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Pass the tissues: I'm a plane crier, and I'm proud of it

Nov. 23, 2019
3 min read
Pass the tissues: I'm a plane crier, and I'm proud of it
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I’m going to reveal one of my travel secrets: I cry during anything that’s aired on an airline’s inflight entertainment system. No matter the movie, TV show or commercial, I always manage to shed a few tears.

I am a HUGE fan of “This American Life,” hosted by Baltimore native Ira Glass, produced at WBEZ in Chicago and airing on your local NPR station. I have the show downloaded to my iPod (yes, I still use an iPod), so I can listen at my leisure.

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Back in 2011, I’m riding the train to work, and the theme of Episode #429 was Tough Room. It’s all about people speaking their minds in very tough rooms. While all the stories were interesting, it was Act 4 — The Contrails of my Tears — that really hit home with me. Commentator Brett Martin, a correspondent for GQ, talks about how inflight entertainment on planes makes him cry, no matter how ridiculous — or bad — the programing is.

I can’t tell you how much better I felt knowing that crying on airplanes is an actual thing and I'm not the only one doing it.

One time, I was watching the movie "The Best Man Holiday" on a United Airlines flight from San Francisco back home to Baltimore. I was already a little sad, because my visit home to the family was really nice.

Related reading: Why We Cry on Airplanes, According to a Psychologist

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Without going into the movie's plot (spoiler alert), a major beloved character in the movie tragically dies. I started to cry, first just a few tears, then a full-on ugly crying jag. It was so bad my seat mate rang for the flight attendant because he thought something was seriously wrong with me. I told them both what happened, and the flight attendant teared up, because she had seen the movie too.

And it's not just movies. Magazine articles that I'd read normally on the ground bring me to tears in flight. A song — like Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home" — can turn on the waterworks. There's just something about being trapped in a metal tube with 150+ people 35,000 feet above the Earth traveling at hundreds of miles per hour that makes you feel more vulnerable. And this isn't just a feeling from me.

A new report by travel brand strategy and content agency Studio Black Tomato, titled "Heightened Emotions: An Analysis of How We Feel When We Fly," notes that flying not only involves a physical transition from one place to another, but also an emotional shift in state of mind. It’s an emotionally loaded experience and a unique setting where you have little control over inflight outcomes. It cites other studies that suggest that factors such as fatigue, stress, high altitude and dehydration add to the overwhelming sense of heightened emotion.

With many travelers trying to balance family, work, professional and leisure activities, sometimes life gets messy, Maybe a good cry on a flight can serve as a release valve and give us a chance to just feel — and catch our breath. I do feel better knowing that I am far from alone in experiencing inflight crying.

Can someone pass me some tissue?

Featured image by (Photo by Demkat/Shutterstock)

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