Why flying has gotten suckier

by MooshiMooshi

The current flying experience, in my opinion, totally sucks, and is much worse than say 8 or even 5 years ago. It is just as crammed and unpredictable as before, but now tickets cost a lot more, service to small and medium cities has been cutback drastically and in particular costs a lot more, and to add insult to injury, we now pay fees for almost every aspect of a “normal” flying experience. At some point, I assume, we will end up paying fees for being allowed to sit down. And yes, I pay the fees. If I am flying with a kid, I want to sit next to my kid because even though said kid would be fine alone, it is simply inconvenient to be separated. So I pay the fee to get an aisle or window seat, and I pay the fee to be allowed to choose. And since I would rather not be separated from my bag which has all my snacks and reading glasses, and work to be done, I pay for the priority boarding so I can get bin space. Boarding has turned into a stressed out competition. In the old days, one could relax and wait for your row group to be called. Now, it is a stampede, with everyone in a boarding group hanging by the gate, trying to be first in their group to get that bin space.

This is a great article explaining why this state of affairs is good for airlines.

“Calculated misery”: how airlines profit from your miserable flying experience

Although, they don’t really touch on the main reason why airlines have been able to do this: consolidation. The industry is so much a monopoly now that we consumers cannot vote with our feet.

I thought capitalism and free markets were supposed to IMPROVE things for consumers. But evidently not.

Do you guys think air travel will ever improve or will we end up paying an extra fee for the privilege of sitting?

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157 thoughts on “Why flying has gotten suckier

  1. A quick check of AA.com shows the flight from EWR to RDU in first class is $626 which is only slightly higher than the cost of coach back in 2000.

  2. I’ve never paid to sit next to my kids. Perhaps they look like trouble makers, but airlines have always made sure we are arranged together. When I have booked online and middle seats are the only choice without paying extra, I call the airline. I encourage them to seat my 3 (or 2 or 4) year old far far away from me, but caution that the other passengers may not be excited about it.

  3. Rhett’s observations are consistent with my gut feel about inflation-adjusted ticket prices. I grew up having to drive because we couldn’t afford to fly, and flying from western Oregon to eastern Iowa still beats driving. We drove to southern California because Mr WCE wanted to (~16 hr each way) and that was an OK trip.

    Traveling stinks partly because of the TSA. To have equal statistical safety with less hassle would require profiling, which violates American civil liberties norms and so probably won’t happen, unless there are a lot more terrorist incidents that change our civil liberties expectations. I’ve said I hope Trump doesn’t accomplish much, but I’d be delighted if he mandated that TSA allow beverages (even sealed beverages including juice boxes) in carry-ons. He’s probably the only politician sufficiently immune to public opinion to make a choice that INCREASES risk.

    Competition improves prices/service mostly in fields that don’t have huge barriers to entry. Running an airline has one of the highest barriers to entry of all- software/ticketing expertise, compliance expertise and capital/maintenance costs for planes, coupled with highly variable fuel prices in the last decade. I think it will take a decade of high profits for new entrants to want to compete. The chemical industry has similarly high capital/regulatory barriers and continues to consolidate.

  4. Flying is cheaper now than it was when I was a kid, sure. But there was a period in the late 90’s to early 00’s, when it was really cheap to get to Europe – fares could be around $400 to $600, and we went all the time. Now the flights are usually over $1000 – that is why we didn’t go to France last year. In that same era, I could get to my hometown on a nonstop costing around $200 a head. The last time I tried to fly, at that same time of year (August), there were only a few choices, all with bad connections, and it was going to cost me something like $450 a head. It is well known that the number of flights to smaller destinations has been scaled way back. I can remember a few years ago trying to get to Knoxville, and it was really hard to find a convenient, not too expensive flight.

  5. ate 90’s to early 00’s, when it was really cheap to get to Europe – fares could be around $400 to $600

    $600 in 1998 is $905 now.

  6. I have never paid extra to have my kids sit by me. Someone how they always manage to sit us together. I look forward to the day when they do not.

  7. The flying experience will improve when people are willing to pay for better service. I’ve said this before, people only have themselves to blame for this mess because everyone goes online to compare prices and picks the fare that is $5 cheaper. To use a simple example of legroom, United has economy plus with extra legroom for an additional price. Whenever I fly united and am selecting seats, economy plus always has a ton of open seats while regular economy is getting full. People complain about having no legroom, but when given a choice, must choose the cheaper ticket with less legroom.

  8. Recently I channeled my inner Rhett and booked first class tickets for a longish flight. The price wasn’t too much more and I am looking forward to it. I will report back as to whether it is worth it or not. You all have a bad influence on my spending. Prior to discussions here, I thought that people like us didn’t buy first class tickets.

  9. MM,

    And a quick check has Norwegian flying from Hartford to Edinburgh August 10 to 19 – round trip $450,30. And depending on the traffic it could easily be quicker to drive from Westchester to Hartford than from Westchester to JFK.

  10. A quick Google flight search shows me that I can pick a random week in June and go SFO to Stockholm or Shanghai for $700. That’s traveling midweek with suboptimal connections.

    I did a few cheap flights in the early 2000s and it kind of made a set-point that I felt all flights should confirm to – the belief that you can get to Europe for $500 if you are flexible on the dates. That is no longer true – because 1. $500 now is not the same as $500 then, 2. I am not nearly as flexible on day of the week as I was then, 3. I am not nearly as flexible on cities as I used to be, 4. I am not making any 8+ hour stops in either direction.

    I actually think it is easier to find great deals than it used to be. I love secret flying.com and am excited about the day when I can spontaneously book Boston to Amsterdam (this July! On united!!) for $400.

  11. Airport monopolies have always been a problem; when I went to college, I was locked into Northwest, and the flights were freaking ridiculous. I don’t think things are any worse now; yes, many of the big names have merged, but now we have upstarts taking the place of the smaller airlines that are now the bigger airlines. For me personally, in fact, it is much better, because I live approximately 7 miles from a Southwest hub. I expected more hassle flying them, but it turns out to be less — they are the only airline I found with nonstop to Austin and Albuquerque, they don’t charge for bags, and they don’t screw you over on change fees. Every time I fly someone else, I am impressed at the stupidity and annoyance factor — twice I’ve had entire tickets basically eaten by United due to change fees. Screw that.

