Did you miss me?

FLYOVER COUNTRY, U.S.A.

As a child, I have pleasant memories of my aunt taking me, my sister and my two cousins to Disney World. My family wasn’t rich, but my aunt did well for herself and had no children. She was a surrogatesupplemental mother to all of us and we benefitted from her generosity.

I thought about those trips this morning at 4:30 as she struggled to keep her Subaru Legacy in its lane. (The darkness was playing tricks on her, but this adventure to Syracuse’s ultra-pathetic international airport was much better than paying to park.) Those flights Orlando were fun. There was food, which I remember as good, and a seemingly endless supply of Coca-Cola. Even the airport was fun.

Today, flying has lost that childlike wonder. (Side note: it’s still pretty amazing that we can actually fly through the sky. Human flight is pretty cool.) This morning’s United Express shuttle from SYR-ORD was bumpy but light (made lighter by my travel companions being stuck in security during takeoff). Terminal C at ORD was as drab and dank as I remembered. Green tiled walls and that army camo floor tile gave the appearance of the Liverpool HS boys lavatory, not one of the busiest airports in the world.

Breakfast included stops at both Starbucks in the terminal. It turns out that a trenta iced coffee is just enough to get you from gate C6 to gate C24. The venti iced coffee would have to do for my wait. I’m also glad I picked up a Kind bar at SBUX.

During those halcyon days of my youth, airlines made an attempt. Soup. Sandwiches. Omelets. Now…meh. United Airlines flight 709 from ORD to SAN is offering breakfast:

  • Three cinnamon rolls for $3
  • A yogurt parfait for $5.49
  • cheese and fruit plate for $7.49 (it does have Brie and Gouda)
  • I could also drop three bucks on Pringles or a fiver on almonds. I’ll probably pass.

    I’m cognizant of the industry’s financial woes and I’m clearly expecting way too much for my company’s money. The post 9/11 hit to the travel industry, compounded by increased fuel costs, left us with baggage fees, Walmart snacks at Skymall prices. I can hear United hemorrhage money by the mile on this flight. But as the turbulence shakes my tray table, I think about my last flight on JetBlue and am reminded of my youth on USAir. If JetBlue can sling pop chips for free, maintain a cost structure and a relatively happy employee base, how come the others cannot?

    More importantly, Time is running out. Do I want the cheese and fruit plate?

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