Why I Will No Longer Fly the Friendly Skies

Unless Wonder Woman swoops down and scoops me up in her invisible plane, I will resist the urge to buy airline tickets in an effort to save travel time from Destination A to Destination B. On a recent trip, we wanted more time with grandchildren and less road time...so fly we did! Following our trip to Pennsylvania from our Florida home, we were exhausted and disgruntled with how the airlines operate. We were the powerless victims of a system too big in this economy to worry about the impact of their decisions on the little guy, and too fast-paced to give real time info, or even a heads up!

It started with a two-hour delay from departure due to heavy thunderstorms in the northeast. Landing just in time to get to the next gate, our connecting flight was suddenly cancelled in Philadelphia. We had to re-book and got the next flight out to our destination. But it was five hours later, a long time to cool our heels. At least we got seats for the ‘hottest ticket in town’. So many from our plane were on that line!

We waited. We noticed the usual activity that takes place when people are about to board wasn’t happening. No snaking queues forming at the boarding gate, no separating into groups that serve as a modern-day caste system: “First class customers, please go to Line 1 for boarding,” no announcements on loudspeaker, no texts. We ran to the board and saw our flight was cancelled, again! We later saw an e-mail to re-book our flight for the next day. An overnight stay here didn’t appeal to us.

It was now 9 PM and we were tiring out. We decided to rent a car and drive the two hours to the Poconos. Cancelling the last leg of our flight, we took a shuttle to car rentals. The agent entered our information and searched for a midsize vehicle. He said, “This one is a really good deal…. Only $274”. Thinking he meant for the week, I said “Wow, that is a good deal!” Then it hit me. We never told him how long we needed the vehicle. He added, “That’s $1500 for the week.” We were stunned! The agent justified that picking up a car at one destination and dropping off at another causes them extra time and money to get their vehicles back. Right!

Happy to finally be on the road, we headed for the turnpike. It was drizzling, but as we approached the Pocono mountains, it turned into a heavy downpour that led to dense fog. It was nearly impossible to see more than 6 feet in front of us. Prowling forward, we made it to the resort after midnight. Drained, we fell into bed, not concerned we had no toiletries or change of clothes.

When morning came, we freshened up our travel-worn look and headed to a quick breakfast and weak coffee. We drove an hour to the airport where the airlines assured us our bags would arrive on the 10 AM flight. Returning the rather high-priced, small-sized vehicle, we selected another for the remainder of the week for $386. You can do the math to determine how much we were stiffed with the first rental! Our luggage didn’t arrive as promised. Instead, they placed it on the 2 PM flight they rebooked us on. Who knew!?

Grateful to have time with our family, friends and especially our four grandchildren, our visit ended well and we headed back to the airport. Imagine our shock when we learned the airlines cancelled out our entire itinerary because we were ‘no shows’ on that 2 PM flight! We finally got seats, but not those I’d selected four months earlier with our original reservation. These were way back in the ‘booty’ of the plane!

The return flight switched planes in Charlotte, NC. We walked down steep, wobbly stairs placed about a foot away from the body of the plane. No connecting ramp this time! I stretched out to grasp the curved handle and held on for dear life. At 72 years of age and arthritic, I stepped gingerly down the stairs. An airport employee assisted me near the bottom. He offered me a chair to get to the next gate which he said was a very long walk. With less than 15 minutes to make it to the other side of the airport, the porter moved swiftly though the crowd, getting us there right at departure time. What a waste of energy!

The plane was now delayed for an hour. No announcement, text or email. My husband has COPD and was out of breath from the near jog to the gate. They held up the plane to accommodate a late flight attendant!

The final affront occurred when we landed in Orlando. Signage in airports is so misleading! We headed to Baggage Claims and Ground Transportation, following signs for what seemed like miles. Retrieving our bags, we promptly went out to the shuttle area and called the parking vendor. “Wait at sign No 39,” we were told. Standing at sign No. 1, we walked the equivalent of 15 blocks to the very end, which was sign No. 32. Unbelievable!

Calling again, we got no help, just a firm response that according to their contract, if we weren’t at No. 39, we wouldn’t be picked up. We went into the terminal to seek further information and noticed a discreet sign and side door leading to more Ground Transportation in the lower level. Scrambling down and out, we literally ran a mile or so from No. 1 to No. 39 at the very end of the shuttle line. Gasping for breath and overheated in the muggy air, we made it just as the shuttle rolled in!

Not surprisingly, we’ve decided not to fly anymore, except in dire emergency. We prefer to leave our fate in our own hands and not in the pockets of the airlines.

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