Modern Air Travel: If getting there is half the fun, you screwed up.
Seriously, if the dream vacation you've planned for months is so wonderful that being sandwiched between a sumo and screaming kid for hours, getting beaten with bags while hoping to get the privilege to spend $2 for an in-flight soda on a 12 hour flight represents half the fun, you need to rethink your vacations.
Modern air travel is hitting new lows, and travel is sucking more as a result.
High fuel prices lead to higher ticket prices and many airlines scrabbling in the wrong directions to save cash. Saving cash, good. Sucking while doing it, bad. Security Theatre(tm) isn't helping the experience either.
Charging for every checked bag seems like a good idea, until you think it through. Charge for bags leads to overhead bins tilting. Nothing like watching someone loaded down with 150lbs of 'carry-on' clobbering everyone near the isle to save the $15 for checking their first bag, and $50+ for each additional bag. God help you if you're in 'zone 5' or someone who boards later in the process. You couldn't have fit Kate Moss in the overhead bin space left on any flight I've taken recently, let alone something as large as a magazine.
Every flight is at capacity. I'm about 6' and 210lbs with somewhat wide shoulders. Getting sat next to anyone even near my size means I get to spend many hours rating the hygiene habits of the stranger pressed into me while trying to avoid getting crushed by the drink cart. It's a party I tell you. No really, is this half the fun?
They are now charging for water on flights. Even at the movies they will give you a cup of water for free.
My most recent flight experience, San Francisco to Denver, no sweat.....Riiiight?
After a brief but awesome trip to see friends and windsurf in the Bay area, it's back to Denver.
I take a most efficient taxi which speeds to the SFO airport and anticipate a run of the mill PITA getting back to Denver. I'm leaving at 1:30pm on US Airways and scheduled to arrive in Denver at 8:20pm with a 2 hour layover in Vegas.
No sweat, sort of. I pay my $15 and have my bag checked as I didn't feel like trying to cram my NeilPryde 4/3 full wetsuit and windsurfing harness into my carry on. I enjoy standing in line for 20 minutes to get naked to make sure I'm not smuggling alpacas through security.
A security woman checks my ticket and id 4 times in literally 30 seconds. The guy next to me had his checked 3 times by the same woman. The security Disney-snake line wasn't moving and the security drone had the: Turn left and check id, turn right check id thing down to the exclusion of general observation. We clear robo-security woman and are delighted to find a trendy girl near me trying to get through the scanner. She is SHOCKED to find out her heavily metallic studded clothing, piercing and jewelry might
set off the metal detectors.
My fellow naked frequent fliers already holding our shoes are not amused.
I get on the plane after buying some overpriced coffee and up-up and away we go.
Mid flight, we are informed our flight is being delayed getting into Vegas due to weather issues. In a cost saving measure, airplanes are flying with less fuel these days as less fuel means less weight. A side effect is airplanes can't circle the airports like they used to be able to. We end up having to divert to Ontario California to re-fuel and wait out the storms which are plaguing Vegas.
My first thought: Ontario California? Huh?
Ok. Race Bannon comes on the mic and says due to weather, many, many flights are being diverted to Ontario and we'll have to deplane until we get fuel and a weather clearance. Many planes are waiting for fuel, so expect around an hour and a half. Oh, and kindly get the hell off the plane.
No worries, I'm hungry. I wander down the isles of the small Ontario airport, and only 1 restaurant appears to be open on our concourse. The line stretches across the hall and down as several planes are in the same boat. I wander to the other concourse and get some food and fire up my laptop for a few minutes. 35minutes into our 'hour and a half' I decide to pack things up and check to see when we're really going to be leaving.
5 minutes later I'm back at our departure terminal and am a touch concerned to find the plane has left without me
and apparently 9 other people as well.
"We called you on the PA"
Maybe so, but the PA didn't reach me where I was, and the last time I checked 40 minutes is NOWHERE NEAR A FUCKING HOUR AND A HALF.
As the reality of what's just happened sets in, a woman who'd paid for 2 first class tickets for her and her cute 6ish year old daughter expresses my inner id's true feelings to the point where I think they are going to have to call security to taze and or sedate her.
The US Airways rep says the only other US Air flights from Ontario to Vegas are full, so she and everyone else trying to get to Vegas might just want to buy a ticket on Southwest airlines, as they have a 7pm flight. No she can't help with that either.
The woman with her kid goes into orbit and I stare quietly at the US Air rep who should get Prozac as part of her compensation package.
I quietly say to her between shrieking f-bombs being dropped by the well heeled mom next to me.