    The other thing is that Southwest actually does a good job of acting like they care about the customer. I got very PO’d on our flight back from PR, because even though we had bought EarlyBird for DH and the kids (I am A-List), when I got to the airport they had like C23. I called, and apparently because the airline changed our return flight schedule, the computer dropped our EarlyBird — and the very nice lady on the phone was unable either to change the boarding order or to submit a request for a refund. So about 2 hrs before flight time, I was fuming, and I wrote a polite-but-firm email to the Southwest customer service address requesting my $45 back and expressing my disappointment that I had specifically made plans so I could sit next to my family and nobody could make that happen.

    Here’s what happened next:

    — I went and talked to the lady at the gate. She said that DD could board with me, and that she’d tell the guy running the boarding. When I boarded, the gate agent stopped the lady in front of us, who was trying to smuggle her husband on with his B boarding pass. Uh-oh. I handed mine and DD’s over and immediately said “we had an issue with the EarlyBird, the agent said DD could board with me,” and before I had even finished the sentence, he said, “oh, yes, she mentioned that, go right on board.” [Note that DH/DS were not an issue, as he preboarded with his cast]

    — By the time the plane landed — this is the Saturday before Easter, mind you — I had both a voicemail and an email from a Southwest customer service agent, apologizing profusely, asking if we had been able to get any help from the gate agent, and promising a full refund of the Early Bird fee and a $50 voucher. Within the week, I had both a CC refund for $45 and $200 in vouchers.

    Given that this was the same week as the United incident, the contrast was rather stark.

  12. DD,

    I agree. IIRC MM went to a conference in Seattle. For $599 each way Jetblue give you your own little room with a bed, a door that closes, a nice meal, free drinks, wifi, etc. Or, you can fly Spirit and sit in row 28E with 28″ of seat pitch for $200 each way. It doesn’t have to suck. But don’t complain that it sucks if you’re paying rock bottom prices.

  13. Yes, I’ve noticed Norwegian and Wow and maybe some other airlines have recently offered bargain flights to Europe. My son flew on one of these recently and it was fine, although there are limitations on choices of airports in some cases.

    It seems security issues have significantly contributed to some of the flying misery, what with longer lines and having to take off my shoes. (I keep meaning to get Global Entry but have been put off because of having to schedule the interview.)

    I shop mainly by price, so I fit in with the profile explaining why misery has increase. My biggest gripe is that the extra fees are hidden until after you do the initial search. So I usually count on adding a certain amount to the initial fare quote to add in aisle seats and/or early boarding.

  14. WHen I went to Seattle, I had a great deal – JetBlue for $450 RT. No little room (my employer would have had a fit if i tried to submit that expense) but also no Spirit torture. I always try for JetBlue above the other airlines.

  15. Recently I channeled my inner Rhett and booked first class tickets for a longish flight. The price wasn’t too much more and I am looking forward to it. I will report back as to whether it is worth it or not. You all have a bad influence on my spending. Prior to discussions here, I thought that people like us didn’t buy first class tickets.

    The issue I have with it is I am usually traveling with the family so it’s not an extra $300 or $400 for first class, it’s an extra $1,200 or $1,600. We did upgrade on our flight back from Iceland on the Icelandair silent auction. I’m thinking since we got it that I overbid, but for an 8 hour flight where you want to stay awake I figured it was worth it. Plus we got about $50 of free food :)

  16. Yes, flying is very much a cattle call. We were in Austraila years ago and flew a bunch of times in order to cover the large expanses between things we wanted to see. The point is, they board from the back of the plane and do not let people put luggage in bins before their row. Could not believe how fast the plane loaded when there wasn’t the getting up and down and apologizing for whacking people as you passed them.

    We flew at Spring Break, but is was on fairly short notice. I discovered that only a few “cheaper” select your own seats were availalbe, but many of the “pricier” ones a were. I was “threatened” by the boarding system that I could be assigned an awful seat and should pay up. But, I didn’t and we were at no cost assigned the “better” seat. The worst part would have been not sitting next to my teenager, but that would be OK with both of us.

  17. DD – the free food and free checked bags made it an easier decision. We always check a lot of bags when we all fly. I still feel a little frivolous for buying the tickets but we’ll see.

  18. @LfB – I like Southwest too. Flying out of Midway is so much better for me than flying out of O’Hare. Closer to my house (in travel time), smaller/less hassle, easy in & out. And Southwest dominates Midway, so we started using them a lot. The check-in/boarding situation is sometimes annoying, but I find their customer service to be more helpful than other airlines, if not perfect. And the lack of hassle & change fees is so welcome. I particularly like the free bag check – I usually prefer to check a bag than to drag everything through the airport. And even if I am not checking a bag, you don’t have everyone on the plane crowding the bins to avoid paying $50, so it helps. And I do enjoy the peanuts.

    I pay more to fly them because flying out of Midway and not getting nickel & dimed on everything else is worth it to me. I worry that they will change – they’ve already changed the FF program and a few other things.

  19. Jet Blue doesn’t fly direct to many places from here, and it’s out of O’Hare. So…meh.

  20. Air travel is safer, cheaper and more available than ever before. That makes it more available to the masses and more crowded. That makes your user experience less pleasant. This is the same phenomenon as Walmart. What you really want is an elite airline like the Whole Foods of the sky.

  21. We like southwest too. I flew them very close after 9/11. Instead of the usually humorus start to the flight, it was a very upbeat, but heartfelt thank you for flying. I don’t recall all the details, but even after all flights resumed, people were scared. Our flight, which normally would have been full had only about 1/3 of the seats filled.

    We have always had positive customer service when whe had an issue. Those issues have been rare, but polite and responsibe customer service is a plus. We have NOT had that experience on Northwest or United.

  22. Mooshi, I salivate overnight fares to Europe from where you live. Metaphorically. But it is still very easy to find $400-600 tickets. The airline that LfB took last summer has made flat seats for $1k a regular thing. She didn’t like it because he husband got dumped somewhere unexpected and had to figure out how to get to point B on his own, but with your experience living & traveling in Europe, I don’t think that would be such an obstacle for you.

    I don’t pay for seats either. We carry on all our stuff. If we are late boarding, we stash things in whatever overhead compartments are available.

