The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

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Trunk Bay

Trunk Bay, St. John, U. S. Virgin Islands, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. But is it worth the flight?

Why I don’t fly anymore

—TY BELKNAP

Our flights were on schedule in January, but somewhere between Albuquerque and Atlanta, or Atlanta and Miami, or Miami and the Caribbean dream vacation destination, my wife and I contracted a nasty cold virus, and they lost our luggage. The change of planes in Miami requires another walk through the gauntlet of airport security. Lines were so long that you have to wonder why the terrorists don’t just bomb the checkpoints like they do in Baghdad.

The return flight was delayed by a malfunctioning aircraft door, causing us to miss the connecting flight out of Miami. This time we were the ones spreading cold germs. American Airlines put us up in one of those dreary airport hotels and gave us a $20 meal voucher to spend on microwavable frozen dinners. There was no restaurant near the hotel and we were both still too sick to go looking for one. The next day’s flights got us home okay, but they lost our luggage again.

We had a pretty good time in spite of it all, but it was a high price to pay for a couple of weeks in paradise.

I vowed to stay out of airplanes for a while, but last month felt compelled to visit my mom in Ohio, where she continues to live independently in an old house on Lake Erie, dealing with health issues and a seemingly endless winter. Mom needed a little help with taxes and spring cleaning. Big brother reminded me that it was my turn to go, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

The trip from Dallas to Ohio was on schedule. I was fortunate to have missed the cancellation of hundreds of American Airlines flights due to violations of electrical safety codes. My only complaint was the way they cram passengers into those little American Eagle jets. Don’t ever sit in the row window seat in front of the emergency wing exit, because the seats don’t recline. Sit next a skinny person.

Nobody coughed though, and I carried on all my luggage. I was driving down the road in a rental car fifteen minutes after landing.

The flight back to Dallas was okay, too. Crammed into the little seat, I drank a couple beers and read a book lent by a Republican friend about how Muslims want to take over the world and kill all the infidels. Light reading to pass the time, it seemed a little far-fetched. If there were any Muslims on the plane, they were friendly and smiling with the infidels. Life was good.

Things fell apart in Dallas when I noticed that fellow travelers at the gate were no longer smiling. American Airlines had cancelled all flights of their MD 80 aircraft, and airline agents told us to get in line and wait to learn our fate. Other than the few passengers still capable of outrage, most of us took it all in stride and shared camaraderie laced with gallows humor. Three hundred thousand pieces of luggage were temporarily lost. Mine was in hand. Agents performed bravely. Apparently, the airline or the FAA inspectors had bungled the previous week’s electrical modifications. We were assured that we were never in any real danger—it was just some federally-mandated bureaucratic bit of red tape that had not been enforced until some whistleblower messed things up for everybody.

American Airlines rebooked my flight and put me up in one of those dreary airport hotels. I spent my meal voucher in the airport bar (lesson learned in Miami).

After an early shuttle to the airport, my 9:00 a.m. flight was cancelled and there was no real assurance that the 5:00 p.m. flight would not be cancelled as well. (It was.) I got another hotel and meal voucher, and waited for about an hour for the shuttle back to the hotel while sitting on a bench next to the rental car shuttle that ran every five minutes. Finally, the temptation was just too much—I got on the rental shuttle, rented a car, and drove the six hundred miles back home.

It was a great ride. The cruise control and the satellite radio worked perfectly. West Texas never looked so good. For the time being, New Mexico seems like the best place for time off.

Airlines are threatening to raise rates, cut flights, and generally make things even more unpleasant. That’s why I don’t fly anymore—except, of course, back to Ohio in the fall. (Don’t worry, Mom.)

 

 

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