"I don't care about Vegas, I'm trying to get to Denver. Do you have any way for me to get to Denver?"
The woman with her kid is frothing at the mouth and spinning circles. Just as I'm sure security is going to be involved, A well dressed middle aged guy and his knockout younger euro-style girlfriend who are also stranded put an arm around the woman and say:
"Don't worry, we'll get you there, I'm checking on the prices for a charter flight."
They corral the child and mom and the pack edges unhappily away. I spent 25 minutes standing at the counter waiting for the harried US airlines worker to issue and e-ticket change. She mentioned me being reasonable as the only reason she isn't making me re-buy a ticket. I'm conflicted with this, but manage to shut up. Surely you can't predict storms, but if US air had another 15 minutes of fuel, this whole thing could have been avoided. And if anyone had the idea that 'the deal is the deal' I wouldn't have missed my flight in any case. An hour and a half does not 40 minutes make.
My trying-to-be-helpful ticket agent has to call in re-enforcements to try to operate the computer as 'they changed the system'. This is going on as I watch my would-be plane to Phoenix board. Get the ticket after a few people take turns banging on the keys. Whew, and I'm off.
I am getting re-routed from Ontario CA -> Phoenix -> Denver, scheduled to now arrive at about 12:20am Denver time. Sucks, but fine.
I get on my flight and it's uneventful to Phoenix. Then things get interesting. Our plane tasked to fly out of Phoenix hasn't left Houston yet, and the crew is coming in from another place. We'll be delayed from our 9:40pm scheduled departure. Again, nothing near our gate is open. I now have 2+ hours and risk getting a beer in another concourse. I chug and run back to find, yeah it might be a bit more delayed, despite the fact the board still says 9:40pm departure 'on time'.
At 11:45pm our plane arrives, but we still don't have crew for it. I offer to the girl with the microphone near the gate my services as a steward to help service the flight and get us going. I figure I can sling peanuts, and I have at least a reasonable grasp of the whole seatbelt concept.
Now that everything on a flight is being charged, water, soda and food consumption is down to near zero so even that's a non-issue. We're going from Phoenix to Denver so I can pretty much skip the whole water-landing section.
I enlist the aid of a bored traveller sitting next to the counter who appears willing to help, and the gate girl and fellow stuck passengers are amused. Somehow we still can't sell the idea.
Drat, more waiting.
At 12:15am our crew shows up, but since this if the first flight of the day and they have to do a 'full sweep' of the plane. Ok, it's 1:00am and we board. I'm in zone 5 on the aisle, so I of course couldn't fit a pack of playing cards in the overhead bins. I shove my bag under the seat in front of me and try to fold my shoulders until they touch in front of my chest to avoid getting slammed by people coming down the isles.
More fun via the PA as the captain announces we're waiting for a fuel truck.....BUT.... wait for it......the US Air fuel truck people have gone home for the night
, so they are trying to get another fuel company to come out and fuel the plane.....BWAHAHAHAHAHAAhaaa...... This sucks so bad I'd think Billy Zane is in it. I'm really starting to look for the hidden cameras, as I'm getting paranoid about being on Punk'd.
Fuel in place and it's 2:45am as we go wheels up. They don't have blankets available on the plane, so the flight crew compensates by making the cabin about 88 degrees.
Nice, really nice. We arrive in Denver sweaty at about 5:45am mountain time and I head straight to US airlines baggage office.
I have a hard time communicating with the nice woman near baggage. Although my flight itinerary was changed to include ontario -> phoenix -> denver, my BAG should have gone SFO->LVL->DEN. This is further complicated as my flight is a US Air flight, but the Las Vegas to Denver leg was being code shared and run by United Airlines. So who has my bag, US Air or United or the tarmac somewhere? My communication issues may have been my fault at this point as a scant 30 minutes of neck wrenching sleep has left me loopy. Throw in a ~15 hour trip and I'm doubting my coherency.
I get a ticket and a lost-bag locator and stagger out to retrieve my car. It's 6:45am when I get to my door, sans luggage.
This trip back did not represent 1/1000th the fun I had in my short stay in San Francisco.
Airlines have cut costs to the point where travel is becoming a caricature of a bad joke. From rectal-probe security screenings to having to purchase $9 peanuts on a 7 hour flight and $10/day 'budget' parking at airports, the airlines are dooming themselves. Airline workers are now understaffed and have so many duties it's reminiscent of Living Color's "Jamaican airline" skit where the pilot is also the mechanic and stewardess. Airlines are going bankrupt...with travel being THIS MUCH FUN, I can't see how people would fly less.
If getting there is half the fun, where the hell are you going?