The website Airfarewatchdog.com lists deals on air travel. With relatives in Albuquerque, NM, I was on the alert, especially given the high cost using Akron/Canton or Cleveland Hopkins. Eventually news came of a bargain with American Airlines, with to and fro from Pittsburgh International. I jumped at the chance, and here’s how it went.
For those not aware, Pittsburgh's airport is far larger than Cleveland’s, and generally a pleasant two-hour drive by car. However, it’s not so pleasant leaving at the crack of dawn to provide time for security precautions or returning, dog-tired, in the dead of night. This, and parking, should be factored-in if using that hub.
The flight to Albuquerque had a scheduled stopover of 40 minutes at the gigantic Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Arrival was late and it was only with seconds to spare that we, among a host of others, made the connecting flight. It was like the movies where you see frantic people running. Once aboard, I wondered what would have been the case if we missed the flight—then what? To my mind, with an airport so huge a stopover of 40 minutes is too little. And the omnipresent Internet cloaks opportunity for personal discussion. It may be humorous, but it is inappropriate through no fault of one’s own to have to dash with a carry-on to catch the plane you have paid for months in advance.
Aside from the cramped, uncomfortable seating, the flight was uneventful. Seven years previously, I flew to Albuquerque and back on another airline and didn’t have to endure this sardine-like atmosphere. Except for first class, there are two rows of three very narrow seats, which make this type of travel demeaning and uncomfortable. The single nicety is a free beverage.
The return trip from Albuquerque to Dallas/Fort Worth, stated departure at 3:45 pm, brought first-hand the aggravation that has become widespread. Bad news: the crowd moaned when it was announced that an unknown technical problem would cause a delay of one hour. Reasonable enough, but after one hour nothing happened as all sat around. A passenger near me had an iPad and said, before any announcement was made, that there would be a 7:45 departure. I was lucky because an official announcement was given later when any number of people were eating dinner. A family just made it with pizzas in hand.
On arrival in Dallas, most of us were sent to the Wingate Hotel, which has a contract with American for such exigencies. Transport, however, was via a van not a bus, necessitating three trips, with one clerk at the Wingate doing all the paperwork as the parade inched forward. It was well past midnight when we closed the door to the room, setting the clock at 5:30 a.m. to face security yet again.
Here is a sampling of comments. “You’d think they would have an efficient policy for situations like this.” “I’ve flown American four times and this has happened twice.” “I’ll never fly this airline again.”
Before take-off to Pittsburgh, a woman directly in back of me said her seat was wet. She was given a vinyl pillow to sit on, but water kept coming in drips from the overhead air-jet. She was then handed a plastic sheet for her head as the attendant mentioned in ho-hum fashion, “It’s probably condensation.” I wanted to take a photo but thought the woman’s nerves were too frayed to ask. To be fair, after an hour I noticed the plastic sheet was gone.
As a footnote, American Way, the airline’s magazine, had a feature article about a pundit extolling the future marvels about the virtual world of the year 2100. Would such a savant 60 years ago have predicted that air travel, then the best way to go, would be reduced to a garbage can experience or that television’s relentless pursuit of anti-social, perverted activity would shred society, not to mention the boiling frustrations of the telephone (“Your call is important to us.”)? The list goes on. Witch doctor predictions about technical possibilities always exclude economic and social costs.
To sum up, thanks to the auto industry there is no real train system here as in Europe. That, coupled with the Reagan administration’s deregulation of the airline industry has brought modern meaning to the word steerage.