The whole idea behind air travel is that it’s supposed to be faster and easier than other modes of transportation. In the early days of the industry, it was even considered glamorous. People dressed up to take a flight….men wore suits and ties, women wore hats, gloves and heels. You were allowed to take more than one suitcase without having to auction off your eldest child. An all-female crew of stewardesses offered you a choice of lunch or dinner menus in addition to beverages. Those times are long gone. People dress one level above just rolled out of bed. If your flight is delayed, you could starve if you unwisely chose an airline other than Jet Blue or Southwest, who still sling mini-packets of peanuts and chips to the masses. You can expect to be felt up/patted down by people who are paid to do it. Male and female flight attendants stalk the aisles, ordering you to turn off your phone/computer/ipod, close your tray table and bring your seat into an upright position. Seating space is small, and I always manage to snag a seat assignment next to a man with an intestinal gas problem.
Until recently, my travel experiences haven’t been too bad, and the only horror stories I knew were the ones I’d read about happening to other people. I knew my turn would come one day, but I never thought my trip would rival the slave galleys of centuries past. It’s an outrageous comparison, but I was impressed that I’d actually paid for the privilege.
Welcome to FML Airlines. If you aren’t familiar with the abbreviation, I invite you to google it. I’d rather not start using the “F” word in my blog. How silly of me to think that just because I’d forked over a couple of hundred dollars for a “confirmed” ticket and seat, that I’d actually get to the destination I’d booked.
Has anyone noticed that there are still people working at the terminal counters even though we go online and make our own reservations, print our own boarding passes and haul our own small bags on and off the plane? What do they do? I can tell you…..they pick up little microphones and announce in garbled fast food drive-through lexicon that your flight no longer exists. They have a stash of fortune cookies behind their desk from which they pull an assortment of reasons: maintenance ‘issues’, weather delays, bird strikes, etc. I fully expect to see a YouTube spoof to rival the wedding party rendition of Chris Brown’s “Forever”. Instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen, I envision TSA and Airline workers singing, Lily Allen’s ”Never Gonna Happen” as they waive bouquets of boarding passes for nonexistent flights.
My first brush with air slavery was a 4:30 p.m. nonstop flight from Birmingham, AL to Baltimore, MD that was supposed to take 2 hour flight. To summarize it briefly, after sequential imprisonment at the gate and on the tarmac, I landed after 11:00 that night due to maintenance issues and plane substitutions. I thought it was a fluke. Ah, but this past Monday was a payback for years of trouble-free travel. After leaving my home at 9:30 in the morning for a 12:15 flight (also to Birmingham), I learned soon after that the flight was delayed due to the ubiquitous maintenance issues, which meant I would miss my connecting flight in Charlotte, NC. The airways were clogged with passengers whose flights had been cancelled over the weekend due to Hurricane Irene, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy for the agent to find a substitution. The only thing he could arrange was to fly from Baltimore to Chicago……six hours later……and then from Chicago to Birmingham. I took it, but worried that I’d be stranded in Chicago if the rest of the day went the way it had begun.
As I waited in Chicago for the connection, I raged inwardly when I saw the gate agent pick up the P.A. microphone to announce that there would be a delay because the plane had hit a bird. We did take off an hour later and I landed in Birmingham a little after 10:00 that evening….over 12 hours after leaving my house that morning.
That’s how long it takes to DRIVE to Birmingham from Baltimore, and if I had car newer than the 13 year old Honda that sits in my driveway, I would have done that…and saved about $300. Just think, I’m only about 100 trips away from paying for a brand new Prius.