Lonely Planet Writer

When did flying become an exercise in indignity?

Perhaps things would be easier if we could travel by flying boat. Image by Philip Game.

If you want to travel long distances, you pretty much need to fly. That means airports and airlines have you by the balls - and, in the TSA's case, that can be quite literally. Where once flying was seen as a glamorous pursuit, these days it is something to be endured - the price of getting from A to Belize.

In fact, argues David Carr in The New York Times, the reason people have been so flustered about the introduction of body scans at US airports (and the alternative pat-down option) is that they're a sort of last straw, one indignity too far in a series of air travel inconveniences that are the norm these days: 'longer delays, $5 pillows, flights packed like a Japanese subway'.

While there have certainly been tales of extraordinary actions by America's Transport Security Administration (TSA) - such as one mother's ordeal trying to get her breast milk screened - Thanksgiving travel seemed to go off without a hitch, with most passengers opting in for body scans. In fact, Carr argues that the controversy over scans was more of a media beat-up than anything.

But the public's more general dissatisfaction with air travel is very real.

Normally when consumers find something goes a step too far, or they're dissatisfied with the service, they can vote with their wallet: change banks, get their caffeine hit at another cafe. But when it comes to air travel, you can't do much about it, short of staying home. And that's especially true for business travellers.

So what can passengers do? There are some options:

Travel for leisure less frequently but for longer periods. That way you can spend a little bit more money for your air ticket, and will be in a better position to choose an airline for its customer service and not just its cheap fares (for guidance, you could consult something like Zagat's 2010 airline survey results). It's also better for the environment to spend less time in transit and more time in a destination.

Lower your expectations. The reason that air travel is less glamorous is that it's been democratised. Once the privilege of the well-off, it's now more affordable, faster and easier to access than ever before. If you're shooting for the lowest fare possible, then it's understandable that you might have to give up some perks, like food...and free access to the bathroom. Accept the inconveniences as part of the bargain. If you can't get over it, pay more.

Know your rights. The aim of airport security should be to prevent threats; it shouldn't be a vehicle for unwarranted harassment. Speak up when something isn't right but remember that airport security has a job to do too.

Meditate (or at least find some Zen). I like Susan Estrich's call for calm - and the need for civility. 'You can get mad and frustrated and angry and entitled, forgetting every bit of holiday spirit in a guerrilla war to get there. Or you can keep calm, smile a lot, find a good book and figure you'll get there when you get there.'

Enjoy the journey. If you've got to travel to get to fabulous places, you might as well enjoy it. Huffington Post has a list of the 13 prettiest airports in the world, while Lonely Planet has 10 ways to kill time at the airport.