Flying the unfriendly skies

For spring break, I made the decision as an adult to go home rather than spend money to go to some beautiful and exciting place like the Bahamas or Bermuda.

OK, so my mom made the decision, but I agreed with her. Oh OK, so I didn’t agree with her, but she bought me some new shoes when I got home, and really, who needs exotic vacations when you can have new shoes?

Going home was fine – I got to set new records for sleeping in and watching television until I just couldn’t anymore. The only drawback to going home is that I have to fly and the more I do it, the more I become convinced the airlines in this country are on a downward spiral. It’s entirely possible, of course, that it’s just me, but each time I fly, something goes wrong.

People always say you’re supposed to get to the airport an hour before your flight takes off, which is sound advice. That way, you can be the first person to know when the flight is delayed and have a nice big block of time to kill at the airport, which, fortunately, has shops you can browse while you wait.

My flights are always, always delayed. I have to change planes in Charlotte, N.C., so when my flight there is delayed, I miss my connecting flight to Augusta, Ga. Yes, Augusta has an airport. It has four gates, two airlines and flies to two cities. Four people work there. As you take off, you look at the pilot and think, “isn’t that the guy who checked my bags in?” Yes it is. Yet despite all this, it is called the Augusta International Airport. Go figure.

Last week, my flight from Washington was delayed for so long that by the time it was ready to take off, the flight was canceled because the crew members hadn’t had enough sleep and there are laws against crews flying without a minimum amount of sleep. I can’t argue with those laws. In fact, I wish they would implement them at GW. But at the time, I was irritated.

By the time I did finally get to Charlotte, there were no more flights to Augusta that night, so my parents had to drive to pick me up. When I went to get my bag, I ran into trouble.

“We can’t give it to you,” the airlines woman told me. “We have to put it on the flight. That’s how you checked it.”

“What flight? There is no flight! I missed all the flights!” I was confused. And a bit worried. Since they couldn’t put my bag on the flight to Augusta, would they just put it on any flight? Policy is policy, after all. My bags perhaps would at least get to go to the Bahamas.

The lady told me there were flights in the morning, so maybe they could put my bags on one of those. I tried to argue with her, but whenever I opened my mouth, she went into that “Are you carrying anything given to you by a stranger? Have your bags in your possession since you packed them?” routine. I finally just gave up and left in frustration. Another agent told me if I kept quiet, there’d be extra peanuts for me on my next flight.

I eventually did get my bag. I found the only nice airport employee and he helped me out. He told me not to mind the others, they’ve had to deal with one too many people going through the security with fake weapons.

When I was finally on board the plane, I was haunted with the thought of the passengers on a plane in Detroit this winter who were stuck on the runway for eight hours. Apparently, the bathrooms were “full” and it smelled horrible. I honestly cannot imagine anything worse.

I’ve heard Congress is considering passing a Passenger’s Bill of Rights for airline travelers. I think it is a good idea. In the past few months, airline travel has been on the decline. It all began when National Airport was renamed. I think next time I’ll take the train.

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