Tag Archives: air travel

Cabin Credit

Surprised? Shocked? Outraged? Well, not quite that strong. Let’s go with “taken aback”. Yes, that’s it…I was taken aback when the flight attendant pitched a credit card promotion over the cabin speaker. Not just once…but on both legs of our flight. Apparently, the recent merger of two airlines (who shall remain nameless) sparked a very generous offer. The kind of offer you just can’t live without. After listening to the perks, the light bulb above my head is glowing like the mushroom cloud of a nuclear reaction. I finally understand why SO MANY passengers lined up for the “priority” boarding calls. Just check out a few of the benefits associated with carrying the airline’s card in your wallet…

  • Double miles for today’s flight.
  • Additional miles (enough for two free flights) with first charge.
  • Tickets for two companion flights at $99 each.
  • Access to the airline’s lounge.
  • One free checked bag per flight.
  • Priority boarding.
  • 500 additional miles (today only).

As soon as the announcement ended, flight attendants walked the aisle with credit applications. A passenger two rows ahead caught the attendant’s attention. I didn’t hear the question but I can guess what was asked because I could hear the attendant disclose the “fine print” details of the promotion…The offer is valid only during today’s flight – NOT at the airport or online. The annual fee is $89. A specific section of the credit application (name, address, social security number) must be completed and the application number validated with the attendant. Blah…Blah…Blah…Blah…

My common sense “radar” went berserk causing my brain to seize up and forced me to stop listening for a few seconds. Let me get this straight. At a time when identity theft such a ginormous issue, is the airline REALLY going to require a passenger to disclose their social security number on a document left with the flight attendant?

Now to be clear…I’m not questioning the integrity of flight attendants. Adequate security measures may be in place but the announcement didn’t reveal any details on how this sensitive information would be secured. There could be a lot of hand-offs between collecting the application and delivering it to the individuals ultimately responsible for processing. Each hand-off offering a potential breach of security.

To satisfy my curiosity (like a good Business Analyst), I asked how the applications would be handled. The attendant’s response…“we have a drop box at the airport”. That’s it? You’re asked a question about the security of sensitive information AND the only answer you have is there’s “a drop box at the airport”? My risk-averse mind immediately launched a series of follow-up questions. But I didn’t press any further. Pursuit of an answer felt like an exercise in futility.

When the passenger expressed hesitation to the “fine print” requirements, a more “hard sell” tactic emerged. The flight attendant lobbied that the application should be completed, “If you are considering the credit card, you should go ahead and take advantage of today’s offer. You will only be charged the fee if you use the card when it arrives. So if you change your mind, just tear it up and cancel the account.” Hmmm…I wondered…Is there a contest to collect the most applications? Could a bonus be at stake?

Needless to say, this card will NOT be found in my wallet. Maybe I’m just overreacting…being paranoid. So, I have to ask…What do you think? Would you share your social security number for this type of promotion?

Featured image “Credit Cards on Money” by 401kcalculator.org, CC BY-SA 2.0

Ambushed

Thankfully, the second leg of our flight was less eventful than the first. All buckled in, I settled back into the seat pulling my black sweater around my shoulders. I wondered whether this plane had a slight chill because it was a lot larger than the first. Looking around the zone 3 section of the plane, my eyes landed on the fully extended “personal” vents…all spewing out a steady flow of air. I reasoned that the chill had to be caused by the air movement. No matter, with all the bodies packed in like sardines, I was confident the temperature would quickly increase. So…I closed my vent and snuggled up on Hubby’s shoulder for a bit of added warmth. After the obligatory safety instruction, I closed my eyes and started to drift off with my thoughts.

OUCH! What the?!!! I almost jumped out of my skin when a deep voice blared from the speaker above my head.

I was ambushed by an all-out assault on my ear drums. The sound coming from the speakers was SO loud my ears hurt! Pressing my palms against my ears was the only way to muffle the brief message from our pilot. The niceties he chirped about our flight time and destination weather couldn’t end soon enough. I’d never experienced a message this loud on a plane…I would be willing to swear it exceeded the decibel level for safe sound. The comments from the flight attendants were nowhere near this loud. I guess I’ll have to chalk this incident up to an exuberant pilot. Note to self…bring ear plugs as a future flight precaution.

Cabin Fever

Step…stop…wait. Step…stop…wait. Step…stop…wait.

The single-file procession to board the plane extended from the gate door all the way to our seats. Upon clearing the door, we were greeted by the flight attendant who welcomed each passenger as if in a trance. Her smile appeared affixed permanently to her face. She paused the “welcome…good morning” chant just long enough to retrieve the seat belt extension that I requested.

