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Air Travelers Say Hassles Mount

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

When Tamara Silverman showed up for a flight recently, her expectations were low.

TAMARA SILVERMAN: When I go to the airport, I do not expect to take off on time, nor do I expect to arrive on time. And I always worry about my luggage.

MONTAGNE: Tamara Silverman was standing in a baggage claim terminal at Philadelphia International Airport. She'd just arrived from Pittsburg.

SILVERMAN: We left when we were supposed to leave. We arrived when we were supposed to arrive. My last flight was horrible. We flew from Seattle to Phoenix, Arizona. And our flight was cancelled when we got to Phoenix. They flew us to Washington D.C. We stayed overnight in Washington D.C. We were supposed to leave at 6:00 a.m. The flight left at 8:33. And we finally got back to Pittsburg.

MONTAGNE: Passenger Tamara Silverman on her up and down experience with air travel, so to speak.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

We're going to hear a lot from people at Philadelphia International Airport this week. Their stories are part of a new series of conversations about air travel today and how it has changed over time.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIRPLANE)

INSKEEP: And we're going to begin at the economy lot at the Philadelphia Airport. Planes are taking off on the other side of the fence. This lot - far from the terminal - is where a MORNING EDITION producer found Chuck and Janice Eldridge and their four kids. They had just parked the family car and boarded a noisy bus on the way to the airport.

CHUCK ELDRIDGE: Steve.

INSKEEP: Yes, Mr. Eldridge. Can you just describe where you are and where you're going today?

ELDRIDGE: Yeah. We are at the Southwest terminal. And we are getting on a flight to West Palm Beach.

INSKEEP: So what it's like flying with four kids these days?

ELDRIDGE: Well, we've done it for 11 years, so it's the same. We just - everybody helps more now than they used to. It's good.

INSKEEP: Your kids are how old?

ELDRIDGE: Seventeen, 15, 14 and 11.

INSKEEP: And for 11 years you've been flying every summer?

ELDRIDGE: Yeah. Actually we do. We've lived all over the country, so we've flown a lot.

INSKEEP: Well, how has air travel changed in all those years that you've been flying?

ELDRIDGE: Obviously in the past five years, significant. We're probably triple the time that we have to have ahead of time. Much longer lines than it used to be. And shoes off, everything out, so we just take more time and do it.

INSKEEP: Do you remember the first time you ever got in an airplane?

ELDRIDGE: Absolutely, I do. Probably like '83 - my wife will probably remember the airline. I just went to see her and it was - I can remember well. It was like 20 bucks.

INSKEEP: Wow. Do you mind passing the phone over to Janice for a minute?

ELDRIDGE: Not at all. Hold on one second. Do you want to take one of the kids first? She's on the screen right now.

INSKEEP: Oh, sure.

ELDRIDGE: Here's the 15-year-old, Westin.

WESTIN ELDRIDGE: Hello.

INSKEEP: Hey. How are you? Steve Inskeep.

ELDRIDGE: Good. How are you?

INSKEEP: Your mom is on the screen right now buying - getting a boarding pass. Is that right?

ELDRIDGE: Yeah, yeah.

INSKEEP: So you've been flying all your life.

ELDRIDGE: Yeah. I've been flying like 10 times, so...

INSKEEP: So how are you going to passing the time during the flight today?

ELDRIDGE: Oh, I'll just listen to my iPod and we're watching a movie on my brother's portable DVD player.

INSKEEP: Well, now, there are a couple of things that have changed about flying.

ELDRIDGE: Yeah, definitely.

INSKEEP: Well, now, is your mom, Janice Eldridge, done getting your boarding pass?

ELDRIDGE: Here, mom.

JANICE ELDRIDGE: Hello?

INSKEEP: Hi, Ms. Eldridge. It's Steve Inskeep.

ELDRIDGE: Oh, hi. How you doing?

INSKEEP: Doing okay. Thanks for taking the time today. I'm sure it's a busy moment right there. You got your boarding pass in hand, I hope?

ELDRIDGE: Yeah. We're just - one of our suitcases was a little overweight so we had to do a little juggling, as always.

INSKEEP: Oh, you mean you took some stuff out of one suitcase and stuffed it in another one?

ELDRIDGE: Yes. That's I guess what happens when you got a bunch of kids going traveling, right?

INSKEEP: Do you remember your first flight?

ELDRIDGE: Yeah. I was very young.

INSKEEP: How are things different then than now?

ELDRIDGE: Well, obviously they didn't have this high security. And it was just - also the flights were a little more accommodating. You had meals and snacks and things. And now you have pretty much nothing. You know, it's kind of bare necessities right now.

INSKEEP: Is it stressful for you to get the family ready to fly?

ELDRIDGE: It is, because before you can almost run on the plane if you had to. But now if you're not here, you know, at a certain time they won't let you in and you don't get seats together and this and that and the other thing. So a little more stressful, yeah.

INSKEEP: Has anything gotten better about flying?

ELDRIDGE: Well, obviously, the security is better and that's what's important nowadays. We didn't have to worry about that 30 years ago. But you know, I wish that when you get somewhere that people could come and meet you, but they can't do that anymore. So that's a little different. But that's part of what we have to do unfortunately in our society now, so I guess that's better.

INSKEEP: Well, Janice Eldridge, thanks very much to you and your family. It's been great talking with you. What's everybody doing right now, by the way?

ELDRIDGE: They're watching me laughing. They're making fun of me, so...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ELDRIDGE: But we're getting ready to go in the security line.

INSKEEP: Okay. Well, thanks so much.

ELDRIDGE: Okay. Thank you. You're welcome.

INSKEEP: Janice Eldridge with her husband, Chuck, and four children. Chuck Eldridge told us later that his family's flight to West Palm Beach, Florida arrived about 30 minutes early. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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