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Markus' Travel and International Living Blog

Markus is an enthusiastic traveler, who lives in Houston, TX (USA) most of the time, but also spends some time in Saalfelden, near Salzburg (Austria). He is fascinated by travel and also by his experiences gathered by living in two different countries and continents.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005
The America West Experience

I do not fly America West airlines. Not if I can help it anyway. But once every couple of years, I can not avoid it. Last night was one of those days. I had to change my flight out of Vegas to stay for another meeting, and my only option was to fly on America West.

When I rebooked my ticket, everything seemed to be easy, but just to be sure, I decided to check in online. However, I was not able to do so, due to "security reasons". So I had to check in at the airport, which I did at one of the e-Ticket check in kiosks. I went through the whole process (tried to change my seat but couldn't, because the plane showed as packed), and then it said "printing boarding pass", but it didn't. So after a while, an AW employee came over to assist me grudgingly.

I then proceeded to the security check, and to my surprise it turns out they had selected me for an in-depth check. Not one of those "let me wand you real quick" checks, but a very thorough check instead. As it turns out, the security people didn't care about me so much, but it was America West who requested a special check. Gee, thanks, what a great way to welcome a "returning customer"! I guess I must have appeared a bit grumpy over the whole deal, because the lady who searched my bags made some snotty comment. Well, let me grab your crotch and search through your underwear in public, and we will see how much you like it! Could we possibly conceive of a less professional way to perform a security check?

I still made it to my plane in time, but just barely. And imediately I am off to the next treat: zone bording. I mean: What is wrong with "we are boarding the plane from the rear forward"? It works well, but with zone boarding, there is someone in your way at pretty much all times, and the overhead bins are always already full when you get to your seat, and ultimately it always seems that zone-boarded planes leave late. So I eventually fight my way to my row. I have a window seat, spot it, and sit down. A minute later it dawns on me that I was at the wrong window seat. But wait a minute: There already is someone else sitting at my window seat. Hmmm... Well, long story short: It turns out that they completely messed up the seat assignments, because depsite the fact that the plane is not nearly full, almost every seat has two people assigned, while more than half the seats remain empty. Thus, the big shuffle begins. Families are moving around. 5 year old children are in row 8 while their parents are in the back of the plane. It's a zoo! I mean: How hard can it be? It's a simple logistical problem, isn't it? "One seat, one butt", how hard can it be?

Oh, and don't get me started on the seats: They have the oldest seats I have seen in a long time. Those that end at shoulder hight, almost like in an old bus. And the arm-rests are basically bare metal, with no cushion left. But "no big deal", I think to myself, "I will simply get a pillow and use it as an arm-rest". Wrong! "I am sorry sir, but we do not have any pillows or blankets on this flight". What? This is a red-eye flight, leaving Vegas at midnight, and you do not have a single pillow on board? Well, I try to make the best of it. We take off, and I am served a warm Diet 7Up. This is the last time I see the flight attendants. Trash is not collected, so before we land, I just smush my empty cup under the seat in front of me.

Flying on AW gets me into Houston in Terminal A of course. This is a bit of a hassle, because I left on Continental, out of Terminal E, way on the other end of the airport. Now one has to understand that Houston is not a small airport. It is not the biggest airport I have ever seen, but it is fairly sizable. But for some reason, the inter-terminal train is way too small. Riding on this 3-car-6-people-each-contraption is always oddly reminiscent of Disney's "It's a Small World" ride. A swift 25 minutes later, I have made it from Terminal A to Terminal C. This is it, I had enough! I have better things to do at 4:30 in the morning! So I get off the train and make the rest on foot. As I approach the escalator that leads up to Terminal E, I see the train leaving out of Terminal C in the distance.

Now this whole "arriving in the wrong terminal thing" I can not blame on America West of course. And in fact, I have to admit that the overall experience of flying AW seems to have improved. After all, I didn't even get ripped off this time...



Posted @ 12:42 PM by Egger, Markus (megger@eps-software.com) -
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