Keys Disease

Keys Disease
Battling Keys Disease at the Futura Yacht Club in Islamorada, Fla. three years ago.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flying, Delta, Volkswagen, Bantaan Death March, Clueless: It's Just Another Day of Travel

I find myself at the same old place I've been far too often over the course of the past 60 days: in the gate area of an airport. This morning it’s the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport. Often as not, it's Atlanta's airport or an airport of some destination from which I am returning home.

I arrived around for a flight to Atlanta. This is ridiculously early for an airport that historically requires about 10 minutes to pass through security.

While living in South Florida, I always flew out of Palm Beach International -- named after the International House of Pancakes -- because it is rather small and user-friendly when compared to Ft. Lauderdale Airport and it certainly is when compared to the no-English-spoken-here Miami International Airport. Greenville's airport makes Palm Beach look like Chicago's O'Hare.

I blame my uber punctuality today on the free Wi Fi usually offered at GSP. I always arrive at GSP early so I can answer e-mails and generally goof around on the Internet.

Much to my dismay, there was no Wi Fi this morning. I hope it was just down and not that GSP discontinued the service.

When I got to the gate area, I had to sit nearly a gate away because the flight to Atlanta had yet to board. As it did, I was able to relocate to a seat adjacent to the podium. After the boarded, the gate attendant asked if I was on the flight. When I answered in the affirmative, she said she had an open seat on the and would I like to take it.

The hop from GSP to ATL for Delta is strictly regional jets. Some are large enough to offer first class and some aren't. The wasn't; the was. As fate would have it, the open seat was in first class. I was already upgraded to first for the second leg of this trip.

Flights from GSP to Atlanta have a bad habit of being late or canceled. I would have felt extremely stupid -- not a feeling totally alien to me -- had I turned down this offer only to have the canceled.

Even for me this decision didn't require much soul searching. I took the seat.

The flight attendants -- there were two -- were the whitest women I've ever seen. Nearly white blonde hair, skin so white you could probably read a newspaper through it and pale blue eyes: they could have been twins. It's like they were left over from the casting call for "Village of the Damned."

As I sat half listening to the safety monologue issued before the flight, I noted I was being told that "in case of a water landing, my seat cushion could serve as a flotation device."

Water landing!

Wouldn't a water landing really be a water crash? I didn't notice any pontoons on the plane's landing gear. Like the use of the word "revenue" in place of "taxes," I guess "landing" is more warm and fuzzy than "crash."  Maybe no one will notice. Landing, my ass.

Arriving in Atlanta, as usual, the Delta's Atlanta operation seemed totally surprised that one of its planes actually arrived. We sat on the taxiway patiently waiting while Delta scrounged up a ground crew to wave around their orange wands as the plane crept to the jetway.

Here's Delta's M.O. in Atlanta:

It's never less than 20 minutes between wheels touching down and the plane's door opening at the jetway. I've been on flights when it has been nearly twice that. If there isn't another plane still at your arrival gate, there's no ground crew. If the gate is open and a ground crew is on station, there's no one to bring the jetway to the plane. If, by chance, there is a gate agent to run the jetway to the plane, either the jetway malfunctions or the agent is still attempting to conquer the learning curve of how to operate the jetway system. I'm not making this up.

For Delta in Atlanta, every day is like December 7, 1941 at Hickam Field: The sky is black with inbound aircraft and no one seems to have a clue what's going on.

My final destination today is Northern Virginia. I am going to a full-line drive of Volkswagen vehicles. I think the emphasis is on the redesigned New Beetle, but I'm guessing.

It is just an overnighter. We drive everything tomorrow and then fly out in the evening. Actually, the event is set up on a one-day schedule. VW made the offer to let us fly in the day before, but had structured the event for people to fly in and out, and drive on the same day. I'm not keen on 18-hour travel-work-travel days.

Quick in and outs have become too prevalent for carmaker media events. This one wouldn't have been terrible for me because D.C. and Greenville are in the same time zone. It gets dicey when I have to cross two or three time zones and the manufacturer schedules it so you drive the vehicle and fly home on the same day. I'm not a fan of red-eye flights.

As carmakers try to find areas from which to cut costs, their media events have turned into modern-day Bantaan death marches.

To my knowledge no journalist has dropped dead on one of these X-events, but I've sure wished I was dead on more than one of them.

I know: bitch, bitch, bitch…    

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that the gate agent would let you take an earlier flight. Once when I arrived at a gate early (in Atlanta), I asked if by any chance there were seats on the flight that was leaving at the moment. Sure, the gate agent said. Then he added, and that will be $50. I waited.

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