Yesterday the headline in The Ledger of Lakeland, FL, read “Attacks (9/11) Changed Air Travel.” Did they ever! They cast fear into thousands of passengers worldwide and transformed an exciting adventure into drudgery.
The cost of airline travel continues to surge along with the increase of crude oil. Many airlines tacked on higher surcharges for fuel a month ago, yet the industry reports that its profits will fall by 40% this year alone.
Still, we fly. Ten years ago, 72% of seats were occupied. Today, it’s 82 percent. On our recent flight from Miami to Grenada, Mikayla and I noted that nearly every seat was full. We were lucky. We booked the aisle and window seats on the same row (Feel free to use this great travel tip!), and the middle seat remained empty for us to stretch out.
Unfortunately, misinformation and lack of civility have accompanied the change in air travel. I received conflicting information from four different American Airline agents over the course of two days as I tried to discover if our flight from Tampa to Miami had been canceled as indicated on the phone and website. It had not.
Soon after we arrived at the AA check-in center, we played Baggage Roulette, rearranging the contents of our four check-in bags so that three weighed 50 pounds or less. The fourth, a golf bag, could weigh up to 70 pounds. Mikayla remarked that she didn’t realize that clothes could weigh so much, as she shifted shorts, swimsuits and dresses from one bag to another.
At that point AA agent Tim disdainfully ordered all the passengers in the queue to use the self-service kiosk. With half a dozen agents behind the ticket counter, everyone had mistakenly thought that they were present to help us. Also, no signs indicated that international fliers were permitted to use self-service.
After I plugged our information into the kiosk and printed the boarding passes and baggage tickets, I realized that we were shorted the two tickets necessary for Mikayla’s bags. Tim couldn’t believe that the computer, and not me, had made an error as he continued to mutter under his breath and shake his head. He offered no apology as he wrapped the additional tags around the baggage handles as tightly as the undershorts choking his privates.
I maintained a cheerful attitude and thanked Tim for his assistance, because I always remember one of Mike’s favorite travel stories.
He was standing at a Delta counter and hoped to sweet-talk the agent into allowing him to catch an earlier flight back to Atlanta. The passenger in front of Mike spent a couple of minutes berating the agent behind the counter, criticizing the airline for some disservice that the agent was not responsible for. She smiled throughout his vituperation and calmly continued her task.
When Mike reached the counter’s edge, he asked the agent how she was able to maintain her composure during such a nasty tirade. She smiled sweetly and replied, “Oh, it’s not a problem for me, but that passenger is in for a surprise. He’s going to New York and his bags are going to Miami.”