Holten: Cramped and crumpled
Dear United Airlines,
A week ago, I entered the Dickinson Airport at 10:30 a.m. MST and expected to land in Las Vegas at 5 p.m. PST. Of course, that didn’t happen.
Instead, I landed in Las Vegas at midnight and, in the meantime, after missing my Denver connection, (thanks to United), I was redirected from Denver to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas, where I missed the 6:45 p.m. performance of the National Finals Rodeo, the Super Bowl of rodeo.
Now you’re going to say, “Weather is certainly unpredictable this time of year.” And that is sometimes a valid excuse, but not in this case simply because there was no evidence of foul weather in Dickinson, Denver, the nation, Estevan, Saskatchewan, or Edinboro, for that matter.
So the bottom line is this: Once you buy that ticket, the airline has you by the “you know what’s” and can do anything they want to with you, including make you miss your nephew’s wedding, which happened to my son and I some time back, a crime perpetrated by the very same airline.
What’s so frustrating about all of this is that there is nothing you can do about it, thanks to the way the system is set up, with a limited number of airlines dominating certain markets.
Of course there’s always the option to not fly at all but in present day America and the world, but is that really an option?
So, from the time I left my home for the airport in Dickinson until I entered the front door of my Las Vegas strip hotel, I’d used up 16 hours. That is significant because I could have driven there in 18 hours (a mere two hours more) and then had a vehicle on hand to ride in instead of worrying about renting a car. Is that what you call service?
Sure, some might call it an example of a “worst-case scenario.” Except these days, when it comes to flying, the worst-case scenario seems to be business as usual.
I’ve seen air travel evolve over the past few decades, since I’ve personally flown across the country more times than Michael Jordan bounced a basketball, companies spilled oil in North Dakota and Gov. Jack Dalrymple failed to appoint a woman to a prominent post — way too many to count.
In that time, I’ve seen service go from something to nothing, present to missing, expected to unexpected and normal to unique.
Today, you have to pay extra to check a bag, have a snack, watch a movie or get an assigned seat.
More often than not, you will miss your flight or end up in a middle seat next to someone coughing their lungs out or someone else who hasn’t brushed their teeth since leaving Tunisia two days earlier.
Then there are those flight attendants who have been converted from happy and attractive young females to cranky, over-aged retirees who’s wallets hold pictures of great-grandchildren and who can only make it up and down the aisles a couple of times per flight, much less hand you a pillow; which used to be a service they provided but would now be considered way too much to ask and possibly cost you three arms, a neck vertebrae and a hamstring muscle if you dared to.
Of course, there is also the seating setup and the lack of space between seats — forward and backward — which seems to be getting smaller each year or else I, well beyond my teenage years, am still growing.
Finally, there is the fact that you are soaring through space in a tube at 500 mph and don’t have a clue who is behind the wheel.
Which reminds me of something Layne Ridley, author of a book entitled “White Knuckles,” once said.
“The world is divided into two kind of people: normal, intelligent, sensitive people with some breadth of imagination, and people who aren’t the least bit afraid of flying.”
So, happy trails.
Holten is the manager of The Drill. He writes a Wednesday column for The Dickinson Press. Email him at email@example.com.