Air travel observations of a former flight attendant

“A gate agent stood on the counter and shouted: ‘Don’t ask us for help! We cannot help you!'” is one of the lines in Ann Hood’s recent and enlightening Op-Ed piece “Up, Up and Go Away” in the New York Times. Hood, now a novelist–her latest novel is Knitting Circle, was a flight attendant back in the day where there were meal choices and the idea that flying was special.

Hood’s essay of comparing and contrasting air travel then and now was prompted by a recent trip she took to Rhode Island where the plane didn’t get her there. It wasn’t exactly the airlines’ fault that she and a few other passengers rented a van in Charlotte, N.C. after they arrived at the airport from Miami for a connecting flight. Upon arrival at the Charlotte airport, they found out there wasn’t going to be a plane to Rhode Island for quite some time. Bad weather had created the snafu. People were facing days of waiting.

Along with looking back on how flying used to be in the good old days, Hood makes an interesting connection between the state of air travel then and now. In the 1970s, when she worked for TWA., there was a fuel crisis and flight attendants had mandatory unpaid furloughs. From what she writes, it seems as though courtesy towards passengers never wavered despite the economy.

From what I gather, Hood thinks that airlines are creating problems by not ensuring that passengers are treated well. In her mind, what good is it if passengers get off of an airplane feeling disgruntled? I have to say that I’ve generally been lucky when it comes to courtesy, although I did have Hood’s experience where the ticket counter folks were nonchalant in their treatment of stranded passengers. I haven’t flown that airlines since then.

There’s nothing worse when travel is not going well when the people who are supposed to help things run smoothly say, “We cannot help.”

At that point I wonder, who will? In Hood’s case, when you’re stranded at an airport, you help yourself.

(The photo by gas_station_sushi is of a TWA airplane in the 1960s.)

Four paper and pencil travel games with a holiday twist

After reading the news about people being stuck in various airports and bus stations where hours have led to days because of the bad weather we’re having, I thought of travel games they might want to play in order to pass the time.

All a person needs is someone to play with, paper and a writing implement. A crayon will do–or a small nub of a pencil. If a piece of paper isn’t available, look to napkins.

These games would also work at a family or friends get together and can be adapted for any age group. You can make them as hard or as easy as you want. Each can be played by more than two people, but you’ll need at least two, except for the last one.

Each of the four games are games I’ve played at various times. To see what I envision this group playing, keep reading.

Game 1:. Hangman Santa- This is a version of regular Hangman, but you can see where I’ve added a Santa hat and sack.

  • To play this game, draw a rough sketch of a gallows as shown in the finished picture. One person thinks of a word and draws short horizontal lines, one for each letter of the word. I thought of the word “travel.”
  • The other person calls out letters.
  • If the letter is in the word, the player who thought of the word, writes the letter on the appropriate line. If the letter is not there, the player draws part of a person, starting with the head.
  • With each wrong guess, a body part is added. If the opponent guesses the word before the entire person and the Santa hat and sack are drawn, that person gets a point.
  • If the entire Santa is drawn, the person loses and the point goes to the opponent.
  • Then you switch roles, and it’s the other person’s turn.
  • I can see where hanging Santa might seem grim, so you could draw a sleigh instead, although the name of the game is Hangman. I don’t know why–it just is.

Game 2: Categories (with a holiday twist)– To play this game, give each player a piece of paper and a writing implement.

  • Players divide the paper into at least five columns.
  • Across the top of each column, write the names of categories like “names,” “cities,” “countries,” “holiday songs” and “food.” The last column is “total.”
  • Then one person starts saying the alphabet to him or herself until one of the players tells him or her to stop. Whatever letter the person stops at is the letter for that round. The person tells the players that letter and each person thinks of a word that fits the category that starts with that letter. The players write the words they come up with on their own paper.
  • For example, if the letter is “J”, my answers might be “Jerry,” “Jackson,” “Jordan,” “Joy to the World” and “jello.”
  • Whoever finishes first says “Stop.” At that point, everyone must stop writing.
  • Then you calculate points by sharing answers. Each answer no one else has equals 15 points. If one person has the answer, it’s worth 10 points. If more than one person has the answer, it’s worth 5 points.
  • Add up your points for each column and write that in total.
  • Keep playing rounds until you’re tired of the game. Whoever has the most points wins.

By the way, if the same letter is picked, pick again, or any of the repeat answers don’t count. To make harder, add categories. To make easier, remove categories, and think of easier topics.

Game 3: Dots (To make this one have a holiday theme, use green and red pens, pencils or crayons.)

