Sunday, December 19, 2010

Onto Toronto!

The ride up to Toronto on Monday night was fascinating in the context of the enormous winter storm that scrambled the Midwest and coated it in a thick layer of snow over the weekend. Loved the views from 30,000 feet, including ice flows forming in Lake Erie, and the spectacular explosion of Christmas-lit homes surrounding the airport. Glad to see people still taking the Holiday lighting of homes as seriously Clark Griswold.

Some reason I find airplane rides to be contemplative time for myself and had my share of 'Up in the Air' moments, including a quiet celebration of my 30th segment on Delta this year which seals my second consecutive year of Silver Medallion membership. No small feat this, and one of the accurate representations from Up in the Air, business travelers where their loyalty status as badges of honor and now I see it: there are a handful of things you can't achieve without putting in the time. One is love. Another is airline status.

Not to equate the two, or isolate them as the only examples, but it's true. 30 segments is a lot of flying and it barely qualifies for the bottom rung of elite status.

For this sacrifice, I've earned the right to never pay for checking bags and the occasional upgrade pending availability and other travelers higher-up in the pecking order. Somehow it's worth it. Savings on the checked bag fees is actually huge, considering it also applies to my wife when she's traveling with, and the semi-frequent upgrades to 1st class are like the crack that keeps 'em coming back.

Still the experience of flying is worse now than its ever been. Maybe it's just because I'm doing more of it, or that my latest go was fraught with the nervous expectation and experience of delay, but it was almost comic how much of it now seems designed to skirt the edges of disaster and create delays.

One of the most frustrating is the trend to Smaller planes + Checked Bag Fees = More Headaches for the Carry-On Crowd thanks to gate-side bag checks, which in Toronto on Monday night made for a bone-chilling 5 minute wait on the tarmac for my bag. It was something like 14 degrees outside with 35 MPH winds.

The whole point of carry-on is to save time and money and the airlines have found a way to obliterate that efficiency as well.

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