A Wee Rant About the State of Travel

My understanding, from discussions those who know road warriors, is that travel has become even more undignified and stressful. My recent experience confirms that and suggests a lot is due to Covid. Moreover, many people make clear they understand that, yet they won’t wear masks!

My short version:

Note that on all my flights I wore a 3M Aura N95 in the terminal and put on my Darth Vader P100 on the plane. Only at most one other masked person on my flights, and not always an N/KN95. I also had my Aranet4 C02 monitor. It showed, despite airline claims about their filtered air, that C02 levels quickly rose to over 1300 (bad) and often to over 2000 (very bad) during boarding, would fall to at best barely below 1000 mid flight on moderately long flights, and then would rise again as the plane descended.

I booked a flight from Delta from Birmingham to Portland, Maine on a Saturday back in March.

Over the summer, Delta changes its schedule so that the only options that day are a 40 minute layover in Atlanta (impossibly tight for a wheelchair passenger) or getting in at 11:45 PM when car rental closes at midnight. I am prepared to cancel the trip and eat the 50% deposit on the house rental. My guest is flying into Boston on Friday and renting a car Sat and suggests I rebook to fly to Boston on Friday.

My flight to Boston is 7 hours late due to needing a new wheel and having a gas gauge fail. Tire has to be flown in from Atlanta and they have to get contract maintenance crew in to deal with that and gas gauge. Some people on the flight were clearly going to miss international connections.

Return flight to LGA is 6 hours late due to Ian. Wheelchair pusher who takes me to gate says Delta is the worst. Three days ago, he had to wait three hours because a Delta flight from Atlanta had landed but sat on the runway because Delta was short on ground crew. He also said the Burger King in the airport was closed due to Covid. It had been run by two people but one got sick and the other found it overwhelming to try to operate the place solo.

Get to hotel in NYC around 10:00 PM. I have been here about 6 times before in the last year. The room is 58 degrees. I turn up temperature. Nothing happens. I call front desk to say I need a new room. Front desk guy says engineer has not turned on heat despite his and customer complaints. I sputter that if this were earlier in the day, I’d go to a different hotel but I am stuck (and exhausted) at this late hour.

I then go full New Yorker on him. This is a clear violation of NYC regulations (see here: https://propertyclub.nyc/article/a-guide-to-nyc-heating-season-and-heat-laws). Front desk guy says he will try to find a space heater. I am skeptical.

I turn on shower to full hot. I manage to get the room to 61 degrees. The problem is, unrecognized by me immediately, I am also on course to create a flood. The bathtub was stoppered and filling up!

I reconfirm my recollection of NYC heat regs and try calling 311 on the hotel phone to complain to the city. However, the call keeps going to 911. I go to get my cell to call 311 since it is a 917 number and thus can call 311 as a local call.

The front desk calls about my calling 911. I say I am trying to call 311 about the illegal cold room and keep being routed to 911, and will call 311 on my cell. Front desk guy insists no, really, he is trying to find me a space heater. I say I’ll wait a few minutes.

Shortly he and a maintenance guy come up to move me to a similar-class room down the hall with a heater in it. Why they could not move the heater to me is a mystery.

In moving out, I discovered the bathroom floor has a lot of water on it. The tub had not yet flooded over but the artfully placed bath mat, over the edge of the tub, was soaked and wicking water onto the floor.

The trip back was uneventful. But I now have to get to Laguardia super early due to the horrible new terminals and roadways in. The new facility was clearly designed to max out on concrete use and square footage. The tired old Laguardia would have been fine with a facelift. Its virtue that (ex time in security) the walk to the gate was five to seven minutes. Now the place is cavernous, trying to look like an international airport. Even passenger check in and security are now a hike from the curb. The typical walk to the gate is 15 minutes. The only reason I can see is for higher construction costs, as in real estate grifting.

Please tell me your horror stories.

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  1. zagonostra

    Anyone who has flown into a major European or Asian airport hub is struck with just how bad/backwards U.S. airports are once they get back to the States. Also, once you land the difference in the availability of transportation is also glaring.

    I fly back and forth monthly on a direct flight from FLL-LBE(near Pit) on Spirit and it’s not bad. Regional Airports like LBE do not charge for parking and security is a snap, on the last few flights I took, on an a flight that was mostly full, only 2 people had masks on.

  2. Jonhoops

    Affinity Design is way nicer than Illustrator.

    Pixelmator does pretty much everything a Photoshop user would need barring a few esoteric features.

    Plenty of good alternatives to Lightroom.

    1. Jonhoops

      Weird that this showed up here. It was a reply to a comment in Links wondering if there were any good alternatives to Adobe Photoshop.

  3. Rip Van Winkle

    Guests turning on a hot shower to heat their hotel room or get wrinkles out of their clothes is a good source for a mold remediation claim on a Property or Environmental Liability insurance policy. Just saying.

    The last time I was in LaGuardia the radiators in the gate areas were walking with cockroaches.

    Bedbugs in hotels are still a thing popping up in insurance claims and lawsuits.

