Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Travel Observations

I spent a 24 hour period on airplanes and in airports earlier this week returning home from Hawaii. Here are some miscellaneous observations.

  • I traveled next to a family whose mother was working as the flight attendant on the return flight from their vacation. When she gave them extra service, such as being first to get offered beverage service, it was offered to me also out of politeness.
  • When I asked in the airport of a connecting flight if there were any earlier flights that I could get standby on to reduce the 6 hour layover, I was told, “There are no earlier flights to [my next destination], and the two that we do have are completely overbooked.”
  • I witnessed airport personnel answer a bunch of dumb questions from rude travelers with very professional and courteous responses. Seriously, despite signs everywhere pointing the direction to baggage claim or to the terminal shuttles, I saw several passengers frantically yelling at airport employees for directions. The worst was a woman who got upset at a janitor for not being able to help her with a ticket issue, after he politely pointed her towards the airline agents at the gate who could help.
  • A sign of changing times: At every airport, people are jockeying for position at the power outlets spaced at odd locations around the gates and along hallways to recharge phones and laptop computer batteries. This use I am sure was not predicted when those outlets were originally installed. A few airports have set up special power outlet stations for people to recharge. Most were free but in one airport it appeared to require payment.
  • In two and a half weeks on Hawaiian Islands, I only saw one out-of-state license plate on a beat up older car from California.
  • It is nice when airports offer free WI-FI on long lay-overs, and its annoying when they charge for a day pass (which is not worth it to me). In my travels so far this year, in 8 airports where I checked for WI-FI, 3 had free wifi, 4 had WI-FI for $8-$11 for a day pass (some of these might have been free for those with certain cell phone data plans), and one had no WI-FI.
  • There were 50 people in line for the Starbucks in the morning at the Seattle airport, but no-one was in line for coffee at the Mexican food stall nearby, and the coffee was just as good. (Edit: Afterwords, I realize it could be that the food stall did not have any of the fancy coffee drinks)
  • The computer screens at the Seattle airport were down for several hours. At 10am, they weren’t showing any departures after 7:30am. Ticket agents referred me to gate N7, which required a train ride to another building. After sitting there for 45 minutes, I noticed the information terminals were back up, showing my flight at gate C?. After confirming with the ticket agent, I took the train back to the terminal I was at earlier. Another 20 minutes, with the screen still showing C?, the agent for the previous late departing flight made an announcement, as an offhand comment, that my flight was moved to gate N6. So, after one more train ride to cap off a 6 hour layover, I got to my gate in the middle of boarding.
  • When switching airlines for a connection on the last of 3 legs, the automated boarding card printing machine said I needed to see a representative in person for the boarding pass. The representative explained there was a glitch in the system, and I had to answer NO to the question if I had checked bags (even though I had checked two bags ) in order to get to the screen that would print my boarding pass. My luggage still arrived OK.
  • Twice this year, on flights in one direction of a round trip ticket, the airline didn’t charge for checked bags even though it was their policy. I did not point out the oversight. Once this occurred on the flight out and another time on the return flight, each was a different airline. In one case, the agent checking bags told me there would be a charge, but I realized later after I got through security that she never asked for payment and it hasn't shown up on the credit card I used for identification in the ticket machine. I don’t know if I just got lucky, or I mis-understood under what conditions the charges would occur.
  • Priceline saved me between 25% and 35% compared to the lowest online price I could find for some car rentals and hotels. I was using it to reserve between 1 and 8 days before the rental. Also, while checking prices for a booking of a particular hotel, I watched its price on drop by 1/3 in increments over a 24-hour period before I booked it less than 2 weeks before the stay.
  • The Austin airport consistently takes longer than any other airport to get luggage transferred to baggage claim

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1 comment:

  1. That's a funny list of things at the airport.

    Yes, Austin is PAINFUL to wait on baggage.


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