I am done with domestic air travel. Done. Over. Finished. Never again.

  • I was all but strip-searched on my way through Security. Seriously, my barette set off the metal detector and they made me take off all of my jewelry, my glasses, accessories, blouse, and socks before letting me walk back through for a second go-round. (I’ve never forgotten about wearing plastic hair clips before, either; should have asked Mom to braid my hair before I left.) Being patted down in front of a mass of strangers wearing fitted trousers and a tank top = NOT my idea of a good time.
  • Once on my way through security and on the way to my gate, I was fielding phone calls from eight different staff — apparently flights on multiple airlines into Atlanta have been cancelled or delayed left and right, and half of the people attending this meeting are on standby and/or seeking alternate transportation. No idea who will be here and who won’t at this point, which makes my night of planning rather a crapshoot.
  • My plane was late arriving, so we started boarding 45 minutes after we should have been in the air.
  • I crouch-walked through the plane to my seat, as the ceiling cleared my head by less than two inches. When I made it to my seat and sat down, the stewardess attempted to assist a neighboring passenger with loading a too-large suitcase into the overhead bin and clocked me in the head. I’m fine, but I expected far more than an, “oops, sorry about that, Miss,” comment.
  • We taxied into place awaiting take-off, then the captain made the announcement that we’d be waiting for approximately 40 minutes before being permitted to fly. At which point the most obnoxious, monstrous eight-year-old I’ve ever met began kicking his way through the back of my seat. And his brainless, utterly ineffectual mother told him to stop. At which point he did — for about thirty seconds. Only to give the seat a good hard kick, be told to “knock it off,” sit quietly for two minutes, and then repeat the sequence for the duration of the wait and the entire damn flight. I exercised great restraint: I didn’t strangle the little bugger or backhand (or mouth off to) his waste-of-oxygen of a parental figure. I swear, if I didn’t fly so often, I probably wouldn’t despise every child under the age of ten on sight.
  • When we got to Atlanta and I got to the baggage claim, I found my bag broken. The wheels are out of alignment, and the pull-handle is locked in a partially up-partially down position; I stowed and locked the features properly and checked them with the ticketing agent. In fairness, my little green stewardess bag is 14 years old, has gone with me everywhere, and probably deserves to be retired — but I’m pissed off about everything else to such a degree that I don’t want to admit to a damned thing that would let the airline industry off the hook.

I travel for business, rarely ever do I travel for pleasure — mainly because I now mentally equate travel with all of the horrible aspects of “must do this for work”. I don’t expect travel to be convenient, I don’t expect it to be easy, I don’t expect it to be accommodating, and I don’t expect the unanticipated and frequently irritating situations I find myself in to be pleasant. The travel industry is, however, a business, and when traveling I do expect the high quality of customer service and customer appreciation that I demand from everyone with whom I do business. TSA, Delta, and their staff members received failing marks from me in every possible instance today — and I’ve finally had enough. I will not fly in these conditions again.

I have an Amtrak membership, which I use for travel between Albany and NYC practically weekly. I have the schedule and the map of service through the United States and Canada. I love train travel, there is still something of mystery and romance that clings to trains — and I feel it even when I board at 6 o’clock on an icy January morning, or 9:44 pm in the humidity of Penn Station in June. With Amtrak, I can buy a Business Class ticket — providing me with a roomy chair that reclines, a power source for my lap top, a reading light and air vent, a sturdy desk, checked baggage, and dining services, in a quiet car where children are not permitted — for 1/4 the cost of what I paid to fly with that hellion sitting behind me. For my next business trip, I’m taking the midnight train to Georgia.

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