Another Rant About Air Travel

Before we had children my husband and I used to travel quite a bit. We didn’t do much international travel but we were probably out of town for at least one weekend a month. Sometimes more.

I remember one year when we had six separate weddings to attend, all in different cities. That was a hell of a year.

Then the kids were born and most of our friends that were in committed relationships were already married. I don’t think I need to take a lot of time to explain how difficult it is to fly with two infants. Or two toddlers. It is much easier and cheaper just to miss the fun stuff unless you can drive.

Now the kids are too old to fly for free and airline customer service is at an all time pinnacle of suckitude.

Did I mention I am in an airport right now? I just heard an announcement at the Continental gate about how they had a full flight and there were families with young children that weren’t seated together so if you were in a row with one of them please offer to switch or “you will end up babysitting”.

What the hell? I understand her point, but don’t you guys remember when the AIRLINE used to seat families together just in general?  I was telling somebody the other day that six hours of driving with the kids stress equals one trip through airport security with The Goon Squad. I’m not kidding either. And that doesn’t even include the bullshit trying to get seats together. If there is anywhere I have to go with the children that involves a drive that is 13 hours or less my ass is driving. It is much cheaper and better for the environment.

But that isn’t why I do it. I do it because (with a few unusual exceptions) I have grown to hate the entire airline industry. Especially Spirit Airlines. I hate them the most.

Anyway, this summer I have found myself in airports quite a bit. Fortunately without my children. This weekend we went to a wedding where the kids weren’t invited (and it was in New Mexico – and that is pretty far away from D.C.) so we flew.

Which leads me to the part of my story where I tell you that I am currently sitting in the Albuquerque Airport.

And I have been here for a while.

And I will be here for a while.

Because United Airlines doesn’t have a crew. My ass got up at 5:00 am so that we could return the rental car and get through security in time for a 7:45 flight that is now delayed until 9:45. Because the crew isn’t legal.

I can only assume this means that they got in late (it may be against United Airlines Company policy to take off on time) and not that they just crossed over from regular Mexico and so they haven’t slept long enough to charge me $4 for a can of coke.

Wow. Am I disgruntled today or what?

Either way, the whole thing pisses me off. Now we don’t get to spend this afternoon with the kids. By the time we get home it will be dinner time. I could have slept another two hours bring my total up to a whopping six and a half hours of sleep and this airport is boring.

I understand that the airline industry is in trouble. I understand that they can’t afford to have a back up crew ready to go anymore, but it isn’t as if my ticket was $59 each way, this is no discount airline. Our tickets cost over $400 each. And we had to pay an extra $44 per seat to get extra leg room. My husband is 6′ 4″ he should get that for free on a four hour flight. What I don’t understand is how they expect to get out of financial trouble by nickel and diming us to death and offering shittier service to boot. On our flight here they couldn’t even seat us together and I’ve had these tickets for four months.

Did I mention that for my flight back from BlogHer I was charged to check one single bag? $25 for something I could have fit in carry on. Wouldn’t you think they would want to encourage us to check luggage instead of that crazy fight and backup that occurs when 200 business travelers all try to carry on crap that is too big to fit in the overhead compartments?

Screw you United.

Screw you all airlines.

Next time I’m driving. I’ll probably get there faster anyway.

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  1. Ugh! I hate United Airlines!!! I go back and forth between DC and Northern and Southern California, and sometimes they’re the only flight I can get. But what really bugged me the last couple of trips was that you had to pay extra for the emergency exit row. And, since no one did, they left the emergency rows empty!! They wouldn’t let anyone move into the row who hadn’t paid the extra money, so they preferred to leave them empty.

    They’d seriously better hope that the emergency exit row isn’t empty the next time they have an emergency where people need to get out of the plane. They will have nickel and dimed themselves into a major major lawsuit, I’ll bet.

  2. We fly often with two little kids and they are constantly splitting us up and then having to reseat the entire plane to accommodate the fact that a 3 yr old probably shouldn’t be sitting all by himself. gah.

    Hope you get home soon.

  3. Yeah, I hope that whoever runs AirTran and ATA have a special place reserved for them in hell. I’m sure the Spirit folks will be in there with them.

    What galls me is that some carriers–Southwest, Virgin, etc.–seem to be doing just fine. Part of the reason is that they have vision (they bought jet fuel futures that allow them to keep their costs low, for one thing), but the other part is that they get it.