    1. CanCyn

      I once stayed in a hotel at a conference that was so dry I turned on the shower to create some steam and moisture. Mild couldn’t possibly have grown in that room

  4. CanCyn

    Some stories:
    1. My sister booked a flight on Flair (small Canadian discounter) airlines from Toronto to Tampa. Booked in December 2021 to fly in March 2022. She lives in Northern Ontario about a 6 hour drive from TO so has to leave the day before and do an overnight in TO to catch her flight. Flight status stopped showing online and couldn’t get through by phone before she left home. Kept trying to check, site not updating, phones not answered and no info provided on recording. Luckily could stay with a friend before flight so no hotel costs incurred. Still no status next morning. Got to airport 3 hours early, very long line at check in, not moving. Hour after arrival, they are finally informed that flight is cancelled. Told to deal with refunds online no possibility for another flight (they only fly to Tampa once per week).
    2. A friend was in Prince Edward Island the week before Ian hit. Scheduled to fly home on the Sunday. Airline (sorry can’t remember if it was Air Canada or Westjet) charged her $1000 to change her flight to Friday! She did get a refund after spending an entire day on the phone with the airline after she got home.
    A friend who is a frequent traveller who went to Portugal in February and got COVID, presumably on the flight home. Tested positive a day or 2 after she got home. Luckily not a bad case.
    I visited a friend in PEI in the fall of 2020 Masking was still mandatory then except for eating & drinking. 2 hour flight plus time in airport, I never unmasked. I was amazed to see people taking their masks off to eat crappy free cookies!
    I think everyone believes the myth that airplanes have well filtered air. I never have. My sister goes to Florida every year, usually in the fall, and comes home with a really bad cold almost every time. I have always hated flying, it really hurts my ears (have tried earplanes, gum, decongestant, nothing helps) and have never been much of a traveller. I always thought I might do a bit more once I retired but I will not be going anywhere unless I can bike, drive or take a train.

    1. britzklieg

      I’ve told myself for a long time that the reason I pulled back on my career early, nickle and diming local (nyc) and eastern seaboard gigs almost exclusively (with the occasional trip abroad), was due to a genuine antipathy for the music business hustle as directed by rapacious managers seeking larger and more frequent commissions. In fact, the abuse encountered in flying (and hotels!) was perhaps the biggest impediment to my ambition and that was in the 90’s, even before 9/11 and TSA. Hearing Yves’ and others tales of woe, I’d probably go postal flying now. I’m completely on board with your final sentence.

  5. Coastal Gold

    I have only flown once since 9/11 and it was so painful on so many levels (TSA abuse, miserable seating, missed connections, etc.) that I resolved never to fly again. I’ve told family (mostly on the other coast), I love you, but I’m not going through that again. Ever. If I can’t drive somewhere, I don’t go. OTH, one of my kids flies to Europe every year and swears by it. Comfortable seating, efficient staff and no TSA. Go figure.

    1. Mike

      My European experience was limited but I was astonished by what was going on in France. It was 2017 I believe so not too long after the Paris shooting and Niece truck incident but there were cops/military with machine guns all over on every street corner. As someone who thought the counter terrorism state stretched too far in the US I thought the same of France.

      My flight back was delayed by a day due to a unspecified “terrorism threat”, so I went to on a walk around Paris, to Notre Dam and and got turned away because minutes before a guy got his head bashed in by an immigrant with a hammer who was later deemed to be a “terrorist.”

      Of course my experience on the way back contradicts my overall assessment of their reaction, I still had a conclusion that it must be an uncomfortable experience to have your government in your face with machine guns at all times. Either way the French were fantastic and I had a great time.

  6. Peter Whyte

    At least your luggage wasn’t lost and never recovered despite the airline claiming it was; bumped from your flight; challenged to a physical fight by airline personnel. You were after all travelling first class i.e. without children.
    If Karl Malden were still with us, his advice to us on behalf of American Express should be “don’t leave home!”

    1. britzklieg

      Ha! Back in my day musicians had anagrams for the different airlines when flying and my favorite was Alitalia: A long interminable trip and luggage is absent.

      1. vao

        ALITALIA: Airplane Lands In Tokyo, All Luggage In Amsterdam.

        SABENA: Such A Bloody Experience, Never Again!

        TAP: Try Another Plane.

        QANTAS: Quite A Nice Trip, Any Survivors?

  7. Glossolalia

    Instead of a horror story, I will offer a tip that I debated not sharing and keeping to myself, but will anyway. This summer we were visiting Austria. I was very nervous about the state of air travel in Europe given all the headlines. We got a direct flight from Dulles to Vienna on Austrian Airlines. The plane its self felt only marginally above a domestic Spirit air flight. Small, uncomfortable seats, and paltry food service, but the price was right and that’s just the reality everywhere nowadays. The real happy ending to this story though is the Vienna airport. We got in around 7:30 AM, and had our luggage and were through customs in no more than 30 minutes. The airport is nice and small and Vienna doesn’t seem like a major destination. I don’t know if this was an anomaly, but the next time I fly to one of the major cities in Europe like Paris, etc. I’m definitely going to consider the flying direct to Vienna and then taking a regional flight from there.

    1. paul

      vienna has pretty good rail links, and a lot of nice hill walks accessible by public transport if you’re staying.

