Cheap flights and boarding the plane
Getting to the gate at an airport and finding it empty is something that has probably occurred to many travelers at some point. There's something strange about the way airport communicate with those in search of planes. In theory, there are speakers located at strategic points about each terminal and, no matter where you sit or stand, you will always be able to hear each announcement perfectly. Indeed, when you pay attention, you can always hear calls for other flights. Yet when it comes to your own, there's a strange disconnection as if the message suddenly enters a parallel dimension and fails to reach your ears. So then you find yourself in the wrong place and, naturally, there's no one around to ask where you should be. When you do finally track down where you should be, have you noticed how everyone gets asked to board the plane before you? That means you get to your seat to find the space in the overhead compartments up and down your aisle has been taken up.
Once your baggage has been stowed and you are finally sat down, the fact you are not in the air yet dawns on you. You'll be pleased to know there are federal regulations that limit the time you can be held in the plane on the ground. For domestic flights at the larger airports, you have to be offered release after three hours. The airline is also to ensure you have enough to drink and the toilet arrangements are adequate. There are fines for both US and foreign airlines if they leave your international flight on the tarmac for more than four hours. In theory, this makes it more economic for the plane to take off than go back to the terminal.
It probably hasn't escaped your notice that once you are in the air getting something to eat or drink unless you spend money is a difficult task. It's well known food has never been great but, in the days before pricing got less than transparent, you used to get one of those trays with something edible on it as a part of the ticket price. Now the airlines seem to think the only thing you get for your ticket is permission to sit in a seat. Remember, never ever say anything that could be interpreted as insulting about the airline or any of its staff. Even more important, never joke about terrorism. Indeed, until you get in the air, it's probably safer not to talk to anyone about anything connected with flying. Paranoia is everywhere and, if you're considered a threat to security, an air marshal is likely to arrest you and drag you off the plane to a holding cell.
In a perfect world where you have realized the American Dream, you have your own private jet and people bow and scrape as you walk majestically through the airport and board when it's convenient to you. Until that day dawns, you're in the cheap flights with the rest of us and pathetically grateful because, if you were thinking about using the train as a substitute, it would take you more than fifty hours on the California Zephyr to get from Chicago to San Francisco. No matter how comfortable the train, even a cheap flight may be more convenient.