TimeGoesBy Takes a Break
INTERESTING STUFF – 9 November 2013

Crabby Old Lady's Air Travel Travails

It was a terrific day at the Business Innovation Factory conference on Monday - a lot learned and good things to tell you about it, just not today. Here's why.

By the time Crabby Old Lady got home from Providence, Rhode Island on Tuesday night, she had been en route for 14 hours. Count them: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14.

If you think all those numbers are painful to read, try living them.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. According to Crabby's itinerary, the trip should have been (snark alert) only 10 hours and 50 minutes. Bad enough but Crabby was mentally prepared for them. Those unexpected three hours, however, left Crabby ragged and frayed and worn down for the next two days.

When did air travel become wholesale torture?

Changed flights, delayed flights, miles of corridors to and from gates – “oops, lady, somebody gave you the wrong gate number” - lines for boarding, lines for the lavatory, no food for 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-13-14 hours.

It is doubtful that any of this is news to you but somebody needs to bitch instead of meekly accepting the abuse (abuse that we actually pay for in real dollars) and Crabby Old Lady is good at that.

When Crabby checked her flight curbside at the Providence airport, the agent wrote down her gate number and made a joke about the ten mile hike she was in for.

Crabby told him that at her age that isn't a joke. He told her to order a wheelchair next time - “people who don't need them do it all the time,” he said.

Crabby was appalled that such cheating is not only tolerated but encouraged by the airline staff. Whatever happened to those six-person people-mover carts that once patrolled airport corridors? There were none in any of the four airports Crabby passed through on Tuesday.

Fortunately for Crabby, she knows how to pack lightly and together with her recent, 30-pound weight loss, the long treks were much easier than the last time she traveled by plane two years ago.

Then there was the food issue. Knowing there would be nothing but tiny packets of stale pretzels and/or past-their-use-by-date peanuts on board, Crabby looked for carry-on food stalls along the corridors.

The choices are awful. Wraps and sandwiches filled with dubious kinds of meat and cheese, hundreds of sugar- and fat-laden pastries, sodium-laced chips in a zillion chemically-made flavors and candy bars – candy bars lined up into an infinite distance.

It's 3,000 calories per item or starvation. No other choices.

At last, in the corner of a refrigerator case, Crabby found a few eight-ounce cups of fresh fruit – grapes, cut up melon and pineapple, sliced apples, etc. She bought two. Ahem - at $6 each.

She didn't discover until she was in flight that they must have been left over from a day or two earlier – rubbery, dried out and sour tasting. Crabby ditched them in the flight attendant's trash bag.

Now here's a tip for air travel that may be as new to you as it is to Crabby: never worry about missing a connecting flight again.

Crabby discovered on this trip that nowadays airlines are so allergic to having even one empty seat, they hold planes way past take-off time when expected connecting flights are arriving late.

Then, of course, the transfer passengers must walk those ten miles to their next plane. That would be yours - the one you've already been sitting in with no fresh air for 45 minutes while the guy crammed into the seat next to you has used up six packets of Kleenex loudly blowing his nose non-stop which he will continue to do for the entire two-hour flight.

That really happened to Crabby. Isn't there a law against flying with a cold – or at least an advisory not to do so?

Crabby might have felt sorry for him traveling in his sick misery but he shouldn't have been spreading his germs all over a packed plane, so she doesn't.

On these flights – there were three – Crabby chose window seats so she would have a wall to lean against to help her sleep part of the way. But that poses a problem if you fail to correctly balance water intake to prevent dehydration against the need to pee.

To her chagrin, Crabby flunked this basic travel skill forcing her two seatmates into the aisle three times on the longest leg of her flight while Crabby crawled out of the row. The third time, they both looked exasperated and who could blame them.

All this is in addition to what Crabby, in her on-board boredom, calculated to be a miniscule 27 cubic feet of personal space allotted each passenger with, unless you need to pee, zero opportunity to stretch your legs for hours and hours and hours.

