Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nice Place to Visit But Not to Transit Through

I am never again routing through a New York City area airport, if I can help it (Newark, Laguardia, JFK). Each time I make that mistake, it wastes time or creates a hassle.

Laguardia is off my list for international flights because you have to exit the international arrival terminal and go back through security for the terminal for the domestic flight. TSA security is my least favorite part of air travel. The last time I transited Laguardia, more than a couple years ago, I was pulled aside for a ‘random’ complete luggage check – take everything out so the TSA agent could paw through my stuff, only to find nothing, then have to re-pack everything. Fortunately, I had plenty of time between flights so did not miss my connection.

Last time through Newark in April, it was the 1st day of the ludicrous ‘sequestration,’ foisted on the American traveling public by the bullheaded Democrats and Republicans in the White House and Congress. We sat on the tarmac in Dallas – not inside the airport terminal where I could get something done – for 3 hours before they cleared us to take off for EWR. Which meant I missed my connection to Barcelona (despite running at top old-man speed when we de-planed five minutes before the connection). And despite assurances my bags would follow with me on the re-route through London Heathrow (another airport I try to avoid), and despite a hefty $300 in baggage fees (even as a Premier Silver customer of United), UA and their friends at British Airways managed to lose my bags for three days. Then they could not deliver them to me in Argeles-sur-mer, so I had to drive 45 minutes in a torrential rainstorm to retrieve them before the little regional airport in Perpignan closed for the night. Still trying to get my $300 back but United is passing the buck to BA as the last ones to handle the bags.

Now I am sitting on the tarmac in Dallas again, more air traffic control delays precluding us from even taking off. I am not in the terminal where I could have WiFi to connect and a power outlet to keep my computer charged. Cannot go forward, cannot go backward. And I’m pretty sure I will miss my connection in Newark to Geneva and have to go through another bags hassle. And forget that leisurely dinner I was planning in the terminal.

Oh, and for TSA in Dallas I had to completely empty my carry-on. They said there was too much metal (including an antique manual typewriter), and they ended up swabbing each of the jars of my Schwartz's french fry seasoning for chemical tests because the jars appeared green on their scanner. 

That’s one reason my rule of thumb is to carry anything important with me on the plane in my carry-on or backpack. Makes for some heavy loads to lug at times, but at least I can function when I – finally – get to the other end of the itinerary.

Why is the NYC area such an air traffic mess? It’s not always weather. I suspect they schedule way too many flights into the region – for example, the flight I am on has a large number of empty seats. No one else in my row. Could stretch out and take a nap.

The FAA says NextGen will be the savior and create a smoother flight flow. But it too is delayed and delayed by the do-nothing politicians in Washington. Do they not realize that air travel is a key engine of economic growth? And should be a priority (if they had any priorities other than bickering and name-calling).

Mid-air update: Now in yet another holding pattern somewhere over Virginia. A few minutes ago I had hope of making my connection, but now they’re talking about further weather delays and maybe having to land in Baltimore for more fuel. No way I’ll make my connection to Geneva if that happens.

Further update (wish I had WiFi on the plane to post this real-time) – we have been cleared to land in Newark. Maybe I’ll get lucky on the connection. (Still never going to book through NYC Metro area airports again.)

Always a silver lining – the delay-delay-delay gave me time to finish a feature for a business newspaper in India. When I finally land in Geneva, I’ll fire the text and photos to the editor.

Final update - made my connection for Geneva, largely because my Dallas-Newark flight pulled into the gate right next to my Newark-Geneva connection. And, miracle, my checked bag made it too. 

(Still never routing through NYC area again if I can avoid it.)

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