Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WTF Wednesday: Holiday Travel

WTF Wednesday is a semi-regular feature of this blog. It documents the things that have made me pause, slap my forehead and say "What the f**k!" Well, that and I just like saying WTF. I'm retired. I don't have to watch what I say anymore. I'm not any one's role model.

I got home late last night from a lovely Thanksgiving visit with my grandchildren in Austin, Texas.  There’s nothing like holiday airline travel to fuel a WTF Wednesday post!

The problem with traveling during holiday periods is that the sky is filled with amateur travelers.  Aunt Edith flying to Nebraska to spend time with her sister was last on a plane during the Nixon administration. I don’t expect every traveler to be experienced, but why can’t they pay attention to what is going on around them.  At the airport security screening in Pasco, a small regional airport with just two security lanes, a woman with six plastic tubs that had gone through X-ray stood at the exit of the machine and slowly started to put away one item at a time from her six tubs.  The line  of travelers waiting to enter security stretched to the door, but she was oblivious that no more luggage could enter the X-ray machine until she moved her baggage further along the belt. 

WTF!  My shoes and one suitcase were trapped inside the machine until she moved.  I tried to model appropriate airport courtesy by reaching around her for my shoes and moving them down the conveyor.  She never figured out that she should move all her belongings to the end of the table before stopping to reorganize.

This trip we flew United.  It is not my preferred airline.  They have an additional charge for everything.  In case of emergency if those masks fall from the ceiling, I bet United would bill you an extra $25.00 for oxygen!

It was two days before Thanksgiving and the flights were crowded, but not full.  Our first leg of the journey we flew from Pasco to Denver and had an almost four hour layover.  We ate lunch in Denver and then wandered down to our gate.  On the way we noticed another United flight going to Austin boarding.  Since we had only carry-on luggage, we thought “Hey, let’s take the earlier flight.”  We checked at the gate and seats were available, but…

WTF !!!  We had to pay an outrageous ticket change fee!   We decided to just wait for our original flight.  I don’t understand the airline’s reasoning.  The flight to Austin was ready to leave with empty seats.  Once it left the gate the opportunity for revenue was lost.  If they had let us take the empty seats, they would have had an additional opportunity to sell our original seats on a later flight.  The closer it got to Thanksgiving, the more crowded the flights become.  Doesn't it make sense to fill those early seats and have some space for the last minute travellers? 

We were flying small regional jets.  Because the spouse was traveling with me, at least I was squished into a seat with someone I know.  A definition of hell might include being strapped into a coach class seat on a cross country journey with a stranger’s damp body parts pushing against your thighs and shoulders.  On this trip the sensory assault came from the passenger in front of me who had bathed in a musky perfume.  It didn’t do much to cover the stench of stale cigarette smoke that hung in an invisible cloud around her.

United charges an additional fee for “preferred” seating.  What they consider preferred are the exit rows and the rows toward the front of the economy cabin.  You pay a premium price to not sit in the row just in front of the rest room.

Leaving from Austin on our flight home there were a lot of families with small children.  Having just spent a week with a six and a four year old, I realize that wrangling children is a challenge.  I’ve learned to always carry bribes,um…I mean small educational toys.  The only reason Nana eats a Happy meal is for the free toy that can be used as a behavior modification tool.  The parents in the Austin airport apparently didn’t believe in behavior modification.  Their children were entertained by pushing an empty stroller around and around and through the crowded waiting area.  I arranged my carry-on suitcase as a crash barrier, other waiting passengers weren’t so lucky.  The smallest child was entertained by a toy cell phone.  Every ten seconds the fake phone rang and rang and rang, and then ten seconds later it rang and rang and rang… 

WTF!  Parents, bring your damn child a SILENT toy or, here’s a novel idea, read them a book in a quiet voice.  Yes, your kids are adorable, but the rest of us aren’t interested in their cute utterances.

How quickly the glow of Thanksgiving gratitude faded once I hit the airport.  I found my usual cheery disposition turning surly.  I tried to regain a sense of thankfulness amid the irritations of travel.  Not an easy task, but as evil smelling and uncomfortable as air travel has become, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to spend the holiday with my family.  The joy of hearing my granddaughters scream “It’s Nana!   It’s Nana!” when we knock on their door makes the trip worthwhile.

