Domestic Air Travel 2012

What a good weekend in Charlottesville, VA! And what long, drawn-out complicated trips to and from the delightful place we visited. First off, security usually one look at whatever I am wearing and gives me a pat down, whether I am flying west to Seattle or in this case, east to Charlottesville. Going through security in Houston last Thursday morning, I spread my arms over my head in the X-ray machine and then security personal proceeded to hand check even the knot I'd tied at the hip of my pull over shirt. God knows what they thought I'd hidden there.
Then, just because she could, another security person stopped me to take a look through my purse. This, just after the purse passed through the X-ray machine. The woman looked at everything in every pocket of the handbag. I think she was just curious and she could pick and choose who to stop. And then it was on with the boots and jacket and silver bracelet. iPad back in my purse. I bet the 1% don't go through this every time they get on their jets. Do you think?
Yesterday we left for Houston from a very empty Charlottesville airport. Our flight to Charlotte North Carolina on a prop plane must have been the only flight leaving. No line, pleasant security folks, but Earl was patted down because the airport has no X-ray machine and his new hip set off an alarm. He got the full treatment, patted everywhere except his groin and then the guard put the latex gloves to the test.
I forgot to put my new 8 ounce bottle of Vani-Cream skin lotion into my checked bag. I went back to the ticket counter to ask if they'd bring my suitcase back so I could pack the lotion. No way, I was told. Impossible, as the bag had already cleared security.
"Then I guess I'll ask you to send it to my home," I said. "It's expensive and I don't want to leave it here."
"It'll have to be sent Fed Ex."
"That's fine," I said. More conferring behind closed doors and then magically my suitcase appeared and I slipped the Vani-Cream safely into the bag. I guess retrieving my suitcase was easier than finding a FedEx envelope and mailing me my Vani-Cream? Thank you to the person, who shall remain anonymous, who took some initiative here, or didn't want to go through a mailing process. In any case, I didn't have to forfeit a fairly full eight ounce bottle of lotion.
When I opened my suitcase that evening, I found a 'Notice of Baggage Inspection' tucked inside. My suitcase is so often opened for inspection. Is it my sleep apnea machine that gets them? The clothes I wear and the things I pack must either be items of great curiosity or big red flags?
US Airways is not a fun airline to fly. Mind you, flying United is not fun either. I suspect no domestic flights are fun anymore. Toward the end of every US Airways flight, they give passengers a long and loud winded commercial for applying for their VISA credit card. Free mileage given. But not enough mileage to tempt me. Their schpiel is really cheesy.
And just as when flying United, we are herded like cattle on to planes as they attempt to make boarding as 'elite and first class' through with roped stanchions something to aspire to. Or pay for. US Airlines has an irritating number of obscure classifications for preboarding, for which I am sure one pays extra. Then they classify the rest of us into boarding zones and I am always in zone 5. We cram ourselves into closely packed rows of seats, carry-ons in the overhead bins and then during the flight, we are given a soda, coffee or water.
We all docilely accept this way of flying. I wonder if anyone still remembers how flying used to be, when there were pillows and blankets and meals on individual trays and movies and no baggage fees or extra fees for conveniences like more foot room. Airlines are simply moving the masses now and pretending that if one preboards in some inane category, it's cool.
I learned something on this trip. Carry a book. My iPad has plenty of downloaded books, but there is a lot of time that we must 'power off our portable devices' and then there is only the Sky Mall catalog.
OK, I am not finished yet. We had three hours of flying time yesterday and it took us nine hours to get from Charlottesvile, VA to Houston, TX. We changed planes and had a two hour layover. We waited for my checked suitcase and then after reaching our car in a satellite parking lot, we discovered that those toll booths are no longer staffed with human beings. You put your parking ticket in a machine and then a credit card and off you go. Except my ticket didn't work and we searched out the lone human being on duty who manually processed the ticket and credit card.
All service has been cut to the bone, except security which gets ever more complicated and arbitrary. The combination makes air travel NOT FUN.
There, I've gotten this rant out of my system - or at least out in the open on this blog. Now I can write about the really wonderful weekend we spent in Charlottesville, VA with friends. We had a very good time and I wouldn't have missed a minute of the time we spent on the ground.

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