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Pain in the Ass

It would figure that exactly seven days from when we’ll be leaving on vacation, I’d see an article about some new shit the airlines are thinking about doing:  http://www.nbcnews.com/travel/airlines-test-new-ways-board-planes-8C11390531

I love to fly… although I found that flying for more than eight hours will eventually get on my nerves.  When I was working, I’d have to fly to many places to handle stuff and my inner child would be thrilled to know that I’d get that chance to once again feel that invisible hand pressing me back into my seat as the plane hurtles down the runway and then feel that slight downward push when it rotates up – man, that is just so much fun!

Here lately, though, there are things that tend to take some of the fun out of flying, oh, like the TSA – even though I know they gotta do what they’ve been tasked to do.  Because I no longer move well enough to walk through the airport, I get to ride in a wheelchair which, to me, is a necessary embarrassment; pre-stroke, I could dance through the crowds with either a great deal of grace or a lot of force – I don’t have a problem bumping people out of my way so I can get to the gate… and now, here’s the tie-in to the above-referenced article… getting on the plane.

Before my stroke, man, I used to hate the various boarding processes – each airline does it differently – because of the smarmy looks the first class passengers would give people when boarding the aircraft first.  I would see people on crutches and in wheelchairs boarding, the folks with small children, and I’d just shake my head because even if I were in the next group to board, I didn’t enjoy having to fight my way down those narrow aisle trying to get to my assigned seat.

I’ve been elbowed, kneed in the thigh, and bumped around like a ball in a pinball machine and the farther back in the plane I had to sit, the more I’d wind up feeling like I got mugged.  You try to be polite about it, trying to excuse yourself for almost knocking someone on their ass because the guy trying to stuff the rather large bag into the overhead almost elbowed you in the face; I’ve felt my blood pressure rising when I finally get to my assigned seat… and someone’s sitting in it.  Today, I need an aisle seat but, again before the stroke, I liked window seats just so I could stare at whatever could be seen, even if it were just clouds – I find it very relaxing.

I quickly learned that if I want to get to my seat in a timely fashion, I had to get ghetto on my fellow travelers; I’d put my best intimidating look on my face and make my way down the aisle in the same mindset I used during judo contests:  If you’re not gonna move, I can and will move you and, fuck no, I ain’t apologizing for a damned thing – you should have gotten the hell out of my way.

Boarding the aircraft has always been a problem and when I read the article, all I could do was shake my head sadly because the proposed “new ways” don’t appear to do a whole lot to solve this problem because the main issue in aircraft boarding isn’t really getting the people onto the aircraft – it’s getting them settled into their seats as quickly as possible and I guess that people figure that if they had to haul ass to get to the airport in enough time to get through security, once they’re on the plane, hmm, they don’t have to be in a hurry to put their ass in their seat.

The airlines configure their various aircraft to get as many asses in seats as they can and no matter how they try to rethink the boarding process, all they’ve really done is create more of a traffic jam in the aisle and I just don’t think they can come up with an efficient and effective way to get people into their seats in an orderly fashion…

 
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Posted by on 14 October 2013 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Can’t Get There From Here

Earlier, I saw where Spirit Airline pilots decided to strike, causing the airline to cancel flights and stranding passengers.  To me, I think this is funny and that Spirit deserves the financial trouble this puts this in, mostly because of their stupid $45 carry-on fee they imposed on passengers.

It gets to be a pain because more and more, airlines are strapped for cash and, of course, turn to get it out of our pockets when we fly with them.  Prices might be low… but by the time all the taxes and fees get added in, you really aren’t saving anything – and, oh, yeah, you’re not getting a whole lot back from the airline for the money you paid them.  It makes getting there from here very frustrating.

Linda and I are due to go on a cruise in November.  The cruise is now paid for and now we need to get to Miami.  Flying makes sense; a direct flight from BWI is only two hours and is less expensive than us flying out of PHL.  But, we have the misfortune of having to get plane tickets at a time when the airlines historically raise their prices to soak money from all the people going on vacation.  Part of the problem that I don’t pretend to understand is we need to be in Miami before the ship leaves at 4PM; we really need to be at the ship no later than 2PM to get checked in, etc.  Most of the flights going to Miami on the day we need to be there gets there way after the ship’s already gone.  There’s one or two flights that’ll get us into Miami International in enough time for us to transfer from MIA to the port.  Oh, yeah, and there are a shitload of flights available… if we wanted to spend the night in Miami.  One, we can’t afford that right now; two, it’ll probably mess up our transfer option that we’ve prepaid, although they’d probably give us shipboard credit for that… if we make it to the ship, that is.

It’s been frustrating for me to check flights and prices and knowing that we’re going to get gouged on the ticket prices now… for a trip we’re taking much later in the year.  There’s something patently foul about this.  We’ve been trying to check out prices on Southwest, mostly because of their “bags fly free” thing.  Whether or not Southwest is cheaper than the other flights I’ve been looking at is, at best, debatable.  The problem with Southwest is that they haven’t published their schedule for the time we need to travel; we’ve had to wait months just to be able to see what’s available for the day before we need to be in Miami… and Southwest has no idea when the rest of November’s schedule will be available.  Well, shit, if they don’t know, who does?

