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Leaving On A Jet Plane

When was the last time you grabbed a suitcase and a carry on and hopped on a plane to anywhere? Things have gotten very different, have they not?

For many years I traveled regularly with the company that I work with. Every couple of months I was off to the far reaches of the US for a few short days to return home exhausted and spent after some hard work! I would travel with one suitcase to carry my business attire and two carry-ons; one was my purse and the other held my laptop and work related materials that I could not afford to loose or have damaged.

I used a leather bag with several compartments to carry my laptop and other gear; the bag could be carried over the shoulder, by hand or could be wheeled (which I always did!). I don't ever remember having an issue with finding room in the overhead bins to stow my bag. There came a time when my leather bag was replaced by a small suitcase that also had the collapsable handle and wheels because not only did I need to include my laptop and some small items, but a change in our communications required that I carry my phone with me as well (VOIP). The suitcase is a bit larger, a bit sturdier and handled my needs quite effectively.

I don't remember having any problems with stowing this bag either. I did notice though that the isle seemed to become a bit less wide and required that (on some planes), I carried the bag in front of me as it was almost too wide to pull it along behind me. Especially with others already sitting on the plane, their legs and feet sticking into the isle. It seemed like the seats shrunk, the isles got smaller and we all became sardines!

In the past year I have made several trips to Arizona; each one requiring that I bring my laptop, a phone set up and some other work related gear. I am still using the small suitcase (that is well within the limits of what a carry on should be) and finding that I am not guarantted that the bag can remain a carry on.

Two years ago I was in Atlanta getting ready to board my connection to Tucson. As I handed my boarding ticket to the gate attendant she held me up with her hand and asked me to wait one moment. I wathed her walk away and came back with one of those tags that go on your bags when they are placed under the plane. She told me that I could deposit my bag at the end of the jetwayy and it would be returned to that spot when I deplaned.

I did a quick mental inventory of my bag; it contained my laptop, my phone, my black book (that holds all my passwords and important information that I do not want to share with ANYONE and certainly NOT loose). I had also included a camera my son Ryan had given me for Mothers Day when I was in Germany a few years back.

I let the attendant know that I could not let my bag be stowed under the plane as it was not packed for such wear and tear. I let her know that I had valuable electronics within in and some sensitive materials as well. Her response? "You can either leave it at the end of the jetway and retrieve it when you land in Tucson or you can leave it here." My choices were limited.

Not only was she rude, but also not understanding that this was not just any bag! It holds the keys to the kingdom for my job, the tools with which I am gainfully employed as well as a gift that I intended to use while out in Tucson. She obviously did not care.

With no alternative left, I walked the jetway and handed my bag over to the young man standing there and very firmly said, "this bag is NOT packed to be placed under the plane, please handle it carefully." He took my bag without a response and I boarded the plane. My ride was wrought with worries about the contents of my bag. Getting in at 10:30 to 11:00 pm and having to start work at 6 am was going to make getting my act together touch enough - - almost impossible if there are any issues with the contents of that bag.

I know that you have already guessed what I am going to tell you next! When I arrived at my daughters I opened up my bag and my laptop had been damaged. The covering for the hinges that hold the monitor to the base of the laptop were broken. If the damage was limited to the appearance, I could have almost lived with that but of course, murphy's law, it was not.

I made the mistake of assuming that everything was in fine working condition, but quickly found out the next morning when I tried to work that there was much more wrong. I am guessing that the guts got jostled enough that all the keys were not working, there was an issue with the finger pad and the display part of the laptop could not sit correctly and was cockeyed. I quickly set up to use my son-in-laws computer and set out to file a claim with the airline. Needless to say, my day was off to a really bad start and while my son-in-law was happy to share his computer with me; let's face it - who wants someone else to use their computer! Your computer, especially if you use it regularly is like your underwear; people can sometimes see it but you don't go offering others to wear it!

I tried to make an online claim and had issues with doing that. I finally got hold of someone on the phone and was apologized to and was told that they would certainly do their best to make me whole. What a relief! All I needed to do was send the receipt for the item via email or fax and affix a claim number to it. Thankfully, because I work from home and provide my own work related tools, I had the receipt tucked in with my taxes and had David get a copy out the door. My check dutifully arrived for the full amount in less than two (2) weeks.

I can only guess that had the camera my son had given me been broken I would have been livid. The camera was only a couple of years old and purchased at the PX in Garmish, Germany while we were vacationing. The odds of his still retaining the receipt of purchase - slim to none. We were traveling, miles and miles away from home, my grandson age 2 was with us and it was a gift.

The scary part? This was a couple of years ago; today with the airlines charging for checked bags everyone seems to have two carry on bags. Men who are traveling on business for their companies are bringing two carry on bags with them - both to be stowed in the overhead. It is not unusual to hear several announcements asking for volunteers to place their carry on under the plane while you wait to board. This last trip included announcements that Zone 1 would probably have no problems stowing their carry on bags in the overhead, but all of Zone 2 would not be as lucky. Zone 3? You are just shit out of luck on that one!

I regularly fly Delta and have opted to obtain their credit card so that my checked bag remain at no charge. Another perk? Priority seating. I am in Zone 1. I am not sure how long this is going to last. I have also noticed that the line for those clients with priority boarding has gotten much longer.

Let me show my age here a bit and talk about flying back in my day for a moment. More leg room, wider isles, less flying companions, no fees for bags over head or stowed, a nice meal, snacks, a seat that could be tilted back and not lay your head in the lap of the party behind you and more. We did not watch tv, check our phone before turning it off upon boarding and rush to grab it and turn it on once we hit the runway. I remember having some nice chats with those sitting beside me when I flew and enjoying my flight.

Today you hardly glance at the party sitting so close beside you, we can watch tv and be entertained and spend much of our trip trying to make sure that no part of our body is over that imaginary line where your seat ends and the next one begins. I can bring my purse on board and set it under the seat in front of me but it better not be too large - - that space is barely large enough for my feet. I can bring another carry on bag to be stowed in the over head on as well, but there are no guarantees that it won't end up under the plane. I can purchase food and beverage AFTER I go through security to enjoy during my flight.

Yes, more and more of us are flying and getting from Point A to Point B quicker than ever. More and more of us are venturing farther and farther away from home and making our lives. More and more of the airlines are consolidating into just a few major airlines. The airlines don't have too many more changes to make unless they remove the human element and create cattle cars for us to board. Who needs a toothbrush and a change of underwear anyway?