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Tag Archives: airlines

Coffee, Tea or Pee?

pup

There are lots of monumental problems in the world, but for the moment let’s ignore them. Let’s instead focus on the latest unpleasantness to occur on airlines: dogs. It seems that while we’ve been losing legroom, meals, snacks, magazines, and dignity, pups have taken to the friendly skies. The rise of the cabin canine (versus the baggage hold hound) is due to the (relatively) new loophole of “emotional support” animal. If your dog (or pig, monkey, or cat) is designated as giving you emotional support he/she must be treated like an assistance animal. Passengers and crew are not pleased by this trend and for good reason.

Allergies to animals are far more prevalent than peanut allergies. Being trapped in the sealed can with a dog is the worst nightmare for many people. Uncontrollable itching, hives and difficulty breathing are now part of the trip for many. There is no limit on the size of the animal when its owner has a prescription. It is conceivable that Marmaduke would be sprawled on top of the passenger next to you (riding for free!) These animals pose a threat to trained service animals. Unlike a Seeing Eye dog, an emotional support animal’s only qualification is that the owner likes having him/her around. Seeing Eye dogs can be trapped in a small space with butt smelling, barking, peeing and perhaps biting dogs. An airplane can quickly and unexpectedly become a place from which people need to flee. It’s horrifying to consider what would happen in an emergency with a pet and a trained assistant dog on board.

There is no doubt that people feel better with their animals. There are people with robust mental health who benefit greatly from the demands and love of an animal. There are also very few people who aabsolutely must travel on an airplane; save for the crew who it must be said are legally entitled to carry a dog on the beverage cart. If we are a bit too timid to impose restrictions upon where people may bring their comfort pets perhaps we could at least take the issue a little more seriously.

Currently all one needs is a letter from a health care professional and WHAM, the entire terrain changes. With one letter, from someone who may or may not be treating me for an actual disorder, I can force my landlord to allow Fido in, I can walk into any bar, restaurant or hospital with Fluffy and I can sit next to you at the opera with my potbelly pig. None of these animals have been screened, trained or licensed. The first step is to legitimize the “prescription” writing process. More than one mental health provider must sign-off and at least one of them must be treating the patient. Having your cousin the dermatologist sign the form should not be sufficient. Comfort animals must be certified to obtain the same privileges as assistance animals. They need to have a clean bill of health, be trained in how to act around people and other animals and be certified.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone who legitimately needs to be holding their pet at all times would actually balk (or should we say; bark) at such guidelines.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Travel, Well-Being

 

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The Fun Of Getting There

Millions of dollars are spent on selling travel as glamorous and/or restorative. There are entire magazines dedicated to this pursuit and big chunks of space reserved for it in newspapers & travel blogs aplenty. Television shows and networks are dedicated to the cause. There are clothing and accessory manufacturers specializing in travel accouterment. The fashion industry still adheres to a season-ette known as Holiday/Cruise in mid-winter. Everyone’s in on the action (except for travel agents, g-d rest their souls.) Let the good times roll.

Yet have you ever heard (or experienced) anyone traveling commercially, return and declare; “Well bust my buttons that certainly was glamorous and/or restorative?” Probably not. Getting there (and sometimes even being there) can often be one big pain in the bum.

It used to be you would pack your bags, grab your ticket and head to the airport. Today, after packing your bag with teeny tiny sample sizes of health and beauty aids (in ziplocs or out, depending on the airport) planning an outfit without metal embellishment or laced shoes, packing enough food to make it through the flight and the predictable delay; you are, woohoo, on your way. But to where exactly? You booked your flight on one airline (or so you thought) but these days they are cross-listed. You trek to the USAir terminal only to discover that USAir flight 6403 is in actuality a United flight 760 (and listed as Lufthansa 23, but that’s too odd to even address.) If you’re lucky those two terminals have a shuttle system. So maybe, just maybe, if the g-ds are smiling upon you, you make it to your gate. You must go buy a bottle of water however since bringing one with you would jeopardize national security (as would a nail clipper which is amusing when you think that a punch to the jugular is far more impactful than threatening to manicure someone.) Your $7 bottle of water secured, you bypass the food-like options that fill you with a school (or prison) cafeteria wistfulness. (Airports might be the only place where a chef known for inventing gourmet duck topped pizzas is now serving orange slop in containers emblazoned with his name.) You sit and watch the parade of (pajama-clad) humanity elbow their way to special treatment; “We’re a family, we’d like to sit together.” “My husband needs a seat without an armrest” What century are you people in? You will be lucky to get on this overbooked flight even with a seat assignment, checked luggage and wearing an airline uniform.