      Weird place though, half snooty, half as nice as you could want for.

      Went for breakfast in the centre in a nice little place (hausfrau costumes for the staff), 8am and it was full of pissed germans, angry immigrants, a fight breaking out and the extremely well nourished local police turning up to everyone’s derision.

      Sounds ugly, but it actually wasn’t.

      1. Shom

        Don’t plan on multi-day hikes in Austrian alps though. Had a trip planned for Aug. Friends from Holland got there a week early, were almost immediately weirded out by how all the mountain top hostels on alp treks jointly decided that COVID is not a thing anymore. 20+ hikers sleeping in a closed room, no masks and with co2 readings staying at 2k+ throughout the night.

        The friends ALL tested positive within three days, severely so in one case. I cancelled my trip and stayed put in the US.

      2. SocalJimObjects

        I went to Vienna once, but I took the train from Munich. Taking the train is so much more comfortable because there’s links to local trains etc, and if memory serves me well, the train does not stop far from the city center. I was staying not far from the UN headquarters. I quite enjoyed my sojourn to the city center and more importantly the Schönbrunn Palace. The other thing I remember about Vienna (and Austria) is the famous Sachertorte cake. Unfortunately the one I tasted (from a famous shop) was so dry, I probably wouldn’t eat another one.

        1. paul

          The thing I really remember about Wein, was the social housing opposite our budget hotel.

          It was orderly, appreciated and accepted.

          A neighbour, with a child who now is a resident there, told me that housing is a human right in austrian law.

          1. paul

            Which reminds me that the SNP lickspittlles have declined to confirm or deny our newly unelected or loved landowner, king charly, has first dips on any legislation that might diminish his unwarranted dominion.

    2. zagonostra

      Thanks for sharing. I’m planning to go to Italy in the summer ’23 if all CV19 restrictions are lifted. BA used to have a regional flight to Bergamo from Frankfurter but the route was eliminated a while back.

      1. paul

        Have a go at Napoli if you have the chance, Venice after dark is quite special.
        Avoid barga,huge walk uphill, full of chippy scotch colonial types
        Happy holidays!

  8. chuck roast

    And always a pleasure being abused during international travel. I recently had to fly to Montreal to attend to my sister. In Boston, on the way out, after doing the always humiliating luggage and physical inspection, two US Immigration guys asked to see my passport. I go, “Excuse me, why do I have to show you my US passport on the way out?” Of course the sheeple never question their authority, so they looked at one another and mumbled a few half-assed excuses. I told them that this was “nonsense, unnecessary and redundant.” They handed me back my passport while avoiding all eye-contact.

    I went through US immigration controls in Montreal on the way back. I knew that this was coming…the guy I gave my passport to said, “Please step in front of the camera.” I responded, “Why are you taking my picture? Look at the picture of that guy in the passport. Do I look like that guy?” So, the immigration guy says, “I will put you down as declining to be photographed.” I go, “You got plenty of photographs of me. You don’t need another one.”

    Finally, the immigration guy goes, “Well, if you decline to be photographed, that will delete all your information from the system.” I can’t believe my ears. I respond, “Even better! You have more information on me then you could possibly ever need.” By this time, the immigration guy and his next door colleague were beginning to get annoyed. Time to move along to the gate.

    1. Mike

      This is fantastic, I love it… Will try to remember this when I fly to Canada next time.

      I was loaded up with a bunch of booze driving to Vancouver from Seattle to see my cousins, my brothers and I decided to take the slightly longer route to go through the smaller border crossing, which is usually faster. Anyways there was no one else there but us… we got searched and they took all the booze. When they found out we were dual citizens they were a little easier on us but we couldn’t help but feel like that booze when straight to their trunks to take home. Also didn’t help my brothers had gone to a Seattle dispensary on the way out and their eyes were as red as the devil… was a funny experience.

      1. Joe Well

        NoMy last experience with Canadian Border Patrol was so awful, even compared with their US counterparts, and I heard such bad stories first hand from other foreigners, that I vowed not to go back unless I absolutely had to, which I haven’t. A lot to see in Canada, but it’s just not worth it, and sad when you think how the border crossing used to seem like welcome committees.

        And the cherry on top: on the bus ride back to the border at the end of the trip, the bus driver gave a little speech on the evils of US Border Patrol in that tone that a lot of Canadians reserve for talking about the US.

        1. Gregorio

          I’m pretty sure they have some sort of mandatory training program to standardize the intrusive, heavy-handed, and surly treatment on both sides of the border.

    2. Cristobal

      They ever pull you out of line and take you to the little room? It happened to me once entering US (I’m a citizen). A female collegue was pulled out of line at another US airtpot and “searched” – patted down very agressively – by a female agent – mollested sexually. We were only going through security to go from one part of the airport to another.

      1. Mike

        My dad being a natural born Canadian, (me a citizen only because of him, but otherwise very American) ensured that every time I flew with him as a kid (dozens of time easily) meant we were searched including our luggage at almost every airport we went through… It stopped sometime in the last 10 years but don’t remember exactly. Who knows, we could of had maple syrup contraband or something.