    They get it that any customer is better than none and that a return customer is cheaper to get than a new customer, which saves everybody money. They also get it that to stay ahead requires innovation and, although this is hard to believe…work.

    It seems easier to them to wait around for the government, which means the taxpayers, which means you, to bail them out, but I can’t wait for them to all try to find jobs when that doesn’t pan out…oh, you worked at Spirit? Why don’t you come by for an interview, wait in the lobby for day and a half, and then we’ll cancel the interview…but we will give you some peanuts.

  4. Our last trip, just a couple of weeks ago, had several children ages 6-13 (approx.) and several sets of parents. The children were all sitting together JUST BEHIND ME and the parents were all together farther back. The kids kicked the back of my seat and played and fought LOUDLY for the entire flight. So loud that even my noise-cancelling earphones with loud music couldn’t drown them out. I’m quite sure the parents arranged to be separate from the kids so that the kids wouldn’t annoy THEM. I don’t understand how the airline can allow all the kids to ride unsupervised.

    (Phew! My rant!)

  5. ugh, I’m so sorry you’re stuck dealing with that bullshit. We just flew home from vacation on Sat. and actually had a good flying experience (well, as good as can be expected). The only hangup was that the counter ran out of those sticker-tags they put on checked bags, so we stood around waiting for someone to procure some. You’d think they’d keep spare tags in the counter, no?

  6. My sister had that happen to her a few weeks ago flying from DC to SF. When she booked the flight they were all seated together (and her confirmation sheet showed as much), but when she went to check in they had her in one row, her husband in another, and their 18-month-old in a middle seat in yet another row. She told the flight crew that the folks in her son’s row were welcome to take care of him and that she’d be sure to give them plenty of diapers for when he needed to be changed.

    Needless to say it was resolved before they even boarded the plane. But I agree that the airlines should at LEAST be able to get that part right.

  7. I hope you have a safe flight..and I agree, flying used to be easy..now it’s a pain in the ass??

  8. I couldn’t even read this, less I go into a homicidal rage. Airlines suck ass; period. I can’t tell you the amount of money I’ve lost on bottled water alone!

    Joe is getting upset!

  9. Amen, and then some. We travel with our kids a lot, which sucks. But I pretty much only fly JetBlue, which seems to be the only airline that at least attempts to treat you like a human. But even still, they’re going to start charging for bags and all of that crap, too. I hate it, and it’s yet another reason why I want to move closer to my family: so I don’t have to keep dealing with airlines in order to see them!

  10. Perhaps the family made reservations after the flight was essentially full. That’s why booking earlier is important. It’d be nearly impossible to shuffle everyone confirmed with a seat on the flight to accomodate a family. But sometimes there are mix ups and seats get shuffled anyways. I’m not defending the horrific customer service of the airlines, because they all suck.

    We typically fly as a family about two to three times per month, but we know how to work the system. Fortunately, we rarely have any problems.

  11. My daughter is still young enough that a short flight to Orange County can be handled; the squirming and maneuvering through the airport etc. is better than the 6 hour drive in the car seat that she has all of a sudden realized is the most boring place in the world and oh my god dad could you please, while you drive, do the ABC’s in sign language over and over and over again because I’m seriously going to lose my shit if you don’t entertain me.

    But I know eventually I am going to be able to plug a portable DVD player into her face and then the world will be a magical place where road trips, my favourite trips, can happen again.

  12. It’s been well documented on jodifur my feelings towards United. Just do a quick search for United and you will see when they lost our bags and made it my fault, or told me my 9 month old could sit by himself. I do think all airlines suck, but United sucks more than others.

    So sorry babe, hope you get home soon.

  13. I have never traveled with my children. To be quite honest, I’m freaking scared to.

    But the airline industry in Canada is not much better than in the US. It’s shameful everywhere.

    I hope you get home safely. Smooches, friend.

  14. Oh, good luck. I agree the airlines are just ridiculous…and I never thought they were that great in the first place. We just flew with the twins, and although it went very very smoothly, there was no “customer service”. Do they all just hate their jobs now?

  15. I’m still terrified to travel by air with my kids out of fear of how they would react.

    My last flight should have been an easy 1 1/2 hour flight on AirTran. Instead it took us 12 extra hours to arrive and then they lost my luggage!

    I feel for ya!