    My parents choose 1-stops over direct SWA flights, because they say the boarding process is difficult for them to manage. Last time we were at the airport together, I pointed out the elderly people waiting to preboard Southwest. They may try it next time.

  23. Since we have seniors with us and DH has miles so we go first class when we fly internal flights. If we are flying international I try to see if there is premium economy available.
    I have asked my parents to fly upper economy or business/first when they do long international flights but they haven’t yet. They can afford it and it would mean a very comfortable journey. They say that their travel agent in the home country gets them good seats and a good price in economy so they continue on. And every single time I tell them to travel first class.

  24. I don’t think I’ve flown in almost 5 years – I remember doing it a few times when DS was one which was so horrible that I think I decided to give it up for a while. Our spring break destination is only 6 hours away and we drive to RI/Cape Cod in the summer because we stay for a month. Dh flies a few times per year and always flies Southwest unless it’s for work and then it’s usually Delta. All usually up to DC so it’s a short flight so he’s not particular.

  25. I pick my spots to pay more for direct flights or better seats. But we just booked the cheap dash 8 service from boston on porter air to the downtown Toronto airport for a summer trip. I got used to propellers again flying in Iceland and Greenland.

  26. I typically only look at three airlines – Delta, Southwest, and SunCountry. Southwest and SunCountry are my top picks, mainly because they fly out of the smaller terminal and TSA is super quick. Also, flying with smaller children is much more pleasant on those airlines. I’ll pay the extra fee for baggage, and also do curbside checkin when I have kids with in, but I do not pay extra for seat “upgrades”. This summer I already booked a leg that was $100 cheaper a seat to not have preseleted seats (Delta). We’ll see where they put the 5 year old.

  27. Oh, did I complain yet about my Global Entry drama? For the Greece trip in October, I signed up, got the basic approval, and got my interview scheduled…in November. Googling around about it, there seem to be two solutions. 1) Go to a less-crowded airport for the interview or 2) Go sit at one of the airports, bring your Kindle, and just wait to see if a spot opens up. My two obvious airports, San Francisco and Denver, are both crowded. I might try hanging out at Denver and seeing if I can slip in.

  28. Evidently the prices increases for smaller destinations happened around 2010, which makes sense because I started noticing a couple of years later

  29. I don’t get the love for Southwest. I tried them a couple of times and did not like the experience. We had to stand in line, ordered by ticket class, for what seemed like forever, and then everyone stampeded onto the plane. The flight attendents were as surly as all flight attendents, and the planes were no more comfy than Delta or United.

  30. I think I mentioned before, I also really liked Cathay Pacific. Their flight attendents look like they should have been flying for Pan Am in 1968, they smile a lot, the pilots are all Brits, and they will bring Haagen Dazs or noodles to your seat whenever you want (plus they fed us several official meals)

  31. Rocky, isn’t there a less crowded airport right across the Bay?

    Neither San Jose nor Oakland do Global Entry interviews. I see that I can get an almost immediate appointment in Pembina, North Dakota.

  32. Geting the Global Entry is such a hassle here. I read someplace that the government has been really suprised by how few people have signed up. Yes, well, if you require people to schlep to JFK to wait for an interview, not many people are going to have the time.

  33. When did they change Global Entry so that you had to go to the airport? A couple years ago, you could go to the US Custom House & it was pretty quick and painless. How annoying.

  34. Our airport here converted to an American hub, so that’s the airline we mostly use. The airport itself has expanded rapidly since we moved here. It is still not very large so it’s a better experience than flying into an airport in a bigger city.

  35. Interestingly my H is a member of a business organization that offers Global Entry interviews for its members at a convenient mid-town Manhattan location. Last time I checked there was also a downtown location in addition to the one at JFK.

  36. We have flown a bunch this past year, more than usual. It’s actually not been bad. Jet Blue is amazing. We had a 5 hour weather delay, and our tickets were entirely comped. They did that for the whole flight – pilot made the announcement. And this was pre-united incident.

    I think first is definitely worth it for longer flights.

  37. Scarlett,

    I can’t find the link but Qantas is launching the world’s longest flight from Perth to London – 17 hours and 20 minutes. They showed the classes of service:

    Business:

    Premium Economy: Not terrible:

  38. Ivy, in MN, the options are:

    Grand Portage – 9403 E Highway 61, Grand Portage, MN 55605, US
    International Falls Enrollment Center – 312 Highway 11 East, International Falls, MN 56649, US
    Minneapolis – St. Paul Global Entry EC – 4300 Glumack Drive, St. Paul, MN 55111, US
    Warroad Enrollment Center – 41059 Warroad Enrollment Center, State Hwy 313 N, Warroad, MN 56763, US

    You have much better options that Denverites do.

  39. I used the downtown location for my global entry interview, but there was a very long wait to get an appointment. I think my husband was able to get an appt at JFK within a few weeks, but I had to wait a couple of months to get the appointment at the Customs House. I am pretty sure that the ONLY option in the whole state of Colorado for an interview is the Denver International Airport so that might explain the wait time.

  40. So how much more convenient IS Global Entry? I’m also debating the whole point because I know DH won’t bother to fly someplace just to get it, and I’m traveling with him, so I’ll be stuck in the slow lane anyway.

  41. We’ll be in United Polaris for the Greece trip, and it looks reasonably comfortable.

  42. IN all of NY, there are only these locations: Bowling Green (tip of Manhattan, only open 8 to 4 Monday thru Friday), JFK, a location in Buffalo, a location in Champlain, and a location in Niagara Falls). If you are from the vast middle of NY, you are out of luck

  43. My UAL friend has it and says it is great. But she was easily able to do her interview at O’Hare since she is often there working anyway

  44. We had to wait months for an opening for the GOES interview and had to travel to O’Hare for it. But while I was there for my scheduled interview they were also able to fit in DH who had a much later date.
    We didn’t have GOES when we were in France but there was no line on our return so didn’t need it. It did save us a long line at LAX this weekend. So it was worth the hassle.

  45. So how much more convenient IS Global Entry?

    With automated passport control I cant’ see how it’s any faster. But, I don’t have it so I’m not sure*. The main benefit is that it comes with TSA Pre.

    * ORD has automated passport control but maybe other airports don’t have it yet?