As of this writing, the flight we want to take is going to cost $266 per person round trip – and that doesn’t include what it’s going to cost us to check our bags in!  Okay, we’re going on a five-day cruise so we need five days worth of stuff – it’s incredibly stupid to think we’re gonna go wearing just the clothes on our backs.  We have gear to take – cameras, media devices – not taking any of the laptops with us, which is unusual for me because I rarely travel without one.  Uh-uh, not this time – can’t afford it.  We even went out and bought a big bag, one of such size that we can put all of our stuff in it… but then it becomes a question of how much it’s going to cost if that bag is over the weight limit – and then having the money to pay for it at the counter.  At least AirTran, the airline with the primo flight we need, doesn’t charge for carry-ons; I’ll be able to bring my camera case on board with me without having to pay for it.

We’re even looking at alternate methods of getting there – and we will get there, make no mistake about that!  We can take the train, which would cost just as much or more as flying; we could rent a car but since gas prices tend to be higher south of where we live – and we have to eat and stuff like that – that could wind up being even more expensive, especially after you add in the $100 it’ll cost to park the car at the port while we’re gone.  And, oh, yeah, then we’d have to drive 20+ hours back home and I already know I’m not gonna feel like driving.

Another thing that has me scratching my head; there doesn’t appear to be a lot of airlines going to Miami for some reason, which strikes me as damned peculiar because Miami ain’t like flying to, say, Altoona, PA, if you catch my drift.   The last time I was perving the flights, I got so frustrated at the limited schedules they’re flying to a major city.  We need to be there on the 6th before 2PM at the latest.  It’s not that we can’t get there; like I said, if we wanna spend the night in Miami, well, there are a ton of low-cost flights we can take.  It’s almost as if they airlines know that we need to be there when we need to be there… and they’re making it as hard and as expensive for us as they can.

Take the train?  We’d have to leave here two days before we’re supposed to be there and still wind up spending the night in a hotel – and you know that the prices of the rooms are off the charts.  In fact, to get a compartment on the train if you don’t wanna sleep in your seat?  It costs more than the ticket for the train, although if you buy one, all of your meals are free.  Even if we were to carpool and drive down – we have several family members going on this cruise as well – it might reduce the costs… but we’re still talking 20-something hours from here to Miami and, if one of us didn’t rent the car, that puts us at the mercy of someone else – and Linda and I been there, done that, ain’t doing it again; when we’re ready to go, we want to go and not when you wanna go.

We even thought about renting a limo and going in style… but not only can we not find a limo company that can roll like that, it’s almost a given that it’ll cost more than it will for us to fly.  Right now, we’re not even thinking about driving ourselves to the airport; taking a shuttle down and back will cost more than it would to park for five days… but at least neither of us has to drive.

Shit, and we still have to figure out what we’re going to do with the cat for five days; the guy who’d watch her for us doesn’t live here anymore and there’s no one else here we can trust to be in our apartment while we’re gone.  I guess I could ask one of my sisters or even my mother to do it, but there’s no guarantee that (1) they’d do it and (2) they wouldn’t have something come up and miss feeding Zane; last thing we want to come home to is a dead or starving cat.

The whole airline thing just pisses me off.  When I worked, I had to travel a lot and even though I had my corporate Amex card to pay for flights and stuff, the company would reimburse me for traveling.  The prices weren’t bad and, on the longer flights, I could at least get a meal without having to pay extra for it.  I flew to Japan on my own dime and during the 20+ hours flight, we ate and drank like royalty – and it was all included in the price of the flight.  However, when I went to Hawaii a year or so later – which is about 10 hours total flying time – if I wanted something to eat on the longest leg of the flight, I needed to get in my pocket and dig out money to pay for something that I’d never buy at any other time – and something so stupidly overpriced that packing a lunch at home would be cheaper… and at least I could eat something I found appetizing.

Same thing when Linda and I went to Antigua; we practically starved during our four-hour flight because we didn’t want to pay such ridiculous prices for food that didn’t look or taste good.  I think we got a wrap – which Linda hates – and shared it but I know my stomach growled the entire flight; that night at dinner on the island, I ate so much to make up for not being able to eat that I almost made myself sick.

See, I kinda feel the airlines from a business point of view.  Since 9/11, the airlines all took major hits in their corporate wallets when the government suspended all air travel over US airspace for a couple of days.  The government wound up bailing them out and, despite that, they’re still crying about how broke they are.  And I do get it; the price of jet fuel alone is enough to put a serious dent in an airline’s accounts payable funds.  Since they know that the government isn’t going to keep bailing them out because their coffers are low – and no one’s buying large and expensive chunks of their stock – they only place they can get the money they need to operate is from the people who want or need to fly.  And that’s where things get stupid from the consumer’s point of view.

