Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Sky Pulse

So, you probably knew this might be coming, given my recent flying trip. And I will have to say, overall, the trip was relatively uneventful, if you’re not counting the milk spill of the lady sitting next to me all over my right (black jean-ed) leg. But some observations I do have.

I was really looking forward to it, given all the hubbub over The Holidays about the new security measures and scans, and people arrested for fighting them, and all …

Well, the new security “measures” were not all that bad. Actually, they were not at all that … different. I have flown before September 11, and AT September 11 (which found me abroad for two weeks), and after September 11. And this time was no different than many of the flights after The WTC attacks.

The Salt Lake City airport had the “all body scan” option, but it had that in the fall of 2009, too. Nothing new there. What they can see on the other end, I choose not to think about. If they get giggles out of it, they need a life and it’s a matter too small to make me lose sleep over it.

If you “minded” the all body scan, which some people did, you were given the option to be “given a thorough pat down”. That didn’t “look” any different than any pat downs I have gone through before, when the metal detector beeped because I had too much jewelry on. Not sure how it felt, since I didn’t mind the scan and went through with that.

The Montreal airport had nothing. No all body scans. No “thorough pat downs”. You went through the metal detecting arch and you were free to go, if you didn’t beep. No extra jewelry on me this time, so I was clear.

So, despite the hype, I felt neither violated, nor embarrassed in any way, but as you see … I don’t think much of who sees what at the other end of the scanner … I just take is as normal protocol. After all, when human is against the system, the system always wins. So, why waste energy fighting it?! At least, that’s my expectation. Always.

And a word about the fees and taxes. Well …as usual, there is something I will complain about, here. So, we all know that the price of tickets is sky rocketing! With every trip, I am amazed at how much more they charge me for seemingly the same amount of travels (or less). With every trip, I wonder, pointlessly, why are they doing this?! To cover what?! Gas prices have not doubled since last time I traveled. We are not at some extra war. We are paying more or less the same for everything else we consume. But airline prices have to go up, up, up … and away … every single day, it seems. Totally unjustified, in my opinion!

The peanuts, cookies or pretzels were free. Water was free. But sodas were $2. Alcohol (read : “wine and beer” ) was $5. Liquor was $7 for an itty bitty bottle - you know: airplane size. I think it would have been better if you brought your own liquor in 3 oz bottles, which are allowed through security! Note to self for next time … Nothing totally new to me here!

What was new, was … the $2 charge for a set of headphones, to watch the movie (The Social Network) from Atlanta to Salt Lake. The hurtful part was that on the screen the disclaimer mentioned: “to enjoy this movie, purchase headsets for $2. Free on international flights”. (my italics) ?!?!?!?! Ex-cuse ME?! Please tell me HOW it costs Delta MORE to show you the movie on an internal flight than it does to show it to you on an international one? And don’t even get me started on “well, you paid more for the international ticket, so the movie should be free”, because OK… yeah, you paid more, but you fly twice as far! Totally blew my mind! $2 for a headset! I think I’ll rent a Redbox dvd when I get home for less!

Another obnoxious and cheeky punch in the gut was that when I paid for my checked in luggage (because, yes, you pay for ONE bag if you need to check it in, and I am sorry, I need a lot of crap for a week’s stay, and I’d rather not lug it all over the layover airport when you sell me tickets with less than an hour between planes), the itemized (kudos!) receipt I got for the bag stated I was paying for “excess baggage”. And I was puzzled. Excess of what, exactly?! I remember the days when you had included in your ticket price the checking in of not one but two bags! That was your allowed luggage! Perfectly "legal", because it is assumed you do need at least one change of clothes where you go, if it's far enough to fly there!! Now, it seems, that if you have anything more than your own body, it’s an “excess”?! I feel so decadent! So, that peeved me yet again, because again – you charge more for the tickets themselves, so you’re covered on whatever extra charges you might consider having.

The infamous punishing receipt ...

But they’ve got us by the balls, haven’t they?! (pardon my English!) We will pay whatever it’s needed, because our country is oh so large, and sometimes, you have no choice but to fly. You get only so many vacation days, so you can’t spend them all driving to see your family or friends. So, cringing will your jaw hurts, you buy the tickets, and whatever “extra” comes with it. No, let me rephrase: you buy the tickets and whatever they might think of as extras! And next time it'll be $2 for an ounce of oxygen you breathe! Because, you see, the system always wins!

I will add one positive note, though. This time, unlike other times, Delta had no delays! And it’s amazing to me how really that is a pleasant surprise anymore, rather than the norm. But as it stands today, it is the exception. The plane was at the gate for every flight, it always arrived earlier than announced, there were no overbooked flights, no “stand by” individuals, or passengers asked to wait for another flight because of whatever reason, no bogus mechanical issues. I had very short layovers, but every time I could grab a meal and get to my new gate comfortably, without running the toddlers over. Everything, in all my four flights, went like clock work. For the first time in a long, long time. And I call this a real improvement (un-jinxing fingers crossed!), especially considering I flew during the heart of winter towards and from and through the Great Big North. A lot of snowflakes could have impeded this trip. But they were not called responsible! Refreshing, I’d say, if I were over my price gouging. But that annoyance … will never end.

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