Traveling by airplane use to be so exotic and carried a sense of privilege. “Stewardesses” were very attentive. I liked getting the free playing cards and all the coke and peanuts you wanted. Then President Carter (if I remember correctly) began deregulation of the airlines (which as a conservative I am obliged to support). Smaller cities were no longer guaranteed flights and the use of hubs reduced the prevalence of direct flights within regions. Competition brought some prices way down while others skyrocketed. It also led to smaller seats and fuller planes.
Of course 9-11 forever changed it all again. Way back when, you could arrive fifteen minutes before flight time, check in, walk to your gate, kiss your loved ones good-by, board, and be considered on time. Now you have to arrive an hour before flight time (30 minutes in Chattanooga) and be at the gate at least fifteen minutes before flight time. Security is such a hassle; take your shoes off, your computer out, your toiletries (in a clear quart size bag) out, and your change and place them all in plastic crates. I have to also get my CPAP out and put it in a crate. Then you have to put it all back together as fast as possible or hold up the line.
Long lines, cramped seating, crowded waiting areas, faulty air conditioning, pitiful food and snacks, and charges for everything that is the state of air transportation today. And yet none of those or any combination of them is the most frustrating. The reasons I avoid flying if at all possible are the cancelations and constant delays resulting in missed connections and late night arrivals.
On my trip to Minneapolis this week I was supposed to leave Cleveland at 7:37 and have a two –hour layover in Memphis. When I checked in they complained I was less than 30 minutes before my flight and might not make it. I responded my flight wasn’t scheduled to leave for 45 minutes. They said I was wrong it was to leave at 7:20. Flash forward about three hours and I am waiting for my flight to board in Memphis when I get a courtesy call from Delta informing me my flight from Cleveland had been rescheduled to leave at 7:20 and that this would not affect my flight from Memphis to Minneapolis scheduled to leave at 3:30. I immediately go at a Delta staff person for an explanation who checks in the computer and lets me know I still have a seat on the 10:20 flight. Returning to my gate I hear an announcement that my flight will depart from another gate. When I get there I see the board has a message stating my flight will be delayed four hours. The pilot come out and explains a plain scheduled to fly to Tampa had a mechanical problem and the powers that be decided to give them our plane. We would depart as soon as the part and the mechanic arrived on different flights. The good news is that I arrived a few minutes before Cheryl and she got to meet me at the gate. How romantic.
I am very thankful that when I arrived with Cheryl at the airport yesterday we both were able to get earlier flights with great connections. I got home five hours earlier than my original flight schedule. Memphis was perfect, just enough time to get a barbeque sandwich with friends. Flying days like today just don’t happen very often, at least not for people coming in and out of Chattanooga. What we use to take for granted was indeed a gift from God.
March 8, 2010