That’s right…seat belt extension. Airplane seats and restraints are sized for the thinner side of our society. Before learning about the extension, I struggled to secure the belt around my abdomen and then would be miserable for the duration of the flight. One observant flight attendant noticed this a few years ago and offered relief. Since then, I don’t hesitate to request an extension. But usually my request is discrete. Quietly requested so the people around me couldn’t hear. I was ashamed that I needed the added belt to contain my girth. I felt as if I were being judged and was embarrassed. But not on this flight. This time I spoke in my normal tone. This time I didn’t attempt to hide the extension. I have to admit that I’m still not happy about the added weight from my chemo treatments. But I no longer torture myself (mentally) about it. Thanks to the amazing online body image class I attended earlier this year (titled “More to Love”), I am comfortable in my skin. Check it out if you can relate and want to change your life.

Taxi to the tarmac.
The wails of an unhappy child break through the silence of the cabin. The intensity of the cries peak and wane as the child’s mother attempts to provide comfort.

Cleared for take-off.
The cries were drowned out momentarily by the roar of engines preparing for take-off. Screams erupted as the plane started to accelerate and continued until we leveled out at 30,000 feet. My heart went out to them. It was obvious the child was terrified of the experience. And there’s no way to explain air travel to someone so young.

Close your eyes…relax.
I didn’t get much sleep the previous night and was looking forward to a brief nap. I figured that since there was no beverage or food service during the flight, I would be able to sleep. Boy was I wrong. Within minutes of leaving the ground, a strong odor attacked my nose. A full-on assault from somewhere behind row 19. It wasn’t a particularly unpleasant scent. If it weren’t so strong, it could be considered a pleasant fragrance. But the aroma was SO intense…SO heavy…I could taste it. There was nothing I could do to wash the smell out of my mouth. I tried breathing through the sleeve of my shirt. Slight improvement but the taste was still there. I couldn’t get away from it. I was trapped. My husband reminded me of a notice we saw regularly at the cancer treatment center. The sign requested that people avoid wearing fragrances in the building. Strong scents intensify the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy. If I were still undergoing treatment, one whiff of this scent would have deposited my breakfast on my feet.

DA.DA.DA..DAAAA. Blip…Blip…Blip… DA.DA.DA..DAAAA. It wasn’t long before another obstacle emerged in my quest for sleep. Someone was playing a video game…very successfully. The DA.DA.DA..DAAAA was like a trumpet announcing the passing to the next stage of the game. I found myself wondering whether the game was being played on a cell phone. Could ear plugs be used for the device? How long will this go on before the game is silenced?

With sleep alluding me, I pondered the question of common courtesy. It seems like a sense of entitlement has pervaded our current society. I wondered whether the fragrance and video game scenarios fit into this equation. Instead of thinking only of themselves, a person should consider their impact to others in such a confined, enclosed space. If one considers the larger good, common courtesy would lead them to postpone application of the fragrance. I would assume that common courtesy would also dictate that the video game be played with earphones or the volume turned off or not played at all. To take this concept further, let me quote the death scene exchange between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (and show my inner geek). I ask you, shouldn’t the “…needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one” in an airplane?

Checkpoint Woes

Yesterday, I hope you found some amusement in me whining about air travel and baggage. If not amusement, perhaps you could at least relate to my frustrations. Today you will find a bit more from our journey.

The next adventure along the path to our designated gate is the infamous security checkpoint. Everything off and in the grey bins. Coats…Hat…Scarf (it was below freezing when we arrived at the airport). Purse…Shoes…Toiletries (limited to 3.4 ounce travel sizes sealed in a quart-size clear plastic bag). Laptop (out of carrying case, in bin by itself, with nothing on top or bottom). Hubby’s sleep apnea machine (out of carry-on bag and in bin by itself.) And of course, a single carry-on bag for each of us. Basically, we unpack our meticulously arranged carry-on bag for a brief moment in the x-ray machine.

So let’s count them…that’s 5 bins plus the laptop bag and two carry-on bags.

The items in my carry-on would have fit into checked bag. But we needed the extra space to pack the sleep apnea machine. And, after you’ve lost luggage once, you always pack a carry-on with a change of clothes and toiletries. My luggage was a lost for three days during a trip to Australia. Our luggage took three days to arrive at the hotel. There’s nothing fun with shopping for necessaries when you would rather be sight-seeing.

