Goodbye Airlines

On March 28, 2010 · 5 Comments

We’re heading out on another epic road trip, this time across the southeastern United States, a distance of about a thousand miles (sixteen hundred kilometres), a good bit longer than even our drive to Maine last Summer. Our route takes us on a nice curve from the Mid-Atlantic down to the Gulf Coast, through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, covering the heart of the Confederacy.

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I haven’t driven to the Gulf Coast in many years. I’m looking forward to seeing springtime blossom before our eyes as we push further south, while watching deciduous forest give way to pine. You may be wondering about the southerly swing through North and South Carolina. It would be more efficient to take Interstate 85 to Atlanta heading southwest rather than Interstate 20 traveling west. I could say it’s because I want to avoid major cities along I-85 including the Triangle and Charlotte, but that would be a lie. Maybe that’s a small part of the reason but that’s not the primary one.

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Actually, by swinging down to I-20 I can trek along some Virgin Highway that I’ve never driven before, from Florence, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia. That includes fourteen new counties to add to my lifetime County Counting list. If you are a kindred County Counter or at least a sympathizer you will understand intrinsically what this means. If not (e.g., the entire rest of my family), you’ll roll your eyes and go along with it after I explain that it adds only 49 miles to the journey. It’s OK. They know it’s one of my quirks and they’ve grown to accept it. I can plug the kids into a Nintendo DS and they won’t even notice as we glide along at 75 mph.

The airlines have shot themselves in the foot at least with my family. We’ve concluded that we’d rather not reward their lack of customer service for trips of a thousand miles or less. We’ve visited family on the Gulf Coast dozens of times over the years, always flying in to New Orleans. That may not happen again, or at least not until the airlines halt the war they’ve declared on their passengers.

Flight Delay

This is what happened to us when we traveled to the Florida Keys last year for Spring Break. We got trapped at the Fort Lauderdale airport for nine hours waiting for a replacement part for our airplane. We could drive halfway home in nine hours (that’s when it dawned on us). Meanwhile multiple flights to our home destination departed during the same time period but we couldn’t get on any of them because they’d all been overbooked. We were almost forced onto a bus for a two hour drive to another airport to catch a flight departing from there, and that’s what would have happened had the part not belatedly arrived.

If that were an isolated example I’d overlook it and write-if-off as "one of those things." Unfortunately it seems to be increasingly prevalent and a standard operating practice for many airlines. Throw in the nonsensical levels of security screening and the nickel-and-dime money grubbing for baggage, snacks and pillows, and they’ve created a climate where I no longer want to fly unless it’s absolutely necessary.

So long airlines. Give me a call when your business model runs a few of you out of business, and those that understand customer service replace you.

On March 28, 2010 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Goodbye Airlines”

  1. Craig says:

    You’re not alone. So far this year, I’ve traveled by train to two destinations from the DC area which “in the old days” might have been faster and nicer by plane, but not any more.

    The last time I flew to Boston I was crammed in the claustrophobic toothpaste tube that Embraer has the gall to call an airplane. The flight was horrible, and I vowed to only take Amtrak from here on out.

    Someday, I will have to fly to California and Europe again – and I rue the thought of those flights. But until then, I’m sticking to Amtrak for all of my East Coast travel. I’d rather ride a train for 6 to 8 hours than put up with the nonsense of the airlines acting like the Thénardiers toward their passengers.

  2. Bill Harris says:

    You’re heading down to where I lived for a few years after college graduation- the Aiken, SC/Augusta, GA area. If you can spare time for a short detour, I highly recommend that you jump off I-20 and drive around Augusta. This time of year the magnolias and azaleas are in full bloom making Augusta the prettiest city I have ever been in.

    Nearby is the Savannah River Plant- a large federal government weapons facility. Back in the 1950’s, the government acquired a large swath of land for the nuclear weapon program, including two towns. Most of the area has been reclaimed by nature– you can only tell where the old towns were located by concrete curbs on the road that lead to nowhere. (Watching nature reclaim mankind’s handiwork is one of my fascinations.) Unfortunately, public access to the plant is prohibited, so civilians can’t see this interesting site.

  3. Mike Lowe says:

    I am also a county counter and I like it. My wife is actually quite OK with it. She’s a state counter (47 of 50 bagged) so she gets it.

    For my brother in law’s August wedding in Vail, I could fly from Houston to Denver or Eagle. No thanks. I’ll bag a bunch of new counties by driving a route I haven’t taken before. It will be an epic road trip. I only have to worry about the two-year-old who is not so good a road tripper right now.

  4. Mike Lowe says:

    I hit ‘submit’ on my last comment before I typed my main point. The two-year-old went two-year-old.

    Anyway… at least your route is relatively straight. I have been known to drive from Houston to San Diego by way of Idaho. That was an awesome pre-kid road trip but two sides of a triangle can never realistically be a straight line. Aww shucks! 🙂 The return trip was straight and dull.

    For the August trip, we plan to drive from Vail back to Houston by way of Montana and North Dakota. That’s to bag states #48 & #49 for the bride (and me too). Then only Alaska remains. I can’t wait!

    • North Dakota was my 50th state. Eventually I realize I wasn’t going to hit it randomly so I had to make a special trip there, staying overnight in Fargo. How whacked is that?!?

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