Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

You know this whole air travel thing wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for one thing...

..the waiting. Not the waiting at the gate to board or the waiting on the plane to takeoff (under normal circumstances of course). It's the waiting in line--sometimes one intermit table, never-ending line after another--that saps your energy, crushes your spirit, and drains whatever sense of adventure and pleasure that modern air travel still possesses.

Today was a perfect example for me. I waited in line for the quarantine check crew to arrive in Nanjing this morning so that we could pass through their inspection. Then, I waited for the ticket agents to show up so we could check in. Then, I waited in the immigration/security line. Three lines. So far.

In Hong Kong, I had to wait in a transfer line to get a boarding pass for my Philippine Airlines flight to Manila. The line itself wasn't particularly long, but it moved at a snail's pace. Every transaction going down in front of me apparently required two or three phone calls by the agent, a half dozen puzzled expressions, and several thousand keystrokes before a boarding pass could be printed. A frickin' boarding pass. Then, it was another wait in yet another security checkpoint line.

Lest you think that all my accounts of air travel are nothing but self-indulgent whining about what doesn't work (yes, I got your e-mail Atomizer), let me share a few positive experiences. On my Philippine Air flight from Hong Kong, the Airbus 320 had a video camera installed somewhere near the front wheel. As the plane taxied to take off we were treated to a live shot from said camera on the cabin video monitors. After takeoff, the camera was aimed down so we could see the runway and then sea grow increasingly distant as the aircraft took flight. Very cool.

And on my Dragonair flight from Nanjing to Hong Kong, I told the flight attendant that my son liked dragons and asked if there was anything she could give me with the company's logo on it. A deck of cards perhaps. She returned with a goodie bag with three Dragonair postcards, two in-flight entertainment (distraction) kits for kids, and two decks of cards. Now THAT was was service above and beyond the call.

By the way, when I arrived in Manila and passed through immigration, I was the first one in line. No waiting.

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