Friday, September 7, 2007

The unfriendly skies

I'm supposed to pick up my sister-in-law at Albany Airport late tonight. I don't expect an on-time arrival. Who would? One of the few guarantees in life these days is that if you're flying someplace, it's unlikely you'll get there promptly.

Remember when flying was an exciting, enjoyable experience? Even before 9/11 that changed.

Back in the day, I can recall the family taking my grandmother to Idlewild (you know it now as JFK) for her annual flight to Florida. We would get dressed up just to see her off.

Naturally, if you were a passenger, you'd wear your Sunday finest, as they used to say. That's impractical today for a variety of common sense reasons, not the least of which is the prospect of the cattle call from the check-in counter, through security to the departure lounge, followed by shoe-horning into your seat, then hustling to a connecting flight and eventually sweating it out at baggage claim. People on board your average flight these days look like they just transferred from a Greyhound bus trip.

Meantime, you've arrived at the airport a couple of hours early, more if you're in long-term parking at JFK or Newark. You could be in the destination airport an hour after you land waiting for luggage. And that's just part of the hassle. Yet you may be able to handle it were it not for the standard flight delays caused by overcrowded skies, overworked air traffic controllers and bad weather in hub cities. (The possibility of severe weather in Chicago already had arrivals backed up over an hour today, as I write this. Of course, that's where my sister-in-law is supposed to make her connection. Or, better stated, that's where my sister-in-law will miss her connection and hope she can get the last flight into Albany.)

Food on the flight? It never was very good. Now you're lucky to get a tiny bag of pretzels. (Remember the Woody Allen line? "The food (in that restaurant) is lousy and there isn't enough of it.")

We all have tales of woe to report, so I'll stop here. Suffice it to say, it figures to be a long night for me in Albany.
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