I arrive at the airport two hours before my scheduled flight and begin the continued long process. I have checked in online, navigated my way through questions, added documents and scrolled through the process. No, I do not want to check a bag, less chance of losing my belongings and certain delays at my destination where I would silently panic standing at the baggage carousel and will my bag to arrive. No, I don’t want to select my seat for an extra charge where the seat offers nothing extra except a different seat in steerage. No I’m not bringing explosives and indeed I’m complying with the liquid requirements.
I go directly to security and begin the process. Show my passport, show my boarding pass or some combination. No my passport isn’t needed, then the next airport it’s needed. Take off my shoes, no your shoes are fine. Take off my coat, unpack my laptop, two bins needed, one for the bag, the other for the computer. No one bin is all that is necessary. Take the liquids out. Finally walk through, nothing dings, yeah, or into the full body scan, I’m good, another airport later I’m not and need a pat down.
Time to repackage my belongings and commiserate with fellow travellers as we get dressed and sorted. Now I’m thirsty. I could have brought an empty water bottle, something else to lug around so need to buy water at $5 a bottle. Seems like a scam. It would be lovely to be provided with a bottle of water after the ordeal, though my dream of a kind, gentle world does not materialize.
The airport is noisy with constant announcements. The constant message, this plane is full and there is not enough room for carry on luggage, asking and pleading for folks to check their luggage. No thanks, my bag and I have been through quite a lot to get here and we are not interested in parting ways. I put my leg on top of my bag to seal my decision.
The next announcement is the delay. We are all in our places but the flight crew has not arrived, the plane is delayed, the flight crew has timed out. We need to wait. I find it interesting that I’m where I need to be hours before my flight and I don’t work in the airline industry and yet the reason for the delay is firmly on the shoulders of folks in the business.
Finally, after several announcements of further delays, boarding begins. It starts with the gold members, folks who fly frequently and I begrudge them nothing, they have done this process many times and deserve their reward. Then folks needing assistance, small children, then by zones. I always find it curious that though children and infirm board first, they somehow manage to leave the plane with everyone else, no longer needing assistance. It’s a miracle.
Halfway through boarding, there is no room in the overhead bins and now folks with backpacks, computers and their worldly belongings need to put their stuff under the seat in front of them. Sometimes their bag is taken and stored many rows from its owner. It’s predictably chaotic and delays the departure.
Finally, we are all seated. We wait on the tarmac for our turn, though are delayed by needing to de-ice, charge the plane or some other issue. We are finally off
The drapes are closed to stop the gawking of a better life just a few seats ahead
We reach cruising altitude, the seat belt sign is off and now begins the constant to and fro to the washroom, then the announcement to use the washroom closest, folks looking for a better life, ignore.
The headphones are offered, it’s important to not blink if needed, as the airline staff run through the aisle trying to sell at speed, predictably there aren’t many takers. Folks resign themselves to silent movies as their headphones are now in the overhead bin or with their newly checked luggage.
The next excitement is the drink and food trolley. Oh how I miss the meals of days gone by, included and complete with real silverware, usually with the local food of where were going. Now it’s paid food and liquor, whereby the $5 bottled water now looks like a bargain. Still we are offered a beverage and if we are lucky we can keep the can too, it’s rarity making it feel like a luxury. Sometimes we are offered pretzels or a cookie.
Then there is the lounging of the guy in front where his seat back is completely extended, decreasing my square footage whereby I can also extend creating a domino effect. I decline though put up with the constant movement and stretching whereby the seat continues to move, eventually causing my drink to spill. No worries the staff are burning through the cabin picking up garbage
We are close to our destination, though a further delay as we now need to circle the city to use up the excess gas. Isn’t there some sort of calculation?
We arrive and now begins the drive to the hanger. We need to wait again as the ground crew are not available. I wonder did they not know we were coming?
I have booked through one airline and was given a tight connection. My naivety had me thinking it was doable—the airline must know what is possible and yet despite arriving 2 hours before my flight and having an hour connection. It is now past the time of my flight, perhaps the flight will also be delayed?I had mentioned this to the airline staff and although they allowed me and seemingly half the plane off first, no further assistance is offered. I run through an airport I don’t know, to my gate, no one is there. I find a staff member to ask and am advised the flight has left. This flight was also delayed but not by enough for me. I have missed it by 8 minutes. Now what? I’m directed to customer service, a line stretching into oblivion and cue. Three hours later, it’s my turn.
I explain my situation, she checks her computer and happily announces it’s not their fault as there were too many planes in the sky. In effect I’m owed nothing. I calmly explain its not my fault, though if I was in charge of booking flights and ensuring there were just enough planes in the sky, this would not be a problem.
Not interested in looking for my own roach motel, I played the old lady card. She had to check with her Manager, I felt like I was buying a new car. She comes back and provides food credits, and lodging at a roach motel accessed through a shuttle. I notice for folks where the airline was at fault they also received airline swag (water bottle) and a granola bar—lucky pups!
I’m hungry and tired but navigate instead to the shuttle buses and wait. Many buses arrive. One shuttle bus driver advises our bus has broken down and we should go with him, three of us do.
We arrive at the hotel and share the broken shuttle bus story. All checking in ceases as they all stop to verify. In exasperation I advise that we don’t care and perhaps they could complete the check in and then sort out their dodgy bus. They hadn’t considered this, luckily this makes sense to them and the arduous process starts.
I’m given a room key, take the elevator to the third floor. When the doors open there is a wall. I am confused but push it out of the way and I’m free. The lodging is under construction, that might have been nice to know. I arrive at my door, and try the key several times, it does not open. I take the stairs, wait my turn and advise. Another key is given. I walk upstairs, and voila the door opens.
The room is an expected sad affair. I drop my luggage and proceed to the convenience store where I purchase a bag of liquorice. I’ve all but burned through the pretzels eaten on the plane.
I try to sleep, though fitfully. I’m afraid to miss my flight the next day. I need to arrive 2 hours prior to begin the process anew
My flight is delayed twice and we experience 3 gate changes. I spend all my credits on my breakfast, bottled water and snacks in case I’m stranded again. This time the Pilot comes into the boarding lounge to advise that our plane has a mechanical failure, but no worries they are hoping to quickly solve so we can be on our way. I fire off a quick text to my husband so if the plane crashes he can sue the airline for rushing the fix. I hope they take their time. He addresses us a couple more times and finally an hour later we begin to board.
All I can think of the experience is the amount of money paid to be inconvenienced. It wasn’t my money this time as my work paid. My trip was relatively last minute, booked two weeks before departure, the cost nearly triple the regular fare. Interesting how the price rises as the day to departure is closer. I think it should be opposite that the airline should be happy to sell tickets and fill planes to decrease their costs and their carbon footprint. How amazing if a flight had one cost from one destination to another regardless of the day booked. All seats in steerage the same cost. Still, I thank my good fortune that I do not work in the airline industry, how embarrassing to work for such a inefficient industry. How shameful.