A trip to Orlando Airport (MCO)… wow!

So this afternoon I drove to Orlando to pick up my mom, who was arriving on LH from FRA. She has a convention here in Orlando tomorrow, so I booked a cheap Hampton Inn instead of driving back to Tampa with her tonight since she has to be back here tomorrow, and I get stay credits and she gets more rest. My mom had a well deserved vacation with her sister and niece (both live in Germany) in Italy, and I made sure she got there in style by getting her an F award ticket on Lufty.

It’s funny, I remember my mom telling me three years ago “I don’t care whether I fly coach or first, it makes no difference.” In my effort to convert her to the enlightened side I’ve gotten her a first class award on AF, two first class awards on LH, and a business class award on NZ. After her outbound journey on LH from CLT to MUC I asked her how she enjoyed the flight, and she said it was amazing. She said she spoke to the very nice purser for almost the whole flight, and that the flight could have been ten hours longer for all she cared, something I never expected my mom to say. Not only did she take back her statement from a few years ago, but she said that she now actually enjoys and looks forward to the flying portion of travel as well. This is something I’m happy to hear since it validates all my efforts over the years. While I would never pay full fare for either business or first out of pocket, it’s an amazing deal on award tickets, in my opinion.

Anyway, with that tangent out of the way, let me get back on topic. So my mom was due into Orlando at 6:25PM originally, but her flight was way delayed to 7:12PM. I left very early, and after about nineteen accidents on I-4, I made it to the Hampton Inn in about 2.5 hours (should have been closer to 1.5 hours). I checked in and about 30 minutes later headed to the airport, about 30 minutes before her flight was scheduled to arrive. To be honest, I really wanted to see how MCO was on a Saturday afternoon and do some people watching, since I know MCO can be an interesting place, and as I saw it certainly didn’t disappoint.

After parking my car I went to the LH desk to ask the agents (in German) where I would be best off waiting for the arriving passengers from the FRA flight. In a stereotypically German way (hey, I can say this, I’m German!), I was arrogantly told I should wait in the arrivals area. Well, no $hit Sherlock, could ya tell me where that is please? As a German I find the “German way” to be one of precision and efficiency, and that comes in two ways, in my experience– those that are so efficient and precise that they basically blow people off (this can translate to bad service both in the air and on the ground), and then there are those that are efficient and precise, yet understand the importance of still providing “proper” service, which is fortunately what I generally find the LH in-flight crews to be. Very rarely have I had what we would call “lazy” crews on LH, which is the nice thing about them. The MCO ground staff certainly fell under the former description.

I found my way to the arrivals area, which is basically the center of the concourse. For those not familiar with MCO, the pre-security area is in the middle of a Hyatt hotel with a massive atrium. It’s actually really nifty for an airplane dork like me, since I love hotels and I love airports, and here I have some of my favorite things in one place.

One of the reasons I love airports is because of the “melting pots” they can be. You see all kinds of people from all walks of life, and today was no exception, although it was definitely an interesting crowd.

The first person that caught my eye was the TSA guy sitting at a desk in the “do not enter” area. This is right next to the security checkpoint where people are getting off flights, and his exciting job consists of sitting there and making sure no fish tries to swim upstream. This guy cracked me up. His attitude, based on his facial expressions and body motions, were that of the “I’m America’s last defense against terrorism” TSA mentality. He sat there as if he had the most important job in the world, and I actually found it somewhat comical. He had his feet up on the desk, chair tilted backwards, and looked at everyone as if they were planning another 9/11. I actually had a little bit of fun with him while still staying within the rules, and kept inching closer and closer to the “do not cross” line, without ever actually getting close to it. I stood a few feet away, walked in circles, and then got a few inches closer. This guy looked like he was about ready to tell me to stop moving, and I was totally expecting a SPOT to come and “interview” me.

Anyway, let’s talk about the people at MCO. MCO is a cesspool, one that combines the good, the bad, and the really ugly. Taking care of the “really ugly” sector for us were all of these mothers that had their 4-8 year old kids that they just couldn’t take care of, and seemed like they would rather be dead than fulfill their kid’s dream vacation. One kid was saying to his mom “Mommy, I can’t carry this, it’s too heavy.” He was carrying a booster seat of sorts which looked pretty light. His mom responds “Oh stop bitching, it weighs an ounce.” Jeez, this kid was probably five years old, way to go mom!

Then you have those mothers that clearly care about their kids, even if it comes at the expense of making complete fools of themselves. Don’t get me wrong, a mom shouldn’t give a crap what others think of her and her kid as long as they’re acting in a respectful manner, but there was one instance in particular that cracked me up. There was a mom walking with her son, maybe seven or eight years old. He had a bright orange “NASA” costume on, and as if that wasn’t enough, he had a headset on, which looked more like one of those wired earpieces that agents in call centers wear. He walked through the terminal as if he was some sort of space commander, and I actually found it really damn funny (and cool) how confident he was. Made me wonder if he was wearing it just because of the shuttle launch today, or if he does that everyday. Hmm, wasn’t there a movie on United recently about a similar subject?

I could go on and on about the people at MCO, it’s just such an interesting place, for better or for worse. If you want some great people watching I suggest going there on a Saturday afternoon in summer, and I’m sure you’ll chuckle and shake your head at least a few times.

Eventually my mom arrived, and to my surprise already had her checked bag with her. Hmmm, isn’t that a “security risk?” Apparently they allow you to take your checked bags with you directly from immigration, even though it’s still airside. That means she had access to everything in her checked bag (even those awfull dangerous greater than 3oz. liquids!) while airside. Interesting….

Please don’t take anything in this post too seriously, it’s just a reflection of a small part of my day which entertained me…

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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