When we think of flying on commercial airlines, we start shaking our heads. We start dreaming of flying our own small plane instead of going through the hassle of TSA, handling and paying for luggage, airport parking, etc. What would it take to get your own private pilot license and then your IFR rating?
If you thought the airlines had done everything they possibly could to cut costs and make your life miserable while flying, you obviously haven’t a clue how far they can go. Doing regional routes on tiny aircraft to give ‘narrowbody’ a whole new meaning is the next step in cost-cutting with American airlines now. You can’t entirely blame the airlines for this either. Businesses have been trying to cut costs, sending fewer people out traveling. Why would the airlines fly the planes half-empty? There is a good side to this change though of course. On most airlines, airport services to regional destinations have really opened up.
The airlines that serve these destinations – names like American Eagle, Cape Air and Comair (no, not Con Air), use regional aircraft – machines that seat fewer than 100 people, often fewer than 30. They use aircraft brands more associated with personal flying – Cessna and the like – and flying on these requires a whole new level of sacrifice – you get less headroom, less elbow room, and there are more people crammed together in the space than you would like. If you plan on working while traveling, you had better forget it. There is just no way to take out a laptop, leave alone use it on one of these flights. Most of these airlines charge you $25 a piece to check a bag.
Here is where we once again start thinking of buying our own airplane or renting one and getting our Instrument Rating. This would put 90% of the headaches behind us.
And as far as carry-on is concerned, for the most part, there is no room inside for those. You’re best off packing a very small carry-on and nothing else. They only have one class of travel anyway. If you have a connecting flight to make, and its first class, you still fly supersmall economy from your regional airport. With these airlines, airport slots are very far away from the terminal you are connecting to. You probably will find your tiny bird of an airplane parked at a special regional terminal that will require you to take unconventional transportation to your connecting flight. You’ll probably need to be well in time so that you don’t miss anything.
Still, there are a number of positives to using tiny regional airlines. (Yes, you can more easily fly your own plane into and out of these airports and it’s a lot easier getting your accelerated IFR training there as well.) Airport access becomes much more convenient sometimes. For instance, Cape Air flies directly into Manhattan. And also, if you happen to be in a city that isn’t in the top 10 nation’s hubs, you’ll soon come to appreciate the kind of connections you get from your home airport. They have code shares in place too. This way, you accrue miles for your travel. They let you make your reservations with a visit to just one website, and when you travel to places like Beaumont, Texas or Joplin, Missouri from Plattsburg, you’ll appreciate the convenience of flying directly from the airport in your hometown.