The flights of the infrequent passenger

Children flying in the middle of the night are cranky.

United_planeDuring the second week of July, I flew from Albany, NY to San Diego, CA and back. I had not been on a plane since May 2009, when my daughter and I took round-trip flights to Charlotte, NC, via LaGuardia, NYC to attend my niece Alex’s high school graduation. This time, I went to help out my sister Leslie after her bicycle accident on June 4. This will be a transportation report; I’ll write about the medical situation soon.

Because my understanding the flying landscape is nil, I got to the ALB airport a couple hours early. I paid for a checked bag (why was it $35 out, but $25 back?) because I don’t know how to pack for five or six days with carry-on bags.

I was surprised to discover that I was designated for TSA PreCheck line for the flights in both direction, which is “a U.S. government program that allows travelers deemed low-risk… to pass through an expedited security screening at certain U.S. airports. Qualifying travelers don’t have to remove their belts, shoes or lightweight jackets.”

How that this happen? I didn’t sign up for it, and I’m hardly a frequent flyer. They must have determined I’m no longer a likely terrorist.

It turned out that the plane to Newark was about 75 minutes late. I had some cushion, but I was starting to think I was going to have to run through the next airport. Some guy flying from Newark to Minneapolis was apoplectic, giving the United representative grief continually.

In both legs of the flight out, and my return trip from San Diego, I had a window seat in rows 25 to 35. My shin was right up against the seat in front of me. And the toilet was tinier than I recalled.

Children flying in the middle of the night are cranky, based on one boy deplaning in Chicago wanting his mommy though she was right there, and one girl at O’Hare who couldn’t get her tablet (which was the size of her head) to work, so her mother took it away and the girl wailed so loudly she could be heard four gates away, no exaggeration.

Odd thing about the flight from Chicago to Albany. I was in row 10, on the left aisle, two rows behind first class, and my knees didn’t reach the seat in front of me. Joy, seriously! On the opposite side, some tall guy, definitely over six and a half feet tall, stuck in the middle seat, had an app that told him that there was an aisle seat in row 35 of that plane that was available.

But the flight attendant said he’d have be even less legroom. Do the legroom is less the further back you’re seated?

Then the guy on the right aisle got bumped up to first class, allowing the tall guy to move to the aisle seat. Did the flight attendant facilitate that? Je ne sais pas, but the lucky passenger in first class seemed pleasantly surprised, and tall guy was relieved.

The worst thing about flying east is that it took me three or four days to catch up on my sleep. It’s almost never a problem flying west three time zones, but it’s almost always an issue on the return flight.

Flying in America: it ain’t easy

There were more canceled flights originating from the Atlanta airport than any other airport in the WORLD

There were a couple stories about flying this month, one of which was very well-known, and the other which indirectly affected me personally.

Of course, the former air travel tale involved a video showing a man removed forcibly from United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville, and left battered and limp, after he boarded because United determined it needed a flight crew to be in Kentucky. He was, BTW, a doctor, 69, and Asian-American.

Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United, had recently been named PRWeek U.S.’s Communicator of the Year for 2017. But until he issued a stronger apology, calling the confrontation “truly horrific” and that “no one should ever be mistreated this way,” the responses from the airline were astonishingly tone deaf, using the word “re-accommodate” to describe the passenger’s removal.

Most interestingly, people used humor to define the situation more clearly.

“United! Putting the ‘hospital’ in hospitality!”

New photo of United Airlines asking for volunteers to deplane.

“United Airlines – No Inconvenience Too Large or Too Small!”

“United States contracts with United Airlines to oust Assad.” – from Michael Rivest. Assad, of course, is the Syrian dictator.

Jimmy Kimmel Creates A Brutally Honest New Commercial For United Airlines

“And he wasn’t even wearing leggings!” – a reference to some United passengers, who were related to employees and thus flying for free, recently not allowed to board because of their apparel.

There are more on Twitter.

United Breaks Guitars- Dave Carroll, a goodie from a few years back that was revived

It was also an informative time:

How airlines like United choose who to kick off a flight

The Deeper Scandal of That Brutal United Video: The footage is shocking. So is the law.

The United Story Isn’t About Customer Service. It’s About Class Warfare. “When corporations can openly beat their customers and deny them service, why would they even bother trying to be nice?”

United should have used the Asoh defense.

I found a couple apologists for the airline, suggesting that the overbooking happens all the time to keep prices down, which may be true. And yet it’s no excuse for the treatment the man received. Nor is the victim’s criminal record an issue.

The other flying problem involved Delta Airlines. There was severe weather in the Atlanta area on Wednesday, April 5. A good friend of my wife, Dee, was trying to fly to upstate New York the following Saturday with her husband and son, but their flight from Atlanta to Albany was first postponed then canceled. They tried a couple more flights – they actually had tickets for one leaving in FIVE MINUTES -but they were thwarted.

I checked the weather for ATL and it was clear, yet I hit on a website that indicated that there were more canceled flights originating from Hartsfield-Jackson than any other airport in the WORLD. The reason, I discovered, was the same as the United situation times dozens; flight crews were not where the planes were taking off, even three days after the bad weather.

Eventually, our friends did fly into Newburgh, just north of New York City. They drove up to Catskill, we drove down to Catskill, and we all had a lovely meal together.

United decided to deplane a customer, by force. Delta, with a larger issue, canceled flights. Airlines are having real difficulty flying in the US this month.