  16. Hang in there. I haven’t had the strength to write a letter for our last flight. We were at one terminal, going from Nashville to Dulles. The terminal next to us was going to Chicago. The airline wouldn’t allow the Dulles flight to board because no one from the Chicago flight would volunteer to be bumped. They announced to all of us that we would all “Sit there forever” if someone didn’t pony up and offer to get bumped. For a flight that wasn’t even ousrs. As a result, we missed our connecting flight and got home at midnight instead of 4PM. Fuckers.

  17. Ew.
    Flying sucks.
    Hope you at least had a good time at the wedding.
    Sid and Klaus missed you – they told me so.

  18. My last visit to the airport involved a not-so-happy security person confiscating my pepper spray that I forgot was attached to my keyring. Oops.

    Have a safe journey!

  19. UGH! I hate United. I’ve flown with them once and never EVER again. I was in the same situation. I had to sit next to two bratty kids and the mom sat in the back. But the funny thing was that she didn’t even want to sit next to them and now I know why. By the end of the flight, I simply walked out, vented my frustration to the desk (they didn’t care) and wrote a letter (to be more formal) to the HQ. Did this matter? Nope. I flew United just to save a few bucks but for now on, I’m flying Delta, even if it is more money.

  20. I am finally de-lurking. My SIL(Ahlem) knows you and passed on your web page. I enjoy your posts.

    We haven’t flown for about 5 years, until this past July. We flew Airtran and I have to say we did not have any problems with them.

    I found one security person to be very rude to one of my sons. They don’t realize they can be very intimidating to a child. My son came through the detector and touched the side trying to stear clear of the guy. The guy yelled at him saying that he told him not to touch the sides. Give me a break!

    I hope you made it home safely!

  21. If only I’d had the option of driving to BlogHer…

    Actually, my international flight was awesome, it’s only the domestic ones (and not just in the US) that are sucking.

    Stop charging people to check one bag. Stop making people take off their shoes unless they beep. And seriously, seat people together.

    On one of my flights recently none of a family of four was sitting together. They had to move people just so a parent could sit with each kid (we’re talking kids aged like one and three). Sort that out, airlines.

  22. It seems the disease is spreading. The other day the train I was on was late leaving from the station (a terminal stop), and when the conductor came someone asked why it was late. He said the crew arrived late, and I wondered, aren’t you part of the crew? Are you saying the train’s late, because you were late? Nice.

  23. I do wonder what has changed about the airlines that they can no longer seat kids with their parents. That’s nuts.

    Oddly enough, my last blog was about my sucky trip with Jet Blue which is normally so good.

  24. Amen to this post GoodSquad Sarah. Flying with my 4 year old twins & 2 year old pain in the a$$ toddler is daunting…

  25. Take a look at this post. It’s my letter of complaint to American Airlines (read past all the bra maker ranting in the post).

    http://www.dirtandnoise.com/2008/08/bra-makers-take-note.html

  26. Oh, one more thing. We’re flying from North Carolina to LA next week with our 3 and 5 year olds. They are seasoned flyers, but ask all your readers to cross fingers for a seamless trip! I don’t have it in me to write more complaint letters.

  27. Aren’t we all supposed to be getting around in flying cars by now? When’s the future going to happen?

    “I’ll trade my left foot for the flying car.”

  28. I’m an avid lurker of your site (I love it) and I just had to post here, because I’ve had this conversation with my best friend about nine hundred times in the past week. Not because I fly, either. No. Because he’s a flight attendant and one of the biggest asses you will ever meet. Yeah. He actually kicked one of those families off the plane because a six and seven year old were going to have to sit by themselves on a four hour flight. Not even together. In the middle of two strangers. So they raised a little Hell and he had them escorted off the flight. Their new way of thinking is that it’s not their job to make the customers happy. He even said, “If I’m having a good day, maybe I’ll get you a blanket, if not, then sorry lady, I don’t know where they keep them on this flight.”

    Not like the blanket isn’t going to cost you $12 anyway… I’d pack my own.

    Ugh, I hate airlines.

  29. A-freakin-men. I avoid flying at all costs now, due to the PITA factor.

  30. Would you believe that United *gave* me an extra seat for Oliver on the flight from SFO to PDX after BlogHer? I was floored.

    Take an infant through security. It’s the only time those TSA drips crack a smile.

  31. Dude, I’m so with you. The $25 for checked bags gets me. I think it should be $25 for more than on carry-on. Those are the people who tie up security with all their bags. And seriously, with the prices and all the fees, it just isn’t worth it to fly. And I don’t even have kids.

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