Up, up and away.

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?

0 thoughts on “Up, up and away.

  1. scruggs

    Yikes!
    I do feel more “oppressed” when flying compared to most other experiences. Delta drew my ire 4 times in one trip last summer.
    1) What is up with this $50 charge for bags weighing over 50 lbs??? My husband, 3 year old, and myself checked 2 bags when we are allowed 6, and we got dinged for one bag being 53 lbs. Whatever.
    2) As the plane was calculated to be too heavy, they intentionally left our 53lb bag off to be sent later. Apparently, this particular flight is chronically overweight and they send up bags on the next flight quite often. But somehow the hunting group, 300lb bubba party of five, made it through with every bit of camouflage and armory.
    3) There are only 2 flights daily from ATL to VT, so the next flight got in at 11pm that Friday night. I had a wedding the next day at 1pm and my clothes were in said bag. I called baggage claim that Sat morning. They said it would be delivered sometime before 5pm, no guarantee when. Luckily, the hotel kid making the airport runs immediately drove over and took the bag before it was loaded to sit on the delivery truck. Also, got no comp from the airline b/c they have 24hrs to get me the bag first.
    4) Delta somehow decides to change having car seats make it to baggage claim with say, all other baggage. They send all car seats directly to the back corner of baggage claim (and not near the actual conveyor belts), which in ATL is huge. No one thinks to put a sign up to say to go look for your seat somewhere random. So we wait and wait for the seat along with many others doing the same until we figure it out.
    EVIL!

    Reply
  2. killian

    YES, Mom, you have more than earned your sleep. Thanks for such a great recount of your miseries–I have not had the pleasure of flying Jet Blue, but will look into it now, having wrestled AND LOST with Delta via Orbitz and now paying $600 for a RT from RDU to Birmingham, AL.
    Please pinch hit for Ian anytime—-and BLESSINGS for the orange biscuit recipe!!!

    Reply
  3. Bozoette Mary

    Gah. I just flew back to DC from Minneapolis on Northwest – although I did ante the two bucks for a stunted can of Pringles. I’m used to that crap by now. Everything went fine until I got my bag – it had somehow been doused in jet fuel or gasoline or something similar. Luckily, my clothes weren’t ruined, but the suitcase is a goner. Three days of sitting outside in sun and rain has not touched the stench. I sent Northwest a nastygram, but I doubt they’ll do anything. Bah!

    Reply
  4. The other Lee

    Thanks for the tip on Jet Blue, I’ll start seeing what they have available when I fly.
    As far as complaining about the airlines, I would suggest taking a browse through http://www.consumerist.com/ because they usually have listings of the executive customer service, and some exec emails that can lead to at least some kind of response.

    Reply

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