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Travels in Denver- Off Topic

Okay, I couldn’t help it. I HAD to write this blog. I know it’s off topic- perhaps I can make a few equine related comparisons for you. But this one is about people. People traveling. More specifically, people traveling through the Denver International Airport. It’d been years since I passed through that airport. I’ve decided to go along with the “Mile High City” nickname they should call the airport “The Mile LONG concourses.”

The reason I know this is because both times that I arrived, it was at a gate in the single digits and, of course, my outgoing flight was at the gate somewhere in the high 80s. Even after walking a good 400 yards down narrow and long corridors (no I’m not exaggerating) from the plane to the airport building itself, I then took FOUR moving sidewalks and STILL had to walk to more to reach my next departure gate. At least I didn’t have to worry about not getting my daily work out, usually this is accomplished from the farm chores, but hey, I guess an airport will do.

Keep in mind I tend to look for “good deals” in buying tickets, but certainly when it comes to these outrageous times of charge, charge, charge it’s the small things that add up! So I carry on my bags to save money and work on my upper body strength. My “usual” is one duffle bag, and although deceivingly “small” compared to some of the so called “carry on” armored tanks people call luggage these days, my bag is usually around 35 lbs plus.

Here’s travel hint #1 of the day- If you’re technologically advanced enough to check in for your flight via the Internet, click on the option to “change your seat”- this will show you how full your plane is in advance. If it looks like it’s going to be a full flight, make sure you DO NOT pay the fee to check your bags. This is another peeve of mine- higher plane ticket prices AND we have to pay for FOOD and LUGGAGE????

I remember the days when passengers received free overnight toiletry bags, playing cards, snacks and more! Every seat there was a pillow, a blanket and headphones. Now a days it’s usually $20-30 PER BAG- plus if your bag is “overweight” (old days used to be 75lbs) now it’s usually 40lbs, you pay an extra fee. If you have golf clubs, skis and other odd shaped luggage you get yet another fee.

So back to checking out how full your flight is. Be a cheapskate if it looks full, pack in a bag that is semi passable as a “carry on” and then when your gate opens ask how full the flight is, or the desk agent may mention it’s a “full flight” and then you can either check your bag at the gate or at the front of the plane. And NOT just for that flight, you can actually check it all the way through to your final destination. And guess why you would go through this trouble? Because then you get to check your bag for FREE. Yes, free. Case and point I just stood next to a family of three who spent $180 EACH WAY because they checked their bags, instead of waiting to bring them to the door of the plane like I did. Hmmm.

Ok, so back to Denver. Here are a few things I noticed along the way:

A couple walking two Chihuahuas on leashes get stopped as they are about to board because they don’t have “proper stowage containers” for the dogs to be brought on (they each had one of those over sized “shoulder bags” for each dog. The funny part was these were tea cup dogs- that means that each weighed less than three pounds- and their owners looked as if they were related to a few sumo wrestlers.

Next I noticed that it took two people just get the crowd to line up. First there was a gate person checking tickets and then there was also one making the boarding announcements. These days instead of boarding the plane by seat numbers, most airlines use a group number, which is ALWAYS printed in bold black ink on a person’s boarding pass. Can you guess how many passengers get in line even though their boarding section hasn’t been called yet????

And yet somehow counting sections from one through four became highly confusing. Also getting in line seemed to be difficult for a lot of folks out there. Inevitably, the line that the ground crew would close (designated with that portable stretchy material that can make portable “aisles”) but people would still line up in them. It became a bit of a comedy act to see how many times the gate agent would have to open and close the temporary gates because people had got in the wrong lane.

Then there was the commotion with the standby passengers. If you haven’t experienced this, a standby passenger is trying to get a different flight than what they were originally ticketed for (same destination but earlier time) or the flight was oversold and they did not check in early enough to guarantee themselves a seat. Yeah how about that one for customer service? You buy a ticket, but if you don’t check in according to the current “rules” of the FAA your seat may be given away even if you show up.

So anyhow, I saw on the screen above the ticket counter there were 14 folks on standby. Once all passengers with assigned seats check in, the ticket agent will then begin to assign the “extra” seats to the standby passengers by printing them a boarding pass. This all happened “business as usual” until two agents realized their computers weren’t talking to one another and neither could tell what seat had already been assigned, therefore causing double assignment of one seat…. So those poor standby passengers that had their hopes high once they had their new ticket in their hand, quickly deflated as they were called out of the boarding line and back to the ticket counter.

