No luxury: five people who have no choice in travel

It’s easy to see the world only from your own point of view. After all, what choice do you have? Even the best efforts at empathy and telepathy will still leave you unable to truly put yourself in another person’s shoes. In the travel world in particular, it can be difficult to understand why the person with whom you’re jockeying for an armrest is on the plane at all. Try as you might, you’ll never really be able to grasp the whole story.

So, when I see sweeping pronouncements about why people travel, it makes me stop for a second. I ran into a tweet recently that proclaimed, “Traveling IS a luxury!” In some cases, this is doubtless true. While you may need to get out on vacation for a while, do you really need to go somewhere that requires a flight? Or, if you could suck it up and drive, even if it’s bit longer and something of a pain, you certainly aren’t forced to buy a ticket instead. Limit your perspective to these scenarios, and the statement makes sense.

But, what about everyone else?

There are many reasons why people travel, and there isn’t really a choice for some of them. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Let’s take a look at five people who fly of necessity – not to satisfy an unnecessary urge.1. Business travel
Okay, this is pretty obvious. When your boss tells you to get on a plane, that’s what you do. There are legions of corporate folks out there who fly weekly (or more) for sales meetings, client service and other business-related reasons. Their jobs are on the road, and they fly to work the way some people drive. The formula is pretty simple: no travel = no paycheck.

2. Family emergencies
This may be infrequent, and it doesn’t matter until you’re the one going to visit a relative in need. With some families spread out over several time zones, responding to an urgent matter may require a flight. I’m not sure I’d call this sort of flying a luxury … let’s be realistic.

3. Children visiting parents
Visitation is a serious matter, and it’s often not left to chance. There are rules put in place for when separated or divorced parents can see their kids. Complying with a court’s decision is not a luxury … nor is the time that a parent and child spend together.

4. People in uniform
Well, they may not always be in uniform – but if you see great posture, little body fat and a short haircut, do the math. The passenger may be en route to a new duty station or training environment (not to mention parts unknown or undesirable). Flying doubtless is not a luxury for this passenger. Rather, it’s a means to ensuring your ability to move freely. Let’s not forget about the military!

5. Airline employees
Of course, these people aren’t flying recreationally. Realistically, they’re only flying because you are. So, whether you’re in the air for business or pleasure, keep in mind that they are with you strictly for the former.

[photo by The U.S. Army via Flickr]

Continental Airlines flies ten year old girl to the wrong airport

About a month ago, we wrote about an airline serving an unaccompanied minor a large cup of coffee. If you thought that was reckless behavior, you are going to be outraged by what Continental Airlines did to a minor traveling under their supervision.

The airline had been paid to accompany a ten year old on a flight from Boston to Cleveland, a pretty simple task, especially since this is just a 45 minute flight.

Sadly, the airline staff are apparently not capable of reading signs, because they put this poor girl on the wrong flight.

Instead of flying to Cleveland, Continental Airlines flew her to Newark. To add insult to injury, they then called her grandparents asking them to come pick her up, even though their paperwork showed an Ohio address and they were calling an Ohio phone number.

It took Continental Airlines 45 minutes to discover their terrible mistake, helped by the fact that 2 grandparents were at an airport to pick up a child who was actually 450 miles away.

Continental refunded the unaccompanied minor fee, and put the kid on a plane to Cleveland within an hour. The whole story boggles the mind – they put a kid on the wrong plane, nobody noticed an extra passenger on the wrong plane, nobody noticed a missing minor on the correct flight, and nobody noticed they had received a ten year old girl at an airport where she was not supposed to be.

As always, this is just one side of the story, hopefully we’ll get a response from Continental Airlines telling their side of the story.


**Update!!** According to the Boston Globe, it now appears that two unaccompanied minors were lost by Continental Airlines! One young woman was accidentally sent to Fayetteville, Arkansas instead of Charlotte, NC while the other was sent to Cleveland instead of Newark. Whether these happened on the same day at the same gate is unclear right now — the Globe seems to have conflicting statements — but to have lost two minors over any period is surely a disaster!


Unaccompanied minor told to drink coffee by Northwest Airlines employee – gets sick

We’ll file this one under “lawsuit in the making”. When Payton Parkerson was on her way to see her mother, she was flying as an unaccompanied minor – something she’d done several times before. This trip would turn out to be quite different.

During a layover in Detroit, she mentioned to the Northwest Airlines employee accompanying her that she was tired. Instead of providing a listening ear or a friendly smile, the employee told her to go and get herself a cup of coffee.

Now, millions of people grab a cup of joe at the Airport Starbucks every day, but Payton is 8. That’s right – this 8 year old who was being assisted by Northwest Airlines (their service costs $100) was told to go get some coffee, and pay for it herself.

Of course, with that much caffeine in her system, Payton got sick, and threw up twice on her flight. Thankfully a pediatrician was on board, and was able to take care of the poor kid.

Northwest Airlines issued the following statement: “We are continuing our investigation as the story you have provided us doesn’t match our records”.

No idea what that means, but as with all stories, there may be a different side to this one.