  46. RMS,

    In addition to all this, you can ask for gel cooling pillows and a mattress pad. They say it’s the best bedding in the sky:

  47. Rhett, I don’t see an advantage of premium economy over economy economy. Either you can lie down or you can’t. The seatback angle looks the same.

    Rocky, you can have him keep his appointment for the long game. If one of you has it earlier, that person can schlepp most of the carry-on stuff through security. Might prevent the other person being slowed down so much.

    Completely off-topic: does anyone on here have experience dissuading someone who just got out of an abusive relationship from pledging her love to someone else? Not my problem, but it kills me that she’s got a 15 year old daughter. My kid complains that I don’t model a romantic relationship with a partner for him, but a zero is better than negative, isn’t it?

  48. I think originally the government thought lots of people would take advantage, not realizing that an average person in Poughkeepsie wasn’t going to be willing to haul down to JFK or lower Manhattan, or up to Champlain to do the interview.

    For PreChek, there are a few more places for the interview (including one in White Plains and another in LGA) but it is still incovenient. For the hypothetical Poughkeepsie resident, the closest center is 50 miles away, the one in White Plains

  49. Rhett, I don’t see an advantage of premium economy over economy economy. Either you can lie down or you can’t.

    More leg room and a wider seat, I’s 2-3-2 (seven seats per row) in premium economy vs. 3-3-3 (nine seats per row) in economy.

  50. I know you used to be able to go to the Custom House in DT Chicago, but it’s not on the website anymore – only O’Hare for the state of Illinois. (I assume there is one in St Louis that would be better for people downstate.)

    RMS – those locations in MN are very, very far from each other. There’s the airport in MSP, and then two towns on the Canadian border. Warroad is not far from Winnipeg, and Grand Portage is at the very tip of the North shore of Lake Superior by Thunder Bay. They are all 8-10 hours apart. Minneapolis is closer to Chicago than either one, I think. (I didn’t google to check.)

    My friend & I traveled to Mexico last year. She had Global Entry, but I didn’t. It took the exact same amount of time once we landed because there was NO line at Customs, and like Rhett said – O’Hare has the nifty automated passport control terminals. I think it’s a crapshoot. But yeah – TSA pre.

  51. Many people do not need Global Entry unless you take a lot of overseas trips. I have it because it is free with my credit card, but I don’t use it much since I am no longer traveling overseas for work. I think it saves some time, but it really depends on the airport and the time of day that you are arriving in the US.

    I like TSA pre because I don’t have to take off shoes, unpack bags etc. The lines are some airports in NY are sometimes just as long as the regular lines because so many people have TSA pre, but I find that the TSA pre lines almost always move faster since those are the frequent travelers.

  52. Rhett said – O’Hare has the nifty automated passport control terminals.

    They’ve also automated the customs declaration forms. There was a little commotion as we got close to landing as everyone expected the FA’s to hand out the forms. The FA got on the PA and let everyone know it’s all automated.

  53. @Rhett – Yes – that too! It was so painless! We were the only flight landing at that time though, so it was also empty. There was a terminal for almost every person on the plane – no line.

    My friend got GE vs. TSA pre because it’s only slightly more expensive for a longer period of TSA pre status. I think about doing it, but then I don’t really fly enough to make the headache described here worth it.

  54. If you get the Economy plus option on JetBlue, Pre comes with it. I often spring for it on longer flights, and in NY, I think it makes a huge difference

  55. Automated customs forms – how does work ? Do you just go through if you don’t have anything and declare only if you do ?

  56. “Automated customs forms – how does work ? Do you just go through if you don’t have anything and declare only if you do ?”

    IIRC, you scan your passport. You enter your flight info. And then you basically answer all the same questions as you would on the form, but on a touch screen.

  57. Automated customs forms – how does work ?

    It asks you when you’re at the kiosk.

  58. It might have printed a receipt which you handed to the custom agent. Does that sound right, Rhett?

  59. The guys at my office who travel all the time swear they wouldn’t be able to live without Global Entry, but since it totally depends on the day/time/flight, I could see it might not be worth it for a single trip. I have NEXUS, which comes with TSA PreCheck, and I make lots of use of both. (Though a couple of weeks ago, the regular lines at the Port Huron bridge went through neck and neck with my NEXUS line, so really, the benefit depends on day/time).

    And RMS, if your DH and DSS and DIL don’t have it, you’ll end up waiting for them anyway.

  60. On our return from Australia to LAX, passengers without GOES had to fill out the paper forms. And there was a separate much shorter line for Global Entry before the passport control and after baggage claim.
    We have found that sometimes the TSA pre line is actually longer but it moves faster with no shoe removal etc and more regular fliers.

  61. You enter your flight info.

    When I did it “it” already knew all my flight info. They also don’t stamp your passport anymore. It’s way more efficient but I miss the ceremony of the cachunk cachunk of the passport stamper. Much like I think these should still be a thing:

  62. Does that sound right, Rhett?

    You get the receipt with your picture on it that you hand to the guy as you leave. I don’t really recall them doing anything other than waving us by as we left after picking up our bags. Maybe something else happens if you have stuff to declare?

    My other favorite thing:

    US Customs Beagles. Talk about loving your work. There was a lady with an apple and there was no way no how she was sneaking it past the beagle.

  63. “When I did it “it” already knew all my flight info. They also don’t stamp your passport anymore. It’s way more efficient but I miss the ceremony of the cachunk cachunk of the passport stamper. ”

    I’m sure you are right about the flight info. I did miss the ca-chunk of the passport stamper and the “Welcome Home” from the US passport control person. But not enough to wait in line I guess.

    DS was also very disappointed that they didn’t stamp his passport on either side at the US/Canadian border when we drove over.

  64. Food used to be the big thing people from the home country tried to sneak into the U.S. Not necessary now, because you get a ton of ethnic food here. I didn’t miss anything from home so I never carried prohibited foods and didn’t have to worry about customs opening my bags.

  65. When we went to Paris on December 26 we got stuck in the worst customs line ever. I think they had fewer people working due to the holidays. Then they kept changing lines around. We were about 5 people from the front after waiting over 2 hours (with 2 jet lagged and tired kids) when they switched the lines to supposedly make it faster. We ended up behind people who had been about 30 minutes behind us. It was so frustrating that we alternated between swearing and laughing at the incompetency. We swore this would never happen in the U.S. So when we arrived back in the U.S. on January 2 we get off the plane and the customs line did not move at all. All the computers were down. We waited in line for 2.5 hours and again the line management was awful. Bad luck on both ends I guess.