    3. Glossolalia

      Not to be a downer, but I don’t believe for a second that they delete all your information if you decline to be photographed. Maybe your record in the database gets the ‘deleted’ field set to 1, but I doubt anything really gets deleted.

    4. John

      In China the camera is focused on the spot on which you stand. No request … you will be photographed.

    5. bonks

      That’s not the reality in many parts of the world, especially the richer Asian countries. Your image and thumb prints will be taken on your way in, and again on your way out.

      Still, it’s a better treatment than the questions I have to deal with in visa applications just to enter western countries, after which upon arrival immigrations will treat us third worlders as potential terrorist or overstayer planning to drain the country coffers.

  9. Nick

    I had trouble getting from Montgomery to El Salvador this summer.

    I was originally going to fly American Airlines, connect in Dallas with a ~3 hour layover on June X. But the night before they realized that the crew would not have enough rest and so the flight was delayed about 4 hours. There were no other possible flights that day, OR the next day, and they tried to get me on a flight two days later. Luckily I live in Montgomery and had advance notice so just stayed home.

    I was able to cancel and book Delta, via Atlanta, for June X+1. Early morning flight with another ~3 hour layover. Get to the airport, everything seems fine and they call for early groups to board. But then those folks get off. One of the emergency exit lights won’t turn on! We wait for a while and there are a bunch of 20-30 min adjustments in expected departure time that add up to bad news for me and quite a few others. There was some hope when I see the repair truck zoom over but then all hope is lost when I see them take the whole side door off. Luckily I was able to change to an ATL-SLV ticket for June X+2 and there are many Delta shuttles to Atlanta and I go home for a bit and then take the last one that day rather than try my luck with another early morning flight. Delta covered hotel and like $12 of food but only the ATL agent could help with this and there was a brief moment there (before agent knew about the mechanical delay and missed international connection) where there was some doubt in my mind that they in fact would.

    In Atlanta it was really easy, I mean like 5-10 minutes, to get from my domestic arrival gate to the hotel cluster via train. But the next morning, to get to International means like 30-45 minutes of train and waiting and bus! And the security line was long and slow moving for pre-check due to fewer dedicated lanes, but would have been relatively quick if I went in the regular line. Did make the flight and mask usage is pretty good in Latin America and was so on the flight too.

    On a more recent Dallas-Montgomery flight (AA) I noticed the same thing with Pre-Check lines taking much longer than the regular (this time say 20 vs 5 mins). And then at the last moment (early groups had started to board and then returned to terminal) we were delayed about an hour because they needed a second pilot! Not sure what that one was about.

  10. John Wright

    You are correct. 3 ft x 3ft = 9 sq feet.

    One cubic meter is about (3 x 3 x 3) = 27 cubic feet, but that was not what I was mentioning.

    Sorry for the error.

  11. madarka

    I had an absolutely nightmarish experience in Orlando International last april. The place was incredible packed with people, at every hour. The queues were horrendous, security an awful experience. Flights were on time but airport experience was the worst I’ve ever had.

  12. Bob Tetrault

    I noticed in Aug 2020 that all service personnel in airports and hotels were drastically minimized and predicted that this would be the new normal.


  13. ChrisFromGA

    Well, I must be lucky as most of my travel since COVID has been just mediocre, not horrible. I have come to despise the Atlanta airport – it is too big, dirty, and you have to add an hour to the recommended “arrive two hours early” due to traffic and possibly having to go on that underground train, unless you are lucky enough to depart at the T gates.

    A few exceptions – on a trip from Virginia to Georgia by car, we stayed overnight at a budget hotel along I85. When I say budget, I mean under $200/night including all the junk fees and taxes. But still $100+. The room was dirty and cramped. You could see bugs inside of one of the dome lights. The person manning the front desk didn’t seem to care to do her job. My guess is that private equity has bought out this particular hotel chain and is running it into the ground for short term payouts to shareholders.

    I try to fly out on Wednesdays or Thursdays to avoid the madhouse at the Atlanta airport. It really is a nightmare, and they keep talking about making it bigger. It always seems to be under construction. And the food is so overpriced that packing a sandwich is your only option. Why folks put up with this is hard to say. Boiled frog syndrome, I suspect.

    1. nippersdad

      I really did prefer the old airport. It had the persona of a failed Sears and smelled funky, but it was not a days’ excursion to find wherever you needed to be. I really do miss the old Atlanta. Where did all of those people come from?

      This boiled frog left a while ago with every intention of going back, but I can’t honestly say that it would be a nice place to live anymore.

  14. Mike from Jersey

    This summer I flew from Boise to Minneapolis. I was supposed to connect in Minneapolis for a flight to Newark. The connecting flight never arrived due to maintenance problems. There was only one employee assigned to re-route an entire plane full of passengers. I tried to use the airline app to re-route. It would not allow me to enter the flight number. I had to retrieve and enter my flight confirmation number instead. I did that. Then after a considerable delay I was in text communication with an airline employee. I explained the problem and the employee said that they would back to me with a new connection. After about 5-10 minutes I had no response and so I texted again. There was no reply. I had to text and text over and over again just to find out if the connection was still functioning. After another considerable delay I got a text back and was told that the employee was working on it. After about another 20 minutes with no answer I was beginning to worry about my cell phone battery. Finally, the employee got back to me and said that they could have a flight the next day taking me to Los Angeles and from there across country to Newark. I was asked if this was acceptable. I said “no” and I told them I would deal with the employee re-routing flights in the airport where I was, Minneapolis.

