Saturday, January 12, 2008

Speaking of airlines

In addition to the pleasant US Airways flight I describe above, I’ve been getting around lately.

Last month I got a taste of Northwest’s best. I am convinced that Northwest is the worst domestic airline. The aircraft was a 757, old and crusty like the ones United flies. But Northwest does not show movies, even on a long flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis. Northwest does not have pillows. Northwest does not have blankets. And the seat was the most uncomfortable airline seat I’d ever been in: no cushioning in the middle. Maybe only pointy bodies had sat in it.

Northwest does not even give you a small bag of pretzels. You must purchase one of their snacks in order to eat anything at all. And their horrible snack boxes are designed by doofy Minnesotans who are all obese and diabetic. When we landed in Minneapolis, we were told by flight attendants that if we were continuing on the next flight, we could leave our carry-on luggage aboard the plane. Of course, we did that and went to get food. We came back to discover they had taken all of the bags off the plane and put them on the wheelchairs in the gate area. Stupid. Horrible airline.

I also got a typical Continental experience last month. I missed my connecting flight. This happens about half the time I fly Continental and change planes in Houston. The Continental aircraft was clean enough, and Continental offers blankets and pillows unlike their horrible partner NWA. But Continental is severely customer-service challenged. They have the worst airline desk staff in Houston. The flight to Houston took an extra hour to get there, but no announcements were made to indicate why the flight time was so long. And no announcements were made saying that they recognized we were an hour late and would probably have missed our connecting flights. This seems to be the way they operate: denial. At least they should announce that we’re really late and a customer service agent will be available to help us reschedule our flight.

And then there’s United. Which I also flew last month. And I tend to fly often because their hub is in San Francisco. Granted, it’s a lame hub without nonstop flights to most major Midwest and Eastern cities. And they operate only one flight a day to key Southern cities. But still, they operate the most flights in California. United’s 737, 757 and 767 aircraft are old and in serious need of updates. On the plus side, their seats are usually comfortable, they have blankets and pillows, and they have movies and TV on all flights except their 737s. But I was also screwed up by them last month due to mechanical problems and a crew that timed out. They don’t have enough pilots so they’ve been canceling flights left and right.

Someday, I won’t travel as much. Until then, I have trips planned to Washington, London, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles in the next couple of months. And will probably have about 50 more round trips this year. I will acquire miles and not look forward to redeeming them.

I would support consolidation in the airline industry. I think there’s the potential for better customer service and more travel options. I wouldn’t mind a Delta-United combo, and anything that would make Northwest go away would be a good move. But even if airlines consolidate, they’ll still be crappy. And I’ll still buy whatever is the cheapest ticket I can find for most of the journeys I take, as long as I can hold a seat in advance.

I look forward to a lifetime of leaning seats being kicked by 5-year olds. Old Joey Goldman, with an unhappy butt and bad snack boxes.

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