Washington – Dulles Pandemic “over.” Back in the air, we go! You’d think airlines and airports would be happy to have us back. In some ways, maybe they are, but be careful about jumping to quick conclusions.
Airports are definitely busier. The line at security in New Orleans at 6AM was epic, snaking back and forth the length of the airport in six or more curls of its tail. In the newish, right before the pandemic, billion-dollar New Orleans airport, there’s also a special line for First Class and Premier travelers. Being a big time, tourist airport, there’s also this thing called Clear, which I personally find obnoxious. With premier status on airlines, a flyer has earned his way by flying crazy miles to make a living. First class is for the big wigs and deep pockets. Clear folks on the other hand are just buying their way to the front of the line, ahead of everyone else including First Class and Premier. Who made that deal? It can’t be the airlines, since it flips them off, so I’m guessing it’s the airports, but I ask myself and anyone else in line who will listen to me, “How are they getting away with this?!?”
The airports aren’t the issue compared to the airlines. Prices have gone higher than the planes are even allowed to fly. I had to book a flight to the United Kingdom the other day for the first national convention of ACORN there coming soon in Sheffield. The cost: at least $1000 over the highest price I’ve ever had to pay! Meanwhile you get less for your money with tighter seating and fewer flights.
Traveling to the ACORN Canada biannual convention in Montreal, the prices were so high that of course I agreed to a crazy flight to save a couple of hundred bucks going for the middle seats at the back of the bus with stops in Dulles (DC) and LaGuardia (NYC) for an 8-hour trip. Predictably, the plane into Dulles was delayed and then had a maintenance issue, making a New York connection impossible, and bucking me over to a 5 PM flight to land there at 730PM to make this a 12-hour trip.
It’s an international flight, so they let me to the United Club. Mid-afternoon, the club is relatively quiet and not overflowing, so there are worse deals from the bottom of this deck. They have coffee and snacks and good wireless, so work is possible. I wonder how long this will last though? Delta’s Sky Clubs have now set a 3-hour limit on access to their facilities as have some other airport lounges that operate by subscription. What’s the point? They seem to be claiming that people are using them for remote work. Well, yeah! They sell seats in these clubs at high prices in dollars and/or miles, and then they complain that people are using them too often. What other business would go out of their way to tick off the people who are presumably their best customers?
That would seem to be especially the case during this time still fraught with pandemic flying protocols that continue to be a mystery. ArrivCan told me suddenly that despite being a quadruple vaccine guy, I would still need to be tested and, if an antigen rapid Covid test, it could only be a day before flying, which in a last-minute sprint found me at an Urgent Care facility in the hood getting them to handwrite the time on my negative test at 430PM to qualify for what was my 315 EST flight from New York City. Their computer’s time was off by 2 hours so the printed copy said 245pm. No worries, I would tell the United counter person that would be 3:45 EST, so it qualified. Then, the airline didn’t ask at all and my QR code from ArrivCan was suddenly good enough. So, what’s the real deal?
Is the grind of flying purgatory now in the near post-pandemic, who knows? Maybe the ArrivCan website was out of date? Maybe the airlines are so busy timing your stay in their lounges that the negative test thing and its rigid timelines is meaningless now?