    I got in line and after about an hour, I talked to the employee at the airport who got me a flight the next day from Minneapolis to Newark. However, I had to downgrade from business class to economy. I took it.

    The next day I got a message from the airline asking me how I enjoyed their service. I told them that they should at least rebate me the cost of the downgrade from business class to economy.

    They never got back to me.

    1. Mildred Montana

      >”The next day I got a message from the airline asking me how I enjoyed their service. I told them that they should at least rebate me the cost of the downgrade from business class to economy. They never got back to me.”

      To Mike from Jersey:

      Thank you for flying BMN Airlines. We apologize for any inconveniences you might have experienced. As we’re sure you can appreciate, any reimbursements for downgrades and wastes of your time are incredibly difficult to calculate, require much staff, and need approval at the highest levels.

      But because we value your patronage we’re still looking into your complaints. In the meantime, we hope you will continue to “Fly With BMN!”

      B.S. Beeser, Vice-Deputy-Assistant for Customer Relations (acting)

  15. Hayek's Heelbiter

    America in a microcosm.
    Just think how much corporations have saved by cutting back on support staff. Those in the C-suite deserve to be rewarded with their astronomical salaries for all the money they’ve saved for their companies.
    Oh, almost forgot. The airlines, the hotel, Burger KIng all deeply regret the inconvenience you suffered and will definitely look into it.

    1. Irrational

      Yes, those last two lines of your post… usually gets expanded to half a page of guff these days started with “We are sorry you felt like this” as if it is my problem. Always feel like saying “cut the c***”. You can usually tell it is just copy-paste out of some manual because it is totally non-descript. Why do they bother?

      1. Jeff

        Because they believe it works and that you’ll eff off after hearing their pr department’s deflections.

  16. nippersdad

    I have not been on a flight since I had to pick up my Wife at Hartsfield just after 9/11 and saw all of the troops with machine guns patrolling the halls. I laughed at the time, but I think I would still rather drive. That said, my worst horror story comes from 1974.

    When I was ten my family went to Hawaii. From Atlanta we had a through flight to San Francisco about which I remember nothing except seeing the Grand Canyon and lots of green circles in the desert. From San Francisco to Honolulu we had a 747 with the usual crew and just us four on it. So my brother and I ran around, drank champagne out of the bottles and ate petit fours all the way to Hawaii while my parents stayed at the bar upstairs acting like they did not know us. The cabin crew were very nice, the pilots gave us some wings and let us sit in the cockpit.

    OK, so maybe not a horror story in the strictest sense, but it bothers me to think about all of that co2 still being in the air from that flight. When I think about it I feel personally responsible for AGW.

    My how times have changed.

  17. Cristobal

    Greenville-Spartenburg (SC) used to be my favorite airport. The main ‘loby’ was a big concrete cube with Corbusier clearstory windows around the top. To get to the gates you went outside and walked under a roof with (boxwood?) hedges on either side. The gates were confortable little glass boxes. No jet bridges. Lots of aromatic pine trees and flowers in season. It has been modernizad and improved.

  18. Mucho

    I’ve travelled since Covid: through Europe and to Brazil. I don’t really care about delayed flights, I just try to get some reading in. Before Covid the main problem was rude fellow passengers. After Covid, infection is honestly my only concern. I always mask (FFP2, 3M AURA) but airlines seems to have a special delight in declaring that mask are not necessary (hurrah!).

    Oh and also French airlines and CDC-Airport.

    1. TimH

      CDG is fine if you both arrive and depart on an AF flight. Any other combination involves a fair amount of time getting between terminals.

  19. sybz

    I took four flights from western NY to various destinations this summer: three on Delta and one on United. Delta had delays and cancellations on all three of the trips I booked with them. The United flight was OK. All flights were packed, with masking by a few percent of passengers at best. I wore an N-95 at all times at the airport and on the plane, and did not eat or drink while in transit.

    1. Destination: Wilmington, NC (Delta), end of May 2022. Delta canceled the outbound flight via NY-LGA about 12 hours before the flight and rebooked me automatically on a new flight arriving 36 hours later than my original arrival time. I spent an hour an hour to rebook through ATL, arriving 24 hr later than originally planned… in Jacksonville, NC.

    2. Destination: San Francisco (Delta), end of June 2022. The outbound flight via NY-JFK was canceled 12 hours before the flight. Rebooked automatically through Detroit, arriving 6 hours later than originally scheduled. I spent an hour rebooking through ATL to arrive at roughly the original time. Perhaps 10 people on a plane of 200 were masked. The gentleman next to me had a surgical mask dangling off his left ear the entire flight.

    3. Destination: Tucson (Delta), with a 2.5-hour connection in ATL. A parade of delays caused the connecting flight to ATL to take off 2 hours late. We then waited at a gate in ATL on landing until a ground crew appeared, eating the remaining time. Delta canceled my connection to AZ automatically as I was waiting to deplane and booked me on a flight the following morning. Having no alternative, I stayed in a local hotel in ATL. Maybe 1 out of 50 people were masked on the plane and in the airport.

