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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Delta Went Down To Georgia

In a prelude to my thoughts on the Vegas trip, I wanted to put up a separate post about air travel and the huge differences between two airlines running the same flight and the airports that were running them.

Because my trip was supposed to be a business one, I tried to keep the cost low by taking the lower priced tickets that included at least one stop and was not first class. Also, because I was using a third party site for booking the trip, my options were limited to what they suggested and I had to be at a particular place at a particular time due to the conference schedule.

Since the conference was cancelled, I had already book the flight and thought, “What the hell?” I booked my wife a ticket and we did Vegas as a second honeymoon. I booked her tickets right alongside my seats to ease her fears of flying for the first time.

I booked a flight from Pittsburgh International which included one stop in Atlanta. There was an hour layover between the flights which were one terminal apart. I went with Delta because they had the most direct flight at the time I wanted. 2:41pm – 7:15pm. Walking up to the counter to check my bag and print out my boarding passes was simple.

Going through security was simple, although I was subjected to my first back scatter scan. Hopefully, I don’t look silly on their monitors. Still, the process was rather simple and as much as I object to the security theater that this country has employed since 9/11, I wasn’t about to be one of those nuts with the 4th amendment tattooed on my chest in protest. As it is, I could probably print the entire Constitution.

Boarding was a snap, though I don’t understand the process. At first, I was thinking that planes board all first class and special needs flyers, then Zones 1-? front to back. At least, when you get on the plane and everyone in the front of economy is seated and you are stuck in a line with people waiting to get to the back of the plane. Then, I saw this site and take it for what it’s worth. Why don’t planes board from back to front? Add more zones, each with just a few rows and board them in reverse from back to front.

Now, once we got moving, it was all good. Delta offered us a drink, which for an hour flight isn’t necessary, I think. We landed in Atlanta and made our way to the next gate. No problems. We boarded our next flight, the long one, and settled in for a five hour trek to Vegas.

First of all, I understand that the economy has been rough. Airlines have had it especially rough since 9/11. But, beyond TSA antics and fears about another incident, airlines really need to figure out a better way to attract customers. Charging them for checked bags, acting like pricks, and losing shit isn’t the way to do it. Is air travel necessary? Yes, for some. But it’s the new customers you need to get hooked on your product. You want to keep the regulars happy with repeat incentives, improvements. But you need to do something right for the new customer to keep him from going with a different airline or not flying at all. Delta, is getting the message. At least, I feel that they are.

The flight from Atlanta was exceptional. It was a pretty big plane to start. 2x3x2 rows. We had a 2 seat row which was nice and in the back of every seat was this little monitor. At first, it showed the safety video, which honestly is ridiculously laughable, anymore. Who really follows along with the fold out insert tucked inside the seat back in front of you? If you’ve never flown and seen the spiel once, or you’ve seen every reused joke about airlines in movies, then you know what’s going on in terms of plane safety. Besides, if the plane is upside down on fire and going down over the Atlantic, are you really worried about whether or not your mask is inflating? No, you’re thinking about all those bad things you did recently and asking for forgiveness. So, after we get a goofy video from the CEO of Delta, we get the option of playing around with these monitors. They displayed flight information like an overhead map, distance travelled, speed, time remaining, temperature, etc. Then, given the fact that you’ve bought headphones, you can listen to music or purchase movies to watch and games to play. (Here’s a secret. My Dollar Store Ear Buds worked just fine. No need to purchase their headphones.) But beyond that, they had access to a lot of television stations. We watched the Halloween marathon on AMC for most of the trip there.

Now, here’s where I get shamed. In the middle seats next to us, a family of four settled in for the trip. There was both parents, a four year old boy and a seven month old. I wholeheartedly expected those kids to be fussy or rambunctious, making a ton of noise. As a parent, I take that as a given and accept it. I don’t judge. But the four year old made nary a peep the whole trip, playing with his little hand held game console. The seven month old was a little doll. Hardly fussed or caused problems at all. My wife and I sat in awe of this couple, who we found out travelled a lot. I guess the kids are used to it, but man I was floored.

Flight attendants were spectacular, offering us two rounds of drinks and two snacks consisting of either two packs of peanuts, pretzels or a two pack of cookies. In all, this was probably my most enjoyable flight, ever.

Coming back was a totally different story.

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