So… it’s the Mom here. Feelin’ cranky. Ian called me tonight just as I was about to fall asleep, and asked me to fill in.
And since I just finished an email rant about my flight home from Iowa yesterday, I thought I send out a version of that cri de coeur to the world wide well, you know…
For the past several decades I have been constantly flying around the country and even the world. A wandering minstrel, living a bi-coastal, tri-state lifestyle, in pursuit of a variety of musical projects. Which means I have a more than passing acquaintance with airlines.
I always loved to fly, and I used to have a dozen frequent flyer numbers, and memberships in a handful of the airline “clubs.” They let you sit quietly in a comfortable chair during a long layover, bring you drinks, and call you when your flight is boarding out there among the noise and chaos.
But several years ago my travel began to confine itself almost entirely to NY to California (and occasionally Utah) which meant that I could abandon all others and stick with JetBlue. Now, this very superior airline was founded and is run by my brother’s wife’s cousin. But that’s not why I’m loyal. JetBlue has new planes, nice people, low fares, reasonable change and cancellation fees, a generous frequent flyer program, in seat TVs, and a navigable, uncluttered, useable web site. I never fly with any other airline if I can help it. Oh, sometimes a quick flight from San Francisco to L.A. on the great wagon train in the sky (AKA Southwest). I can stand anything for an hour. But mostly it’s le jet bleu all the way.
Still, I had to get to Iowa City last week. For that you need Northwest Airlines, and connections through Minneapolis or Detroit into Moline Illinois, and an hour’s drive through the young corn. Iowa City is one of the nicest places on earth, but accessible it ain’t unless you just LOVE to drive across I 80.
Anyway, I got there, and then had to get back to NY on Sunday instead of the Monday I had originally booked. And it was a lesson in just how low rent and trashy a lot of air travel has become in the decade during which I was happily munching free biscotti and watching free TV on JetBlue. Northwest wanted to charge me a hundred and forty dollars to change from Monday to Sunday. Even on standby. After pleading old age, a deranged mind and a pathetic schedule and poverty, I got it down to sixty, then to thirty dollars. They gave me a flight that left Moline at eleven Sunday morning. Cool.
Except that when I got to Minneapolis at noon, I discovered that I had a four hour layover, in spite of there being two (2!) flights that left earlier than the four o’clock flight they had given me. So I cornered the desk for the one-twenty flight, and they said sure, they had a bunch of seats. But it would cot me another thirty dollar change fee. I asked for a supervisor, got one, talked her out of the change fee on the basis of stupid booking by their ticket agent. But when they called me up to the podium to give me a standby ticket, they charged me a twenty-five dollar stand-by fee.
Too late to charm or rant my way out of it, I paid it and got on the flight. Which had empty seats. Wait… why did they book me on the four o’clock flight? No one could explain that.
Then they brought the snack cart around. A small bag of trail mix was two dollars (no, thanks) and a “snack box” (my seat mate said it was “vile—cheap chips and string cheese”) cost five dollars. I guess the airlines have to pay for fuel somehow,
Oh, and I notice that on their web site, when they get down to only a handful of empty seats, and you are a “platinum member” of their frequent flier program, you can BUY a better seat than the one they assigned you. Why does this make me feel like I’m in a third world country?
On a happier note, I rode from LaGuardia back to the house with an honest to god New York cab driver who was straight from central casting. Totally rare these days. Cynical, funny, chatty, cranky, and utterly charming. He called me “deah” and “sweethawt” and it never occurred to me that I was being harassed. It was great.
OK, Ian, can I go to bed now?