Getting onto the plane takes all the chutzpah and sharp elbows usually reserved for a Macy’s white sale. Overhead space is the holy grail. As the plane fills the desperation is palpable. Your goal is to avoid the attendant being “pleased to check your bag for you.” You’ve made it this far; you will not give up without a fight. Finally as the passengers settle down and it looks as if every bag is secured, the stand-bys appear. These people have made it onto the plane. They have a killer instinct and a rugged determination that is certain to squash your hat or break your duty-free liquor bottles. The more extreme sport of these stand-bys will make it work. The guy sauntering on with both his case of wine and of entitlement? His attempts might not end as well.

But everyone’s seated and here we go! Here we go. We’re not going. Why are those reflective vested people walking on and off the plane? Why is it 20 minutes past our departure time and we’re still sitting still? Ah, an announcement. It seems a light bulb is out. Well better safe than sorry (whatever the hell that means on a plane with over a hundred bulbs.) So we wait. And wait some more. An hour after departure time the mystery unfolds and a lesson is learned. Don’t ever have your light bulb go out during a maintenance worker shift change. The (it’s almost the end of my shift) worker refused to get the bulb and would not tell the (it’s the start of my shift) worker about the need for a bulb. One hour and fifteen minutes later, the bulb was replaced (at a cost we won’t even begin to imagine) and we’re on our way. So glamorous, so restorative.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Travel

 

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Grieving On A Jet Plane

Are there any airplane experiences left that do not bear a strong resemblance to an emergency shelter?  This is not a rhetorical question.

When they asked me to book my own flight, I did so.  When they asked me to check myself in at a kiosk, I touched the screen.  When they asked me to pay for my carry-on bag and seat assignment, I wondered what my ticket was actually for, but I did it.  When told the only thing free of charge that would be passing my lips would be recycled diseased air, I bought my own water and meals.  I did all this expecting nothing more than to safely arrive at my destination within 2-4 hours of the advertised arrival time.  I don’t expect to be greeted by name, or at all.  I don’t expect help hoisting my bag up over my head.  However I also don’t expect to be surrounded by passengers lacking all sense of civility.  The villagers fleeing Anatevka had more respect for their fellow travelers than those on recently endured flight 197.

I’m not convinced that paying $750 additional each way, and sitting in first class, two rows in front of the woman changing her child’s diaper would have been more pleasant than sitting directly behind her.  I’m guessing I also would have heard the battery operated walkie-talkies she had graciously provided her older little cherubs for the trip.  Our little Donna Reed reject would have stood up and shouted (20 aisles) to her oldest child (playing in the galley); “Do you want a soda?” just as easily from first class as she did from coach.  I’m pretty sure I would have still had my seat back kicked by the attention seeking 4 year old who extorted chocolate from his mother by claiming (in anguished peals) that he was afraid of the airplane.  And that elder man seated next to me?  The one engaged in a personal activity so vile as to even embarrass 2 year-olds?  I’m pretty sure he would still be one full knuckle up for two hours in first class.  But I will concede he might have refrained from cleaning his ears with a pen.

I accept (begrudgingly) that the only way to discern passenger from flight attendant is their speed up and down the aisle.  Did my soul weep slightly at the sight of the attendant wearing a fleece jacket and ponytail in a rubber band?  Yes, but I will survive.  Have I learned to ignore the fact that 3/4 of any flight is filled with passengers clearly on their way to rehab?  (Why else would they be wearing attire devoid of zippers, buttons, snaps and laces?)  Yes, I have made my tenuous peace with all of it.  But I refuse to accept (just yet) that I must submit to an atmosphere that feels abusive.

I sincerely am asking, what is a traveler to do?

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Travel

 

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