  66. Food used to be the big thing people from the home country tried to sneak into the U.S.

    I used to work with a woman from Vietnam and when she went back to visit, she brought a suitcase full of Spam. She said she can ship it because the customs inspectors steal it all.

  67. Worst customs I’ve ever experienced was entering Australia. Baby just behind me clearly needed a diaper change. I let them up, but no one else would. Agents could’ve picked them to go ahead, but did not. Barked at them to get back in line. Baby was uncomfortable. Parent took 1 or 2 steps to the side to change diaper. Horrible mess. Traveling with a 3 year old, I had a few wipes just in case. Gave them to couple. Agents were unimaginably unprofessional imo, making a huge show of gagging at the scent, shut down the line, opened another, made family go to end of line. They were young and probably not parents, but what an awful way to represent your country. I’m aware of repping for the USA wherever I go and therefore behave better than those customs workers.

  68. We took a domestic Qantas flight and the security was minimal. No restriction on liquids. And the strangest thing was that no one ever asked to see our ID. You can go through the security screening even without a boarding pass. So anyone at all could have travelled with our boarding passes. Amazing. Like flying in the US BITD

  69. My standards for flying are pretty low. So I’m easy to please. Southwest has been awesome for us, so we stick with them. I don’t mind bouncing from PVD to Midway or Baltimore before going elsewhere. It’s a nice break. The only time it sucked was with the baby because we had to drag everything on and off the plane. But we survived.

    Austin – I think Mythbusters did a special on loading/unloading planes and found back to front was far better than any alternative. And I think they went row by row, but started at the highest number and went down in order (so if you called row 20-25, 25 would board first, then 24, etc.). The people who pay the most to be up front spend the least time on the plane.

    I do hate the overhead bins and people throwing their stuff up there. Some woman who clearly couldn’t lift her bag nearly hit me in the head with hers as she heaved it above me. Then upon taking it down she nearly knocked me over. I was 30 weeks pregnant at the time, and could barely fit in the space I was given to begin with. I really didn’t appreciate being shoved around because she couldn’t be bothered to check a bag on a southwest flight where it’s FREE. And each time she didn’t acknowledge what happened. She didn’t even notice I was there. Her world was all that mattered.

  70. TSA usually doesn’t bug me because PVD is small. But Boston is horrible. On our way to Idaho, we got to Logan airport early because of all the baby crap we had with us. We must have been on the D team’s line that day. Our TSA line didn’t move for 1 hour. It got to the point that they were pulling people out of lines who had flights scheduled to depart a 1/2 hour from the time. It took us almost 2 hours to get through security. And once we got up there, we zipped through. DH was initially mad that I made us get to Logan 3 hours before our flight. But after the TSA debacle he was thankful because we could get breakfast and sufficiently wear out DS1 so he slept on that flight.

  71. RMS – I don’t the difference between TSA Pre check and Global Entry, but I got my Pre check done at an office building right by Candlestick Park – with only a few days notice. I’m not sure if you can do the Global Entry as well at that location.

    The last 10 years I have splurged and gone first class whenever I have taken a plane. This has either been alone or with DH, except for a big family trip to London where we used all of our AmEx points to get Virgin American upper class tickets (that was fun!). DH is very tall and doesn’t like to fly because he did it so much while in the working world, and I am a fearful and anxious flyer, so avoiding the whole boarding scrum, worrying where to put my carryon, and maybe most importantly – having access to a nearby bathroom make the trip more pleasant (that is for me – DH likes the extra room) and worth it.

    Now I don’t fly very often, maybe two or three times per year, so it isn’t a huge cost increase overall. I fly Virgin American whenever I can, and United if I have to.

    To and from Australia we fly Delta Business One, which was basically first class. It was lovely, but it was still a horribly long flight. We got excellent service at LAX – they had a special lounge to wait in and we avoided the long security lines.

    Before going to Australia I did some sort of Visa thing online that updated my passport, and was always in short lines to go through each step of the process. Another advantage of going first of business class is that you are off the plane and into the customs area a lot more quickly. I can’t really even remember the various steps – we were in a daze!

  72. Sorry that should be “flew” not “fly”.

    I also miss the stamping of the passports.

  73. The only time it sucked was with the baby because we had to drag everything on and off the plane.

    I did that one time only. There is a now-hilarious photo of me wearing a winter coat and the toddler, carrying a diaper bag and a car seat, and wheeling a stroller and a suitcase. I’m grinning at the absurdity of it, but was near breaking inside. After that I packed the diaper bag like a usual day out & bought diapers after arrival. He got one toddler-sized backpack for books & toys. I took the car seat only if I was planning to be in a car at the destination, so usually not. I carried my usual daypack and 20″ wheelie. Tried checking once–the combo of me being tired after being “on” the whole flight and him being energetic after cooped up made baggage claim a nightmare I did not wish to relive. Wrangling a suitcase down the aisle was much easier than wrangling him in those conditions.

  74. SM – I remember landing near midnight once when the kids were 3 and 1 and realizing we were all too tired to make it from plane to baggage claim. I had way too much stuff, having had lots of energy when we boarded. And the kids, awake and cheerful at the start, were sleepy and cranky. I almost sat on the floor and cried. Then the pilot walked off, picked up my son and carried him on his shoulders to baggage claim. To this day, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more grateful for a stranger.

    Ssk – I’m not a nervous flyer at all but the cattle call of boarding has really bothered me over the last few years, for reasons I can’t really figure out. I’ve decided, like you, to spare myself the stress and fly business class unless the plane is so small there’s no appreciable difference. It’s in the Life’s Too Short category for me.

  75. S&M – now you know the reason that DH and I are putting off flying with *2* for as long as possible. Both plane trips with DS1, I wore him, and we condensed everything we could. We only gate checked the stroller once and rented one the other time. Car seats were a must, and we were lucky that he fit in the infant seat both times. I’m a pretty stellar packer, so “stuff” wasn’t the issue, we just had a lot of individual things. And the scrutiny you get for formula, breast milk, baby food, etc is annoying AF. That’s what caused me the most drama – not getting my baby’s food source through TSA.

