I love to travel. Anyone who knows me knows this is true. I love seeing new places, meeting people. I love experiencing the ancient places, different foods, learning about cultures different than my own, and hearing the musical qualities of foreign language all around me.
But I hate the airlines. Like greedy little monsters, they charge now for those cheap pillows, to watch a movie, for “extra leg room”, and for any other thing they can think of.
This trip I am on is not to a distant place. I’m just going to New York City, to revisit a place I lived many years ago. It should not be so difficult to get there. But they make it that way.
RANT PART A – Frontier Air. Remember that name. Large green signs informed me “we don’t charge for carry-on luggage!” (Well, goody for you, I thought. No one charges for carry-on, that’s why all women are suffering while learning to pack lightly enough to cram all of our stuff into a small bag to avoid luggage fees!) As I checked in at the kiosk with my small carry-on suitcase and a tote for “personal items”, I was electronically informed that , despite the signs I had passed on the way in, I could not bring my carry-on without forking out an additional $50. I ignored this warning – how could that be true? – and continued the quest to print my boarding pass. It warned me again, adding that if I did not pay here and now, I would be charged $100 at the gate. I paused.
“Excuse me,” I asked the lady checking in next to me. ”Do they really charge for a carry-on?”
“Yes, but if you check your bag it’s less.”
That makes no sense, I thought, but sighed and hauled my bag to the counter, where I paid an additional $25 to check a bag that hadn’t even afforded me space for my curling iron. (Not that I use it much, but I have a new short haircut, and might have had the impulse to glam it up for a night on the town in NYC.) If I’d known, I would have packed a bigger bag! Or rented out space in mine; I picture five people’s belongings crammed into a suitcase like border crossers in the back of a coyote’s truck.
“It’s because you didn’t book at Frontier Dot Com,” the gate lady told me sadly. How could I tell her the story of my email inbox tempting me with crazy flight deals through sources like Expedia, Travelocity, and Cheap-O-Air, where I got this round trip to New York for $250, and like an addict, I sometimes wake up from a coma-like state with a new charge on my credit card and a plane ticket fluttering in my hand, and little memory of how this happened? And I certainly don’t have enough loyalty to one airline to go to only their website and pledge my allegiance. Especially not now, with this stupid luggage policy!
RANT PART TWO – TSA and airport security.
Ok, extra fee paid, I truck on through the backed-up security line. I remember 9-11. It started before that, of course, this tightening of rules, this restriction of what you can bring on a plane. It’s nice to feel safe, don’t get me wrong, but I am a sweet blonde preschool teacher, not a terrorist. I don’t even kill spiders. But here we go, anyway. As I stand in an endless line of grumpy resigned travelers, kicking our bags along a few inches at a time, I remember when things changed. It began with restrictions of what is in your bag. Then came a shoe-bomber, and suddenly all shoes need to come off. They put in the metal detectors: remove your belts, jewelry, fillings from your teeth…. Then some idiot tries to bring in a liquid combo bomb, and suddenly my bottles of shampoo are suspect. I have been waiting for the notorious Bra Bomber to appear, the result of which would be that all boobs must be freed for inspection before proceeding to your gate. Some pervy TSA will eventually get his wish!
Speaking of TSA, those blue-gloved, unsmiling aliens….is there anyone in the world so stone faced? Where do they find these people? I would love to see the personality test they need to pass before they are hired!
As I went through the body scanner, legs spread, hands up, like the beginning of a weird yoga pose, I waited for my bags to go through the Xray – my little baggie of liquids, my shoes, my laptop, my belt. I hear one of the TSA (Tough Stupid Assholes? Tired Sucky Aliens?) call for a supervisor. A little old lady, probably 70 years old, stood with her passport and boarding pass, which was apparently missing a stamp. I could see her eyes filling and lower lip tremble as she waited anxiously (minutes ticking by until her flight boarded, no doubt.) Can’t you just check it and stamp it? I thought. But clearly I have not been educated in little old granny lady terrorists as the TSA have. I gave her a sympathetic smile as my own dangerous items finally scooted toward me on the belt.
At the gate, my tote bag was measured for size. On the plane, I was offered $2 soda or coffee. I declined; I had filled my own water bottle at the gate.
I’ll make it to New York, and I’ll have a good time. If I spend money, which I undoubtedly will, it will be at my own discretion. Flying used to be fun; now it is the worst part of the trip. At the Frontier counter I joked that I was opening my own airline soon; everything included. We’d laugh and fly and drink free wine. It would be cheap wine, but it would be free. All the agents said they’d fly with me.
(Stay tuned for more upbeat blogging soon, I promise :)