us air sucks
it's been my pleasure not to have to fly all that often for quite a long time now, and it's remarkable how the old airline model has completely died, though the cadaver keeps going through its motions without yet realizing how completely dead it really is. the planes are full, yet they can't afford to keep to a schedule to to do more than the least things possible to ameliorate the depressing conditions under which their passengers are forced to endure. all of my us air flights over the past two days were over 90 minutes late, and during those 90 minute delays i counted over a two dozen people who were shut out at contiguous gates from delayed connecting flights without even so much as an "i'm sorry" from the harried and hapless gate crews who kept shutting the doors and shrugging their shoulders as if your ticket on their airline was most like a lottery one. don't get me wrong--i'm not blaming anybody in particular here, as the gate crews didn't make those connecting flights late, neither do they work in a system that allows them to do even the first little thing about it. they just endure the profanity of frustration better than i'm sure their pay grade compensates them to do, and slide the faceless names into the next standby queue and pass the problem on to the next place.
which, of course, brings us to the indignity which is standby status, in which people purchasing tickets are required to stand in an overcrowded gate area without the least chance of clearing the wait-list and actually getting on a flight, only to be passed to their next possible departure gate in that very same standby status, meaning that they'll likely get bumped yet again straight towards that very last flight of the day, though, should they ever fail to sit at each gate for the entire duration of the pre-board ritual, they'll lose even their wait-list status, and the value of their ticket, for not showing up. unbelievable, but true. i met about two dozen of those folks there at the various airports, too.
some suggestions if you're air-traveling, and not prescient enough to choose a newer, "low-cost" carrier (like, for example, jet blue, though there are many others, including southwest) which, ironically enough, knows better how to run a airline system than their full-price competitors:
suggestion #1: never, EVER book a connecting flight if you can get yourself to within 3 hours rental car drive of your destination on a direct one. connections are major airlines' way of capturing you into their revenue collection system without any real intent on letting you out, and then abusing you interminably for your inconvenience. your inbound flights WILL get delayed, you WILL miss your outbound connections, and everything will go way downhill from there. it's bad enough you have to fly in the first place. don't compound your misery with connections.
suggestion #2: never, EVER check a bag anywhere other than the departure gate itself on that direct flight you've insisted upon based on suggestion #1. pay to have UPS ship your stuff overnight and meet it there if you must, but never check a bag. if you ever get caught (and you WILL get caught) in a schedule and/or routing SNAFU, your ability to change flights and/or routes in order to arrive at your destination on the same day you intended will be impossible if they have to try to match you up with your bags. carry everything. hand it over should the overhead bins become full at the jetway entrance itself and nowhere else, and watch while they tag your bag and take it directly to the baggage compartment. it's the only way it'll be there when you are. trust me.
suggestion #3: enjoy your rental car. you will end up renting one to finish your journey, and an extra $10 or $20 with enterprise or whomever will get you into something comfortable and respectable for those last few hours getting to your destination. yesterday i upgraded to a dodge charger, and it was a perfect highway cruiser for the last 2 hours between asheville and charlotte. (yes, they have a perfectly nice airport in asheville, and i actually had a ticket there, but see point #1 above, and the preceding rant about how us air and others can never seem to have a plane to actually match the ticket they've sold you).
i'd tell you more about the very last seats in the very last row of the very last airplane to boston, but that would likely be too depressing for both of us right now, so, suffice it to say, i'm glad i was there with my family, and glad to be home, and not un-appreciative of all the people who worked yesterday and the day before to make it all possible, but, seriously, if i had left asheville in a rented car after breakfast, i'd have been home here to lowell an hour before i actually arrived from my air mis-adventures, and i've have spent far less money for the privilege. (15 hours by car--you can look it up--and several hundred less with enterprise than with us air, and you can offer me a wager that i won't drive the next time 30 hours round trip rather than fly, but you're going to lose that bet, and i'm telling you right here and right now so don't say i didn't warn you).