Next there was the issue of those passengers who had ignored the “please check your large carry on bags” announcement and instead had insisted that their luggage would fit on the plane. This sort of traveler is very persistent. As I watched them attempt to function I usually get an overwhelming feeling to put them in a round pen and flag them as I would a horse telling them “That’s not going to work, try something else.” But back in reality they just keep trying the same thing and surprisingly, it doesn’t work each time they do the same thing over and over. (This seems to be the case with a lot horse owners and how they interact with their horses.)

Before this happens though, there is a process. The person is sure they are going to make their suitcase fit. Even after numerous attempts with the oversized contraption falling out of the undersized overhead compartments people will keep heaving, pushing, sweating try all angles of shoving to get that darn luggage stowed. But I will give this personality type credit, they don’t give up- no matter what, or at least not until some poor flight attendant has to pry their fingers off of their luggage and send it to the front of the plane for checking.

As all of this was happening, I unwillingly was affected by the above sort of person. I personally experienced the “case of the poor vertically challenged flight attendant.” I’m allowed to call him that because I too happen to be of the shorter height (a whopping 5’2”) and can empathize with what it takes to stretch your frame to reach the six foot high overhead compartments. Except this time the compartment the flight attendant was attempting to reach for was above my head- and my aisle seat. And the more he “heaved” to try and get the compartment door shut, the more he leaned into me. Now if you imagine sitting in a seat and having someone stretch out their body as “tall” as they can- especially if the are male, you’ll come to see that clear visual image of this particular flight attendant’s package a mere two inches away from my face. No matter how far away from him I leaned to be polite, he leaned harder into me. Hmmm.

Or let’s talk about the other outbound flight experience I had in Denver. After gallivanting a mile down the concourse I finally reach my gate and realized it was a “mini” gate because I was heading out to such a remote location that not many people wanted or needed to fly there. There also happened to be three other mini gates alongside mine. They used four of those “portable” lanes (the ones I’d mentioned earlier) that outlined where to line up when it came time to board the plane. Each “lane” was marked with a sign, except instead of being in numerical order according to the gates numbers, they were marked like this: “Gate 67-69, Gate 68, Gate 68-69, and Gate 72.” Hmmmm. I wonder who came up with that numbering system.

It was then that I looked up at the board behind the ticket counter and saw that there were four flights departing out of these four gates within two minutes of each other… Two leaving at the same time…. Okay- I’d love to hear the air traffic control tower when those planes were about to take off… Then an announcement comes on to start having people line up for their flight. Except even though there are four gate agents, only one of whom appears to have gone through this procedure before. So they decide to be fair, they are all going to take turns practicing speaking on the PA system- one for each upcoming flight. Except in all of their excitement, they forgot that there’s only ONE machine that can read the passenger’s ticket barcode as they board. This means three flights have now lined up prematurely. There’s nothing worse than people and waiting- especially when it comes to getting on the plane, to getting off the plane, or waiting for their luggage, etc.

Then because two of the newbie gate agents are so nervous, they rush through their announcements without enunciating. This caused much confusion when passengers start to realize there is a flight to “Rock Springs” and there is also one to “Palm Springs.” Two very dramatically different destinations that can sound identical when mumbled over a PA system filled with static.

So basically, numerous people lined up in the wrong line for many reasons. One reason was the lack of clarity in the announcement. The second was due to the unclear signs on the lane numbers because you had two options according to how the lanes were marked…. And this brings me to the third reason for confusion.

Once a passenger managed to actually get past the gate check in process, they then had to walk another ½ mile to the actual plane. Now remember these were not very popular destinations so we were all flying on puddle jumpers, or a plane that only has about 12 rows. These planes you board by walking outside onto the tarmac of the airport and climbing stairs to board. Except they are so small that if you carry anything larger than a laptap, it won’t fit in the overhead compartment. So there is a “baggage check” where you can drop off your bags before you board the plane.

Now this all sounds fine and dandy, except there wasn’t just one plane parked outside, there were four. None of which were marked. None of which the ground crew seemed to have a clue as to where they were going. On my plane alone we had three people board the wrong plane. Luckily they were “ejected” from the plane before they’d settled down, but the bad news was they’d had their bags checked with the ground crew. So the ground crew then had to dig through the luggage and find these people’s bags. The other bad news was our crew had no idea where to direct them to find the correct plane. I happened to be sitting in a window seat and watched as one poor woman tried three planes before she found the right one.

And they wonder why passengers are so angry these days?


1 comment:

  1. Very amusing blog; it reminds me of being stuck in St. Lucia with the hurricane on its way and flights completely messed up combined with the panic of tourists try to get off of the island. Unfortunately, as you know, I didn't make it off of the island until after the hurricane. At least you got out of Denver successfully. :P


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