What Crabby doesn't understand is why we go along with this torture like sheep. In fact, flying reminds Crabby of some other animals humans slaughter - all those corporate-raised pigs and chickens crammed together in their pens with no space to turn around.

How is plane travel these days any different?


We tolerate it because we have no choice; there is no other way realistically to travel coast to coast. I have the added indignity of having to have a full body pat down every time I fly because I cannot walk and stand in the scanner. I hate flying and am already dreading the trip to D.C. next spring.

Dear Crabby.....ah, bravo for voicing all our anger for us. G and I found ourselves in a 3 seat row that used to be a 2 seat row on our last flight. We are not small folk, so to avoid the lady near the window, we both leaned toward to aisle or out into the aisle. We have to fly somewhere next year, and tho we can't afford it we will fly business.

You are right, flying is no longer a pleasure, I used to get a high just going to an airport. Now I just grit my teeth and endure it. It's that or stay home. I will say that I love Amtrak. Comfortable, reasonable and the food is not bad. You can move around at will. Sometimes they are late but I don't care; at my age, I am not in a hurry. Too bad they don't go more places

I've given up air travel also not being physically up to it on top of all the items you mention Ronni. We pay for the abuse physically and emotionally too if you have health issues. I like Amtrak too, it is a shame the USA let its railways shrink up the way it did.

"When did air travel become wholesale torture?"

Yes but now you can carry on small knives and use your lap top in flight. :-) Dodging crabby old lady's cyber fist

I have a picture of me getting on a plane back in the mid-60's. I'm wearing a spring coat (is there still such a thing?), a hat and gloves, and it was a nice experience. Now I stay away from planes as much as I can.

About 6 years ago, my husband and I were flying out of Denver. We had gone through security and were having something to drink before boarding. He just happened to look at his boarding pass and it had someone else's name on it - - security had supposedly compared the name on the boarding pass to the name in his passport, and hadn't caught that the names were completely different. That experience added to my dislike of flying.

I hate flying, but I hate driving more. What to do?
Travel used to be an adventure.
I have to bite my tongue as I go through security.

Just wanted to add that I love you, Ronni. You've become a part of my day.

Marcy B. - I'm lucky in that I love to drive, and have done two long (total about 8,000 miles) road trips this year, by myself.

welcome back....

Consider Amtrak for your next trip. Yes, it will take longer but a lot less hassle than air travel and actually very relaxing. Amtrak may have a bad reputation among some but I've taken 3 semi-cross-country trip (leaving Chicago heading west and then return trip) over the past 7 years and have had a very enjoyable trip. You can make healthy food choices in the dining car, get up and move around during almost all of the ride, get fresh air breaks periodically. Recommend getting a sleeper vs. trying to sleep in couch. Also get to view the beautiful countryside and some nice and not-so-nice, parts of major cities.

I love Amtrak. Even if it's kind of beat up and slow. The worst seat on the train is better than first class on a plane, and you can often get out of the train and stretch your legs, breathe in (avoiding smokers) fresh air, then climb back on. I remember one night on the Coast Starlight (nicknamed by regulars: Coast Star Late), up around Mount Shasta, about 9pm, in the forest, the train began picking up speed. Highly unusual and a thrill even to the conductor, a cute young man who sang out, "Rock and roll, baby; rock and roll!" as he walked down the corridor chuckling.

How pleased was I when the Doctor told me never to travel by plane to avoid the incredibly painful headaches on that last flight!!!!!

As a 30 year veteran of Full Time RV'ng Taking my home with me on every trip works best for me!

I flew from Arizona to California a few days ago and it was a piece of cake. They told me that if you are over 75 you do not have to take your shoes or jacket off and I didn't have to go through a full body scan. They just put the powder on my hands to check for explosive residue and ran the scanner under my arms.

I always get a direct flight with no plane changes now or I don't go. I do need a wheel chair and do resent seeing people who are not handicapped using one; especially if they are boarded first and take the front seats that I need to stretch my aching legs.

