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George’s Corner: April 2012

These days, a plane crash is the least of your worries.


April 12, 2012
By George Olah

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These days, a plane crash is the least of your worries.

Remember when flying was fun and taking a trip was part of the experience of visiting a conference or show? For most of us, this long-lost memory was erased after the unfortunate experience of 9/11. Everything to do with travel changed forever since then.

Flying on economy tickets affords you seating that is a meager 17 to 18 inches wide with about 31 to 32 inches between the seat rows, until of course, the person in front of you decides to recline his seat, toppling your laptop and spilling your four-ounce bag of pretzels. And if a really big person sits down beside you, you will find out soon enough whether or not his Right Guard is working.

The fun of travelling starts not in the aircraft but at the time of ticket purchase. Buy your tickets during certain days and you get one price. Buy it later on a different day, find another price. Choose your seat online and most of the time you end up with those seats. Then again, you could find yourself shifted into other seats because they change aircraft type or because the person checking you feels you are strong enough to sit by the emergency exit hatch and changes your seat selection for you. That is what happened to me on a recent flight to New Orleans. Sure, I had more leg room by the emergency exit but I also had to endure a mysterious draft of cold air and the door gasket dripped water on me for well over three hours.

Ah yes, and let’s not leave out the part of arriving at least two hours prior to your flight departure. Ironically, Air Canada seems to schedule about 12 or more flights in the same one-hour time window, or did on at least one day I flew. This meant approximately 2,000 people had to check in and go through security simultaneously. The ground assistants were just as overwhelmed as us poor travellers.

What I can’t understand is why I bothered to check in online. When I got to the airport, the ground person still made me line up for the automated kiosk, and then line up to get a
baggage tag and pay for my baggage. Then I stood in line for nearly an hour to get through security and customs.

I now know to travel with slip on shoes, no belt, no metal on my clothing and to dump everything into the plastic bins to be nuked by some ghastly glowing machine which I am sure 10 years from now will be found to have some carcinogenic flaw.

I hate the people who don’t show up two hours early. They appear around 15 minutes before their flight and start squealing about missing their plane. “No problem! This way,” say the attendants to these connivers. “We don’t want you to miss your flight!”

The fun continues after landing at the destination airport. You have to find your bags. There are signs everywhere, primarily pictographs for sight-challenged flyers like me who apparently can’t read English. You invariably find yourself going up and down strange escalators working in the direction opposite to your requirements. Eventually you arrive in a room with a little hole with a blinking light spewing out baggage, eagerly awaited by the last two 747 flights that landed ahead of you.

Finding my black bag among 200 other black bags is like bobbing for apples in a basin of water with a hundred individuals at the same time. I guess that is my fault for not buying a dayglow pink bag for easy recognition.

Another indignity I suffer is due to the conference organizers recommending taking a shuttle bus for a special price that turns out to be more than regular cab fare to the hotel. To top it off, we have to wait an additional 40 minutes for the shuttle and stop at other hotels while any one of the numerous cabs in front of us can be at the hotel in 15 minutes.

The best ever of all my travels occurred in New Orleans when six of us flagged down a large SUV taxi. “Ladies in the front,” said the cab driver. “You boys get in the back,” and with that he opened the lift gate and made the three of us pile onto the flat rear storage surface of the SUV like cargo. Seatbelts be damned, we three were so close together that we couldn’t roll around or move if we tried.

I really miss Wardair and the old Canadian Airlines.


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