The Down-side of Air Travel

I’ve been really enjoying Dr. John Fea’s serious posts on his blog lately (can you tell?), but yesterday he shared this humorous (at least in hindsight) post about his travel home from a seminar he helped to lead in Oklahoma City. It reminded me of my trip back from Vancouver last year. Let us just say that it did not go well:

I then headed to the Will Rogers World Airport (yes, that is its real name) in Oklahoma City to catch my 5:05 flight to Chicago O’Hare where I would have a very short layover before catching my flight home to Harrisburg.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but I did not make it home until early this morning (Wednesday).  I spent Monday night in an airport hotel in Oklahoma City and about fifteen hours in O’Hare on Tuesday.

He then shares a list of things he “learned” through this experience. Here are a few from the list.

  • It is not very comforting to fly out of an airport named after a guy who died in a place crash.
  • Airport hotels pride themselves in running 24 hour shuttles to and from the terminals, but they stop room service at 8pm. (Or at least they do in Oklahoma City)
  • Going on “standby” for a flight is not fun.
  • It is hard not to gain weight in an airport.  Or, to put it differently, it is hard to order the salad when the Cinnabon stand is staring you in the face.
  • Most people who snatch up the emergency exit row seats on an airplane are under six feet tall.  If you are 6’7″ and notice this, it is OK to give the “short” person in the exit row seat a dirty look as you attempt to squeeze yourself into your regular seat. (Note: Yes, John is 6’7″, there are several other items on the list that pertain to this fact. I am about 6’2″, so I know something about this, but not to his extent.)
  • If the TSA K-9 unit is training dogs in the terminal and the dog starts sniffing your seat or your bag, do not pet the dog.  You will get yelled at.
  • After waiting for 30 hours to get home, when you do get on your connecting flight it will inevitably be delayed.  The pilot will get on the speaker and apologize for the “slight delay.” You will then lean to the guy next to you and say “SLIGHT DELAY!  I have been waiting to get home for 30 hours!”

My experience was much less time consuming, but I thought I’d share anyway. I was flying back from Vancouver, BC (home of last year’s Joint Statistical Meetings) with Dr. Marlin Eby, my statistics colleague here at Messiah. We took the short flight from Vancouver to Seattle without issue, then caught our connection to Dulles. Long flight, and we ended up landing after dark amid some rain. We landed a little behind schedule, but the connection to Harrisburg was supposed to be in the same part of the terminal, so we didn’t expect too much trouble. We got off the plane, and then headed for the first flight board to check the gate for our flight. The board did not indicate a gate, instead it directed us to see an agent, that our flight was delayed/canceled. Of course, we went looking for the agents desk. Finding it wasn’t too hard, the line was pretty easy to spot from a distance. We got in line to see an agent at around 10:15. We didn’t make it to the agents desk until around midnight. I guess air traffic up and down the east coast was grounded. The worst part was the woman in front of us. Nothing personal, it was just that she had gotten here after her flight had been diverted to HARRISBURG. After a brief wait, they took off and finished the flight to Dulles, but now she needed to reconfigure the rest of her flight plans. Wait. She came from Harrisburg while we were not allowed to go to there?!

By the time we got to the front of the line, the next flight to Harrisburg with open seats was around noon the next day. The relatively unfriendly woman that was helping me (maybe the length of the line in front of me and how much remained behind me had something to do with that) begrudgingly put me on standby for the 8:00 flight the next morning (Marlin was given the same by his agent, who was even less friendly than mine).  We were offered a discounted hotel, but by the time we had waited with all of the folks from our airline and others trying to get shuttles, if we could even have found an open room, we figured it wouldn’t be worth it to try to get back in time to clear security and see if we could get on the early flight home. I texted Joy, and warned her that I didn’t know when I would be home. I thought briefly about leaving, renting a car, and driving home, but my car was at the Harrisburg airport parking, my checked bag would have to be picked up at some point, and I’d have to pay for that out of pocket. I decided to at least wait out the night and see how the morning went. Here is what I learned: Airport chairs are not comfortable for sleeping. Especially if you are over 6 feet. Even if you find a section of seats without arms. Also, the little airport pillows they provided us with (free of charge! Yipee.) are too small to really do much for you. Oh, and airport terminals are not particularly quiet or dark, even at 3:00 am.

After a pretty much sleepless night, we were fortunate enough to both get on that early morning flight back to Harrisburg. Better yet, my bad made it too. I was quite happy to get back to my car, drive home while trying desperately to stay awake enough to drive safely. (I’m pretty sure I did that well, but I wasn’t following me.) Joy and the kids were glad to see me, and after some sleep in my own bed, I was able to really enjoy being home!

Thanks, John, for the reminder that it could have been worse. (Driving home from Chicago or Oklahoma City would probably have been a much less attractive option than driving home from DC.) Thanks, also, for being able to share with the rest of us your valuable insight. 😉

2 comments on “The Down-side of Air Travel

  1. […] off track and should be pulled back, overhauled, and privatized. I commented on the TSA previously here and here.  This piece from Audrey Hudson at Human Events details his comments from a recent […]

  2. […] right on, as I’ve said before. You can find previous comments on the TSA here, here, here, here, and here. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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