Thursday, February 16, 2006

NW892 Thursday 16 Feb 2006

Our Northwest flight to Detroit was delayed about 20 minutes. Not a problem for us because we had a 2-hour wait there anyway. So we walk down the Gate 47 ramp and there's a traffic jam. Jammed because people with rolling suitcases have been commanded to surrender their bags to the check-in crew. I try to get past but no, She Who Must Be Obeyed says my bag is too big. I protest that it fit within their size gauge... but to no avail. In haste I pull out my briefcase, my toilet kit, scarf, hat. I should have grabbed socks and underwear too, but I was suffering from Wishful Thinking.

"You're not going to lose this for me, are you?" I ask.

She is not amused. "I don't check in bags to lose them. Where are you going?"

I tell her, she tags it; resigned, we enter the airplane.

About half way to our seats, I behold gaping empty bins. A friendly midwesterner points them out. "Your bag coulda fit here!" he says. A few seconds later, he calls out "Or here!"

Our seats are 20 B-C. There is a young woman in 20A who is very unhappy about having had to check in her carry-on bag (she'd borrowed it from her roommate specifically to avoid the baggage-claim annoyance). She mentioned this to a flight attendant, who remarked that she was the third passenger to mention this to her. "Could I be the fourth?" I asked.

Jenny suddenly remembers that she left her purse in the now-checked bag. A quick prayer to protect her purse, and, well, that's all to be done for it. There is all kinds of space here, and because this airplane doesn't have life jackets under the seats, both my briefcase and my computer bag can fit, standing up, under the seat in front of me. This is my grumpy way of saying that my bag would definitely have fit there!

After a while, I get up to go to the restroom. There are two in the back of the plane, but one of them is inoperative, taped shut.

A four-hour flight, and just one restroom for all of coach. Well, things could be worse, and perhaps I've been spoiled, but I've come to expect better performance.

The line for the restroom remained long, but at some point the flight attendants started escorting some of us "gate freight" to one of the first-class restrooms.

The flight wore on, and pretty soon it started getting dark. The young woman in 20A tried to turn on her light -- it didn't work. She said for the third or fourth time that she'll never fly Northwest again. I think it was around this time she said she'd discourage everyone she knew from flying Northwest.

I told her she probably would, because the risk of a screwup -- or in this case multiple screwups (making her check her bag when there was plenty of space; a broken light; a busted toilet) probably did not outweigh the annoyance of changing planes in Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City (scratch that, no TWA) and the extra money, etc. At least this is how I look at it. These guys are effectively aiming at the low end -- getting people to put up with substandard service by low-balling the price.

This does not lead to happy employees or happy customers.

The landing in Detroit was bumpy. Two barf bags were used.

The flight to Grand Rapids was OK, except another barf bag was used. And my bag didn't get there. I will go back to the airport some time today,perhaps this evening, to see if my underwear made it to Grand Rapids.

Northwest, there are about a half-dozen people very annoyed with the agent (gate agent? flight attendant?) who insisted their bags be checked when there were empty luggage bins all over the rear half of the airplane.

Friday Evening Update -- 2/17

We stopped at the GRR airport about 4 or 5pm Friday, and my bag was there. Jenny's purse was still in it, with all her cash. Hooray!

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