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updated 8/23/2005 2:41:36 PM ET 2005-08-23T18:41:36

The end of the summer travel season sits on the horizon, wiping the last sweaty drips of frustration from its brow. It’s the time of year that most frontline airline employees hope will pass quickly. Indeed, they look forward to Labor Day almost as much as beach-weary parents look forward to the first day of school.

It’s August, and everywhere it’s too hot and too crowded. In fact, here are 10 sure signs that the dog days of summer are upon us at the airport.

  1. Travelers spend more time in the security line than they do in the air.
  2. Men with toupees take off their rugs and use them as fans.
  3. Employees of international airlines openly covet the uniforms of the low-cost carriers. (How nice to wear shorts and tennis shoes to work!)
  4. You see more of some people’s bodies than you want.
  5. The condensation from the onboard air conditioning drips onto the passengers, and they don’t mind.
  6. Organized groups of kids stroll from gate to gate singing “Kumbaya.” You smile at them, but secretly pray they are not on your flight.
  7. Airline employees (including myself) hide their badges as they walk past the long lines at the customer service desks.
  8. There is a distinct smell of dirty gym bags hovering over the gates.
  9. Business travelers change the screensavers on their laptops from Caribbean beaches to Antarctic icebergs.
  10. Walking through the airport causes you to worry about global surplus population issues.

More oppressive than the heat and the crowds is the passengers’ general mind-set. No longer optimistic and eager for adventure, as they were at the start of summer, travelers are now coming back to reality. Their summer sojourn is nearly over. They have either spent too much money, or gained weight, or missed needed sleep. Soon, they will have to return to work. The smallest provocation could set them off.

And yet, there is one last hurdle to conquer: the second most-traveled holiday weekend —Labor Day. Add work actions and sky-high fuel prices to the heat, the crowds, and the travelers’ general grouchiness, and you get one potentially very frustrating weekend for passengers and crews.

So here are some tips for surviving the end-of-summer air travel season.

Keep your cool. When you are frustrated beyond reason, remember that throwing a temper tantrum will just spoil all the good memories you have made on your trip. Instead, count to 10, or go to the Starbucks in the airport, pay $10 for a Frappuccino, and laugh about it.

Take an early flight. As the day progresses, there is a greater likelihood of flight cancellations and weather delays.

Reach out and touch someone. Call the airline before you leave for the airport to make sure your flight is on time. Sign up for e-check, a service many airlines provide; it will call your cell phone to inform you of any delays. If you are being picked up at your destination, make sure your driver has a number to call to check on your arrival time.

Freeze it. Put a bottle of water in your freezer the night before your flight and carry it with you the next day. You can rub it on your face and body if you are hot and then drink it after it melts. You’ve heard of hot-water bottles? Well, this is your cold-water bottle.

Stay informed. If an airline’s workers are threatening to strike on the weekend you’re flying, make refundable backup plans. And try not to complain to the personnel about how they are inconveniencing you. Their grievances go much deeper than you may know.

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As this travel season comes to an end, keep in mind that the snows and delays of winter will soon be upon us, and then we will all look back fondly on the bright days of summer. Selective memory is a wonderful thing.

Happy Labor Day to all of you. Fly safe, and remember, “He who laughs, lasts!”

James Wysong has worked as a flight attendant with two major international carriers during the past fifteen years. He is the author of the "The Plane Truth: Shift Happens at 35,000 Feet" and "The Air Traveler's Survival Guide." For more information about James or his books, please visit his Web site or e-mail him.

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