Read this while you wait in the frickin’ airport

August 7, 2007, 4:37 PM UTC
Fortune


kid.jpg
Okay, I’m not going to say you read it here first. But a lot of you responded when I asked you a couple of weeks ago to weigh in with your horror stories about air travel.

Since then, I’ve had a couple of real doozies. Like, a few weeks ago I’m at SFO at 10:30 PM for the red-eye. And you know, people who are about to take a red-eye are not always the happiest campers in the world. So we’re all milling and waiting at Gate 64, I think, of the American Airlines (AMR) terminal, and we can’t get on the plane, which has been there waiting at the gate for a while, mind you, because it hasn’t been cleaned yet.

This is the not the first time I’ve been delayed because nobody was around the clean the plane after it got in, and not just on American, either. I’m wondering whether cleaning crews is one of the places they are saving money, you know?

Another area of fiscal restraint seems to be the number of people working at the departure gate. Like, the night in question there was exactly ONE to serve an entire planeful of people. He kept calling on his little phone, with increasing petulance and desperation, for some help. None arrived, at least while I was waiting there, convinced that there would BE no flight. That’s the new headset they’ve got us in, by the way. The airlines have now made the possibility of there being absolutely NO transportation a very real possibility. Consequently, we are glad when they take off at all. We’ll take just about any kind of treatment to get where we’re going. I guess that’s good for them, in a sort of demented way.

Anyway, this mother rolls up to the gate with a double stroller and two tiny infants swaddled inside, and she says to the Lone Ranger at the gate, who is sweating and bouncing off the walls by now, “Can I board early?” And he says, “I don’t really know. I can’t promise that.”

I never saw that before. And I didn’t blame the guy, either. He was totally overwhelmed, so I’m not blaming him. On the bright side, the flight crew was in a very good frame of mind. They kept appearing in little party hats by the closed door to the gangway. Turned out it was the birthday of one of their members. So they were very jolly. And that was nice, particularly after it was clear that we were going to board, clean plane or not. In the end, by the way, the mother of two seven-week-old infants DID get to board early, so that ends happily too.

Guess who they sat next to?

Make sure to read your USA TODAY today, if that’s not too redundant. The article you’re looking for is on the front page under the headline FLIGHT DELAYS TRIPLED IN JUNE, 462 jets sat on runways 3 or more hours.

I figure I’ve been on about 235 of those. How about you?