Airline Fun

A while back, I had the unfortunate opportunity to travel a significant distance via commercial airborne cattle car. The outbound leg wasn’t terrible (by today’s standards of air travel), but the return was a bit less pleasant.

I checked in from my temporary residence the evening before my scheduled departure. During this process, I paid the $23 required by Delta to transport my checked bag. Normally, I would have chosen Southwest, since they are pretty much the only ones in the business who haven’t adopted the revenue enhancing policy of “charge for checked bags since everyone will have to check at least one, what with the Nanny State restrictions that prohibit nearly everything in carry-on bags”. However, I had frequent flyer miles, and since I only paid ten dollars in real money for the flight, I chose to fork over the extra twenty-three dollars without too much whining.

Before I go too far, I want to offer the following disclaimer: Airlines are private businesses, and as such are free to set whatever rules, price structures, or anything else that they so choose outside of what our betters at the have seen fit to regulate. I am also very happy that we have a choice where we spend our money, and are free to choose not to patronize businesses with policies that are not to our liking.

Back to my ordeal. I get to the airport and get in line at Bag Drop. My bag weighs in three pounds over the fifty pound limit.

That will be an extra $90, please.

Delta, have you lost your fucking mind? I support capitalism, including the right of the airlines to charge $30 per pound over the limit for checked bags – if you can find anyone stupid enough to pay it. I’m not going to, that is certain.

I stepped out of line and pulled two pairs of jeans out of my checked bag, stuffed one in my carry-on and the other in the backpack with my laptop. My bag then weighed in at forty-nine pounds, so it was tagged and sent on its way.

I made it five steps before being accosted by the carry-on luggage size police. My bag wouldn’t slide gently into the metal box, so I was forced to stop and rearrange things again. After they were happy with the thickness of my bag, I was allowed to proceed to the molestation station that they call security.

I removed my jacket, shoes, belt, and everything out of my pockets. I then removed my laptop from my backpack and put it in a separate bin as required. I’ve never understood this requirement. Can’t the McDonalds washouts that the TSA hires properly read the x-ray machine? Sorry, stupid question.

Once my bags were on their way through the x-ray apparatus, I informed the agent that I wished to opt out of the porno-view machine, aka the full body scanner. For the record, I’ll tell anyone who wants to know just how pathetically small my boy parts are, but only a choice few will be given the opportunity to observe first-hand. Strangers in airports aren’t on that list.

No less than three people warned me that if I insisted on opting out, I would be given a very thorough pat-down. I told each of them the same thing.

I understand, and I still choose to opt out. I will not go through that machine.

After being felt up, I was deemed worthy and allowed to continue to my departure gate. The flight left on time, and I was fortunate enough to have an empty seat next to me, allowing me to stretch out a bit. I caught a short nap, and things were uneventful until the approach.

During the approach, we descended to about 4,000 feet when the pilot aborted and started to climb. He informed us a few minutes later that a snow shower had briefly caused the weather minimums to drop below legal limits, so we would have to circle around and try again. The next approach was successful, and we finally arrived at our gate a little over twenty minutes late.

I only had forty-five minutes to change planed per the schedule, so I double-timed to the other end of the concourse to find the rest of the passengers already on board my connecting aircraft. I quickly took my seat, and we pushed back from the gate on time.

The “snow shower” hadn’t let up, and some snow had accumulated on the wings, necessitating a stop at the de-ice pad before departure. That process took about forty-five minutes, after which we were finally taxiing towards the departure runway.

I had already told my ride what time to pick me up, so I took out my phone to check and see just how late I was going to be. I had put it in Airplane Mode before we pushed back from the gate. Airplane mode deactivates the receive and transmit functions, for those who may not know, so at this point it was nothing more than a timepiece. An overzealous flight attendant across the aisle and one seat back came unglued. She wasn’t working the flight, but was dead-heading. She got all up in my face about electronic devices and federal regulations. Airplane Mode meant nothing to her, so to shut her up, I powered the phone completely off.

After a couple minutes, we stopped. The captain came over the PA and informed us that although we had gone through the de-ice/anit-ice procedure using the best products available, some snow had again started to accumulate on the aircraft. We were going to have to return to the de-ice pad for a second treatment.

Not two minutes later, he came back over the PA again. They had burned too much fuel the first time around, and no longer had enough left to go back through the de-ice line and then complete the flight with the required reserve. We were going back to the gate to take on more fuel.

After another forty minutes, we had made it back to the gate, taken on more fuel and were headed back out to the de-ice pad. About half the way there, the captain came back over the PA and told us that Delta had just canceled the flight, and we would be returning to the gate to unload as soon as ground control cleared us to turn around.

There was about a twenty minute delay getting turned around and headed back to the gate. Understandably, some of the passengers were getting restless. We had been sitting in the plane for well over two hours by this time. Little Miss “I’m a Flight Attendant, so on this plane I’m more powerful than God” started making comments about the fact that we were on an active taxiway and everyone needed to stay seated and keep their cell phones turned off. Then she started asking where the people were who were actually working the flight. She wasn’t happy that the flight attendants who were assigned to the flight weren’t uptight, power-hungry, disagreeable, overbearing, draconian, letter-of-the-law dictators that she obviously was.

Her rant went on and on, and got worse when we had to stop a few feet from our gate and wait another fifteen minutes for a ground crew to guide us in. Delta, thank you for having laid-back flight attendants working my flight who managed to do a good job and manage a difficult situation without turning mean and petty in the process. If this Napoleonic attitude problem in a skirt is on your payroll, please terminate it.

After disembarking, jogging halfway down the concourse to the Special Assistance gate, getting my new boarding pass, and jogging back to the gate directly adjacent to the one I had just left, my return journey continued.

Delta managed to get me a window seat on the new flight which was scheduled to leave less than thirty minutes from the time I got to the gate. (Thank you, Delta.) We were a few minutes late pushing back, and with the need to go through the de-ice procedure again, we were nearly an hour late arriving – over five hours after my original flight was supposed to land.

But I was home.

Well, a forty minute car ride from home anyway. At least that went completely without any excitement.

For the record, this was far from the worst air travel experience I’ve had. It was just the most recent, and a reminder that I really need to stop flying completely until the rules change. I know, like that will ever happen. 

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