Thursday, December 29, 2011

Airlines: They Will Always Try to F You; One Way or Another

I hate flying. Not because I'm scared, or have horrible anxiety about it, or fear we're going to crash; it's everything else. From the parking to the getting tickets/checking bags/changing flights/delays/other ticketing counter related BS to security to waiting to being wedged into a seat. It's all totally miserable to me. Unfortunately, on a recent trip back home for Christmas basically everything irritating about flying that can happen, did.

Our awesome flight experience began when we were about to walk out the door of our home to go to the airport and I get a text from Orbitz (God bless them for sending these wonderful updates!) notifying me that our flight is delayed. An hour. Our layover in Atlanta is one hour 35 minutes. When we get to the airport to check in, the lady at the counter informs us that they don't start re-booking flights until your layover time is LESS than 30 minutes. I don't know if you've ever been through the Atlanta airport, but it's massive and crowded and filled with stupid people. 35 minutes means a marathon sprint from one end to another to barely make the boarding time. Fortunately, the lady at the ticketing counter is extremely nice and helpful (must've been filled with the Christmas spirit...or thought my dog was cute), otherwise I probably would have lost my mind when she tells us we have the last flight out of Atlanta and if we miss it, we can't leave until the following morning. We decide to chance it, and move on to the security line.

Fortunately, our flights were late enough that there were, literally, 12 people in line. It was incredible. Possibly one of the only times in my life (except in the KC airport) that security was a breeze. I was shocked, however, at the woman who had to step aside to scour her purse for her ID. Are there still people out there who don't understand the process? Like, she didn't know she would need that and prepare during her 5-10 minutes wait in line? It's baffling to me. I really think they should put signs along the line saying "PREPARE TO PRESENT YOUR ID AND TICKET" just so people remember.

We got to the gate plenty early, had a super healthy dinner or Cheez-it mix, trail mix, water and Naked juice, and got to listen to an older man SCREAM into his phone for about 30 minutes. Phones should be prohibited in the gate area. No one ever has a normal conversation and usually are just wasting time for the sake of wasting time (like the girl on our way back who was just calling everyone she could think of, speaking loudly about how she was at the airport and got to only see some of her friends during her trip because it was so short, but got everything she wanted for Christmas so she was happy. I shouldn't know these details, but I do because she was speaking to loudly in a confined area).

We finally board our flight, over an hour after its scheduled departure, and proceed to sit on the tarmac for over 30 minutes. For no reason. Well, I'm sure there was a reason, but it felt like an awfully long time when our next flight was scheduled to take off at our new expected landing time. The rest of our trip out was relatively boring and uneventful. Our flight out of Atlanta ended up being delayed as well, so our sprint from D to A in the wonderful Atlanta airport turned out to mostly just be for sport...although we were the last people to board the plane. Literally.

We spent a wonderful time with family and friends, received way too many gifts, ate way too much food and drank way too many adult beverages. It seemed as soon as it started, it was time for the joy of the airport to start all over again.

We booked our tickets months in advance and just expected them to be ready to go. Silly us. When we get to the ticketing counter, my fiancé was informed that they did not have him on the flight from Kansas City to Atlanta. WTF? It took a supervisor and about 15 minutes to finally get that straightened out, but was one of those things that just gets me about airlines. How does that happen? How is it possible? I just don't get it...

The Kansas City airport, if you've never been there, is an absolute dream to get through in terms of security. Sure, if you get stranded or miss your flight it's pretty terrible due to the lack of entertainment, food options, or proximity to anything worthwhile, but it's definitely the fastest airport I've ever been through. Breeze right through, everyone tells me how cute my dog is (yes, I travel with my dog sometimes... I don't trust strangers to take care of him for long periods of time due to his back condition). Aside from the loud/pointless talker, KC was mostly smooth sailing from there.

We arrive in Atlanta plenty early, and even had time for an ice cream cone (dinner of champions). My fiancé and I like to wait until the very last boarding call to get on planes so we're not those weirdos just standing and waiting forever. As some of the last people to board, we always get a great preview of our seatmates, which is not always the best thing...

This particular flight was quite undersold, so we assumed we'd be able to change seats and sit by one another and have enough room for the dog to be comfortable in front of us instead of being shoved under the seat. We were wrong. The seats on this particular flight were the 3-2 arrangement, with three on one side and two on the other. I was unfortunate enough to get a window seat on the 2 side; the smallest on the plane. I was also unfortunate enough to get the seat next to a 6'6" 400+ man who, quite literally, took up a seat and a half. Half of my seat. Although he apologized when I first sat down ("Sorry for the crowd, ma'am" because we were touching the entire time. And I hate people touching me anyway, even people I know.) it was still an incredibly uncomfortable situation. The flight attendants assured us that once everyone was boarded people would be able to change seats, which was super exciting given the fact that there were a number of empty seats all over the plane. Take-off came and went without anyone being allowed to change seats. I was stuck for the next 34 minutes of the flight and however long it took to taxi in and let us off. Of course, I'm not the classiest broad, so I snuck a picture of my seatmate (literally, MY seat mate).

This situation really bothered me. Not just because I was EXTREMELY uncomfortable, but also because it's just not fair. Why do I have to pay $25 each way for a 50 lbs. bag, $125 each way for my 15 lbs. dog, AND a regularly priced ticket when all of those things combined still weigh about half of what my seatmate weighed? It costs me almost $1000 to fly round-trip with a checked bag and a dog, but still costs the airline less than the man I had to share a seat with. I know paying by the pound is totally illogical logistically and would really piss some people off, but wouldn't it just make more sense? A heavier plane costs more to fly due to higher fuel costs. A heavier bag makes the plane heavier and I have to pay for that (and have), so why isn't a heavier person taken into consideration in the same way and made to pay higher prices? It's not my fault that people in America, in general, weigh more than they did 10 years ago, so why should I have to pay to make up the difference in fuel costs?

Flying will always be a pain the ass. There's nothing around that, but can't they at least try to make it a little less of a pain in the ass? Can I please bring full sized shampoo onto the plane with me? I mean, I can check it, what's the difference? And can I please stop having to take off my shoes and coat and/or sweater? I prefer to be fully clothed in public. Of course there's nothing I can do about any of these things except complain on my blog, but why can't airlines just make logical decisions? If any other type of company provided service like this, they'd go bankrupt! ...oh wait.

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