Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Random Reflections On 2007, and A Lament Or Two

Looking back on travel during the year just ended, I realize that, despite the travails we all face at the airports these days, I collected some good experiences. Of course there were a few lamentable ones, too.

January flying reminded me that Northwest Airlines can do a good job, especially in Minnesota, and Hertz astonished me by running out of cars on a sunny weekday at O'Hare and then not handling it well.

In February I survived a trip to Bob Dylan's home town of Hibbing, Minnesota, battling arctic temps of 38 below zero. The same month saw me enjoying a civilized few days in Portland, Oregon, where, among other observations, I marveled at their extensive and ever-growing rail transit system.

In March AirTran surprised me again with their decent and on-time service, which made our visit to New Orleans for the French Quarter Festival even more relaxing. In the same month, the State Department botched my passport renewal, and I drove 873 miles in a Hertz car Raleigh to Chicago and back rather than fly just to prove to myself it could be done (and to get a breather from air travel).

April was an exciting month. My family and I spent two weeks at the wonderful Kruger National Park in South Africa. After enjoying superb service on Emirates Air in first class from London to Johannesburg and back through Dubai, American Airlines welcomed me home by filling the cabin of my first stateside flight with smoke and scaring the bejesus out of me (and all else aboard).

May flying began with much to complain about: I was held captive on 10 flights in a single week. Trying to make the best of it, however, a May blog entry suggested ways and means to deflect the worst pain in such situations. I also wrote about running into the pilot of the AA flight which filled with smoke.

June saw me in Montana, sleepless, in a funny-sad family situation that had its upbeat moments despite the way Northwest Airlines beat us up getting out there from Raleigh and cost us hundreds of dollars for unplanned hotels and rental cars. I also mused on how AA followed NW's lead by beating up its passengers even on direct flights on little old ERJs between Raleigh and Columbus.

I watched July travel woes sitting on the sidelines on the North Carolina outer banks and not missing the Chinese water torture of the airports. But I enjoyed reading about the misery I was missing in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal between swims.

August was a great month for travel for me. I took my eight year old son on two western trips to visit railroad museums and to ride behind Union Pacific's big Northern class 4-8-4 steam locomotive number 844. It was a big thrill for us both, and the flights to Denver and back were without incident. I was delighted with the public transportation options in Denver these days (great bus and rail), as I was in Portland earlier in the year. I was not so pleased with the sky-high prices of hotel rooms in the Mile High City.

September turned out to be a quiet, stress-free month for flying, too, with good experiences on AirTran (again!) to Atlanta and on US Airways to Philly, one of its worst operations, on a rainy 9/11. My worries about the convergence of US Airways, PHL, rain, and the 9/11 anniversary were unrealized. Which proves that nothing about contemporary flying is predictable.

An October trip with a lifelong friend to Airzona and the Grand Canyon proved to be just as weird as my Montana jaunt in June. The flights out and back were actually on time; even with tight AA connections between distant DFW gates, we made them in both directions. It's been just 18 months since my last trip through PHX Sky Harbour Airport, but it seemed to have morphed again into something, well, even larger than its former bloated self.

In November I took my family on a wonderful vacation to Germany, about which I wrote extensively. Having lived in Munich in the mid-1970s, and having visited many times since, I nonetheless wondered at the city's fantastic urban transit system. A family of four can travel anywhere within Munich's "inner ring" via bus, tram, or underground (S-Bahn and U-Bahn network) for a mere €9 for one day or €21 for three days. Such a bargain! And once again I ask why we don't develop such marvelous public transit systems for our 300 million citizens.

December was the quietest month for me. For the first time in many years my family and I stayed home for the holidays. Usually in December we flit around the world to some very remote and exotic location because the kids are out of school, and we are governed by their academic calendar. I did not board a single flight all month, and it was the best gift of all for the holidays: to be home with my family and not have to face off with any airline, rental car company, or hotel.

January is now upon us, however, and plans are laid for more air travel in the coming weeks. Having witnessed the holiday meltdown of United and the recent winter storm-related ordeals of many travelers throughout the west, midwest, and northeast, I can't say that I'm bursting with excitement at the prospect of heading for the airport again.


Blogger roundman said...

Hi again Will:

Enjoyed your post and agree that the European rail travel is great. I have almost 30 years experience of business (and leisure) travel throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Low Countries.

As you point out, the 'complete 24hr daily' posted schedules are amazing. And the new DB line from FRA to Aachen when combined with the new under-construction right-of-way in Belgium from Aachen to Liege is going to change things even more.

I hope the Belgians can get their Franco-Flemish act together enough to find some way to cut out the crawl the trains are forced to do to get through Brussels. Not only are there three in-city train stations each train must go through (if not stop), but the crawl starts and ends only at about the city limits.

1/03/2008 8:34 PM  
Blogger joshua362 said...

I'm tired just reading about your travels and you have 15 years on me! How do you do it? Great that even after a travel full business life that you are able to take so many personal/family trips. The mear mortal me just wants to sit home after I get back. Good stuff.

1/04/2008 6:16 PM  

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