Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another Kind of Vacation Reflection

Can I rant about air travel for just a minute or two?

I recently paid $26 extra dollars for a seat on my US Air flight from Portland, ME to Philadelphia, PA. Just to be clear, I was not in first class. A CL-65 has no such thing. On a 48-seater everyone is the same, it’s a class-less flight--unless you start talking about overhead space.

I paid extra because it was one of the last open seats on the plane when I purchased my ticket. US Air’s reasoning is that the upgraded seat allows me to be among the first to board the plane- a real privilege.

Boarding the plane first is a big deal these days. Early boarders are less likely to have to fight for the coveted over-head space. The unfortunate ones that end up boarding with the Zone 4 and 5 people walk on the plane with wide eyes darting every which way looking for 40 inches of free space to jam their 45 inch carry-on bag into.


It costs $25 to check a bag on US Air. Mathematically speaking I lost $1 on this transaction.

Actually, even that’s not true…read on.

The tiny regional jet used for small trips like one from Maine to Pennsylvania has even less overhead space. There’s no way the standard rolling carry-on bag is going to fit in the slim space above the seat so passengers were asked to check their rolling bags plane-side. That means that in reality my extra $26 got me…absolutely nothing.

Well, nothing worth $26.

Because I was the 6th person to board the plane I got to watch and privately judge the other passengers as they filed past me to their seats.

There was the older gentleman who apparently missed the announcement that all rolling bags should be checked plane-side. Either that or he thought his bulky, blue case had a magic “shrink this bag” button.

Other airline passengers often quietly annoy me; the grating ones are those who fail to follow the etiquette of air travel or individuals who appear unaware of common courtesy.

A few of the behaviors that bug me are:

1. Cell phone addicts

These are the people, usually men, sitting in their aisle seat chatting away on cell phones when I get on the plane. They are bothered by passengers like me who board after them – because I’m not a member of their many miles club that gives them preboarding privileges—interrupting their important business call so I can grab my seat by the window. They usually roll their eyes just a bit when someone gestures that they need to get by.

2. Window seat sleepers

Oh how I do wish I could sleep on a plane, really I do. Unfortunately, anxiety and ADD usually get the best of me so anything more than a sixty-second catnap is unlikely. Looking out the window is about the only thing I can count on to keep myself from being tortured by total, mind-numbing boredom.

Earlier this summer I found myself in a middle seat on a 5-hour flight to Phoenix. The young gal in the window seat next to me shut the window shade as soon as she sat down. She then grabbed a blue sweatshirt from her bag for a makeshift pillow and settled in for a nice, long nap. I was stuck analyzing the pattern in the blue seatback in front of me.

Okay, this gripe probably is a bit selfish, but you know how easy it is to get carried away when ranting.

3. The airlines themselves…that’s you, US Air

Granted, I don’t fly that often but really, what happened? The prime seat charge is bad enough, but isn’t it just crazy to charge $6 for a blanket and a pillow? Calling it a premium sleep package doesn’t make it any more than it is or ever was—a miniature pillow and a thin acrylic blanket.

What happened to the food, complete with the tiny flatware? I know I should be thankful for the complimentary soft drinks, all 4 ounces of them, but would it be so hard to throw a few pretzels my way?

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