The frustrations of air travel and unfAAmiliAAr territory…

Boy, what a day it has been. As mentioned earlier I’m on my way to the Freddie Awards which are in Phoenix this year, and am taking my mother along on the trip. When checking in last night I realized that our fight was at 6:05AM and not 7:30AM as I had thought for some reason, so we were going to get up at 4AM and leave by 4:30AM since it’s a 45 minute ride to the airport. I left my mother with the undoubtedly challenging task of waking me and herself up. Last time I did that was when we were in Germany together visiting relatives. I had spent the day before jumpseating on Air Berlin with my cousin who’s a captain with them, so only got home at around 2AM after doing a few flights to PMI. We were supposed to leave at 6AM, and the alarm “never went off.” At 7AM we were speeding down the autobahn and made our flight by just a couple of minutes, although that might be thanks to me yelling out of frustration for a good hour on the way there, making my mother hit record speeds.;)

You think I would have learned, right? Well this morning I get woken up at 5AM, once again “because the alarm didn’t go off.” That means that we had 1hr5min till departure with a 45 minute drive ahead of us, let alone packing up the car, parking the car, and security. At first when I was woken up I misread the time and thought we were still fine (my mother was surprised by how calmly I reacted about probably missing our flight), but quickly realized what time it really was. We threw everything in the car and in just about record time made it to the airport. We had the car parked by 5:40AM, which was pretty darn good, although it still wasn’t certain that we’d make the flight. TPA has some of the most unpredictable security lines. I’m almost always at the airport at the same exact time on the same exact day of the week (5AM on Saturday), and the lines vary from no wait to 45 minutes. It’s crazy! Fortunately today was one of the good days and the line was only a couple of minutes long. In addition to carrying a kitchen sink aboard (ok, maybe only 22” and another good sized bag), I was fumbling boarding passes, my wallet, cell phone, ID, parking information, keys, etc, in my hands, so when I got up to the agent she rudely told me to “calm down.” I would have said something back but I didn’t want to get tagged as suspicious by one of those delightful SPOT’s and get “SSSS” treatment, in which case we would have most certainly missed the flight.

This was my first flight on a non-Star Alliance airline in a long time, and it almost felt dirty to be flying the dAArkside. We got to the gate and there was no one there except for the agent, who was wearing a bright red jacket. Sorry, but what’s up with that? It looked like it just landed on a nonstop flight from the 1970’s. She couldn’t have been nicer, and once we were aboard the door was closed. This flight was basically empty in coach. First was full but from my exit row seat I could spot a total of maybe 20 people, just about the emptiest mainline flight I’ve had this year. The flight attendants were friendly, and one of them looked just like Pam Ann, with frizzy hair pointing at every continent for about a foot. The captain made an announcement and although he was trying to be friendly, he corrected himself about ten times (“If I encounter any turbulence, I mean if we encounter any turbulence,” and the like).

The exit row has great legroom, and to be honest was basically like UA. I didn’t really like the lack of audio/video, which even Ted has, but I had my iPod and was doing some preparations for my meeting on Friday, so that was fine. Before I knew it we landed, and we headed straight to the Admirals Club after switching concourses.

I always hear about how the agents at the Admirals Club are “AAngels,” and usually so nice. Based on this one experience I have no clue what the heck those people are talking about! We gave one of the agents (interesting note about these agents was that they don’t wear uniforms like UA’s RCC agents) our BP’s and Amex Plat card and said hi, and she didn’t say a word to us, other than handing it back. Truly one of the rudest CS agents I’ve had in a while, let alone in an airline club.

The Admirals Club was very nice, much nicer than most RCC’s both in terms of architecture, features, and all around space (relaxation room, room with computers it seemed, etc.), although food was missing. All they had was apples and miniature muffins, which is even worse than the RCC, which at least has yogurt, granola bars, danishes, and miniature bagels. I feasted on miniature muffins since I didn’t eat any breakfast, and immediately headed to our connecting gate since we only had a short layover. I’ll take some pictures of the Admirals Club on my layover on the return.

The next flight was even a bit bland, with mediocre FA’s at best. The Captain was clearly frustrated and didn’t make a single announcement the whole flight (heck, a dead giveaway in my experience is when pilots just say “Flight Attendants, prepare for takeoff” as opposed to adding in a “please” or “welcome aboard.”) Oh well, I guess we better get used to frustration in the airline industry, because it’ll probably only get worse. The funny thing was that on my way out of plane the captain was standing at the door and I was ready to say “thanks for the informative announcements,” but he said “thanks for flying with us and have a great day with a big smile,” so I would have felt bad saying anything.

Something I noticed about AA pilots is that they’re awful with the seatbelt sign. Despite a smooth ride on both flights it was on for 80% of the flight, despite there only being maybe a minute of bumpiness, at which point it was turned on and stayed on. Another thing I noticed is that the Captain announces “Ladies and gentlemen, please keep your seatbelts fastened until the seatbelt sign is off and flight attendants prepare for arrival,” when once the aircraft is parked which makes zero sense to me. We landed on-time and got on the rental car bus where we met another FlyerTalker that was attending the Freddies, and then headed to the Budget to pick up our car.

About to enjoy the day in Phoenix and will report back on the Freddies which are later on today.

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