I did have a long delay in San Diego while they changed pilots and some got off the plane while others boarded.

I hope my return trip is as easy. I will probably have to stand in the full body scanner when I return home because Oakland has one and they made me do so last time I left from here.

For the reasons you mentioned, I take an aisle seat now because it is difficult for me to get up from a seat and to navigate in the tiny space to get to the aisle would result in stepping on the feet of the other passengers.

If I travel during meal time I put a protein bar and a banana in my carry on. I realize my flights are usually much shorter than yours was, Ronni, so that would not suffice on a 14 hour flight.

There is one disadvantage to using a wheel chair. If you are forced to change planes and have a long wait you are confined to it holding your carry on luggage. If nature calls you are stuck with no one to take you to the bathroom. That's why I only take direct flights now.

I just hope my return flight is as easy as my last one was.
If I didn't use a wheel chair it would be a nightmare, though.

"When did air travel become wholesale torture?" It started in 1978 - when the airlines were deregulated. Deregulation not only lowered some of the operating expectations, but heightened the competition among airlines - resulting in "the masses" starting to fly.

9/11/2001 did not help, of course. It increased expenses (for security features) to the airlines (thence, to the flying public) and the hassle to the flying public who must go through the in-terminal security procedures.

Flying in coach is not a pleasant experience! I am of the opinion that we had better (for the day) service from airlines and the telephone company before deregulation.

Airplane travel has definitely become a nightmare. As my husband says, "Amtrak is the only way to fly." But sometimes there's no alternative to airplane travel. In September The Engineer and I traveled to England and back. Checking in on the final leg of the trip from New York to Seattle, I had a tiny thread-clipper confiscated by TSA. It was in a small sewing kit in my purse. If there is a ring of little old lady terrorists out there, I'm sure that the three huge men in the row in front (air marshals?) would have had no trouble wrestling the thread clipper out of my hands. It's too absurd.

Yes, Florence, and everyone else, we DO have a choice. I have chosen never to fly again (unless it is a dire emergency) in my lifetime. I have never been to Hawaii; when they build a bridge, I'll go. I've never been to Europe; when I can afford passage on the QEII, I'll go. My husband and I drive every vacation we take - it doesn't matter that we put 3000-3500 miles on our car for each vacation. It is more fun; we can stop (and pee) when we need to; we can take side trips when we see something interesting; we don't have to rent a car or depend on others at the other end. The pluses go on and on and on. People who fly these days are ASKING for things to happen to them like happened to Crabby. If people quit flying and start traveling by car or train again, maybe the train service in this country will come back to what it was in the 50s and previously. People DO provoke change; believe it!!

Glad to hear so many people are choosing the train. It's not only more relaxing than flying but it is better for the environment also.

Crabby's agent was right about the people using wheelchairs who don't need them. A disabled friend of mine, who had just gotten off a long flight from Singapore to London, was recently left stranded in a corridor for three hours at Heathrow because there were no wheelchairs available. And when the attendant finally brought one he told her it was because so many people ask for them when they don't need them at all.

I have not flown in about 6 years, so I'm no judge. Sorry you had that experience.

no form of interstate travel is what it used to be no matter what ones age is. it is harder as we get older because of physical aches and pains and other conditions that age imposes on most of us.

we have to rely on some kind fellow passenger to get carry-on in and out of the overhead and i always seem to have a really long walk to the gate.

i've thought about trying the train. it's a long trip not even counting getting into chicago to the station and these days i have to change in pittsburgh in a hole in the wall station in the middle of nowhere in the wee small hours of the morning for a another train for several hours even if it might miraculously be on time.

don't even think about the bus for a long trip. i won't even go into that!

i hate traveling, but sometimes there are emergency trips and i like to visit my daughter and her family in boston for christmas. so what can one do?

still i'd much rather be a human traveling than have the experience that animals have going to the slaughter.

however one travels, it is good to travel as light as possible and bring some food, but don't drink a lot! try to sleep if possible.

I always travel by plane with nuts and dried fruit for any emergency delay.