    I’m terrified of flying with 2 in car seats. Our next trip will be to the in-laws, and we’ll need to bring car seats, so we’ll be wrangling a young toddler, an older toddler, 2 convertible car seats, etc. I will cry. I almost am willing to drive 3000 miles to go see my in laws rather than fly.

  76. I have flown with my kids by myself a few times. Always a joy (please include sarcastic voice). I usually bring a stroller for youngest kid and then bungie cord the car seats/boosters to it and then gate check all of that stuff. Each kid wears a backpack with inflight entertainment. I carry a bag with snacks and a change of clothes for each kid. Everything else gets checked. The most joyful part is that they constantly need to use the restroom. And never at the same time.

  77. Oh! And I had to get my youngest a leash (hangs head in shame). She darts off and won’t stay with me (unlike my boys who march next to me and follow all instructions). It is a cute little backpack looking thing, but a leash nonetheless.

  78. Risley, my mouth literally dropped open. How absolutely friggin’ awesome!

    “I almost am willing to drive 3000 miles to go see my in laws rather than fly.”
    That was a continuing battle with my mother. It was a 6 hr drive home, but she insisted I fly. In hindsight I should’ve just ignored her, but I didn’t. Nearly killed myself getting everything packed tight and out the door to the right airport on time. Soooooooo much more stressful than tossing a few more things in the car and maybe “flexing” the departure time.

  79. Oh, dear lord, the leash! I tried one of those. Kiddo sat on the floor. Would not budge. I didn’t want to pull it hard enough to drag him, and that was the end of that.

  80. I think Mythbusters did a special on loading/unloading planes and found back to front was far better than any alternative. And I think they went row by row, but started at the highest number and went down in order (so if you called row 20-25, 25 would board first, then 24, etc.). The people who pay the most to be up front spend the least time on the plane.

    I saw an article a while back that the absolute fasted way to load a plane is this (using a 20 row 6 seat across plane as an example):

    Load every other window seat on one side, so 20A, 18A, 16A, 14A, 12A, etc. Then the other side: 20F, 18F, 16F, etcs. Then back to the first side: 19A, 17A, 15A, etc. Then the second side 19F, 17F, 15F, etc. Then the alternate middle seats on side 1, the alternate middle seats on side 2, the other middle seats on side 1, the other middle seats on side 2, then the aisle seats in the same manner.

    I’ve also seen studies claiming that just letting every board whenever they are ready in any random order would be just as fast as the current systems.

  81. I’m terrified of flying with 2 in car seats. Our next trip will be to the in-laws, and we’ll need to bring car seats, so we’ll be wrangling a young toddler, an older toddler, 2 convertible car seats, etc. I will cry. I almost am willing to drive 3000 miles to go see my in laws rather than fly.

    Why don’t you force them to come to you? I don’t anticipate my stepson and his wife being willing to shlep kids out here.

  82. Kate – I want a double leash for my boys… like people have for multiple dogs. Or like a sled team… DS1 lead dog and DS2 behind… I could get them to pull the stroller with all the crap on it. I’ll shout “mush!” as we head through the terminal. Then some wall socket would interest them and we’d all come to a comical crashing halt.

  83. “Why don’t you force them to come to you? I don’t anticipate my stepson and his wife being willing to shlep kids out here.”

    That would be just as cruel… they have twins. And BIL is in the Navy with less time available than we have.

  84. I go through phases, but right now I’m in a “check everything except my purse and small backpack” phase. I don’t use the overhead bins at all. Fighting for bin space makes me homicidal. And it’s an issue even in first class.

  85. I’m in the “pack as little as possible” phase and I find it easier to take my small carry-on and backpack with me on the plane. But I do experience some anxiety about finding a spot in overhead bin.

    I’ve rarely flown business or first-class since my days working in the oil business. I’m cheap, I guess, and being petite means that space is not an issue. When I’ve compared prices I can easily think of other ways to spend the extra money.

  86. I don’t think the leash is a bad thing in a crowded airport when you’re traveling alone with a few kids. I saw a little boy almost get run over and hurt by a shopping cart in Costco because his mother couldn’t hang on to 3 young kids under 5. He just got away and started running without looking.

  87. Rhode – for $60 x 2 you can buy car seats on Amazon and have them ready on the other end (if you can have a family member deliver them to the airport). Other good uses of $120 – a Kindle fire and 10 beers en route. For $240, your family of 4 can skip lugging carseats and be drunk! way cheaper than first class.

  88. I’m the Anon at 4:03.

    And is glorious. It’s given me the confidence that we can cross the pacific this summer. Reports to follow.

  89. It is the multiplier effect. I might opt for premium economy if it’s just DW & me, but not the kids (and now the kids are old enough to (a) understand that as parents we get to make that call (b) deal with it) when it was important we at least be near each other if not seated exactly together. 5x is costly.

    I/we are lucky to be close enough to Toronto to fly out of there. We’re headed out Finn & HM’s way (different county) in a couple of months and it’s only $500pp less expensive to fly out of Toronto than here. I’m happy to drive the 2.5 hrs each way.

    And, we get to clear customs pre-flight in Toronto (for the flight from there back into the US) in the US Passport holders line which is really convenient.

  90. I can’t reach the overhead bins so unless I have DH or some one taller than me to help, I will check luggage. On long flights I carry a small bag that fits under the seat in front of me.
    On British Airways the FA would not help me at all. They wouldn’t even reach into the overhead to push my bag out, wasn’t telling them to get it down for me. I felt absolutely humiliated. Fellow passengers were nice enough to give me a hand. Since that sort of experience I don’t do overhead bags.

  91. I’ve never understood why they started charging for checked bags instead of carry-ons. The checked bag fees only encourage more carryons, and those cause so many more problems than checked bags.

  92. Louise – I’ll step up on the seat if necessary. That probably gets more ridiculous year by year.

  93. Ada – that probably was the only time I felt, I was being discriminated against – for being short.

  94. To and from Australia we fly Delta Business One,

    They will be upgrading their ultra long haul product:

  95. I am booked ATL Johannesburg (17 hr) in Sept in the current Delta One config. The sliding door suite is probably not going to be rolled out by then, and it will undoubtedly first show up on LAX shanghai. It looks wonderful.

