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.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

That Darn American Airlines Does It Again!

In early August my family of four flew from Raleigh to Dallas, and then from Dallas to Denver. Both flights went off smooth as silk, and were on time or early. The AA crews were nice, and so were the ground personnel at all three airports. We enjoyed great service in coach on both MD-80 airplanes, and we had great seats near the front of economy (10AB and 11AB).

Two weeks later we retraced our steps back to DFW and then to Raleigh on American, but with a big difference: We arrived at the Denver airport more than two hours early (I fretted over potential bad traffic between Cheyenne, Wyoming and DEN and allowed far more time for the drive than was necessary), then breezed through security, and arrived at the AA Admirals Club with carry-on bags only. The agent smiled and asked if we'd like to take the 11:55 AM flight to DFW rather than the 2:10 PM since we were there so early.

No-brainer, we said. She then confirmed all four of us on an earlier connecting flight DFW/RDU, and we arrived home to Raleigh at 8:00 PM rather than 11:00 PM. The only downside was having to endure row 32 (the last row on the airplane) from Denver to Dallas. Because the engines are attached to the fuselage on either side there, rows behind 28 have virtually no visibility, which for me is claustrophobic. It's also very LOUD sitting between the two powerplants! Nice AA FAs made life tolerable by plying us with beverages and good cheer.

On the other hand, the Dallas/Raleigh seats were in row 7, the first row behind first class (sublime!). Both flights were early, and the on-board service was provided by efficient and friendly flight attendants.

So why the headline of complaint?

Well, because this blog was originally established to COMPLAIN about the travails of travel, a sort of primal scream on the World Wide Web to purge my soul of evil spirits so I can keep on getting onto airplanes. I DEPEND upon the airlines to persist in screwing everything up, a reasonable expectation (without fear of disappointment until now) since airline service began declining so precipitously some 20 years ago.

Every year until this one the travel experience has worsened with sickening predictability. Yet in 2009 it seems I can't catch a break with American Airlines because they just keep doing everything RIGHT! I mean, how can a guy poison-pen a blog entry that fellow travelers will say "AMEN!" to if the damn airlines won't do their part?

Sadly, I can't find so much as a wad of gum under my seat to complain about with AA so far this year.

Why am I missing all the fun? While other airlines provide their customers with concrete, life-changing experiences of hellish service, like having to endure 14 hours of agony sitting on a tarmac within spitting distance of a gate with no food or water and overflowing toilets, American Airlines has hit it out of the park on nearly every flight for months.

Perhaps I should book a few segments on United or US Airways to get back into the ugly groove of late or canceled flights,
missed connections, wickedly bad on-board service, and deplorably incompetent or indifferent ground staff. That would FEEL more normal...

And yet, all sarcasm aside:

I dream the dream that these recent flying experiences herald better days ahead for all of us who depend on commercial aviation to perform its role consistently well. Truly, the silver lining in depressed air travel demand during the recession seems to be, on American Airlines at least, an achievement of that heretofore elusive goal. May AA and all our domestic carriers continue this trend and perfect its practice routinely as demand returns.

Next week, another memorable road trip: 2038 miles in a Hertz car across Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana in 15 days.