Widget Co. frequently sends me to far-flung regions for work. Well, maybe not so far-flung. Mostly our Nation's capital (but not the Capitol, for you grammarians). For example, a few weeks ago, I flew to D.C. for a seminar with some co-workers. My point is, between work and leisure travel, I spend a fair amount of time in airports and on planes, so I think I have a fair idea of what constitutes a "good" travel experience and what constitutes "poor" service by an airline.
Last week, I had to attend a conference in the unfortunate (haha) location of Las Vegas. (Actually, a really great conference with some fun people, location notwithstanding.) Being located in So. Cal, I had the option of driving to the conference, but that's a 4-5 hour drive, and when one is headed to the money-making capital of the world, one wants to get there faster!! So, I decided to fly out of my local regional airport. It's a short flight, about an hour. My travel time should have been as follows: 20 minute drive to the airport, 45 minutes to go through security and get to my gate, a 1 hour flight, and a 10 minute cab ride to my hotel. Then I should have been free to get to the tables to win. (Ok, ok, before you ask: no, I didn't win. But I sure did my part stimulating the economy!!)
First rule of airports: never wear a bulky sweatshirt to the airport -- you're guaranteed a pat-down. Blech. I also hate seeing people wearing flip-flops in the security line. That means they'll be barefoot going through the scanner. Gross!! Great way to pick up ringworm! Then there's always the mom trying to herd 4 kids through the line, all with their jackets, backpacks, shoes, and snotty noses. I feel briefly sorry for her, and then I remember that she chose to have kids. Now I just feel sorry for me, because they're always on my flight.
Next I go to sit and wait for my flight to be called. Should be a nice, relaxing time to read my book, right? No. SuperBusinessMan always sits down next to me and screams into his cell phone. He's obviously saying "look how important I am - do you hear this important conversation??" I think the phone isn't even on. What a dork. Then someone with Cinnabon sits down behind me. Always. I can feel my thighs gaining weight just smelling it. Ack!
Ok, back to my trip. What went wrong with my well-oiled plan? Southwest Airlines, that's what!! All of the airlines are trying to boost their "on time departure" stats, but for the most part they do it by (shock!!) actually departing on time. Not Southwest. Despite knowing that we could not take off until 40 minutes after our scheduled departure time (they announced that once we were seated -- I think it was a matter of waiting for landing space in Las Vegas), they got us all on board, on time, seated and belted, and then pulled away from the gate. Then we sat. For 40 minutes. Just sat. No air conditioning, no drinks, nothing. Just. Freaking. Sat. Ugh!! For their part, they got to mark this as an "on time departure" because we had pulled away from the gate in time. For the rest of us, it meant additional misery.
As if that wasn't enough to remind me why I hate Southwest, let's talk about my return trip. We finished our conference early, and I didn't want to overstimulate the Vegas economy, so I headed to the airport. It used to be that there were always stand-by seats available, so you'd just get on the list when you got to the airport and hang out. No hassle, no cost. Not anymore. Now, the airline that proudly advertises "no charge for the first checked bag" and "no charge for the second checked bag" and "no charge for the window or aisle seat" sneakily charges you to get on the stand-by list!! $37 dollars just to get your name on the list!! That doesn't even guarantee you a seat!! Unbelievable.
I have to fly again this weekend. I'm dreading it. Maybe they'll pleasantly surprise me, right? And maybe pigs will be flying next to our plane.