“Walmart” of the sky

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It’s been a month since the last vacation. In the scheme of things that isn’t a whole lot of time, but I gotta say that taking a vacation once a month is kind of feeling nice. I wish it could happen again next month.

Anyway, I have flown two different airlines in roughly the last five weeks and it is interesting to see how they have handled (or are handling) the pandemic a year from it’s start. Yesterday’s trip was less fabulous than the first trip. Now, I have flown other airlines, but there are two that I fly that I have liked in the past and those are the two I tend to check first when looking for flights, Alaska and Southwest.

About a month ago, I was on Alaska. The plane are newer, and feel more spacious, even if they may not actually be. The crews were friendly but not overly friendly. The planes felt clean, given the current situation, and the flights were directly to the destination (going and returning). The service inside the cabin was good. Alaska served nearly their full complimentary menu, so a light snack and beverage of choice was available.

Yesterday, I flew on Southwest Airlines. Southwest took a direct flight to Phoenix and routed it through Denver. This notification came just four days after purchasing the tickets. So, a roughly three hour flight turned into an all day affair. I wasn’t real pleased about it, but what can you do once you have already purchased the tickets? The first leg of yesterday’s trip wasn’t too crowded. But the crew wasn’t very friendly and the plane didn’t feel all that clean. It probably was, but it likely also has something to do with the fact that Southwest’s fleet is aging. Also a surprise, the in-flight service. The voice over the intercom announced they would be service iced water and a snack.

That’s it. Essentially, you are getting “bread and water” for flying with us. They, of course, told us this was because of the “current situation in the world.”

The water was a plastic cup with ice and water in it. It wasn’t even bottled water! Wow! So, apparently it is safer to serve an open cup of water in the era of airborne viruses. Go figure!

I asked a buddy who works for Southwest about it, as I was a little taken aback for the lack of services considering the experience just a month prior on a different airline. His response, “Anything to save a buck. We’re basically the Walmart of the sky, so you can’t expect much.”

I guess that is probably about right. It was a cheap flight. The second flight was much more crowded, the “empty middle seat” for social distancing was not a thing on this flight, and the plane didn’t feel any cleaner than the first one.

All in all, it was just a flight to a destination but I have come to expect a little more than what we got yesterday, even for a discount airline.

Am I spoiled or have they set us up to expect more? I am not sure.

Power(less)

people wall blur inside

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Traveling in the electronic age is rather interesting, or frustrating, depending on your point of view and experience.

On my vacation last week, I had the opportunity to visit four different airport concourses. All were Southwest Airlines concourses, but I am not actually sure who is responsible for setting them up. Obviously the airport maintains them (cleaning, etc.), but as far as designing and then implementing the design, as I understand, that is up to the airline.

The interesting thing is that all four airports had vastly different designs and amenities. Seattle’s hub, surprisingly, was the most comfortable and there were AMPLE places to plug in the electronic devices. Between a bar looking setup with plugs to all the chairs having plugs and USB ports, there was no fighting over access. As such, there was no possibility of running short on power, but I was just starting my trip so everything was fully powered already.

San Jose’s Southwest concourse was rather dinky and probably the least comfortable of all four, but again the chairs all had plugs and USB ports available so now finding a place to top off the devices wasn’t difficult. Find an open seat (maybe more difficult since it was a small place) and plug in.

Phoenix’s Southwest concourse was actually comfortable, but access to power was rather sparse. Again, I was fully charged so I didn’t need a place to power-up, but if I had there seemed to be a few “bar” looking places spaced throughout the concourse, but the plugs available at these were limited. The seating had no charging capability at all, at least not at the gate I was at and it didn’t look any different any place else.

Finally, Southwest’s Sacramento concourse was a decent size but again the power options were really limited. Again, there were a few of those “bar” options, but again nothing in the chairs. Fortunately, there wasn’t anything that needed topped off for me at this point in my trip. I was conserving power fairly well.

The return trip home was rather eye-opening. I fully expected that what I had available to me on my trip down would be available to me on the way home. That was not the case. I was a little surprised that the airline didn’t have the same amenities available in all of it’s concourses, at least as far as access to power goes. Yes, I know size of the airport and what other comforts available depend highly on the design of the building, but the easiest and most effective way to offer power options to your flyers is to add the chairs with power access right in them. The last two airports, not so much.

So, if you haven’t flown in a while, be prepared to be “powerless” on some legs of your trip. You may have to supply your own as the battle for outlets continues to increase in our electronics driven lives.

Morning flight

man walking on the road holding black luggage during sunset

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Travel day has arrived! To say that I am excited might be an understatement. Sun, baseball, buddies, beer, food,…yeah, it’s gonna be a blast.

Unfortunately, the start hasn’t been completely smooth.

I left the house one time and got the the airport exactly as anticipated. Grabbed the small suitcase, pulled up the handle for better handling while rolling, and headed to check in for my flight. I was checking the bag (it’s free) so I didn’t bother to check in early.

I got to the kiosk, checked in, and went to put the handle down on the suitcase and it won’t go down…like not move, at all….I pushed. I shoved. I pulled. I pounded. I tried finessing it. NOTHING. It isn’t moving. Great.

I am not unpacking this thing to see if I can get the bars for the handle to move from the inside. Oh, and I didn’t happen to bring my hacksaw with me so I can’t cut the dang thing off.

I asked the luggage people what I should do. They said, “We’ll still check it.” REALLY? Thank goodness!

Stress melted away.

Coffee is being consumed and I am waiting to board my flight. Let’s hope that is the only challenge faced during this trip.

 

Closer

gray airliner

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Getting to the airport is kind of a pain.

I wish I lived closer to the “main” airport in WA state. That would be Sea-Tac International Airport. It truly is the biggest transit hub of the western side of the state.

Actually, let me rephrase that since I live within 30 minutes of two regional airports. They both have expanded their service, but they have a very limited number of airlines that fly in/out of these locations so unless you are looking specifically for flights from those airlines you are out of luck and have to go to Sea-Tac.

Hence, I was at up long before the crack of dawn to get to the airport for a drop off. Long before as in I was up at 2:30am, left the house at 3:15am, arrived at the airport at 4:45am for a 5:45am flight. Thankfully that early in the morning doesn’t necessitate a two hour prior arrival for security lines.

But still…that’s early and I have a full day of work ahead of me on about 3.5 hours of sleep. Oh, did I mention I had two hours to kill before actually getting to work since I was so freaking early?

Gonna be a long day.