    4. Destination: Chicago (United). No delays there and back, though Terminal 2 at O’Hare was packed like a Chuck-e-cheese on a rainy weekend afternoon. Only four people on the plane home were masked: me and three elderly gentlemen. One of them thanked me for masking as we were deplaning.

  20. Ricardo

    Flights to Iceland and Ireland this summer. My partner and I wore our masks in the airports, on the planes, and on transport to/from airports. Probably about 10-15% of other people on the flights were masked.

    On our return flight from Iceland to Seatac, we arrived well ahead of our flight time at the airport. Stood in line for 40 minutes waiting for the crew to show up to check us in. We get checked in and were told to go see a security person who would have questions for us. We answer the questions (standard stuff like how long were you here, etc.). Our passports are checked along with ID. Questions answered, we’re set free.

    About an hour before our flight we leave the restaurant to queue for the passport booths. Three booths open, long line. Lots of planes scheduled to take off around the same time. People pleading to cut in line because “I’ll miss my flight”. Line guards do not have empathy. Our passports are checked and stamped efficiently once we’re at the front (30 minutes before take off).

    We get to the turnstyle just past the passport booths. I run my ticket through, light turns green, and I walk through. My partner tries hers and it does not turn green and won’t unlock. She tried again. Same result. She tries again on the same turnstyle I used and same result. A security person comes over from a side door and tells her that she must go through and extra security check. I am told to go to the gate and wait for her.

    Twenty seven minutes later she rushes up to the gate. I am waiting there, refusing to get on the plane without her. What was the issue? She was “randomly” selected for an extra security screening by the HSA. It should be spelled “ran-dumb-ly”. She was told to wait in a room. Fifteen minutes later they escort her to a curtained area. A person asks to search her carryon bag (it’s been looked at twice already). Another starts snapping gloves on and she says, You’re not touching me. He tells her he only needs to swab her hands and clothes. He asks her questions as well. Process takes another 8 minutes or so.

    Why “ran-dumb-ly”? She’s been vetted. She has a Global Travel card which required a background check. She has a passport which requires a background check. She’s been in multiple countries, yes, but European ones, and is returning home from a holiday and shopping. In fact, the only 2 people on the flight who were checked were women in their mid 50s, native to the US, who had traveled using their passports and Global Cards. If one is going to randomly check, then wouldn’t one target the multiple passengers on the plane that had not been vetted (most of the flight – we know this because we got preferential treatment at customs due to our travel cards)?

  21. MP

    Have travelled by air just twice since being fully vaccinated. First time was in the Delta wave to Palm Springs/Joshua Tree, which was a disaster flight-wise because of staff shortages and a storm that hit Dallas-Fort Worth last October, if anyone remembers that. But thinking back… way more relaxing than 2022. The lack of mask mandate this time around in JFK on a crowded evening was maddeningly stressful, trying to keep my N95 affixed from the moment I left to the second we arrived at our Airbnb (we especially prefer rentals to hotels during the pandemic) while just spending the whole time wondering if we’d get popped mid-trip. We had yet to receive the bivalent booster and never got a symptomatic infection, so we were pretty vulnerable immunity-wise. We travelled the PNW coast, which was largely enjoyable to both stay mostly outdoors; we were forced to eat indoors once because one region had a single indoor eatery in a 30-50 mile radius. We luckily passed through that trip unscathed, but it was definitely incredibly, incredibly stressful to worry about exposure when you’re trying to vacation, which is why I can’t see myself doing this often. I’m tending to enjoy trips to the state parks in north jersey/hudson valley more than distant places, at this point.

  22. Dave in Austin

    My condolences to Yves. We were afraid the future would be 1984. It turned out to be a cross between the movies “Brazil”, “The Matrix” and “Dark Star”.

    Domestically I fly Southwest; the website gives you all the choices and prices, the gate people will tell you the truth about delays and the flight staff will joke as they tell you for the thousandth time how to use the seat belt. Delta and the big legacies use a “hub and spoke” system; Southwest is more like a mesh so if one airport has a problem they can work around it. And fly early; delays in the system propagate and cascade as the day goes on. Never fly through Chicago or Detroit in the winter.

    Two hints: first, get there early, go off in a corner, get down on the floor by a window and do 30 minutes of stretches; second bring your own food but make it “no packages”- dried fruit, chocolate bars, cheese, olives, little loafs of bread- and a napkin.

    Finally, I got a serious flu going DC-to-Frankfort. When I got back I asked my commercial pilot friends, “What do you do?”. Answer: window seat (avoid the walkers); baby wipes with alcohol or propolene glycol to wipe down the seat back and head rest, arm rest, window frame and especially the tray in front of you- plus also use wipes to open and close the bathroom door; an N-95 mask you spray occasionally with alcohol disinfectant spray (German “Sagrotan” disinfectant in 3 oz bottles is best); wash your face and hands at the airport with your own soap before boarding and drink fluids beforehand (I go through the check line with an empty water bottle and fill it inside). Go to the bathroom 10 minutes before boarding.

