When we tell our friends or shipmates that we drove to our embarkation port—whether it's in Florida, any southern area, or even as far away as Baltimore—they are often puzzled. Why not fly? To be honest, twenty-plus years ago we always did fly, but after our first road trip we learned to love the experience. There's no airport security hassle, our luggage can weigh a pound or two more than the 'limit' without a charge, we each have a window seat, we can set our own schedule, and our vehicles have great entertainment options, including satellite radio and iPod plug-ins.
My recent experience on US Airways flights between Charlotte and Seattle to take a cruise to Alaska on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas a few weeks ago illustrates other reasons to dislike flying. First off, I had to make connections in Charlotte departing from and returning to my hometown airport and the timing was relatively tight. Charlotte isn't a large airport and I knew I could get from the arrival gate in one concourse to the departure gate in a different concourse for my Seattle flight in plenty of time with a one hour layover. But going home the connection was even tighter—only 44 minutes. With that in mind, I chose to pay $56 for a "choice" aisle seat in row 6 in order to exit the airplane as fast as possible.
Everything went well as I settled in for the Seattle to Charlotte flight until a couple got on the plane at the very last minute. The middle seat next to me was still empty and I figured one of them would be taking it as they stopped in the aisle beside me. Since the window seat in row 6 was also occupied, they were obviously not sitting together. As I arose to let the wife take her seat, she asked me to swap my "choice" aisle seat with her husband who had a window seat back in the middle of the plane. This was almost an exact repeat of what had happened on my way to Seattle when another couple made the same request of both me and the man in the window seat in my row. He demurred and I explained to them that I didn't wish to move from my aisle seat to a window seat and they simply took their assigned seats without fuss.
However, in this second incident I was almost speechless by the woman's request because she was wearing her US Airways employee badge, which meant she and her husband were obviously flying non-revenue, yet she had the nerve to ask me to switch seats. I refused, explaining I'd PAID extra for that aisle seat in row 6 because I had a tight connection in Charlotte and needed to exit the plane quickly when we landed. As an employee of the airline, I felt she should have known that row 6 was in the premium section—only a couple rows behind the bulkhead—and that I'd paid additional to be seated there, yet she proceeded to argue and finally said, "Well, if you don't ask-ee, you don't get-ee." What an entitled attitude. I wanted to slap the snide grin off her face as she plopped into the middle seat in a huff. Not only was she rude, she was a "person of size" who took up half the seats on either side of her, even with the arm rests down. By the way, she didn't ask the man already occupying the window seat in row 6 to change with her husband because he was either already asleep or faking it really well. Unfortunately, I didn't have that option.
I made the connection in Charlotte with only minutes to spare and after relating the incident to a friend who used to work for US Airways, she told me, "You might report that incident to them, though, as a non-rev acting inappropriately on a plane is often grounds for 'cancellation' of their non-rev privileges." Unfortunately, I didn't get the employee's name. I wanted to, but when she saw me eyeing her badge she flipped it over.
If I ever have to fly US Airways again, I'll seriously consider staying home. Uncomfortable planes, not even a complimentary snack on a long haul flight, and the rudest employees (and flight attendants) in the air. Quite possibly the worst flight I've been on in the past twenty years. I will say that the check-in agent in SEATAC was extremely nice and helpful. Otherwise, it was a horrible experience.
That's why I love the Volvo Express to port, even if it means dodging sunbirds in their monster recreation vehicles on I-95.