  • Draw dots in rows. 10 dots across and 10 dots down as shown in the picture.
  • Each person takes turns connecting two dots with a straight line, either horizontal or vertical.
  • The object is to eventually start making boxes. If you can make a box by drawing one line, write you initial in that box.
  • Sometimes you’ll be able to draw more than one box. You can only connect two dots at a time, however, but if you end up drawing a line to connect two dots and then you only need to draw one more line to make another box, you can do that one too.

Whoever has the most boxes by the time all dots are used, wins. To make the game harder and take longer, add rows of dots. In the pictured game, the other person is winning. (O = other person)

Game 4: Word Creation

  • Write the word “Happy Holidays” on a piece of paper. See how many words you can make with the letters in Happy Holidays.
  • You can only use the number of letters that are in the word. For example, there are only two a’s so your word can only have two a’s.
  • You can use letters more than once with each new word.
  • Words have to be at least three letters, (if playing with small children, don’t use this rule.
  • Whoever has the most words by the time limit you decide on wins.

Here are three words to get you started.” happy ” “holidays” and “play.”

Toilet overheats and causes an emergency landing

You may remember Heather’s post about smelling something weird on a flight when she was popping open a can of cranberry juice. She took off her shoes to see if heat was coming from the floor. In the case of this particular flight, nothing was amiss. The smell eventually went away.

In the case of one of yesterday’s Virgin Atlantic flights, there was heat coming up through the floor. An overheated toilet pump was the culprit. I wonder if there was heat coming through the toilet as well? That would give a passenger a start, wouldn’t you think? Puts another meaning into hotseat.

According to, the 331 passengers on the flight, hoping to make it to London from Miami without mishap, ended up in hotel rooms in Wilmington, North Carolina this morning because the crew thought there might be a fire in the cargo hold.

I’ve been on two flights when an engine went caput–but never a toilet pump. I wonder if that’s what makes the toilets go whoosh! when you flush. I hope the Virgin Atlantic passengers in Wilmington have managed to make the best of it and will be rested up by the time they make it to London.

I’m also wondering if any passengers noticed if the flight attendants had taken their shoes off and were walking slowly down the aisles before the announcement that the flight was being diverted. [photo by Cubbie_n_Vegas]

Canceled flight equals missed meeting after hours of waiting

Checking a flight schedule the night before a flight and finding out it’s a go doesn’t mean it’s a go–not if you happen to be going on United Airlines from Columbus to Chicago. At least, not if you are the person I met yesterday at the Inn at Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills, Ohio. I was able to meet him because he was not at the business meeting that he was scheduled to attend.

Friday night, he checked his flight status. Everything was fine. He checked the status again before he left for the airport the next morning. The flight was still fine. At the airport, two hours later, he found out after the drive from Hocking Hills, that the flight was canceled, and he was rebooked on a flight for an hour after that. Then, that flight was delayed because of some plane trouble. It was unclear how long he would have to wait. As he sat in the Columbus airport waiting and waiting, the business meeting started and he decided not to go after all. What was the point?

United extended his ticket so he can go to Chicago another time. He doesn’t necessarily want to go to Chicago another time. I forgot to tell him that Chicago is one of the top 10 summer destinations which might have changed his mind.

During this conversation, as the details unfolded, people were tsk tsking over the state of the airlines.

I’m thinking that in the future, more and more business meetings will be held in cyberspace as the airlines struggle to deliver service. If people can talk to each other in video conference calls, why hassle with trying to meet in person for a meeting, unless it’s crucial?

U.S. Congress puts a price tag on flight delays

Looking to put a price tag on that latest flight delay you had to endure? Luckily, Congress already has.

In a report released recently, and cited by the Associated Press, Congress says that flight delays cost the American economy some $41 billion in 2007.

How does that break down? The congressional Joint Economic Committee says that included $19 billion in costs for airlines and $12 billion in costs to passengers in lost productivity and down time, the AP reports. There were also around $10 billion in indirect costs, likely food and hotel vouchers.

So, we know it’s bad. Now Congress says this “punch in the gut,” in the words of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), is only going to get worse this summer.

The JEC analyzed more than 10 million individual flight records from the government, and says that flight delays amounted to a cost of $37.60 per passenger per hour last year, according to the AP.

There were about 320 million hours of delay time in 2007.

The JEC also concluded that delays were worst at major hubs in the Northeast and Midwest. JFK travelers on average were delayed 27 minutes, O’Hare travelers, 21 minutes, the AP says.