    New Your hotels? The only good ones demand wealth or an expense account.

    And I usually pack a small, dense book, and a 6 oz sleep sack and inflatable pillow with a paper “international-trip” pillow case I’ve saved. When I’m stuck “I want my blankie!”

    1. Valerie from Australia

      Thanks for all these great tips. I copied and saved them. However, after reading all these experiences – especially around Covid, I will avoid travelling by plane as much as possible.

  23. JEHR

    My husband and I (in our 80s) have just become first-time grandparents. Our new granddaughter is 20 days old. First we were going to fly to New Mexico in October to see her. Toronto was listed as the worst airport in Canada (worldwide too?) so we postponed our trip. Now we are planning on going in March or April. There is no longer masking on airplanes and there is no reason to believe that any flight we take will not be changed, postponed, cancelled, etc. The best we can do is look at photos of our sweet granddaughter.

  24. scott s.

    The secret is to be in a wheelchair, or with someone in a wheelchair, preferably your own so it is on the plane with you. You do get off the plane last, so that might be a consideration on a tight connection.

  25. Jason Boxman

    I’m glad they let you wear your high quality masks! When I read you were vacationing, I was worried you might run into one of the situations that surfaced on Twitter where people are asked to remove their masks.

    I’ve always avoided travel when possible, so my only travel stories are:

    a) Flying after going skeet shooting, something I’ve never done before. Needless to say, my clothing set off TSA and I was escorted into a backroom, where they tested again. Fortunately I cleared, or I guess my life would have gotten very very bad very quickly.
    b) Stuck on tarmac for deicing in Boston for an hour.

    I don’t like flying, so being stuck on a plane for an hour, even on the tarmac, is not really pleasant. Getting a script for Valium for travel is sadly not been so easily done for me, so I’ve made due.

    I also learned, belatedly, that pre-check is awesome. Unfortunately I got this right before the Pandemic, so I only got to used in a few times. Sigh.

    Stay safe!

  26. Jeff

    Varies by airport. LAX and Bob Hope are awful, but Long Beach is alright. It’s crowded but a lot more of a low key vibe. Hard to describe beyond that. I believe LGB still has that outdoor area that makes a big difference.

    1. Wukchumni

      I chide Fresno too much, but their airport reminds me of Long Beach airport, the vibe is on the down low and it’s never all that crowded and you can park a few hundred yards away pretty easily. Those cheesy Sequoia tree replicas are a bit much though.

      It’s also the quickest way to flee Fresno, so there’s that.

  27. Displaced Platitudes

    Recently flew to the Baltic states to complete a trip scheduled 3 years ago that had to be canceled due to a health emergency. I had plenty of 3M 9205 masks for the several flights of the trip. Glad I did; CO2 levels were very similar to what you recorded Yves! Other passengers were almost entirely unmasked, including the gentleman who was coughing repeatedly during 8+ hours of flight time. Lucky for me he sat directly in front of me😳.
    I had several passengers complain because I had my air vent completely open in an attempt to keep CO2 levels below 2000ppm. Since I was in the very back seats of the plane, the stewardesses did not try to make me close the vent, but moved a couple of the louder complainers to other seats. I did use povidone iodine, as you so kindly suggested, before donning a mask and after removing it. I also used it whenever a public space had poor ventilation. After 2 weeks, I am cautiously hopeful that I dodged a bullet this time.

  28. GC54

    Re Aranet4 CO2 sensors, this tech goes uncalibrated when subject to large pressure changes and reads low at altitude unless calibrated there. A commercial airline cabin is usually pressurized to 6000 ft at cruise. That probably explains the lower CO2 reading at that point in your trip. Sorry, but the CO2 sea-level equivalent at cruise probably didnt change below what you found near the end of descent, in your case 1300 for the duration. Aranet4 is quite good albeit expensive, but easily misused.

      1. GC54

        Yes air exchange after the door closes does drop it as the airlines proudly note, but the decline you saw above 10k was probably spurious. My sensor can self calibrate relatively but not absolutely without a metered CO2 supply. Your intriguing report has convinced me to measure the delta cruise-to-descent when i fly in a few months.

  29. southern appalachian

    Rarely flew for business, mostly leisure travel. Which became an oxymoron after the terrorist attacks some years back. Air travel never recovered from that, is my opinion. We lost. A few people made a lot of money.

  30. SocalJimObjects

    Question: which one is worse? The CO2 reading at the airport or the CO2 reading in the plane? One would think the former would be worse, given how packed airports are?

  31. amused_in_sf

    I’ve done a fair amount of travel this year (multiple SFO-NYC trips, and one JFK-FRA) and, aside from the lack of masks on the vast majority of people, it’s been fairly smooth. Cancelled BART trains and usual United Newark scheduling incompetence have been the biggest hassle, so I have lucked out. Hotels, mostly in Germany, but some in NY and NC, have been fine, and more places seem to be going to a no-contact model, which is fine for me.

    It only recently occurred to me that N95s with an exhaust vent would be more comfortable in warm places and for extended wearing, so I will wear those when no one around me is masking.

