Why do we hate air travel I wonder as I leave the United check in desk at La Guardia Airport. The United agent we paid $25 to for my son’s snowboard bag has just given us a hard sell about checking our rollaboards.
“Checking three items today?,” he cheerfully asks, as we shake our heads.
“No way, those bag are never gonna’ fit in the sizer over there,” he continues. “Go try it, it’s a full flight and you’ll have to walk all the way back from Gate A to have me check those.”
1. Intimidation of All but Business Travelers
We, who travel together and apart all the time, look at him warily.
“I mean it, the flight boards in 5 minutes and you may miss it unless you check them now.”
We walk over to the sizer and of course, neither bag stuffed with ski gear fits into it, but that has little to do with the fact that both will easily fit into the overhead bin.
“Forget it,” says my son angrily. “If they don’t like it at the gate they can check them there and we won’t have to pay.”
I am startled, suddenly aware that my Millennial hates the airlines too. I ask him why he harbors such hatred for the airlines, yet still flies a lot.
“You know,” he shrugs, “the guy at IKEA yesterday was a dick but I still shopped there.”
2. A Culture of Fear
So why do we hate the airlines? Their disdain for travelers, price gouging, gaming of frequent flyer awards, opaque fares, union-busting tactics? Did I miss something?
This morning it’s partially my attitude. I am grumpy, haven awoken at 4:00 o’clock after going to bed later than I wanted due to a work crisis… as always.
I am traveling with my son on a family ski trip and I want the journey to be as wonderful as the destination LOL. So why does the United agent use our “culture of fear” as Michael Moore would call it, to make me insecure about keeping the luggage I do not want to lose with me?
3. Security Confusion
The first TSA agent looks at my hard-fought but beloved Global Entry card and offers me “Expedited Screening” which isn’t the same as Pre-Chek but instead makes me take out my laptop but keep on my shoes and jacket. She gives me a laminated purple card with type-written rules and I am totally confused.
I start to put my carry-on and shoulder bag up on the conveyor belt but another TSA agent waves for me to take off my jacket. I hesitate, looking at the purple card, do it, and put the card and my laptop in a separate bin. I am relieved to see the security portal is not a backscatter X-ray machine.
A third TSA agent points to my Uggs. I take them off, bewildered, and he says, “You have a purple card don’t you?” When I nod, he smiles and gently says, “Did you put it in the bin? You have to hand it to me.”
Okay I am catching on. And this is considered expedited?
4. Unknowable Delays
One thing I am not afraid of is missing the flight; we have plenty of time because we expect delays. We know the airport experience will suck because we live in New York and have ghetto airport facilities (except for Delta). But we live in New York and time is precious and we hate to be kept waiting for anything.
We get to the Gate where no one has any intention of boarding. My son wants some breakfast so we turn around to find an open concession.
I realize he has no rollaboard; he’s left it somewhere. He returns to the Security Checkpoint to retrieve it, then we meet at Au Bon Pain.
5. Finding Our Comfort
Boarding eventually begins and we take our seats after having stowed our bags. No problem.
It’s comfortable enough. For a bus. A school bus.
A Megabus with its power outlet, cup holder, reclining seat, footrest, and free WiFi is better.
“May I get you something to drink?,” asks an innocent fly attendant.
We have endured fear, confusion and the unknown en route to what should be a transformative experience: Appreciating the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, enjoying our good health, building new skills, bonding as a family. All priceless.
Maybe that’s why we hate flying in America. Welcome to 2015.
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