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, July 24, 2008

At The Airport: Same Old, Same Old
Plus A Hotel Recommendation

Recent flying experiences in this supposedly worst-of-all-summers don't seem any worse than they have been to me.

For instance, I just returned from an itinerary that involved me, one way or another, on six American Airlines flights. Four flights suffered mechanical problems that either delayed the flights (3) or led to a cancellation (1); one flight was late into DFW for unexplained reasons (and even later leaving after the slow turnaround due to a high number of wheelchairs and UMs); only one flight was on time. One out of six.

Of course, even that mere 16.67% could possibly exceed the norm for on-time flights these days. But when one is personally discomfited on five out of six flights, well, it's different from coolly reading tardy flight statistics in USA Today while sipping a neat whisky in a relaxed hotel bar.

I was upgraded on two flights (no food, though) and downgraded on one (due to the cancellation), and flew in what AA likes to call the "main cabin" on the others. But those were merely the opening acts for the grand finale.

On my last flight, 2 hours and 23 minutes long from DFW to Raleigh, I was squashed in a center seat next to a person medical professionals would define as "morbidly obese" whose body oozed over of its own enormous accord (having nowhere else to go) into half my seat after maxing out every square centimeter of his own comfy aisle seat. Indeed, his heft was such that the beverage cart could not squeeze by the other side of his torso until he stood up. I was unable to raise the soft drink glass to my lips with my left arm because it was permanently blocked by various of Man Mountain's body parts.

The cherry on top, however, (same flight) was the infant seated directly behind my right ear on his father's lap who apparently, and with great delight, discovered his voice that very morn. He shrieked and screamed with soul-piercing baby yodels, with silent intervals of never more than 30 seconds, during the entire flight. With every ear-splitting outburst, the child's parents, unabashed, cooed encouraging words to their noisome offspring like he was the Second Coming.

I endured that 143 minutes with stoical determination, never saying a word of complaint either to my lard-ass neighbor nor to the inconsiderate duo who claimed satan's child as their own.

Still, I say: Such experiences have come at me regularly for some years. I am not in more pain flying, nor is it more sustained now, than, say, a year ago. It's just pretty much the same level, and for most all the time.

Not that I'm giving the legacy carriers a pass, mind you. It's just that it seems to me that the nincompoops who pretend to "manage" UA, DL, NW, CO, and AA are doing the same incompentent job as always. Heck, why all the fuss about THIS summer?

The more things change (fewer flights, higher fares), the more they stay the same (miserable experiences), I guess.

On a happier note, I have a hotel recommendation if you are heading off to Oklahoma City.

Last summer I stayed at a downtown Marriotti Courtyard in central Denver and was surprised at how upscale the big city CYs have become. The Mariott Courtyard Oklahoma City Downtown-Bricktown is in the same genre, but even fancier.

Despite some garish lobby colors, the property was more reminiscent of a real Marriott or even a Renaissance than any CY I've ever checked into. Big rooms, fancy amenities, valet parking, plush bar and dining area, and lots more--you get the idea.

Right by the front entrance there's even a convenient self-service laptop and laser printer for printing your boarding passes.

Not complaining, but I am uncertain how such properties differentiate themselves from their snootier brand cousins any more. It was a steal at $139/night (client corporate rate). The staff was friendly, very attentive and extremely well-informed, anxious to please, and consistently proved themselves with follow-through--more like the staff at a Ritz-Carlton than the typical Courtyard.
If you find yourself in need of a bed in downtown OKC, I recommend it.


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