carry a hefty price to enter, but at El Avion, a few colones for a pint is all you need. Last Visited – 2003

Hotel Costa Verde (Manuel San Antonio)
Most of the Hotel Costa Verde is pretty typical upscale jungle fare. Unless you book passage in the 727 suite. This room is not only cool for being inside a Boeing’s fuselage, but also more opulent than even U2’s 727! Costa Rica is pretty progressive about protecting its timber resources, and this suite is absolutely jammed with teak: Hotel Costa Verde might pick up some eco-points if it had a good source of sustainable wood for the project. Your seat on this flight comes at a premium: $300 per night in the off-season.

Grounded in the Wop-Wops
Woodlyn Park (Waitomo Caves, NZ)

A perfect respite after a day of hiking, driving or caving – all in the nose of a plane!

Kiwi bloke Billy Black doesn’t do typical hotels – some masonry, a blocky design, the same ol’, same ol’. No – he scrounged an old Bristol freighter and turned it into a two-suite mini hotel. The cockpit room is where it’s at: Families can stow the kiddies in the 747-like cockpit hump for the night, and take the downstairs bunk for themselves. The room also includes a perfect shower and a kitchenette. The price was also very reasonable at $160 NZ per night – that was about $82 US! Be sure to check out the train room, boat hotel and hobbit rooms, too. Last visited – 2009

Outside the Woodlyn Park Bristol freighter

Sweden Goes Jumbo

Jumbo Hostel (Stockholm, Sweden)
When it comes to recycling an airplane, it doesn’t come on a much bigger scale than a 747-200. I first heard about this from my friends at SpotCoolStuff.com. Jumbo Hostel is parked at Arlanda International Airport – convenient! You can get anything from bunk bed-style rooms to a private room in the cockpit. The only other re-used 747 was turned into a restaurant in Korea. Since it went belly up, it doesn’t get a space on the list – Jumbo Hostel retains the biggest designation! (Update: Been there, stayed at it.)

Still a Mile High in Colorado

The Airplane Restaurant (Colorado Springs, Colo. USA)
It’s pretty fitting that you’ll find a place like this in Colorado Springs, home of the U.S. Air Force Academy. The restaurant is alternately called Solo’s, or just The Airplane Restaurant. The centerpiece of the dually monikered eatery is a KC-97 tanker, but the rest is regular ol’ dining room. The food doesn’t appear to be anything really unusual, but I’ll give any place props for having a buffalo burger.

Southwest in the South

Parachute Inn (Walnut Ridge, Ark. USA)
This is the least exciting entry. It’s a 737 still in its drab rusty orange and faded yellow livery. It’s tacked into an existing restaurant. Its specialty seems to be southern cooking and seafood. It doesn’t have a Web site.

CategoriesUncategorized

My Top 5 Flights – Plus, a Site for Flight Geeks

The rise of Facebook as a great time-waster is pretty well-documented, and now aviation geeks have their own way to flush hours down the lavatory: Let me introduce FlightMemory.com, a Web site that lets you input all your commercial flights. It then tracks your time and mileage and plots it on a map. You can even order a poster based on your flight paths. (Thanks to Things in the Sky for the discovery.)

What’s kind of useful is that you can choose to enter the bare-minimum of details, or delve into

Creaky old airplane got you down? Have your say on FlightMemory.com!
Creaky old airplane got you down? Have your say on FlightMemory.com!

excruciating detail about every single thing the airline, TSA and airport employees did wrong – or you can praise them for those times when “customer service” isn’t a punchline.

I’m still working on getting my flights in, but I’ve made some headway. It’s quite a lot of fun, especially since it appears to be of German origin and translated by members of The Scorpions while they were on tour with Van Halen circa 1985 (“We can now offer you some new thingies for your pleasure – introducing the FlightMemory shop!” … tell me you couldn’t hear Klaus Meine saying that!).

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A Tip of the Hat to the Boeing 747

A preface from Wandering Justin: I originally wrote this for another blog, but it seems relevant here. Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Boeing
Photo courtesy of Boeing

Every time I go to band practice, I take the 143 freeway past Sky Harbor. I always look to my right and see a British Airways 747 parked at Terminal 4, getting ready to head to London.

And I wish I was getting on that plane. Not so much because it’s going to London, but because … well, I can’t explain it in one sentence. But here are the thoughts that jumble through my head:

-First, there is a certain something special and exciting about a 747. It’s an icon of style, adventure and anticipation. You don’t take a 747 from Charlotte to Pittsburgh. No, That’s what takes you to Hong Kong, to Paris, to Sydney, to Johannesburg. From the first time I rode one on the way to Germany as a 5-year-old boy, it has made me feel something no other airplane can replicate. The 777 is a marvelous piece of technology, and the A380 is built on a mind-boggling scale. But no aircraft save the Concorde cuts the same image on final approach, or puts that flutter in my stomach as I cross from the jetway into its fuselage. Sadly, less than a handful of American-based airlines still fly it.

-Second, it being a British Airways flight, I know that the people aboard will not be treated like cattle. Foreign airlines seem to have figured out how not to nickel-and-dime passengers to death, and understand that a good experience aloft will endear them to American passengers. I’ve only flown Qantas and JetStar recently. But people whose opinions I respect tell me Air New Zealand, British Airways and Air France are on their game. And I’ve heard Emirates and Virgin are dialed in, too.

-Third, I just love flying. The longer the flight, the happier I am. But put me in a seat with a few hundred people on the way to someplace that requires a widebody jet, and all is right with my world. Is it as comfortable as my reading chair? No. Is the food all that good? No. But I can afford to buy a seat and travel 7,000 or more miles and get off that plane in what feels like a different world. If you can’t get fired up about that, I seriously don’t know what the hell is the matter with you.

-Fourth, I love airports. Sure, the TSA seems like it’s deliberately trying to drive me crazy. There are throngs of people, completely bovine in their lack of situational awareness and clueless meandering. But outside, it’s a well-choreographed display of efficient motion. And there’s something electric in the air at a major international airport (as opposed to my local Sky Harbor, which hosts all of one flight from the U.K., and then a bunch from Canada and Mexico and another from Costa Rica. Hell, that’s barely enough to qualify.). All these people from around the world, all these aircraft that have been who-knows-where. It invigorates me, and gets me excited about everything going on in the world at every given moment.

For me, the inconveniences and discomforts become so petty and so worth enduring when I wake up in another city that my grandparents never could’ve imagined visiting in their lifetime.