  96. Prior to discussions here, I thought that people like us didn’t buy first class tickets.

    I think it’s mainly people like us. Less money, fly economy; more money, charter. Or fly in your private jet.

  97. Mooshi – Southwest has changed its boarding areas form the early days. You get an assigned place in line on your boarding pass, but you get called up 30 by 30 into a line that groups by 5s. No camping out on the floor. Bags are checked free. DH and I usually don’t sit next to each other – we take window seats one row apart. But you can find seats together for families. There are many ways to get an early place in line. And wanna get away fares are still amazingly cheap, even if you pay the 10-20 to get a place in the A boarding group. We are going to Bloomington a day early to have non stop cheap flights at a decent hour. The extra night at the Hyatt near IU is $120 including tax.

  98. I also like Southwest. I appreciate that I can make reservation changes with no penalty, and with the priority boarding pass I always get an aisle seat. I was very happy when they started offering service here a few years ago.

  99. I think this link will go through even for non-subscribers. What a fascinating guy. Marrying his 20-year-older drama coach when he was still a teen would rule him out for American politics. Maybe. Or maybe nothing rules people out for American politics anymore.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-calculated-rise-of-frances-emmanuel-macron-1493404345?emailToken=JRryc/h4ZH%2BQgNI8aMwg1FBtZaAMAPKNT0/aIDXQO1PB8Xvb5Oy7zqM%2BisDyrGaqTEBn6tRB6mc0XzrXxTM2DZTNw%2BIkzQo%3D

  100. In particular I am fascinated by his marriage, but he did not marry her until he was older, about 30. I don’t think it would rule him out for American politics at all.

  101. In particular I am fascinated by his marriage, but he did not marry her until he was older, about 30. I don’t think it would rule him out for American politics at all.

    Ah, okay, I missed that they got married later. You’re right; people will forgive a lot if a relationship is long-term.

  102. He has to be better than Le Pen. Maybe I should have posted this on the political thread.

  103. Rhode- the leash works well with one, but not two (or at least not with my two). They go in different directions and/or tangle up! Look into these things that put a handle with wheels on the car seats, eliminates need for strollers. Just strap the kids in and pull them like wheeled luggage. I forget what they’re called. Alternative – what Ada said. Have the cars seats ready for you at the arrival destination. You can also rent cars with car seats. Also, ship all the stuff to the destination – diapers.com/ Amazon whatever, or buy it there.

    Traveling with two kids under age 3 is hard!

  104. Rhode, we have an infant car seat that snaps into the stroller, carry-on bags for all and a soft carrier for the baby. The stroller-with-inserted-carseat(s, for twins) gets used as the luggage carrier and the baby goes in the soft carrier. It works, though a driver at O’Hare once looked at us when the boys were ~2, 2 and 4 (4 year old carrying booster on his head) and gave us all a ride.

  105. Sometimes the first class or business fares are not that much more. DS goes to college in the Midwest and there is usually one daily nonstop from San Francisco. I am his travel agent, and I have seen one way coach fares for $400 with first class around $600. Adding the fees for Economy plus and checking a bag, the difference is only $120 or so. This is not a popular route, so that is probably part of the reasoning.

    I never flew first class when I was younger except on my honeymoon. I also used to not be afraid of flying! Now I am older and have more disposable income, it is a worthwhile investment to me – but I know many people who have lots of money who still would never fly anything but coach.

    Reading your stories of being on the plane with little kids brings back so many memories, and I am very glad that I am past that stage! I do remember fondly the first flight I took where they were both old enough to have their own seats and entertain themselves. DH wasn’t with us so we took the row of three seats, with me on the aisle. I actually had a moment where I was able to take out a magazine and read and relax!!

  106. “Prior to discussions here, I thought that people like us didn’t buy first class tickets.”

    Because you used to think you’re middle class?

  107. “It is just as crammed and unpredictable as before”

    IME, it’s more crammed than before.

  108. “TSA allow beverages (even sealed beverages including juice boxes) in carry-ons.”

    You can bring beverages as carry-ons. You just have to buy them somewhere after going through the security checkpoint.

    We bring water bottles and fill them after the checkpoints. One airport we flew from recently even had water bottle filling station.

  109. Finn – Other than for business travelers, I would have thought it was for the $20-50m crowd. Rich but not rich enough for a private plane/NetJets. I had never been on a plane until i was I college and went to Cancun for spring break. Just having my kids fly on a semi-regular basis is way different from my upbringing.

  110. You can bring beverages as carry-ons. You just have to buy them somewhere after going through the security checkpoint.

    And they cost twice as much as in non-airport stores.

  111. I am his travel agent, and I have seen one way coach fares for $400 with first class around $600. Adding the fees for Economy plus and checking a bag, the difference is only $120 or so. This

    I guess it’s all perspective. Even at only $120, I don’t see it as being worth it on a 3 hour flight. Of course I don’t think the $45 economy plus difference is worth it either on that short of a flight.

  112. Denver Dad – Good point. And for frequent flying that certainly would add up!

    RMS – what a darling picture. I remember those white thong sandals so well.

  113. My first trip out of the country was as a teen with my cousin both of us uncommpanied minors. My cousin was used to flying to see his parents who were posted in a Middle Eastern country. Very few people travelled from the home country to that Middle Eastern country but it was some sort of political good will route so the national airline had to keep that route. The plane was empty, we could sit and stretch out anywhere. Coming back was similar for half the journey, then we got to the Emirate states and the plane became full. It was such a contrast from the empty plane. The national airline lost tons of money flying political routes to countries no one wanted to travel to.
    It is no wonder the Gulf states started their own airlines. The routes from the Gulf to Asia and Europe are full.

  114. Louis ande RMS – I love these stories of flying long ago. I too flew from a young age. And remember it as such a different experience. Coming out of the plane down those stairs onto a tarmac, you were immediately hit with the climate of the place and how different it was from wherever you came from. Now the air conditioned tunnel into the airport feels the same everywhere. (Of course much easier for carrying stuff, etc., but still, it loses the romance.)

