What travel is like now….and what it might be like in the future…

Dark silhouette of an airplane flying over the blue skies

My husband and I have traveled all over the world and within the United States. We have visited some amazing places. Over the decades, many airlines have consolidated and/or gone out of business and planes are flying fuller than they used to. Add the security measures and restrictions imposed after the World Trade Center bombing, and flying has become a hassle. Seeing the world is fun; getting to one’s destination, not so much.

This is what I’ve learned about traveling:

  • No matter where you go, how long or short your flight, getting to your destination is going to consume an entire day.
  • Unless the leg of your journey is very short (or you’re flying over water!), there are no direct, nonstop flights anymore. You’re lucky if you only have to change planes once.
  • The amenities you used to receive in Coach (meals, blankets, free baggage, headsets, peanuts) are now reserved for First Class.
  • My guesstimate is that at least half the time I fly, flights are delayed or cancelled.
  • It takes 15-20 minutes to get a rental car. Why? In an age of computers when you have a pre-paid reservation, why does the transaction take 15 minutes? What is the rental car desk agent doing on the computer? Playing Solitaire?
  • Once you dig into a packed suitcase, no matter now neat you try to be, it’s never the same.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to your luggage after it disappears behind the flaps, check out this video. An e-ticket ride!

From my experiences with airline travel, I extrapolated what commercial space flight might be like. Here’s a little scene from STRANDED WITH THE CYBORG, a sci-fi romance coming Sept. 22.

An excerpt from Stranded with the Cyborg

A baggage droid approached. “Flight number?”

Stranded600x900Penelope tapped a code into her PerComm and transmitted the info to the droid’s device.

“You’re headed for the International Shuttle Port in Sector Five, connecting to Diplomatic Charter Flight zeta rho nine five nine seven zero.” His simulated voice sounded more computerized than her PeeVee’s.  Although the robots smelled like plastic,  because they could appear so lifelike, the Department of Artificial Intelligence had mandated the stilted voice programs as extra assurance no one would mistake them for human.

“Correct,” she replied.

“Checking your luggage through?”

“Yes.”

The droid attached an electronic tracking marker to her bag and slung it onto a conveyor. It disappeared into the building, where it would be scanned for explosives and contraband before being sprayed with decontaminant to prevent the possibility of spreading a Terran contagion to an alien planet. “You may proceed,” he said.

“Thank you.”

“Gratitude is not required. I am a droid. I am performing the function for which I was programmed.”

“Oh, well, all right then.” She hefted her carry-on more securely over her shoulder. “Have a nice day.” Penelope dismissed the droid.

“I do not understand.”

Penelope felt like an idiot. Of course, he—it—didn’t. “You may return to your duties.”

The droid spun on its heel and marched to an arriving PeeVee.

Inside the terminal, passengers hairpinned in a huge line.

“All shuttle port personnel and passengers stand clear,” announced a computer voice over the audio system. “Prepare for detonation in five seconds. Five, four, three, two, one.”

Pufft!

A muted boom could be heard as someone’s luggage was blown up.

That explained the lines. If a baggage scanner detected contraband or anything suspicious, the computer sealed the scanner chamber and destroyed the luggage. No questions asked. Not before detonation, anyway. For minor contraband, the passenger simply lost his or her possessions. If a serious breach occurred, he or she would be detained, interrogated, and charged.

Diplomatic credentials allowed Penelope to skirt around the backed-up general passenger lanes. In Dignitary Express, she transmitted her ID and ticket numbers. The gate opened, and she entered the security hall.

She shoved her PerComm into her carry-on and placed it on the conveyor leading to the combined weapons/decontamination imaging unit for inorganic materials. With unease, she recalled the pufft. Had a terrorist been caught with an explosive device or had some gray-haired grandma going to visit her grandchildren tried to smuggle aboard unauthorized baked goods?

Penelope had carefully followed the packing rules. Reportedly, scanners erred only .01 % of the time, but with tens of millions of passengers, that still meant many innocent people had their bags blown up. Her PerComm contained all essential professional and personal data. She shuddered to contemplate the chaos if the machine blew up the device.

Diplomatic status couldn’t help her avoid the security checks.  A droid motioned for her proceed, and she stepped into the organic matter unit. She placed her feet on the marks and raised her arms shoulder height. “Please remain still,” the computer voice ordered. A whirring ensued as the machine conducted a full-body scan to detect known weaponry.

Whirring stopped.

Penelope closed her eyes. Though she’d braced for it, she flinched when the decontamination spray hit. Her semipermeable one-piece travel uniform, which all passengers regardless of status were required to wear, allowed the mist to pass through to her skin. Form-fitting, the unitard had no pockets of any kind, and the composite fibers rendered it invisible to the x-ray eyes of the weapons detector. To the machine, she was naked. Humans and other living creatures couldn’t see through the fabric, but she often wondered if electronic-eyed droids could. Not that a robot would care.

“All clear,” announced the voice, and a panel spun open, allowing her to step out of the chamber.

Flight Authority insisted the spray left no residue, but Penelope always felt icky after being hosed down. However, she was relieved to be reunited with her carry-on, handed to her by a android. “Have a good flight,” he said.

“Thank you.”

“Gratitude is not required—”

“Just say, ‘you’re welcome.’”

Stranded with the Cyborg Blurb

Stranded600x900The daughter of the Terran president, Penelope Aaron resented the restrictions imposed upon her, but that was no reason to take it out on the man assigned to protect her. She regrets how she got Agent Brock Mann booted from the security force. But now that she’s an interplanetary ambassador about to embark on her first diplomatic mission, she still doesn’t want him tagging along. Especially since he seems to be stronger, faster, more muscled, and sexier than she remembers. And pretending to be her husband?  This mission couldn’t get more impossible!

Ten years ago Penelope Isabella Aaron had been a pain in Brock Mann’s you-know-what. Much has changed in a decade: “PIA” as he code-named her, has grown up and is about to attend her first Alliance of Planets summit conference, and Brock was transformed into a cyborg after a near-fatal attack. Now a secret agent with Cyber Operations, a covert paramilitary organization, Brock gets called in, not when the going gets tough, but when the going gets impossible. So when he’s unexpectedly assigned to escort Penelope to the summit meeting, he balks at babysitting a prissy ambassador. But after a terrorist bombing, a crash landing on a hostile planet, and a growing attraction to his protectee, Operation: PIA may become his most impossible assignment yet.

♥ ♥ ♥

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6 Responses to What travel is like now….and what it might be like in the future…

  1. Leigh Smith says:

    Love your analysis of how flying is today. It’s so true. I think the direct flights depend a great deal on the cities you are traveling to or from. I hate connecting flights, somehow it never seems to work out.

    Like the blurb. Not a great sci-fi fan but loved the breeder series so I’ll give this a try.

  2. Great article. My husband often says that people will soon be issued paper jumpsuits for traveling and forbidden to take anything into the cabin. They’ll be relegated to watching propaganda videos while flying. They’re more polite here in Canada, at least.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Your husband and I must have been thinking along similar lines. The jumpsuit plays an interesting role in Stranded with the Cyborg.

  3. Laurel Lasky says:

    Wish me luck, I’m flying from West Palm Beach, Fl to Washington, DC with a stopover in Atlanta. Normally a non stop takes 2 and a half hours but with the layover 5 and a half hours. Coming back its 6 hours. I’m taking a sandwich. I’m going to the Passion Pen Conference.

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