    I’ve also discovered that many airlines are no longer charging exorbitant prices for international one-way flights, so it’s possible to assemble itineraries cheaper than a round-trip with one company.

  32. Ken Murphy

    I stopped flying way back in 2011, after I was groped on three of my last three flights. They went where I only let girls go, and I was very not happy about it. I don’t appreciate being treated like a criminal, and certainly won’t pay money to be treated that way. While I miss traveling the way and to the extent that I used to do so, I also find that driving helps remind me of how beautiful a country in which we live.

  33. c_heale

    I want to agree on the overuse of concrete and unnecessary building. Barajas aírport new terminal (won some architectural prize for its design) is way too large (you need to catch a train within the terminal it’s so big). The later extensions to Madrid metro on the outskirts are also uncessarily large. There are many other examples, these are just the few I know best. I blame the bidding process and corruption (forever present in the construction industry).

  34. Tom Doak

    One of the reasons public schools went to hell is that “everybody important “ put their kids in private schools so they don’t care about the quality of public schools.

    One of the reasons air travel went to hell is that the Really Important People fly private and won’t pound their fists on the desk to fix these things. (Business class avoids a fair bit of the hassle.) But the other reason is that we just recently gave the airlines billions of dollars in taxpayer assistance to save them from COVID, so they know we need them and they can skimp on service. TINA.

  35. Sarah Henry

    I went to Miami back in May for a brief overnight trip, and I was shocked at the condition of the terminal all the Southwest Airlines flights seemed to be routed to. Aside from relatively new-looking tile on the floors, nothing appeared to have been renovated since the 1980s at least. Almost none of the electrical outlets in the gate areas worked, forcing masked and unmasked passengers to huddle around the few outlets that did work in order to charge their phones. The windows near each tarmac access door had those old, cheap aluminum frames, and I couldn’t tell if the substance around the edges was mold, mildew, or something worse…I refused to get close enough to look! (is anything in south Florida not rotten these days?)

    Despite some minor delays at the baggage check counter, the Oslo airport I visited three months later was paradise compared to this.

  36. Boshko

    My take on the new LGA is that, like every other new monstrosity in air travel, it’s a shopping mall that dabbles in transit. Since we’ll be delayed for hours, and have to arrive hours in advance for our unconstitutional searches, why not shake us down for overpriced snacks and one last luxury good?

    Now for my own rant:
    I nominate EWR, terminal C as the absolute nadir. It’s run by OTG, which claims to use techno wizardry to improve the experience and make it effortless. I can not believe how useless their United terminal at EWR is. First, it’s impossible to purchase anything without a credit card. Second, you can’t purchase anything from a human. Instead there are hundreds (thousands?) of ipads to do a ‘self-checkout’ from. All the eateries effectively have the same menu and every seat not on a bench in the terminal is occupied by an ipad. The catch is, the ipads don’t even work to order anything! They literally display a QR code for passengers to scan ON THEIR OWN DEVICES. So we not only bring the labor, we also must provide the hardware for our seamless, effortless experience. I was so dumbfounded that I asked one of the employees if you truly needed your own device to buy anything in the terminal. Yup! But what if you don’t have a cell phone, or it’s not working? She thought for a moment and finally could direct me to a single place in the terminal where you could order food but must pay by credit card.

    On top of all this, the “global food court” is, again, awash in ipads, and hapless customers trying to use their own devices to order food all while surrounded by dozens of floating employees. Most are standing around checking their own phones. Same goes for the food prep employees. Standing around and waiting for an order to come in on the computer. Literally everyone standing around–customers, cooks–and nothing happening! Productivity was at a standstill. And this is the international terminal on a Friday night, full of passengers heading to Europe and elsewhere. It took 30min to receive the sorriest tacos I’ve ever seen.

    This is the dystopian nightmare coming everywhere in travel soon.

  37. Hayek's Heelbiter

    How are the mighty fallen!
    In the late 1980s, I had a problem receiving Airmiles for a flight for my American Airlines Advantage program.
    I requested credit for the flight, which was denied.
    I escalated, and even though I was the lowest tier member of the program, I received a personal letter from Bob Crandall himself agreeing to split the difference.
    What a class guy!
    Can you imagine any current CEO even DEIGNING to respond to such an essentially trivial customer complaint?

  38. Bob M

    Given that we are in a climate crisis, the best thing to do is not to fly at all. I’m sort of shocked that no one (I didn’t read every comment all the way through so can’t completely verify) has brought this up in this thread.

  39. John R Moffett

    What I don’t understand is why people are so intent on traveling all the time. I realize people like to get out and go places and see things, but this can be done locally as well. What is the carbon footprint of people who travel by air all the time? Obviously, if everyone in the world flew on jets all the time the earth would be on fire by now. Then on top of that, it is the people who travel a lot that get the rest of us sick when they bring flus, colds and Covid from far away places. Isn’t it possible for people to do a bit less traveling, especially since it has become so unpleasant? The last two times I got really, really sick were when an old friend, who now lives in the Philippines, traveled here by plane and got everyone in my house sick. We were coughing up goo for 2 weeks. People who travel too much are not doing the rest of us any favors. Even business people can to teleconference calls, rather than flying all over the place.

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