  115. My first flight was at the age of 15 days, the minimum age for flying. I was born in Chicago, and my mother went there from DC to get me from the hospital (a private adoption). My first flight was one of my bedtime stories as a little girl. Mom had purchased a separate seat for me so she would not have to hold me all the way on the plane. There were of course no car seats – she purchased a wicker laundry style basket to put me in with all my blankets. (That basket was in use, kept in a closet until I was a teen.) When she got on the plane, the stewardess said, she’ll be fine, but just let me know if she gets a little green around the gills along the way. I spent the flight in my mother’s arms with her eyes glued to me, just in case.

  116. The few times I’ve gone down plane steps at airports with my son have taken me back to those memories of stepping right into the destination’s weather.

    We’ve done the water bottle thing, usually with some kind of drink powder, like Gatorade, in them. Worked fine.

  117. That of course is a modern stock photo, but it is pretty much the same as the basket we had.

  118. Airports don’t sell the beverages I wanted to give my kids (shelf-stable milk, less sugary juice beverages). It doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but a few years ago it made me crazy that I had to get through security and then secure beverages. With three kids, and three sets of extra clothes, entertainment, snacks, I didn’t want to have to revisit the carryon packing during chaos between security and boarding.

    My biggest tip for flying with littles (up to about age 10, we’re not there yet) is to pack sippy cups for the flight. After spending a flight sitting in a spilled drink, I learned that everything needs a lid. Other than that, flying is fairly easy with the kids now – my biggest concern is kicking the seat in front of us. Kindle fires make everything magical. I read books on planes again!

  119. I have no desire to revisit a 15 month wanting to jump on my lap through the night while the whole plane was asleep. I took trips to the home country when the kids were little because my cousins or cousins in DH’s family were getting married. Then ironically when my kids grew up and it was less of a hassle to travel no marriages were in the offing. I used to envy the parents with older kids, entertaining themselves. We have been at that point for a few years now.

  120. Rhett, you are a bad influence. I left the house at 145 for a 305 flight driving self 30 min door to pkg garage did not valet tsa pre. Often there is a 15 min delay on flights of this type, and it materialized even had time to check bags since SW is free buy food

  121. SM, when we were first prohibited from bringing drinks through the security checkpoint, we also carried Gatorade powder packets and empty water bottles.

    We didn’t take our kids out of state until they were both old enough to behave themselves for several hours on a plane. The drink prohibition hadn’t been implemented when we took our first such trip, so I carried on a backpack loaded with juice boxes, snacks, and books.

  122. Mafalda, some small airlines here still unload passengers onto the runways.

    I also remember getting a couple of Chiclets as we boarded to help with popping our ears on unpressurized DC-3s.

  123. I live in flyover country and our airport is not a designated hub. Thankfully Southwest has a lot of flights out of here and I am a huge fan. We especially appreciate the ability to change or cancel plans and not lose any money. No matter what kind of ticket you buy (even non refundable), you can always use the money toward another flight.

    I love their customer service as well, and I think it starts with the employees they hire. I had the opportunity to get a tour of their corporate HQ last year as part of a civic thing, and it was really interesting to see their social media hub and how they make it a very visible fishbowl type of area. Clearly they prioritize customer service and want to model that. Also heard some almost unbelievable stats about how many people apply for their open jobs. I don’t remember the number specifically – but it seems like it was I the hundreds of thousands but I may misremembering, but know that they said they’re able to hire something like the top 2-3%.

  124. Meme- that is such a sweet story!

    Rhode- I must have missed something on the many days lately I’ve been too busy chasing a toddler to read. Congratulations!

  125. Aww, Meme. I had a similar bedtime story that we told over and over for my adopted D who came home with us at four months. Our story includes a messy diaper change performed on the floor during our layover in Miami. She particularly liked that part of the story.

  126. Finn – this was in a jet but the custom of giving out candy to prevent ears popping was still prevelant in the home country national airline. For years, air sickness paper bags persisted in the seat pockets.
    Also very specific to home country from the late 60s to the early 90s. Import laws were strict and customs duties were high, so smuggling on flights was huge. People would smuggle gold, cash etc. Some airline staff and customs officers made big money. Also, the staff would steal real china and silver ware from the airlines and sell it to friends and family.
    Jobs related to airlines were coveted because not only was the salary high but free travel and pensions were part of the package. The smuggling aspect made it appealing for others. My parents had acquaintances who were jailed for smuggling.

  127. Finn, that is priceless.

    Honestly, my favorite thing about SW is that they don’t seem to take themselves too seriously. Imagine those same tweets with United. [insert joke about sending security to beat the guy up]

  128. Kerri and WCE – when we flew to ID last spring (I can’t believe that trip was a year ago already!), we did exactly what you both said. We shipped a box of stuff out ahead of us (extra toys, some food to get us started, diapers, bath stuff – things we didn’t need on the plane), and rented a stroller at our destination. DS was in the carrier strapped to my front and his diaper bag on my back. Then I carried one extra bag (mine). DH has his bag, the infant seat, and DS’s pack n’ play (ours is 10 lbs and is the size of a carry-on – in hindsight, we should have rented that thing too). Everything else was checked. We survived.

    If I did it again with 2, I’d have DS1 on my back (we have a toddler carrier; he’s too much trouble waiting), DS2 in a car seat strapped to one of those wheeled carrier things (that Kerri mentioned), and we’d rent everything we could out there and ship the rest. Far cheaper and less hassle. Plus, I’d do everything in my power to NOT fly out of Logan.

  129. too much trouble waiting?
    Pre-boarding? We often squished an Oball in, just for that last-minute excess energy burn-off before the flight.

  130. Rhode, another option would be to just buy a bunch of stuff, e.g., diapers, on arrival. This works especially well if you rent a car and id, in advance, a conveniently located store that sells that sort of thing.

    For example, on Maui, there’s a Costco very near the airport, and there’s a K-Mart next to that, and a Wal-Mart a little further down on the way to many of the hotels. The Costco typically has a bunch of tourists in it.

  131. CoC, I will henceforth be paying more attention whenever Mémé or Rhett posts about local conditions.

  132. In-between mailing yourself diapers ahead of time and buying them upon arrival would be having them delivered, either with a grocery service, or from an online seller like Amazon.

    Finn, you can add locations to your phone weather app. It’s the younger generation’s version of looking up friend’s homes in the newspapers weather forecasts.

  133. Finn, if it’s the school several of us on here know so well, I’m sure he’ll have a great time!

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