.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


Traveling woes

I was thinking, as I was waiting in line to get through security at ATL (aka Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport) yesterday, that there should be an airline travel competition. This competition could include, among other feats of brains and brawn:
Do you have any other events that you think should be included? Please leave them in the comments section!

My actual travel woes: I was picked up by a taxi at 2 pm yesterday; dropped off at the local MARTA station at 2:15 pm; arrived at the airport at 3 pm; made it through security at record speed by 3:30 pm; and hunkered down to wait for my 5:45 pm flight. (The last time I flew from ATL, it took about an hour to get through the security line, and I got to the gate four minutes before scheduled departure, too late to get onto the still-there plane. I allowed extra time this time, but didn't need it.) However, all of the Airtran flights to LaGuardia were delayed by three or more hours, because air traffic control wasn't letting anybody from Atlanta fly into LaGuardia. I don't know why. Airtran didn't, either. They originally thought my 5:45 flight would be delayed until 9:20, but then changed to 8:50. Blah. I walked around a lot, both to keep from going stir-crazy and to get some exercise. It was the tail end of a vacation during which I had read a lot, and I just didn't feel like reading either the Newsweek I had purchased on the way down, or any of the books I had in my backpack with me. I think that part of why this delay was so frustrating was because I purposely picked an earlier flight than last time in the hopes of getting home before midnight and I carefully left the house so early to make sure I made my flight.

In conclusion, air travel these days sucks. On the up side, flights cost less than ever before in dollars, despite the rising cost of fuel. (See this article for a few reasons why.) However, the price we pay in aggravation is over-stuffed airplanes (and other cost-cutting measures like no blankets) and ridiculous delays about which the airlines do absolutely nothing. (An Airtran customer service rep told me yesterday that they don't give out any money or credit for delays caused by the TSA, air traffic control, or weather, since they have no control over those things.) They can do absolutely nothing because they know you'll keep flying them for their cheap fares and because the other similarly-priced airlines undoubtedly have similar policies. Have I shared this article ("Air Travelers’ Woes Likely to Worsen This Year," NYT, Jan. 10, 2008) with you yet? Read it and weep, or just vow to stay home.

I won't stay home because I like getting out and about, but it's almost enough to make me take the train. Or maybe a boat. My three-year-old friend whom I visited in Atlanta informed me, on Sunday, that there were boats before there were trains. For some reason, I had to think about that for a minute before confirming.

* * * * *

I don't want to be accused of being a nativist, and I am actually quite pro-immigration, but I noticed both on my flight yesterday and on another flight I was on semi-recently that the flight attendant making the "how to buckle your seatbelt" and "in case of emergency" announcements at the beginning of the flight was not a native English-speaker. I could barely understand him because of his accent, and it worried me.

I don't think it is right to discriminate against people for having foreign accents. In most cases, a small barrier to immediate understanding is not really a problem. Discrimination, as it is used today, refers to favoring someone over someone else for a bad reason, such as preferring one color of skin over another. Favoring someone over someone else for a universally-agreed-upon good reason is, I think, acceptable. On an airplane where most of the passengers were English-speakers, I think that picking the the flight attendant with the clearest and most understandable speaking voice to make these announcements--and, much more importantly, actual "get out of the plane now, we're going down!" announcements--is both safer and non-discriminatory. I wonder if I would feel the same if I was not a native English-speaker.

As an aside, I have always found flight attendants on non-Anglo airlines to speak very crisp, clear English. Presumably, they are hired for their ability to make announcements in both the language of the airline and in English. Why are American flight attendants not hired on the same basis?


I highly recommend always bringing healthy, low-cal snacks on plane trips. Cut-up veggies or some kind of salad are best, but even crackers and cheese or trail mix are better than forking over for inflated airport prices. Also, I recommend drinking water rather than coffee before flying.
Wouldn't it be a shame not to have an event in your Terminalympics involving those silent, sneaky fast golf-carts-on-steroids that never seem to have anyone in them? Maybe we could fit the front with a bumper made from the business end of an oversized pillo-polo stick and navigate a route around the terminal during a busy weekend afternoon, transporting feisty elderly passengers in the fastest time while trying not to hit too many people.

The moving sidewalks also need a place in your Project Runway. Maybe as a part of the Shuttle Run, where competitors start coming off a plane, knowing, with five-finger knowledge, the gate number they are supposed to find for their connecting flight in 10 minutes, only to be thrown several curve balls by airline personnel ("No no - not gate 18, gate 1B!") as they crisscross a terminal roughly the size of Nebraska trying to find their flight. Competitors can earn extra degree of difficulty points for having more baggage or children. Physical contact with airline personnel is strictly prohibited.
Hmm. How about ability to find quiet areas in the airport quickly? Ability to entertain small children in publicly-appropriate ways in airports? (Especially when said small children have just flown from Sydney to LAX and are wired, while adult is exhausted)
Ability to find reasonably edible salads in airport (sans dressing for we fussy food types)?
Ability to find places to store carryons needed only while on airplane, but not desirable as dead weight during 6 hours layover?
Thanks for your comments!

An anonymous friend added this:

I just saw your post about flying and getting through security. I
think you may want to check this out...
And an update at

Very interesting. I guess I would be a casual traveler.

Something else I forgot to mention: Hummus is apparently not considered a liquid! I brought an almost-finished plastic container of hummus with me on both of my flights (two different containers; I finished each en route), and nobody said boo. I was pretty sure they would confiscate it. It's certainly as liquidy as toothpaste, which is routinely confiscated. It wasn't in a clear, zip-lock bag or anything. I wonder if they just didn't know what it was?

So, who wants to pitch this idea to a major television network? "Survivor: Airport"? "The Great Race: Don't Miss Your Flight"?
If you want to avoid buying and eating junk food at airports, fly through Europe, and don't bring the booklet that tells you what is kosher. Hardly any of the packages they sell are labelled as kosher. But if you bring the booklet that tells you which kinds of Lindt chocolate are kosher, you will completely defeat the purpose, and end up spending much more than you would have in the US.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?