I have had a very light travel schedule the last two years. Probably the least I have traveled in 15 years (before I started in product management). But that lull has ended.
Some thoughts from the road:
- TSA PreCheck – Over a year ago, I went through the rigmarole to get my Global Entry card/status. One of the fringe benefits is being added to the “Trusted Traveler” list. Thus I pretty much always get the TSA PreCheck on my boarding pass. WIN. I get to use the special lane, I don’t have to remove jacket or shoes. My laptop can stay in my bag. I get to go through the magnetometer. It is like going back to 1999 and traveling.
- Carry on Baggage – I understand why airlines have gone to charging for bags and everything else that used to come gratis. But the $25 per bag to check means that the boarding of the plane is a melee. People arguing about the overhead space. People mauling other people’s bags to force in their body bags. And the inevitable gate checking of a dozen people’s bags. Furthermore, all airlines have guidelines on the size of carry-ons. Fully 3/4 of all rollers I see are way over the size allocation. Airlines, please start enforcing the size constraints of the carry ons.
- Overbooking – I was at the airport early, flying a spoke flight (from a non-hub to a hub). All three flights were oversold. If a Tuesday mid afternoon (not the busy slot) is completely oversold, you might want to run bigger planes, or more flights. This is not new, but it has reinforced my belief that I will never ever be tempted to take the cash for a later flight.
- Cab Queues – I often don’t rent cars. If I have the time, or am arriving at a reasonable hour, I will use public transit, or one of the shuttle services. But when I land late, or if I am unfamiliar, I will use a cab to get at least to my hotel. Why the hell can’t we figure out how to operate consistent cab queues? In Japan, it is methodical, machine-like, and uber efficient. In the US, it is all over the map. Peoria IL? After 8:00PM it can take an hour and a call to get a cab (grrrrr). Boston at midnight? A surprisingly long queue (I once waited 90 minutes in a line that was 400 yards long).
- Elite Status – being elite used to be awesome. Board first, get upgrades etc. In the mid ought’s, I would get a lot of upgrades. First class in domestic flights was about 50% (I was putting on about 160K miles a year on UAL at the time), and probably 30% into business class international. Then I hit a million miles on UAL about 4 years ago. Supposedly I was automatically added to the upgrade list every flight. A “perk” they said. In 4 years, I have NOT ONCE been upgraded. A perk isn’t a perk if there are at least 24 additional people on that list, and the odds are nil that you will get it. Yes, I still get to board early, and I get double miles. Big deal.
- Rewards Programs – I have three different frequent flier programs, I have at least 5 different hotel chain reward programs. I have “advantage” with 3 different car rental companies. Enough with this crap. There isn’t enough benefits across them to be worth the hassle. I get the “loyalty” program, but I also am annoyed when I travel with someone who absolutely must stay at a Marriott property. FFS, is a free night’s stay sometime in the future really worth being an asshole to travel with?
And this doesn’t get into the annoyance of the mergers of the major domestic carriers, the reduction of competition, and the corresponding degradation of (what little is left of) service. The American people have spoken, and the lowest fare is the winner, with all the extras being charged for. I just wish we could go back to the late 1990s.
Airport food has never been great. But all the vendors are moving to the grab and go model. $10 for a bland turkey sandwich. Yet, you will get worse food for more money on the plane (if you happen to be on a flight long enough to have food for sale). You are a captive audience, and you have no power in the relationship.
Sorry for the rant. I feel better now.