I hope you all had a delightful Thanksgiving.


  1. Air travel has certainly lost its glamor. Sometimes I imagine what it must have been like to climb aboard a China clipper to fly off to exotic places. My bags are all leather and I'm not charged extra for any of them. (Pipe Indiana Jones music into the background.)

  2. It used to be they said, "Getting there is half the fun." Now travel's all about having something to post on the blog.

  3. I suffered vicariously on your Thanksgiving air adventure.

  4. I hate to tell you this, but a wheel-chair bound friend of mine in the mainland UK, WAS charged extra to bring his two(small) oxygen tanks along with him on a recent British Airways flight!

    Ah, the joys of travel, eh? I confess I usually endeavour to avoid all eye contact when seated next to inquisitive toddlers, I've been trapped amusing other peoples off-spring far too often to want to fall into that pit again!

    Thanks for the chuckle, I think virually anyone reading this can empathise.

    Darn, why won't this post me as Shrinky??)

  5. You've described it all perfectly! I now dread having to go on a plane -- especially the flights to the States and back. I try to remember how wonderful it is for me to be able to regularly make this trip -- and how my ancestors would have loved the chance to be able to visit their homeland from time to time -- but the older I get the less comfort I get from that thought!

  6. Yep, it used to be FUN to travel. No more. And I had to travel a lot when I was working. United was once upon a time a good airline. I agree with you. I will travel Alaska Air if I can from now on.

    Great story, well told. I enjoyed it, even if it brought back memories I'm glad to leave behind me... :-)

  7. Wow, I have never had to fly on holidays. My family is all within 4 hours driving. After reading your story, I now know I have something else to be thankful for. What we don't do for grands~~~

  8. You are sooooo speaking my language here. Now I don't want to sound like the perfect traveler or anything but we went back to Boston for 16 days and only had 4 carry on bags for the trip - 2 suitcases that ACTUALLY fit in the overhead bins, my oversized purse/Matt's laptop bag that ACTUALLY fit underneath the seats in front of us. By some miracle of chance we are able to get on the plane and glance down the aisle toward our row. When we determined the bins were already filled at the back of the plane (talk about WTF when there's NO ONE back there yet HOW does that happen???) we simply placed our bag into the closest available & headed for our seats. Which we located and took as quickly as possible so the line behind us could move. I actually want to mow over people who stand in the aisle taking off their jacket, rifling through their 6 carry on bags (that somehow managed to slip past the watchful eye of the attendants at the front of the plane) while the jetway backs up to the next state with people waiting to board.

    If I can never fly again I'll be a truly happy camper. Matt & I prefer to drive, we get our car/music/right to smoke without bothering anyone else. Not to mention I can put my full sized hairspray in whatever bag I want, don't have to have a full body x-ray and don't have to do anything with my shoes that I wouldn't normally do.

    The prices are outrageous & the lack of logic like you said about filling seats just escapes me. I'm so over air travel.

    End rant :-)

  9. Inana, sometimes I wonder why people fly. Particularly overseas with the sardine class seating. Not for me - Dave

  10. Loved it.

    On November 22nd, I posted the following as my Facebook Status Update: Flew on a plane today. That's all I did; I flew. I didn't get a Coke or some water, didn't get pretzels or peanuts, wasn't offered any food to purchase, didn't watch any movies, news, or TV, didn't move my legs, didn't actually pump any blood back to my heart from my feet. I flew. And it was expensive.

  11. Thanks for the reminder on why I didn't fly over Thanksgiving. I was tempted. My daughter-in-law even wanted to send me air miles for a free ticket a few days before Thanksgiving. Thankfully, I listened to my reasonable side and let the emotional side not sway me. I know I would not have handled the travel stress well.

  12. What ever happened to the promise of teleporting? Everything else has taken place, like the hand-held phone and all the many apps we can buy.
    Nah, we're stuck with old-fashioned one foot in front of the other, complicated by people who are clueless to how their behavior affects everyone else.

    We avoid the airports during holidays for this very reason.


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