Sunday, June 29, 2008

Something not-so-special in the air

I recently took a mini-vacation to Chicago. It was pretty much amazing and has now become my second-favorite American city. Perhaps I'll blog about that some other time.

Not so amazing, however, was my experience with an airline -- I'll call them Zmerican Zairlines to protect the very few innocent -- on what was supposed to be the last day of my trip. Instead of returning to New York on a Sunday night, I got back in the middle of the afternoon Monday. Assorted thoughts on my lost day:

1. After canceling a flight and realizing there's no way to board your passengers on a flight the same day, comp them outright with a hotel voucher and/or future flight instead of acting like you're doing them a favor by giving them a "reduced rate" at a hotel in scenic Airportanapolis.

2. You know that episode of "The Sopranos" when Tony lives out his coma as a hotel patron with seemingly nothing to do? It was basically Purgatory; nothing too good or too bad about it, but kind of lonely and sad. That's what my Sunday night stay in Nowheresville was after my flight was canceled. After a couple of overpriced snacks, a poor night's sleep and more than $100 worth of unnecessary hotel expenses, I was back at O'Hare attempting my trip home again.

3. There's probably no way of pulling such a thing off without lawsuits aplenty, but I'd be willing to pay up to $30 more for a flight to guarantee no kids under 10 are aboard. Even if it flies at an odd hour, I think airlines would make a killing this way. I'd definitely fork over another Jackson and Hamilton to ensure that no kid of careless parents kicks my seat, cries on the tarmac or repeatedly asks dumb questions at a volume that drowns out the engines. (Related.)

4. I really do think the TSA's decision to ban liquids that are in larger than 3-ounce containers is less about staving off terrorism and more about forcing patrons to spend money on overpriced airport beverages and toiletries. Because let's face it, that 20-ounce Mountain Dew that was evidently bottled by the Taliban is going to do far more damage to your liver than it would to a Boeing 747.

5. Here's a great way to punish passengers in unexpected fashion: Tell displaced passengers who didn't have the chance to pick the row of their new flight that they're allowed to fill a carry-on bag full of food, an iPod and reading materials to stow under the seat in front of them, but when the supposed seat in front of them is actually the wall that separates them from the first-class section, threaten them with an FAA fine if they don't immediately place said bag in an overhead compartment three seats away. And certainly don't think to allow the passenger time to take a few items out of it first before stowing it. That'll teach them to prepare for a flight without electronic entertainment or free food of any kind.

Oh, yes, an angry letter is being written to appropriate personnel about points 1, 2 and 5. Results, or the lack thereof, will be posted here in the future.