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Flying: Is It Worth It?

Here’s a fun comparison of three price points for cross-country flights.

Even though service has gone down, I’ll always love or want to love flying. I’ve been fascinated with air travel for as long as I can remember. I’ve flown Jetblue, but don’t recall all the niceties.

This “Is It Worth It?” series compares budget, midrange and luxury goods and services in an entertaining way. They look at everything from steak to apartments.

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Airline Class Economics

I enjoyed this video which explains the economics and history of economy, business and first class seating on airplanes. I now understand a little more about the mysterious pricing of airline fares.

Talk about Luxury

Check this video on flying in the suite, known as “The Residence” on Etihad Airlines. I’d be tickled pink just to get the luxury of not standing in line forever for security (see below), never mind the champagne, though I wouldn’t pass up Dom Perignon.

If you want to see whether the service is consistent, check out the second, longer video.

The High Life!

If you want to read about an incredible international flight experience, click over to One Mile at a Time. I just finished reading one of the posts about the ultimate in opulent service flying the premium Residence suite on Eithad. A vicarious thrill.

If you don’t want the thrill to be just vicarious, look around his blog since he describes how he got about a 75% discount on the flight.

The blogger Lucky is a mileage program mastermind and his blog entertains and informs. Thanks to Lucky, I’ve got enough miles to go to Europe, which I won’t do this summer, but I will in time.

Real Frequent Flyer Pros

london-heathrow-airport

I have read the One Mile at a Time blog to learn about getting miles more wisely, but while amazed at the stories of flying internationally in first class on miles, I hadn’t followed any of the hints yet. I just came upon an article in Rolling Stone about Ben Schlappig a “Hobbyist,” i.e. a person p who as a hobby fly all over the world gaming frequent flyer programs. They accrue miles and fly the world in first class far cheaply. It’s an interesting profile. Since he was a young teen Schlappig has been flying for fun and figuring out the system. He’s not alone. There’s a community of people who almost compete to see how many miles they can rack up or how little they can pay for the ability to do so. From this group are some helpful websites.

Skiplagged.com is designed by Hobbyists and it’s like a Kayak. It’s a site that searches and find the best fares. It’s so good that United tried to sue them to stop posting fares which their system posted erroneously.

Flyer Talk is a forum for Hobbyists and it appears that they’ll help newcomers by giving information e.g. which credit cards give you the most miles or which Star Alliance (or other) group is the best to join based on your travel or spending patterns.

 

 

Virgin Atlantic

From the creative safety video to the actually yummy food, Virgin Atlantic was a joy to fly. I don’t know how I’ll manage with lesser airlines. The crew was genuinely polite and at the end of the flight they thanked us for letting them take care of us.

Amazing. I’ve never felt that American crews enjoyed that. I’ve felt that they put up with the passengers and I cringe when they sharply direct non-English speakers to “Stow your bags!” They don’t seem to realize the problem might be that they use uncommon words like “stow.”

The entertainment selection was vast and there was something for everyone to enjoy. The food, especially the mini strawberry popsicles were tasty.

I definitely aim to be a regular on Virgin.

Back in the USA

After a 2 hour delay and a 12 hour flight, I’m back home in the USA. Jetlag has set in and it’s 2:42 a.m. and I’ve been up for an hour. I’ve gone through some of my junk mail and tossed most of it. I’ve eaten a Mertz cheddar cheese on rye sandwich and had some red wine, which I hope will make me sleepy. I am wondering about some other treat as the sandwich wasn’t quite enough. I’m happy to be back where the internet is free. Many times last semester I wanted to throw, just hurl, the school computer out the window because it’s so slow and limited.

My flight home was nothing special ~ which is sadly the case for air travel nowadays. They got us the ho hum dinner fairly early on and then brought out the snack about a half hour after dinner. They must mindlessly follow a schedule that favors the staff’s break time over logic and customer service. I lucked out with a seat mate as I sat by Ming, a young Chinese girl who was visiting her sister in Albany. Like Ming had, the sister was getting a Masters degree in the US. Ming worked for a company that helped the government with city planning. We talked about Christianity, social trends and materialism in China. I mainly listened to Ming who made it clear that I’d underestimated the materialism, competition and greed found in China.

We did not have the individual screens, which I love on flights. Why has United done away with this? It’s a crap shoot in coach if you’ll get them. So we were all stuck with the same movies. I watched one, Eddie the Eagle, which wasn’t too bad and The end of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which didn’t make much sense since I missed the beginning and it’s not like the story by Thurber.

It’s a shame that air travel has become so substandard. Would it kill them to offer better food or even choices of food? Or to offer more cordial service? Attention United Flight Attendants — it’s not professional to discuss the “woman who’s driving me crazy” when you’re standing in the middle of the cabin for all to hear.

 

Clever Safety Message

Upbeat safety message on a low cost Isreali airline. It sure grabbed my attention.

Lost Baggage Disaster

This passenger had a dreadful experience with Delta Airlines and by making this YouTube video got a satisfactory outcome.

The Horrors of Air Travel

I used to love to fly. I remember as a child how sophisticated air travel seemed. I so looked forward to my first airplane trip. Now air travel’s on par with bus travel. It might be worse.

My sister Colleen came for a visit over Memorial Day weekend. She was to leave around noon on Sunday on an American Airlines flight. Her flight held on the runway for God knows what reason for almost 3 hours. The passengers were allowed to deplane for 10 minutes, which wasn’t enough time to use the restrooms AND get some food. Then they delayed for weather. That’s understandable.

After the storm passed, they were back on the plane but there was a discrepancy between the flight attendants and the gate agents passenger count. (40 or 41? Not a huge number to keep track of.) More delays none of which were weather related ensued. All the while Colleen tried for other options. Eventually, the shift was over for the pilot so another delay. Her flight was finally canceled. When she tried to rebook the clerk wouldn’t believe Colleen or her fellow passenger’s assertions that the flight was canceled. Why would they lie? Why can’t the system trust them? Long story short she didn’t get out and came home at 10:30pm.

She rebooked for 8:30pm on Monday not wanting to waste another whole day at the airport. Guess what? That flight was delayed and eventually canceled — no weather problems on Monday. She couldn’t get an American flight on Tuesday morning and had to take a 7:30 am flight out of Midway, an airport that’s at least an hour from here. This is why I hate flying now. Not only is the service inefficient, but the staff is often so rude. They treat customers like Colleen like adversaries.

Note: As you probably know, the airlines don’t give anyone any help in the form of meal vouchers, snacks other than tiny peanut bags, or lodging vouchers in situations like this.

Disclaimer

Dear Fellows, The State Department has requested that any Fellows who maintain their own blog or website please post the following disclaimer on your site: "This website is not an official U.S. Department of State website. The views and information presented are the English Language Fellows' own and do not represent the English Language Fellow Program or the U.S. Department of State." We appreciate your cooperation. Site Meter
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