While our possessions were dragged through the x-ray unit, we took our turn in the security imaging tube. Apparently I set off the silent alarm because the TSA agent escorted me to the side of the conveyor for a “polite” pat down…in front of the other passengers. Fortunately, it was a brief interlude. The search focused only on my breasts… the “girls” were NOT happy with the extra attention. (Guess there’s no reason to skip the underwire bra for the return flight, eh?) Arms down and now the scramble to retrieve everything from the bins and relieve the bottleneck that formed on the conveyor during my private screening. Instead of attempting to re-pack on the conveyor, we lugged our possessions to waiting chairs peppered with others in the same plight. This time the contents thrown haphazardly into the carry-on bag in our quest to reach the gate.

Now for my shoes. Since chemo required my toe nails to be removed, I can’t just slip my shoes on and off any longer. It’s a whole production. My socks must be placed “just so” to prevent pain when walking. FINALLY…on the move again.

Upon arrival at our gate, we settled in to wait for the boarding announcement. I was surprised of how many types of priority boarding were granted access to the plane before the zones were called. There was always first class, people traveling with children, individuals who needed additional time, and active duty military in uniform. But when did the extra promos start? Priority boarding is now a perk for carrying the airline’s credit card or reaching a specific level of the airline’s rewards program. You can even purchase priority boarding for only $15. The cost doesn’t sound like much. But is it really a benefit to board early when SO many people are in the priority line?

My thoughts were interrupted by the boarding announcement for zone 3. It’s our turn! I hadn’t gotten much sleep the past few days and was ready sit back and relax.

Air Travel Baggage

I love to fly. Well, to be completely honest…I loved to fly at a time long, long ago. A time when air travel was less complicated and SO much more relaxing. Fun even. I preferred to fly because once I got the airport, the stress of our journey evaporated. And if our destination was more than a few hours away, flying was the only option as far as I was concerned.

But no more. Unless our flight time is significantly shorter than our drive time…air travel is not even considered. Once we factor in the drive time to the airport, arriving one to two hours in advance, parking, layovers, the “joys” of getting to the gate, boarding process, in-flight annoyances, baggage claim, and transportation to your final destination…it’s just not worth the effort. Admittedly, some of the items I’ve listed seem petty. But, at best, they can add up to a difficult experience. And, at worst, can result in a very bad experience that can launch a shadow over your entire trip…especially if your journey is compounded with issues at multiple stages of the flight process.

I’m not going to get into all the reasons why things had to change in the airline industry. Or whether flight procedures need to be the way they are now. The rules are set and must be followed. Period. But that doesn’t mean I have to embrace the new complexity without whining and stomping my feet…all while grieving the simplicity of what once was.

Some of the new flight challenges are symptoms of our capitalist society. That “up sell”… “get more of that dollar while you can” mentality pervades so much of our day-to-day lives. I received multiple emails once my ticket was purchased. Offers included from an opportunity to upgrade to first class, an option to purchase preferred boarding, and an offer to apply for a credit card that also provided preferred boarding. Now mind you, I didn’t get just one email for each. No…multiple emails for each…so I wouldn’t miss out.

And then there’s the checked bag fee. I understand fuel is expensive…but so was my ticket. And I understand that I am allowed a single carry-on bag and personal item for free. No matter how carefully I pack (or what I leave behind), I will never get enough clothes and toiletries for a week to fit into a carry-on bag. Especially if I’m traveling to cold climate. And since the airfare is higher for a longer flight, shouldn’t it be safe to assume I would need more clothes? And while I’m on this subject, I would like to rant about the size of the free bags. The maximum dimensions for a carry-on (including handles and wheels) is 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), then why do SO MANY of the carry-on bags look SO MUCH bigger than mine? And then there’s the personal item that is supposed to measure no more than 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm). It’s supposed to be a PERSONAL item…purse, shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag…you know a small item. The “personal” item slung over your shoulder should NOT BE bigger than your carry-on bag. Could this be why they keep running out of space in the overhead compartments? And if there are rules then why aren’t these oversized carry-on bags required to be checked?

Let’s not forget the overweight fee. I’m tagging along on this trip with my husband who will be working. His first bag is small enough to be a carry-on but weighs almost 50 pounds. In case you were wondering…it’s full of tools he needs to work on corporate jets. He’s an Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic. His second bag has work clothes, work boots, and leisure clothes. It weighed in at 53 pounds…just over the weight limit for a checked bag. So…while standing at the counter at 6:15 am, we transferred two pair of jeans from the bag he will check to my carry-on. Problem solved.

But I have to wonder. The same weight will be on the plane. Does it really matter whether it is in the cargo hold or in the overhead compartment? I’ll leave you to ponder this until we continue our journey at the security check-point.