Air Bus

Bus with wings.

That's what someone recently called the flying experience of late, and I have to say that my recent experiences have made that description sound pretty appealing. Here's the rundown of the last several flights I'd taken:

  • JetBlue, NY to Oakland: Luggage lost for 5 days.
  • JetBlue, NY to West Palm: two hour delay
  • ATA, NY to Chicago: Two hour delay on the runway
  • ATA, Chicago to NY: We boarded the relatively empty plane and sat at the gate for over an hour. Then we were told to get off the plane, as the flight was being cancelled due to bad weather in NY. Oddly, about two hours later they reboarded our plane with the next flight—which was full, so those of us on the original flight were SOL. Another two hours later, I made it on a stand-by list. And the weather in NY? Just fine.
  • USAir, Newark to Pittsburgh: The plane's on schedule when I arrive. Then, just about as we're scheduled to board, I'm told that the plane hasn't even left Pittsburgh yet due to traffic in Newark. We leave about 90 minutes after that. I arrive at my hotel after midnight.

And yesterday, I flew from LGA to Raleigh on Delta. The flight wasn't so bad—"only" one hour late—but I arrived at the terminal an hour early for an 8:15 a.m. flight to see the longest security line I have ever seen in my entire life. It snaked through the entire elaborate system of elastic barriers, to the back of the Delta terminal, back to the front, back to the back again, and—finally—outside, where the line stretched the entire length of the terminal itself. We're talking at least a two hour line here, probably longer.

I was lucky enough to hear a woman talk about the OTHER line, which it turned out was for people leaving within the next hour. When a guy next to me complained, the security agent shrugged and said it had been like this every day for over a week.

I know about the budget cuts and the financial pressures faced by the airlines, but things seem to be spinning out of control all of a sudden, to the point that it's becoming more and more difficult to do business because getting to your destination has become such an ordeal. Am I alone here, or have things suddenly taken a 9/11-style turn for the worse?

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    The flight attendant would have none of it, "for security purposes". So instead of me just sitting down in the available seat, three people have to get up in the crowded aisle and play musical chairs.

  • Shannon Clark

    Just to sound a small positive note - I've had to fly Southwest a fair amount in the past 6 months, most recently on a business trip to Las Vegas. On the way back I missed my flight (thought it was at 9:45, turns out it was at 9:30) without any concern or fee they simply added me to the next flight out - and did so right as I checked in.

    (and re the flight attendant worried that people in different seats was a "security" risk - well Southwest has not assigned seats at all...)

    In general I have seen a change in the past year, longer lines at the airport security (though Chicago's O'Hare airport is one of the few that seem to have sufficient security checkpoints to move the lines along reasonably quickly).

    And I did have a problem on one Southwest flight last year - my checked luggage came off the plane in Chicago soaking wet and stinking - some other passanger's case of red wine (yes red) had been checked and then broke in flight. Ruined my (borrowed) suitcase, items we had purchased, and soaked into my custom suit.

    Southwest did, however, immediately provide me with a new suitcase, cut a check on the spot for my girlfriend's new purse that was ruined, and offered to pay for my drycleaning and any items that were ruined.

    But clearly something failed when a case of wine was allowed to be checked...


  • Francis

    Flying anywhere at the moment seems to be more expensive and worse service. I hear that the number of people flying is finally back up to pre 9/11 numbers, but that airlines have cut staff 20-40% in the mean time. I have had the misfortune to fly Delta a lot recently (Goin' Down South) and have suffered a litany of cancelled last flights (a night at the Drawbride Inn, Cincinatti anyone?) delays and - almost worse than anything - complete rudeness and apathy from airline staff. Those guys need a pay raise, or if not, some motivational leadership! I literally dread flying anywhere these days and build in a 2 hour buffer due to inevitable delays. On one 4-hour delayed NWA flight to Minneapolis, the woman next to me had to basically get off the plane - having entirely missed her morning meeting - and walk through the terminal to get a flight back so as to make it back that evening!
    If you complain vociferously and eloquently to an airline they will occasionally pony up a flight voucher, but the paradigm is a standard, computer generated response. Bloody awful!

  • Robin

    I was flying to Phoenix, so I was wearing sandals. I get to the security line and they ask me to put my sandals through the x-ray, I comply. Then they single me out to have "extra wanding" and the agent wants me to sit down so she can wand my feet. My bare feet. I guess I looked like I had WOMD under my skin?

    Last month I flew to Chicago. When I boarded the plane, someone was in my seat - he had the wrong row. I offered to just take his seat. The flight attendant would have none of it, "for security purposes". So instead of me just sitting down in the available seat, three people have to get up in the crowded aisle and play musical chairs.

  • John McDougall

    I've got an even better one for you...

    Last fall I parked my car in the Newark International Airport Daily lot in New Jersey and caught an ATA flight to Minneapolis with a transfer in the middle of it at Midway in Chicago.

    That went without a hitch. I rushed back to the Airport to catch my return flight (same day) which left a little late, arriving in Midway with just enough time to catch my return trip. Unbeknownst to me the only return flight in the afternoon would land me in LaGuardia in New York, which I found out shortly after takeoff.

    I wouldn't have minded so much if I had have checked my ticket and accepted the change...but as luck would have it I took it for granted that someone might ask.

    After arriving in LaGuardia my luck changed for the better however. I was able to catch a limo driver who was finishing his shift and on his way home to Jersey City. He was a kind soul who only charged me $75 to get to my car in Newark to which he received and extra $25 as a tip for his kindness.

    Moral of this story...


    Oh yeah, ATA said it was my fault for not reading my itinerary...I agree, but still won't fly with them again.