Friday, January 8, 2010

Holiday Flying

Our travel plan for Christmas was the stuff of nightmares:
1. Frankfurt to Chicago, Chicago to Tampa
2. Tampa to Chicago, Chicago to Seattle
3. Seattle to Missoula
4.Missoula to Denver, and Denver back to Frankfurt

Comparing notes with our friends before the holidays everyone gave us the "you're going through Chicago twice? Are you crazy?" talk. But luckily for us, Chicago missed the massive blizzard that hit the entire Eastern Seaboard (including our other flying options: Dulles and Newark). In fact our only delay the whole trip was two long hours sitting on the runway at Frankfurt because the captain couldn't get the interior lights to work properly. We had a 3 hour layover in Chicago before flying to Florida, and we were watching our minutes tick by and estimating our odds of getting through customs in time. We cut it very close, but made it. Our bags came on the next flight and were delivered to my Grandma's house at 3am.

We flew United/Lufthansa for our transatlantic. They are partner companies, so when flying this route you don't know which you'll actually get. We had United flying west and Lufthansa flying east, and the differences are substantial. In my limited trans-Atlantic experience, I would rank the airlines as follows:

1. Delta. Best food and video options
2. Lufthansa, not as many video choices, but lots of bathrooms and a water fountain.
3. United-- zero legroom. I'm only 5'4" and I had leg cramps. I can't imagine how a tall person would cope.
4.Air Canada. No personal video screens makes Katy go insane.

In other flying news, nearly all American companies are now charging for any checked bags at all, and have cracked down on carry-on size. Ryan's grandmother arrived in Seattle dressed like a homeless person because she had to empty her carry-on to fit it into the new guidelines.

But MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE airline has to be HORIZON. They only fly in North America, but they allow plane-side checking, which is great for that big carry-on you don't want to have squashed between your feet all flight. Also they give out free booze. Even on the 90 minute flight between Seattle and Missoula. And take my word for it, two glasses of wine really helps with bumpy landings. Unfortunately Horizon partners with Alaska, who are not nearly so generous, and its often hard to figure out which plane you'll be getting until after you've bought your ticket.

Of course, the big news was the attempted Christmas Day attack outside of Detroit. What will this mean for airport security? We'll see. The TSA is employing more full-body scanners, or as I call them "naked scanners". But given the fact that the attempted attacker stashed the explosives under his family jewels, I don't know how effective this will be. Flying back there weren't noticeable changes, but I think flying into the US from other countries is going to get a lot more difficult.

I guess we will find out next year.

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