Monday, August 20, 2007

Yes, It is This Bad

I haven't spoken to a single person who has spent time traveling in the last six weeks who has been able to leave an airport on time. In a handful of cases those folks have been delayed overnight. These have gone beyond the occasional travel horror story people love to exchange from time to time, but really do seem to represent an anecdotal trend pointing to something larger.

Airports are some of the most stressful places in world: tons of people, often times in a strange or unfamiliar place, all trying to get somewhere with a limited timetable to do so ... there isn't enough Muzak in the world that can pacify all of those nerves. So, perhaps, it should come as no suprise to anyone that something like this was bound to happen:

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) was involved in an altercation last night at Dulles Airport. He was allegedly angered by the amount of time it was taking to get his luggage and tried to push his way through the United Airlines baggage claim office. The release below is from Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

“Around 6 PM on Sunday, Aug. 19, Airports Authority Police were called to the United Airlines bag claim office at Dulles for a report of an incident with a passenger regarding his baggage. The individual allegedly attempted to enter an area authorized for airline employees only, pushed aside the employee's outstretched arm and refused to leave the area when asked by an airline employee. When MWAA officers arrived a few minutes later, the man had left the office and was waiting in the area of a bag carousel. Officers interviewed him and witnesses and released him. Before the individual left the airport, officers advised him that the airline employee would be pursuing charges. The airline employee appeared before a Loudoun County Magistrate later that evening and a summons was obtained charging Robert Filner (DOB 09/04/1942) with assault and battery, a class 1 misdemeanor. Mr. Filner is scheduled to appear in Loudoun County General District Court on October 2.”

**** UPDATE **** NBC's Ken Strickland has the response from Filner's press office in a written statement: "Congressman Bob Filner is on his way to Iraq, visiting our troops, and will have a full statement when he returns. Suffice it to say now, that the story that has appeared in the press is factually incorrect-and the charges are ridiculous."

Obviously this story isn't over yet, but it does speak to the absolute frustration that airline travelers are experiencing these days. Nobody I know with so much as an ounce of reason genuinely complains about frequently changing security procedures no matter how asinine they may seem at the time of their implementation and ticket prices haven't exactly endeared the airline industry to my heart either. But flying on a vast majority of U.S. airlines is simply an awful experience these days.

There are more passengers per plane resulting in cramped seating conditions, boarding some planes -- Southwest, we're looking at you! -- has all the charm of a cattle herding, the delays, the over-worked flight crews -- throw a crying baby into the mix and it's easy to see how someone, even a Congressman, could flip out (if that's what actually happened).

Anyway, the moral of the story is that airline travel sucks, the sale of Midwest Express to a private equity firm will likely lead to similar cost-cutting measures, and I doubt the industry will get it's shit together any time soon.

MORE: Filner actually has a court date set -- October 2nd.

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