Okay, it’s bad enough that you have all these hidden taxes and fees attached to the price of your ticket, making what used to be an inexpensive flight something other than that.  Then, there’s the good old TSA – don’t even get me started on them!  Airport security, while necessary, is a joke and is so frustrating it makes you not want to fly just thinking about dealing with them.  But before you even get to them, there’s a matter of your bags.  Used to be a time you’d just put it up there, it would get tagged, and vanish, never to be seen again until you got to where you were going.  Then they started charging for overweight bags over 50 pounds; okay, that kinda makes sense – but if you pack carefully, you could easily avoid the overweight charges.

Now, airlines are charging you to do something they always did for free – and still charge you if the bag is overweight.  The fucked up parts are (1) finding out what these fees are and (2) figuring out at what point do you pay for this.  If you book your flight on, say, Expedia, they’ll tell you that other charges may apply for baggage… but either they don’t know or their webmasters haven’t figure out how to take the available fees and incorporate them into their website so that when you book your flight, you can tell them at that time how many bags you plan on checking, the site does the math and – voila!; this is how much it’s gonna cost you – click to continue to checkout.  As a matter of fact, I think I’ll contact Expedia and ask them about this…

Okay, took care of that – it’ll be interesting to see what they say.

Not only do they want to fuck with your baggage, but now you gotta pay for one of those dinky pillows and blankets; you wanna eat, it’ll cost ya; Spirit is charging people for bringing on carry-on items; if you wanna put it in the overhead bin, bend over and spread your cheeks, please.  I even read where some airlines in Europe have had credit card readers on the lavatory doors; if you need to piss, shit, or whatever, swipe your card, please – and Lord help you if you ain’t got enough on it to handle your business.  I’m almost sure that the US airlines are looking at doing this as well… but I think they also know they’d get their asses kicked if they did.  Even if they did, ah, they’re going to have some really messy aircraft to clean up from people doing their business wherever they can to avoid paying to use the lavatory.  No way someone’s going to be on even the shortest flight in the US and have to pay to take a shit, especially after all the other money the airline has gouged us for!

Some airlines are even charging you for picking your seat on the plane!  What the fuck?  Um, didn’t I already pay for a seat?  I’m disabled; I can walk but even before my disability, getting in and out of those coach seats has always been interesting.  I love the window seat but the aisle seat is easier for me – and if I want one, it’s gonna cost me?  The seats in the area of the exit doors are even better for me… but unless I’m prepared to pay out the ass to sit there, it ain’t gonna happen.  That and those seats sell out first.

Of course, Linda and I would like to sit together – and we can if we wanna pay for it.  It’s bad enough that with the things are looking, we’re gonna have to buy our tickets separately, which might wind up with me sitting one place and her in another.  It pisses me off… but the realist in me says, “At least we’re on the same plane going to the same place…

What gets me too is that the airlines can’t seem to figure out why people aren’t flying as much these days.  Well, fucking duh!  Do ya think that with the way you gouge us on ticket prices and have taken away all the amenities might have something to do with it?  In the Spirit debacle, their CEO actually had to go on CNN and explain why they implemented the carry-on fee.  What he said – and it was clearly corporate double-speak – which I understand, by the way – was that even though they’ve implemented this fee, they did lower the base ticket prices by $40 – then he said that people wouldn’t mind paying the fee and that customers would actually be saving money.

Like hell we would!  Okay, you lower the fee by $40… but I have to pay $45 to use the overhead bin… so it actually cost me $5 more, didn’t it?  Oh, and that’s on top of the anywhere from $25 to $100 you’re gonna charge me for stowing a bag in the belly of the plane, depending on how much stuff I need to bring with me?  And if the bag’s a big one and over 50 pounds?  That’s even more being tacked on so, um, how am I saving money by flying with you?

Spirit has this overhead bin fee but their baggage prices are comparable to what the other airlines are charging – oh, and additional VAT fees may still apply after all the other fucking fees you’ve paid already!

You’re planning a trip… but when you see what the airlines want to do to your bank account, it’s enough to make you not take it.  The airlines know good and damned well that you’re not going to go to, say, San Diego for a two-week vacation and not bring anything with you like clothing and toiletries and the like.  They also know that this stuff ain’t going to be a carry-on item, either; the law says that if it doesn’t fit under the seat in front of you, it goes in the bin; if it doesn’t fit there, it has to be checked in.  They have you by the short hairs already – and you haven’t even gone onto Expedia’s site to look for flights.  Take-off and landing fees – what the fuck is this?  We’re still paying a fee to fly for 9/11 YEARS after that fateful and terrible event.  Okay, maybe an airline has to pay the airport for taking off and landing… but isn’t that part of the cost of doing business as an airline?  Why make us pay for something the plane has to do one way or the other?

I think the biggest mistake the government did was deregulate air travel; it allowed the airlines to charge what they want for any reason they want.  God, this pisses me off!  We wanna fly to Miami, get on the boat, and have fun for five days – then fly home and get back to the grind, all nice and refreshed and with plenty of good and new memories – and pictures.  All this is doing at the moment is giving me one hell of a headache just trying to get us there…

But we will get there.

 
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Posted by on 12 June 2010 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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