The Joys of Airplane Business Travel

Ever had one of those airport + flight experiences where enough things go wrong that you wish you could do it over again?

I get to the Dallas airport yesterday, having put in my Nexus pass number online and excited that I can finally use the shorter security line (bit of a long story as to why I’m only figuring this out now), only to find out it has to be put in 24 hours before the flight departs for it to show up on my ticket as a TSA Pre-Check. Apparently the fact that I did it 26 hours before my flight wasn’t quite enough time. Go figure.

Then I go through security and the four people in front of me go through the metal detector. I get instructed to go through the body scanner. I opt out of the body scanner as I normally do. I don’t mind the pat down; I do mind the unnecessary radiation (if there’s no medical reason for it, and it’s not helping me diagnose a medical problem, I don’t want it, no matter how safe it’s supposed to be). The body scanners are part of the war machine that churns away in the USA (and Canada) and is more about fear than actual security. So long as there’s an option to opt-out, I’m going to take it. Getting scanned because I’m told to is not something I’m OK with. The security agent loudly informs everyone in the area that the scanner is harmless and there’s no reason to avoid it. OK, thanks for that Mr. TSA agent, I appreciate you trying to embarrass me.

As I’m getting the pat down from one agent, the other agent is doing a full bag search. This is unusual based on my experience. They confiscate my small Swiss Army pocket knife that I stupidly forgot to leave at home. It’s got maybe a 1.5″ blade, so smaller than the scissors they now allow, but apparently all knives all forbidden. Great, now I have to waste $28 buying another one, and it’s completely my own fault.

I get onto the full flight with Alaska Airlines, stuck in a middle seat, and spend the next 3.5 hours sweating like a pig. The plane is so damn hot. I happened to have a room thermometer with me (long story), so I use it: the plane is 80.5F where I’m sitting. The two previous occasions on other flights where I’ve asked about the temperature I’m told the pilot controls it and I should just sit down and deal with it, so I don’t mention the heat this time. At one point the back of my shirt rides up a bit, and when I get up to use the bathroom I have to peel myself off the fake leather seat. Nice.

On my way back from the bathroom, the drink cart is in front of me, so they move up four rows to an open spot and instruct me to step into an open seat so they can pass me by. I briefly look down to ensure I’m not stepping on anything, but the lights are very low so it’s hard to see anything. It turns out the woman sitting in the middle seat had her black canvas bag sitting out on the floor, instead of tucked under the seat as she’s supposed to, and she says “You just broke my sunglasses!”. I immediately apologize and move into the aisle now that the cart has passed. I offer to pay for them. She grunts at me as she grabs her bag off the floor and opens the pocket. I say that if she gives me her contact information I will replace them for her; she sternly says “No, that’s OK!” and I walk away saying sorry again, feeling foolish and embarrassed at having damaged someone else’s things by being a little too quick to obey the flight attendant.

I return to my seat and resume my sweaty vision quest of a flight. The plane does not crash, and I am home safe. Yay business travel! 🙂

  • Sorry your travels were so difficult, Jason. Hopefully it’ll get better. Couple things:

    1. 24 hours might not be enough, despite what some people say. In general, >3 days is what you need for reliable PreCheck. This is why I recommend people put their Known Traveler # into their booking profile, so it’s just there every time and it just works. Once you have it setup and it works, it’ll change your life.

    2. Alaska tends to run their planes warm, from what I’ve read once or twice. Dress lightly if you can? I don’t notice it too much on my flights from SJC to Hawaii, but I tend to dress light *and* like warm.

    3. Why did you end up in a middle seat? Did you book late? Hopefully if you travel enough you’ll get status soon and get better seat selection ahead of time. 🙂 If you can make 50K+ miles in a year, then the good benefits really start kicking in. I’m really going to miss my mid-tier AA status next year…

    4. Did you actually hear the sunglasses crunch? Hopefully she was just yelling at you and it wasn’t actually true!

    Let’s just hope Nexus works out next time. 🙂

  • Oh, a fifth tip: Alaska and AA are good partners. You get 100% mileage earning, including elite status, and most matching benefits (excepting upgrades), when booking on one of the two but with a mileage account on the other.

    Given that AA has a) a ton of flights from DFW-SEA, and b) has extra legroom seating for advance purchase that’s only a few $ more than the base seat, perhaps for business travel it might be worth splurging for that. Especially handy if you fly SEALAX/ORD/DFW which are major American hubs. There’s also a slight chance they run their planes cooler? 😉

  • Thanks for the thoughts Janak!

    1) I added the number to my corporate travel profile this week, so that *should* do the trick for next time. We’ll see!

    2) I was in a t-shirt and jeans, so I can’t dress much lighter unless I wear shorts. I definitely dislike warm. 🙂

    3) I now have MVP status with Alaska (a recent thing), but the flight was full and despite doing a check-in at the 24 hour mark exactly, I had no other options. I couldn’t book my flight until my manager approved the trip, and not unusually in the corporate world, a lot of the time that approval comes at the last minute.

    4) No, it’s loud on a plane, so I couldn’t hear that. Based on her reaction as she reached into her bag, I probably did break them. Lesson for next time. 🙁

  • That’s an interesting idea – thanks!

  • I did mean shorts, especially during the summer months. 🙂 I generally like it warm, but even I find it too warm when I’m lugging luggage or sitting on a full plane.

  • Don’t get me wrong—AA is not going to blow your mind. But the extra legroom seats are nice, especially for taller people. Note that their planes are much newer than they used to be, and most have power ports, but not all.