Monday, March 10, 2008

The Dreaded SSSS & The Long Way North

"You'll have to come over this way," said the TSA staff at Phoenix airport. We were already 20 hours into our trip north, from Mexico. A flat tire on our plane kept us south of the border an extra night, we had just had to fork over 18 dollars on our first meal of the day -- our meal vouchers were $5 each! not even enough to buy a crappy in-flight sandwich ($7) -- Big Dog was furious and swearing to go talk to the supervisor. Now this.

"Why?"
"See this code here?" the security guy points out four S's printed on my boarding pass.
"What, so this is the airline targeting me for an extra security check? For what possible reason?"
"I don't know, ma'am. You'll have to ask the airline."
Big Dog was livid, but kept his cool for the moment while I went into my Super Strip Search Security clearance.

We suspected Harold at the connections desk. Not only was he not very helpful to us, he was snippy and rude to his co-workers. Maybe being the only male there made him that way, I don't know.

This wasn't the first time we'd been on a disrupted flight. Big Dog and I had had our plane diverted on its way to Tokyo to help a man suffering a heart attack. We made an emergency landing in Anchorage and had to stay there overnight. But that was a Singapore Airlines flight and not US Airways. On that flight to Tokyo, the airline staff did everything it could to make us as comfortable as possible, pre-arranging a giant midnight buffet dinner at the hotel in Anchorage. If they hadn't, there wouldn't have been anything to eat anywhere at that hour. When the bus picked us up in the morning, we went straight to our plane and onward with minimal downtime. This time, it was chaos every inch of the way.

"I felt like we were cattle," mumbled a friend who was sharing the same first leg of the trip north.
"Yeah. They might as well have had electric prodders," I agreed.

That's the sad story of much of the service industry these days. Especially airlines. Somewhere along the way, they have forgotten that we are customers. After 9-11, too many of the airline staff behave like prison guards, nannies, mental hospital orderlies.

Was it a coincidence that during this long journey north, I pick up a discarded newspaper and opened it to an article on how United and US Airways will only allow 1 piece of checked baggage per passenger from May?

"Travelers will get used to it, and then all the other airlines will follow," commented an airline spokesperson in the article. We get less and less all the time, but most of us just accept it. Like cattle. No wonder they treat us like that.

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