[By Nic Lindh on Wednesday, 12 July 2023]
So I was part of the last week in June 2023 flightpocalypse where the Eastern Seaboard basically shut down because of extreme weather, smoke from the Canadian wildfires—which are still raging as of this writing—and at least according to United, a lack of FAA personnel. It sucked. Especially Wednesday, June 28, when I attempted to fly out to Sweden, but had to spend eight hours in line at the Phoenix airport to get my flights rebooked and then had to return home to wait two days to actually fly out.
Worse than the endless standing line and then having my flight rebooked to midnight, Friday, June 30, was the behavior of my fellow air travelers. Now, should the airline have scrambled and gotten a lot more staff out to the airport and to the phone lines to help stranded travelers? Yes, absolutely.
That airlines don’t have enough slack capacity to deal with events like these is unacceptable.
But seriously, people, did the way too few check-in agents who were trying to help you cause that? No. They did not. They were working 16-hour shifts to get you on another flight or to a hotel. To get your whiny, entitled, ungrateful ass on another flight or to a hotel.
The amount of shitty behavior directed at service staff I witnessed that day would have shocked me if it had been pre-covid. Sadly, at this point, I expected it.
Listen, the people who are trying to help you will not be able to help you better because you are being an utter shit.
The situation sucked, but none of us were going to starve to death in a ditch because of it, and it turns out there aren’t secret planes sitting behind the terminal the airlines can deploy, but that they only will if you’re rude enough to the staff.
As part of this rejigger of my flights I ended up flying out at midnight on Friday (though the flight was delayed till 1:30 a.m.) and then spent ten hours at Chicago O’Hare. And that was shit. And I had a lot of time to ponder why it was so shit.
Obviously, the short answer is: Because everybody involved is trying to squeeze the last red cent out of everything, which sadly is the answer for most things in life at this point.
But, the longer answer is that everything is one giant mush of everything, and everything is loud. Dear Lord it is so loud in that airport. Which, yes, is why the good Lord gave us the option of spending hundreds of our dollars on noise-canceling headphones. Which you should totally do if you’re going to be flying the friendly skies. They’re not noise-cancelling headphones, they’re sanity preservers.
Also the part of Terminal 1 where I spent my purgatory has a McDonald’s. Nothing wrong with that. Heck I purchased one of their meals since I had to eat at some point during my ten hour layover.
But that McDonald’s doesn’t have seating, so you have to pick up your bag of grease and then try to find some place to inhale that food like an animal fleeing from predators. So there are people eating McDonald’s everywhere, which means the smell of McDonald’s is everywhere, permeating the entire terminal.
Have you thought about what McDonald’s smells like? I have. For ten hours. It’s an unnatural, sweet smell, like something that shouldn’t exist. And at O’Hare Terminal 1 it’s everywhere, since there’s no seating at McDonald’s.
And then there are the TVs. American airports love TVs. Because who doesn’t want to have the noise and random movement at the edge of your vision from a TV around you at all times? Actually, O’Hare isn’t too bad when it comes to TVs, but Phoenix Sky Harbor is.
It took some maneuvering to find a spot where I couldn’t hear and see a TV in that airport.
Who is this for? We all have small screens in our pockets if we would like to watch something.
And to make things even better, apparently since the last time I flew the friendly skies, a new asshole has dropped. That’s right! Captain I’m going to watch a movie on my laptop without headphones has entered the scene. “I’m just going to blast my laptop as loud as it can go and watch a crappy action movie so people can enjoy hearing gunshots, explosions, and sirens whether they want to or not. I am a giver.”
Now on to airport lounges. During my life, I have spent many an hour waiting in airports, but I’m not a wealthy man so I have never spent any time in airport lounges. But due to everything written above I would be happy to drop a significant bunch of cash on retreating into a quieter space for a while. But can I? No, I can not. I can not give my airline money to enter this hallowed space. Lounges are now only for StarDust Richie members. According to the airlines this is because too many people want to use the lounges.
Really? That’s odd. Why on Earth could that be?