Musings on Airport Travel

  1. Why is it that the airport with all the interesting places to shop/eat is (always) located in the middle of my trip with limited time to spend there?

  2. Why is it that I always end up being one of the last people off the plane?

  3. Why are there never signs recommending that one take off one’s shoes at the X-ray machines, given that I always hear someone being instructed to take off their shoes?

  4. Why do I want to spell the word “off” with only one “f”?

  5. The airplane wing has the words “No Step” written on it in several places. Is this for the benefit of me, the passanger, in the event of an emergency when we exist through the exit over the wing? Or is it for the benefit of maintainence people, or whomever ends up walking over the wing on a regular basis? Do people walk on the wing regularly?

  6. Why are taxis to take me away from the airport so expensive? And what’s the protocol in selecting a taxi? Do I have to take the one in front, or can I take the one I think will be cheapest?

  7. Why do I always have to walk from where my plane lands to the farthest concourse away in order to get on my next plane?

  8. Why do no two airports have the same layout, put the rental cars in the same place etc.?

  9. Do flight attendents ever rearrange passengers in the interest of balancing the plane better?

  10. Why are the offers for “free tickets anywhere in the continental U.S. for merelly waiting one more hour for your plane” always for some other destination?

  11. Why does it always seem like there is someone in line at the X-ray machines/metal detectors who doesn’t seem to understand the whole “don’t wear anything metal–like a big belt buckle” thing?
    Note: Most of these are sort of rhetorical questions. Several of them I in fact do know the answers to, and might post them later. In the meantime, if you have good, or humorous answers to these questions, or questions of your own about air travel, please contribute them.

They’re for the people who have occasion to walk on the wings; for example, during maintenance. You may also notice NO PUSH in some places.

According to the flight attendant and pilot on the plane I took to Manchester, NH a few weeks ago, yes they do. It was a United flight, and I think we were in a 767. United has this Economy Plus seating that costs something like $30 extra per leg of the trip for extra leg room, and as far as I can tell, you can’t book it via Orbitz or other third-party ticketing services. The check-in kiosks ask you if you want to upgrade, but we didn’t on this trip. When we saw we were stuck in the very last row of the plane, pressed up against the bulkhead and next to the lavatory, we began to question our decision about upgrading - especially because IIRC only 3 people had opted for the Economy Plus seats.

After we’d pulled back from the gate and were taxi-ing, an attendant came up and told everyone in the back row that they had to balance the plane, and that the people in the back row had to grab their carry-on stuff and move up to a particular point in the empty seating area. They also made an announcement to this effect - it emphasized that no one could move to the back row now, but from comments the attendant had made about having to chase people out of the Economy Plus seats and how they were going to be ticked off to see this, I’m assuming it was phrased that way to also avoid any hostility from those people.

Probably because you were one of the last to check in and get a seating assignment. The people who actually show up a couple hours before the flight get the seats up front and get to get off the plane first.
I hate sitting in airports so I rather check-in as close to departure as possible, sit in the rear of the plane, and wait the extra 5 minutes to unload.

5. The airplane wing has the words “No Step” written on it in several places. Is this for the benefit of me, the passanger, in the event of an emergency when we exist through the exit over the wing? Or is it for the benefit of maintainence people, or whomever ends up walking over the wing on a regular basis? Do people walk on the wing regularly?QUOTE]

Despite the fact that airplane wings are incredibly strong on a whole system level, they can also be a little fragile at the micro level. Those notices are for maintenance personnel that need to walk on the wing. A 200 lb man could make small dents in parts of the wing by walking on it and that is a big no-no for a plane that may cost $100,000,000 or more. Small planes have notices like that as well to not step or pull on certain parts. They aren’t built to withstand localized pressure in places.

I paid for my last fours years of college driving a taxi at DFW in the late '80s, so I’ll take a stab at this one. Taxi rates are usually regulated, at DFW it was the City of Dallas doing the regulating. So, theoretically, they should all cost the same. It was customary to take the first taxi in line, and the driver was not allowed to refuse you if you were a short fare. You were allowed to skip to the next taxi if, for some reason you felt uncomfortable with the first one in line. But, the taxi stands were structured such that you only saw the first ones in line.

Now, in practice, were these rules enforced? No.

If it’s in the middle of your trip, it’s likely a hub airport for that airline, it processes a lot of passengers, and it’s worth a franchise’s while to locate there. But I rarely find a shop in an airport I can’t find in a mall, can you?

Either you sit in the back or you’re just slow. Stand up and grab your bag from the overhead as soon as the plane is parked, like everyone else.

It’s more fun for the TSA screener to announce it every 5 seconds. Puts some variety in their work.

What turnip truck did you get off of?

In an emergency evacuation, step wherever the hell you have to. Those signs aren’t for you.

Captive market, also largely on expense accounts. The drivers have to make their money somewhere, don’t they?

Because the better gates were all taken first. Or perhaps you go from one small market to another too often - the airlines may try to put their higher-volume flights closer together at the hub airports.

No two large plots of land are identical.

Yes, but it’s usually the gate agent who assigns the seats who gets a warning signal if he’s putting the airplane out of balance.

Because nobody wants to pay to go there? Actually, I’ve never had that happen - the compensation is always for a later flight with an upgrade, or a generic coupon that’s as useless as a frequent-flyer freebie since those seats are rarely given out if someone else would pay for them.

Since deregulation, a lot more people fly than used to, including a bunch who would be just as happy on a bus. They just don’t know any better.

