Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Thrill Is Gone

I used to love getting on a plane. I don't mean when I was a little kid--when I was a kid my family never flew--but just three, four years ago. I loved the anticipation, knowing I was about to go someplace far away, too far to drive. But I also loved the act of flying--the airport energy, the protocol before taking off, and that funny feeling in my stomach just as we left the ground.

I'm so sad that this has all been replaced with frustration and fatigue.

There was an article in our paper this week about the hassles associated with flying here in America. Interestingly, foreign carriers are providing much better service. It's upsetting to know that it doesn't have to be like this, that there are solutions and in other countries the skies are still friendly.

But I got particularly upset with one point in this story. In trying to justify why European airlines provide some of the niceties no longer seen on our big carriers, David Castelveter explained that American travelers demanded safety, reliability, and lower prices. Supposedly, airlines stripped away the extras in order to meet these demands.

When I flew to Toronto two weeks ago, I planned to leave Tampa at 6 AM, connect in Atlanta for an hour, and arrive in Toronto at about 11:30 AM. I could then share a cab with my husband, have lunch with him, and then walk around town a bit by myself until attending the Rays/Jays game that night.
I reached Atlanta on time, but about an hour after we boarded the plane for Toronto, we were de-planed. There were about 30 empty seats on the plane, and despite the announced "hydraulic leak," I'd bet a 7 dollar lunch voucher that the less-than-full flight had something to do with our little snag.
So the big question...what did they do for us? Not a thing. We all had to race to the Delta counter and ask them to re-book our flights. I am lucky. I was on vacation and disappointed, but it was easy for me to be flexible and change my planes. Some other folks were headed to funerals, important clients, and their children.

My one hour layover suddenly became ten, and I was forced to connect again in Cincinnati before finally reaching my destination at almost 10 PM. I missed my ballgame, two good meals in a cool city, had to pay $60.00 for my own cab, and killed a whole day "traveling." Not my idea of reliable.

I, for one, would jump for joy if I had to bring my own water bottle and granola bar, paid a few bucks to check my luggage, and in return departed and arrived on time.

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