The “Bliss” of Airline Travel
Although King Features Syndicate released Ed Gamble’s political cartoon a week before my recent trip to Boston, our local newspaper didn’t run it until after I returned. In my estimation, it’s so on target it should earn him an award.
The cartoon shows a man at an airline counter with empty pockets and hands in the air as the ticket agent counts cash from all the extra charges. Things like fees for baggage, extra leg room, use of the bathroom, and Wi-Fi access.
Exaggerated? A little. But when I checked in at the Boston airport recently en route home, the computer asked if I wanted to pay $26 for speedier processing through passenger screening.
Fortunately, I was early enough that I could take my time moving through the electronic pat-down. Still, I wonder how important screenings can be if one can fork over extra cash to use TSA’s version of “E-Z Pass.”
Lately, my business travel had been reduced to nothingness, a combination of the economic downturn and editorial revamping. The recession made publishers much less willing to pick up fares, although I’m hoping this year’s uptick forebodes better times ahead.
However, there’s nothing like a quick trip with a change of planes to remind one that “glamorous” airline travel is not that glamorous. I’m reminded of the time my plans for dinner with an old friend near Atlanta were scuttled by a three-hour trip turning into a 12-hour, weather-induced nightmare.
My latest venture in late May started with a 30-minute delay in my departure, which concerned me because I only had 45 minutes to make connections in Charlotte. Since trips there usually mean landing in concourse E and winging it to concourse A or B, that’s cutting it pretty tight.
Not to be concerned, the gate agent at home assured me. If my plane were too late arriving, another flight would leave for Boston an hour later.
Thus, when I landed in Charlotte with just over 15 minutes to spare, I asked the agent inside the gate if I could make my connecting flight. She urged me to try, although en route I decided visiting the men’s room beat trying to make it all the way without any relief.
After my break, I resumed my beeline for concourse B. If I didn’t make it, it wasn’t my fault. As I arrived at the gate, a woman called out my name with a question mark. When I nodded and started to pull out my boarding pass, she waved, “Just get on.”
It was a new experience. I had never literally been the very last person to board a flight and see them draw up the door before I made it to my seat.
Since I wanted to reach Boston at 3:30 in hopes of hitting the freeway before the worst of the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic, I gave a brief “whew!” over my good fortune.
My delight didn’t last long. After taxiing out to the runway, we learned the plane had mechanical problems and had to return to the gate. The delay eventually stretched to 75 minutes.
So much for beating rush hour traffic. Fortunately, my host agreed we could delay our dinner plans an hour.
I just wish I would have stopped to buy something to eat during my rush through the Charlotte Airport, since “lunch” wound up being a can of Pringles on the plane. Never again will I travel without at least a couple packs of snack crackers.