Monday, December 6, 2010

ZigZagging The Jetways

Wouldn't it be nice if every the cabin floor of ever airplane was level with the boarding lounge of every airport around the world? You laugh but consider the myriad designs of air terminals across the planet and how each must be able to successfully mate with every aircraft type certified to operate there via stairs or environmentally controlled jetbridges. Now consider how flexible those jetbridges have to be in order to work with aircraft as tall as the upper deck of the A380 all the way down to the ramp scraping low-riders of the regional jets.

Flying back to Dallas on one of American Airlines ubiquitous MD-80s, I'd stayed in my seat for much of the three hour flight and like all others on the plane was relieved to land and pull immediately in to the gate. I needed a restroom and there was luggage to collect but first and most importantly I had to see about the arrival ritual of unfolding the body one limb and lumbar at a time. Like a moth emerging from its chrysalis at 6'4" I need to uncoil while others can simply hop up and grab their carry-on items in one swift motion. I make my way to the boarding door towards the front of the aircraft, say the customary thanks and good-byes to the assembled crew and then step on to the slanted ramp intended to smooth the transition between aircraft and jetbridge.

Fail. The guy in front of me immediately careened to his left as the ramp ended and his right foot hit the bridge rising up and in the opposite direction towards the terminal. It was several steps before he could correct his strides to match the angled ramp despite being cold sober. One after the other this same scenario plays out hundreds of thousands of times each day across the globe with the vast majority of travelers not the least bit intoxicated. After sitting and squirming for hours on end in one unnatural position after the other, to walk an 18-inch wide aisle on a flat surface and then negotiate a sharply angled jetbridge is simply too much for many of us.

And too funny! I haven't gone so far as to make enquiries about the angle degrees some bridges must achieve in order to join up with the attending aircraft. I have been witness to more than a few jetbridges frozen in place for being "out of limits" for one reason or another. The angle was too steep because the aircraft was too close or parked too far away for the bridge to telescope that great of a distance. Either scenario can guarantee at least 15-30 minutes before a local engineer can come and reset the device to be used properly; even then it doesn't save some passengers from teetering precariously as soon as they alight!

The longer the flight the more vulnerable to the phenomenon I am, I must admit. This was only a three hour flight from the East Coast to Dallas so I did fairly ok. Coming off of 15 hours from Australia, though? At least it wasn't on tape!

Gotta go.

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