I'm in full agreement after a trip this past summer. I sat in the airport waiting for the van to take me to my final destination and thought, "Air travel is not what it is made out to be." I used to love to fly and go places, but not any more.

My sister calls it flying steerage.

the train from Portland OR to Providence RI - are you serious?Aside from taking almost as long as in the days of the covered wagon- it is very expensive. Coast to Coast the only way to go is by plane - 14 hours is long for a plane trip across the US but by train - probably 3 days.
Crabby must have flown Southwest - and had to change planes at least twice -even then - not cheap - SW is no longer a cheap carrier but you can check a bag without a charge - and change your flight without charge - I prefer a non-stop flight coast to coast - but one has to live in the right city and go to the right city to get that.

They don't call it cattle-class for nothing. On our US trip last year, I used Amtrak wherever possible and second the comments above if you have the time. But for example, with only 4 hours from central NY to Boston, it's probably quicker than the rigmarole of flying as well as more comfortable, and reasonably priced.

No longer do I have the patience to endure the torture of airline travel.I have experienced all of the trevails that you had on your recent trip across the US. Unfortunately the bad side of this is that I haven't visited my kids & grandkids for over a year. Thank goodness for Skype!! I am planning a trip after the holidays and it will be my last as I hope to sell my house and move across the country. Hopefully I will not have to endure the torture of airline travel ever again!!

As a business traveler I live with it. Those that don't do it often can experience shock.

Right On!

I still approach flying as an adventure --There are always stories to tell---

I too like the window seat for sleeping --but the "pee" factor now has become an issue--so what to choose on a ten hour flight??

Ronni, everything you described is spot on about airports, delays, line ups, the whole 9 yards.

From the day we met, our infinite curiosity has led us up the ramps of hundreds of planes all over the world.

My husband adores airports, planes, anything to do with flying. I'm his trusty sidekick.

Some flights to S.E. Asia, OZ were 17 hours long.

A plane we boarded in Russia opened up in the back, like a car trunk.

People climbed aboard carrying animals, like chickens, pigs..

I'm not making this up.

The two sumo sized men splayed in front of us scoffed copious loads of mystery food, leaned back, heads almost in our laps, and commenced to letting off the most revolting gas bombs.

There was no escape.

The mix of gas, animals, human sweat and whatever was going on in the pilot cabin, was enough to topple an innocent rhino.

We love traveling by train.

One favorite trip is the overnight train from Bangkok, over the River Kwai,into Butterworth Station.

Clean cars, gorgeous scenery, safe.

We have experienced it all, including the pat downs.

But we can't stop exploring and there are many places we want to see, so we keep it up.

Pack light, bring your own food, neck pillow, book, try to get an aisle seat.

My number one favorite way to travel is by car, with my husband at the wheel.

We are heading south this winter, by car.

We can't wait to be on the road.

We have Ronald Reagan (and once again the Republican Party) to thank for making air travel torture instead of the pleasure it used to be. He thought deregulating air travel (and lots of other industries) was a good idea. I think not so much! I haven't flown in over 35 years and have absolutely no desire to do so based on all that I've heard and read. In fact, I think travel in general is vastly overrated if one is seeking a pleasant experience--and is not in the top 1%. If I must go somewhere, it better be accessible by decent roads.

Glad you survived, Ronni. Bet you won't be doing it again very soon!

I think it is probably objectively true that, considering inflation, air travel is cheaper than it has ever been. And the airlines are not economically healthy.

But last week I endured a 21 hour journey from SF to Tokyo to Bangkok on a US carrier and I can only call the experience brutal. The attendants seemed to be trying mightily to be friendly and helpful, but still it was awful.

At least on international flights they still have to serve something vaguely resembling food. It is a distraction. And I bet the crews yearn for the day when we'll all be able to get online in flight and leave them alone!

I'm with Emily. After having been fed either swill or nothing on a few flights, we started carrying almonds and dried apricots with us on every trip. We've had them for dinner a couple of times.

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