Air travel in 2008 to get worse: Tips on how to deal with it

The news is not rosy for air travel in the U.S. for 2008. An article by Jeff Bailey in today’s New York Times covers the predictions that make air travel sound like something people are REALLY going to be miffed about. If we thought there were hassles in 2007, watch out. We haven’t seen anything yet.

The changes make me think we ought to rethink how we see air travel woes in order to trick ourselves into feeling better about them. Here are some psychological strategies I’ve thought of that work in other areas of life. Let’s see if the same strategies can work in this air travel situation.

Change #1 – Prices are going up.

We can either think that flights are too expensive, or give ourselves the illusion that they are cheap.

Instead of thinking that you’ll be able to snag a round-trip ticket for a screaming deal, like under $200, just say to yourself, “The flight will surely be too expensive for me.” Then add $100 or so to whatever you think the price might be. Then when you find out what the price really is, it will be, more than likely, less than what you imagined. Instead of being bummed that you can’t afford the trip –or mad that you are paying so much, you’ll think that you lucked out on a good deal.

How strategy works in other areas of life: This is similar to the when you are considering buying a new item that perhaps you don’t need, but you really, really want to have. Your significant other asks you how much it costs. You initially inflate the cost by 50% or more so that when the actual cost is reveled, it’s clear that you scored a bargain.

Change #2- Planes will be even more crowded.

To deal with crowding, expect that you will be stuck in the middle seat, or that you will not find room in the overhead bin for your own stuff. Then when you have an aisle or a window seat and there’s room for your luggage, you can count your blessings.

Also think of something worse that could be happening. Say something like this, “At least I’m not in a crowded emergency ward at a hospital with a cut on my foot that needs nine stitches.”

How this works in real life: If you are in an emergency room with a cut that needs nine stitches, you say to yourself, at least I’m not stuck on an airplane with the chance of bleeding to death because the plane is in a holding pattern.

Change #3 – There will be even MORE lost or delayed luggage.

We can get angry and frustrated or not care –and possibly feel happy about it.

Plan for your luggage to be delayed or lost. Pack clothes that you don’t want anymore so that when your luggage is lost, you’ll think, “Good riddance.” If the luggage does shows up, after you wear the items one more time, donate them to a place like Goodwill for a tax write-off. You’ll have already done the hard part–deciding which clothes to get rid of. Consider this part of an ongoing winnowing process throughout the year if you travel frequently.

Be happy that you remembered to pack an extra change of clothes and your underwear in your carry-on bag so that you’ll be looking fresh as a daisy despite the snafu. Better yet, vow to only buy new clothes when your luggage is lost or delayed so you’ll be hoping that this happens. That way you can wear something new for a change instead of wearing the same tired wardrobe over and over again.

How this works in real life: When your dog chews up a pair of your shoes, decide that you really didn’t like them anyway. Besides that, they weren’t quite so shiny, the insoles had lost their puff, the heels were wearing down, and isn’t it great to have a good reason to buy another pair of shoes?

One change I didn’t notice is if flight delays will be more or less. Let’s just say, no news is good news on this account.

The article does point out the reasons for the increase of travel woes, (Let’s just call them opportunities that give us the chance to act like our best selves under duress.) Higher oil prices are the number one reason. Consider this. Last year oil was $52 a barrel. Now it’s up to almost $100. The airlines are looking for ways to boost their profits. That’s the bottom line.

The silver lining to this cloud, and yes, there is a legitimate one. Airlines like Skybus and Virgin America may get a boost because of their cheap travel options.