Amy Roberts: Fly-by-night airlines
May 20, 2014
Last week I wrote about my lack of a spring vacation, and how, for the first time in over a decade, I was spending the entire mud season in the mountains. And while it’s true I have not had the pleasure of a warm and beach-filled holiday, it’s not entirely accurate to say I didn’t leave town. Last weekend I went home to Omaha for a few days. But let’s be clear: Omaha is no vacation. And getting there was even less of one.
I’m not normally one to complain about air travel. For the most part, you just accept it sucks. You basically fork over half a paycheck to stand in a long line filled with miserable people. Only to be greeted by more miserable people who ask you to hand over more money so your luggage has a slightly better chance of arriving with you. Then you get in another line, where you wait for what is essentially a free mammogram provided by the TSA. Once it’s determined you are not carrying a bomb or a bottle of shampoo, you’re allowed to go wait again. Then you board a metal tube and sit for a few hours with your knees in your chest.
That’s just the way it is now. And while flying in America is not exactly the treat it used to be, it’s at least safer than what you get in a lot of places.
Several years ago I was in Africa and flew out of an extremely small airport in Zambia near Victoria Falls. The security went something like this:
"Do you have any weapons?"
"Ok. You may board."
Only we weren’t allowed to actually get on the plane until some kid on a bike with no pedals scrambled down the dirt runway waving a broom. He had to scare off the zebras and other wildlife before the plane was able to take off. Also, you couldn’t use the bathroom during the flight because that’s where they stored the passengers’ luggage.
So despite its faults, I generally accept flying in the U.S. is, at the very least, slightly less primitive than it could be.
Although, after last weekend, I think I might just prefer the "we’ll take you at your word" security operation.
Two months ago I purchased a ticket to fly direct from Salt Lake City to Omaha. A two-hour flight. Thursday night, about an hour before my flight was due to depart, I got a notice it had been canceled. Mechanical problem. The plane was out of blinker fluid I guess. The email I received instructed me not to worry because the good folks at Delta had taken the liberty of rebooking me.
Which would have been helpful, except I was now leaving SLC nearly three hours later, and going to Seattle, where I’d catch an overnight flight to Minneapolis. At approximately 4 a.m., I’d have the distinct pleasure of sitting in the Minneapolis airport for three hours until my flight to Omaha left at 7 a.m.
I called Delta to explain to them why the option they so graciously "took the liberty of rebooking" me on was not exactly ideal.
"You see," I explained. "There’s a very good reason I paid more for the direct flight. Because I wanted to fly direct. At the very least, unless I’m going to Europe, I don’t want to spend 12 hours trying to get to my destination."
There were a lot of hollow apologies, but not a lot of other options. "I can send you through Newark tomorrow afternoon, getting you into Omaha Friday night," one person told me.
Which made me realize there are clearly no maps allowed at the Delta reservation offices. How many resumes do you have to go through to find people who have no concept of American geography? And why is that apparently a qualification you look for in people who want to work for an airline?
After several hours and attempts to fly to Omaha in less time than it would take me to just drive, I ended up on the late flight to Seattle and then on to Minneapolis, where I spent three sleepless hours committing to a real and warm vacation next spring. Somewhere with an oceanfront room and a direct flight from Salt Lake.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.