The New Normal

April 14, 2017

in Odds & Ends Stories

This might not be a flight from hell, but unfortunately it’s the “New Normal.”

A few times a year I visit my elderly parents over a long weekend in Hamburg, Germany, usually flying Delta/Air France. Leaving Friday, the plane to Atlanta was delayed and I barely made the connection to CDG (Paris).

We left on time just to sit at the end of the runway for 30 minutes, until the captain announced a minor issue requiring a return trip to the gate for repairs. Another hour later we were on our merry way, getting off the plane in Paris just as the last boarding call for the 8.00 am Hamburg flight was announced.

There was no way to change terminals and clear security again in time, so Air France rebooked me for the next available flight. Apparently April 1 is a major holiday in Paris; all flights were full until 8.55 pm. I was told I could check other airlines, pay for a ticket, and be refunded the portion of the trip. When I expressed disappointment for losing one of three days with my family, they threw in a 15 Euro meal voucher and told me I could spend the day in Paris.

Thanks to Trip Advisor I figured out how to take the RER train downtown, spent a lovely day walking along the Seine from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower, and rode a boat back to the train station. The leg to Hamburg was fine as was the visit with family.

On the way back the plane was late leaving Hamburg, reducing the layover in Paris to only an hour. CDG passport control was a disaster! Hundreds of people leaving and only five of eight booths open. It took 45 minutes to get through, more time to get to a bus, a trip around what seemed like half the airport, and a long run to the gate. Air France actually held the plane and delayed departure by 20 minutes.

Arriving in Atlanta around 5 pm the line towards passport control for US passport holders went almost all the way back to the gate area. Thanks to exactly THREE officers checking US passports for hundreds of passengers, it took me 90 minutes to get through. There were plenty of people in uniform herding passengers and yelling at us that all of this was in the interest of security and to be patient.

Even the Delta rebooking desk was better staffed with 6 people. A group of Germans in line with me had waited 3 1/2 hours to get through passport control and did not even want to stay in the US, they were just passing through on their way to South America. After security with a snarky TSA person telling me to take my shoes off since they don’t accept “TSA-precheck,” I made it home on a later, uneventful flight.

I am not exactly looking forward to the next trip to see the folks! God help us if this is the “New Normal”!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

creepingjennie April 16, 2017 at 11:08 am

This is the new normal, and it will continue to degrade unless something is done. In any other business, it is not acceptable to not only fail to provide goods and services to the customer that he or she paid for, and not acceptable to not furnish appropriate recompense in the event that this failure occurs.
If I buy a car, and the dealership promises me a specific model, I don't expect them to say, "Sorry, we ran out. We can sell you a basic model vehicle and give you a fast food voucher good for one free meal. The car will be available in a month." This would not be ok.
We passengers are treated no better than human cargo, and expected to comply with every degrading step of the way. The airlines continue to cram more seats in aircraft, taking away any comfort we once had. They are nickle and diming us for things such as checked baggage, soft drinks, lousy wifi, and even printing out a boarding pass at the gate.But hey, it's all in the contract, right? You don't like it? Then don't fly. Sorry, but I just can't take a bus to Australia from LA to visit my elderly father. You can't really go by ship.
I guess we just will have to continue to subject ourselves to this mistreatment, be searched and scanned, hurry up and wait, endure cancelled flights, changed gates with little notice, and getting bumped off of the plane with no real compensation even after being allowed to board the aircraft. "We promise nothing, and you will like it."


weyoun April 16, 2017 at 8:25 pm

While I agree that the business is often exploitative and that comfort could be improved, carriers can't control the amount of security passengers have to go through, nor the behaviour of TSA/security agents, nor the level of passengers at the airport. Most often than not they're doing the best they can within the confines of the airport which they use with many other carriers and have all sorts of rules and regulations they have to adhere to. Captains want to be flying because they don't get paid while they're on the ground so their frustration is just as great as yours, but there are things they can do nothing about.
Yes, the lack of staff and the treatment of security agents and the safety excuse is extremely frustrating and annoying, but that's not the service you pay for when you book a flight, you're paying for them to land at an airport and for fuel costs, mostly, given that in somewhere like Sydney airport it costs about 50 thousand dollars for an airline to land there. Again I'm not diminishing your concern about comfort and value for money, I too want those things and certainly agree that the business has become worse but I think it needs to improve along with the faciliation of airports as well, not just airlines


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