Here in this column, I am usually very positive about all the places to which I am lucky enough to travel. I try to be honest about what I see, and to give you a fair opinion of the diverse places I get to go to. Therefore, I think I should tell you about the realities of travel and how really bad travel, specifically airline travel, is becoming in the world.
First of all there are a few “givens.” They include that
1. flying coach or “cattle class” to which it is sometimes lovingly referred, has become true hardship for most people. If you have any tendency toward claustrophobia, or like any sort of privacy, you will not be happy.
2. No flights depart JFK airport on time. None. This is probably also the case at Chicago O’Hare airport.
3. Connecting flights increase the anxiety factor immensely.
4. the mess in the airways automatically reduces fear of flying. (“They” make it so hard to get a boarding pass, that once you actually have a seat and are airborne that you are pleased and relaxed.)
These interesting givens are gleaned from many, many flights over the years, mostly recent years. Yes, it’s getting worse every year to be positive about air travel.
Our recent trip to Mexico is a very good example. You will be reading about major and minor complaints in this article, since so many things went awry that it’s hard to choose which ones to feature.
We decided to try to be as problem free as possible when we planned the trip.
Therefore we chose to travel at 1:50 in the morning on Mexicana Airlines, Business Class. (They had an excellent “special” several months ahead of time, in fact, it cost no more than Coach would have cost on Continental Airlines.) We reasoned that taking the first flight of the day, when no one else would be traveling was the best possible thing to do.
We arrived at JFK on time for our flight, which had been moved up from 1:50 am to 1:30 am about a month earlier. When we arrived at the airport, the flight had been moved back up to 1:50 am. As I said, we were taking this flight since it was the first one of the day, and would not, of course, be late leaving. HA! Our flight to Mexico City Benito Juarez Airport was almost TWO HOURS late leaving. (We failed to have read the recent statistic, referred to above, that no flights EVER leave JFK on time – anymore.)
Thus, we missed our 8:00 AM connecting flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca. We were told to go “Out” to get to the Mexicana desk to rebook. This necessitated another long wait through the security line, and was bad information to begin with.
Then, we were told we’d get on the 10:40 flight. We were given what we thought were boarding passes, along with the assurances of all sorts of uniformed officials.
Turns out we DIDN’T have boarding passes. We had stand-by tickets. The flight was hugely overbooked. We did not make the flight, we only made lots of friends, who were also waiting. We were then told we could go on the 2 something flight, on Standby, or the 4:10 flight, on Standby, or we could get actual boarding passes for the 5:55 flight. Of course, we could not get the Business Class flight that we had paid for, and would have to go Coach.
Now, all of the standing in line that accompanied the bits of information gleaned in the last paragraph went far beyond just waiting in line. The information was only made available after being directed to other desks situated at mile long walks apart from each other, which we had to do about three times. (or was it four?) And as you can imagine the airport was chock-a-block with people and confusing signs (in Spanish.)
Having already had enough stress for one day, we chose the ACTUAL Boarding pass flight, thus necessitating a total of 12 hours layover in Mexico City Airport.
I had thought that Brussels airport must be have the longest walkways of any, but I now think Mexico City has the lead. I must also say that I have never had to walk the long stretches of Brussels airport more than one time per trip.
As we passed through Security YET AGAIN, for the final time, we hoped, Jim was stopped and told he had to go all the way back to the entrance to the airport (we were on a side entrance, from Mexicana’s Executive lounge) to check his carryon. After several minutes of charades, it was discovered that he had a cheap corkscrew in the bottom of his carryon. We gave the corkscrew to the security guard as a Christmas present, and finally ran to catch the last flight!!
When we boarded, (by now the Actual Boarding Pass was worn out from being squeezed in my hand for all those hours,) we discovered we were in an exit row. This was very good news, since there is more room in the exit row for my tall husband and tall friends.
About five minutes later two FA’s came up the aisle and told us we had to move. By now, we were loaded for bear, and ready to defy anyone to keep our seats. We would not be moved.
They kept insisting. One of them was polite and sweet, but kept saying “you must”, and I kept saying “Why?” She would NOT answer. Finally, after three or four tries, the other, unsympathetic one said, “It is because you are too old!”
This was the greatest insult of the day, but hopefully, the last. By now we knew we were defeated, and when we also learned that we were to be put in other seats, and not thrown off the plane, we relented, slinking away to the next row, thoroughly chastised for our age.
Such is air travel in this golden age. However, even in our aged, decrepit state, we were able to recover and enjoy our holiday in Mexico. About that, more next time.