  1. At SeaTac, we’ve got signs and videos even for the shoes trick.

  2. They’re eternally optimistic. Or they’re morons. memories of seeing some adolescent punk being pulled in for a consultation because of this huge belt with fake bullet shaped thingies The TSA guys were worried about the sharp bits and/or the possibility of them being real, I think.

As to this one, I have to say :confused:

Every time I’ve seen the offer it is to “anywhere we fly in the 48 states (and, usually, Alaska)”

Now, GETTING that free ticket to where you want, when you want, may very well be a herculean effort, but the offer is good for anywhere within those restrictions.

Having said that, with the difficulty of getting a worthwhile itinerary for that free ticket, I always pass on it. If they are offering VOUCHERS, that is, X dollars for your next ticket, that one I will take if it is good enough. Why? In the first place, if you get yourself a ticket with vouchers, it is the same as a paid ticket, i.e., you get the frequent flyer miles for the ride. You get nothing for using a free ticket. Plus, if you don’t use all of the value of the voucher, the remaining dollars can be applied towards your next flight.

Better than that, is cash. You can apply that to anything. Sadly, this is a vanishing breed.

Or you could just sit patiently and wait for the aircraft to start emptying, then get your bags and walk out. You will meet all those that were first off, waiting at the baggage carousel.

Since the shops are for people starting their trip, not in the middle of one. Few people want to go through security again to shop. So you need to travel to places with malls in the airport. :slight_smile:

You must like sitting in the back of the plane?

You can ask the taxi dispatcher, or someone in the information booth, what the fare should be into the city from the airport. It’s often on the airport’s website. As mentioned, this is regulated in most cities - part of the deal letting the taxis on airport property. It doesn’t mean that they won’t take advantage of someone who looks gullible, though. Choosing another taxi won’t affect the price.

That’s not the way it works. If you have a tight connection, then you have to walk miles. If you have an hour and a half between flights, your connection is one gate over.

This has only happened to me on very small planes. If there is a lot of empty space, you are usually allowed to move anywhere you want after the door closes.

Ok, that makes sense. (Thanks also to the others who answered that musing)

Read: one of the last to buy a ticket. My last flight I only bought a ticket a week or so before the flight–and the last couple before that have only been a couple of weeks notice. So yes, I’ve gotten seats towards the extreme rear of the aircraft, which means that I might as well stay seated and read another few pages of my book as try to push my way further forward–especially when I have a window seat.

Tully Mars’s comments on taxi protocol make sense–but the real answer to the question is “Taxis from airports always seem terribly expensive because it is (almost) the only time I take a taxi, so I don’t have a good sense for how much it should cost”.
ElvisL1ves is correct in speculating that the middle airport in my recent trips have been hubs. (and Voyager is correct is suggesting (indirectly) that the problem is that I fly to too small airports to have interesting shops there, usually. Also, I have more abundant free time at the airport I’m starting at due to a dose of paranoia. I don’t really “need” to be there two hours early, but I don’t want to be late due to a line at the rental car place, etc. so the next thing I know I’m at the airport, car turned in, checked in, through security, and my flight is behind schedule, so I’ve got at least two hours to wait. (Details may vary–also actual wait time. The most recent time, my flight wasn’t delayed, but my ride was only available to take me to the airport really early, so I had 3 hours to kill. The hub in the middle-- I had an hour and a half, and a really long walk).

In addition to other theories provided, I think the long walks I’ve had lately are also attributable to having one really small plane, and one pretty large plane involved in my transport. They put all the really small planes together, and the large planes on a different concourse. The concourses aren’t neccessarily the farthest apart at that airport, it just seems that way.

10. Why are the offers for “free tickets anywhere in the continental U.S. for merelly waiting one more hour for your plane” always for some other destination? **

This was close to the exact wording used while I was waiting the last time. I’m sure about the time delay promised. Other times I’ve heard other variations, including an offer at the check-in counter for delaying my flight for a $10 compensation. The ticket counter lady laughed at that. She figured it was an error. But mostly, these kind of offers (comments on the lack of value of the promised compensation noted) don’t have to be common–and yes, the bigger values catch one’s attention better than smaller values.

That’s what I do. When you stand up straight away and get your bags, you just end up waiting around on your feet when you could be waiting while sitting down. Once the aircraft doors actually open and some of the backlog of people thins out, disembarking is actually pretty quick no matter where you are seated. And the reality is that you are still going to be waiting around for your baggage, so why not stay in your seat and enjoy your book a bit longer.

As for your comments about buying tickets, the US airlines may operate differently, but my experience in Australia is that seat allocation is generally done when you check in*. If you are early to check-in you can normally get the seat of your choice (an isle seat in an exit row is my preference.)

*There is one airline, Jetstar, who have recently decided to change from free-for-all seating (passengers grab their seats as they board the plane), to a system where you can reserve an actual seat as part of your booking. Other Australian airlines don’t do this though.

Qantas have self check-in where you enter your name into a check-in kiosk. It confirms your booking and then graphically presents the aircraft seating layout. You can choose any seat that is available. It is worth noting, with this system, that exit rows are not available at this point, this does not mean they are taken though. You can still get an exit row by going to a baggage check-in counter and requesting one.

I thought I head an airline announce that they were switching from “boarding by row number” to “everybody at once” in their boarding process. They did some studies that indicated they could actually board the jet faster that way. It will be interesting to see how this works in the long run.

I do know that Ryanair maintain that their unreserved seating aids quick turnarounds. However, I suspect this is partly because it means that people who wants a specific seat, or a group of seats together, wait eagerly at the gate, rather than wandering around the terminal until the last minute.