On a recent plane trip I read the in-flight magazine and found the letters column especially interesting. One reader wrote that he loved the airline, saying it “has all the qualities I look for in my future bride: always on time, greets me with a smile, welcomes me home and takes care of me during our time together. OK, so I’m a hopeless romantic who thinks I will meet my future wife on my next flight.” Others wrote that they found their flights “comforting” and “enjoyable.”

I shared the letters with a friend who was traveling with me, and we agreed that such enthusiasm wasn’t typical of our experience of air travel. Always on time? You must be kidding.

Flight attendants and pilots generally are courteous and friendly. But air travel is arduous. It begins in the ticketing line, with the hectoring computer that demands fees for checked-in baggage and wheedles for upgrades, extra leg-room and the purchase of additional mileage. The ordeal ramps up in the security line, which tends to be long and requires waiting. Once one winds through the maze and arrives at the front of the line, there is the virtual undressing—off come shoes, belt and jewelry. One does this while juggling a briefcase and perhaps a second bag onto the conveyor belt running through the X-ray machine.