Pulling the Plug: Final Thoughts

Old Nov 21, 2022, 9:32 am
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Cool Pulling the Plug: Final Thoughts

With my second retirement looming next year and only one more trip for my employer, a few thoughts after 2.3 million miles on Delta, nearly a million on BA, a ton of forgettable trips on the late, unlamented US Air, and sundry journeys on Tajik, Albanian, Aeroflot, Ariana Afghan, Kenya, Iraqi, Air India, and the like:

1) I never cared what I was fed in bizclass. All I wanted to do was sleep and work, in that order. But for what it's worth, my best bizclass meals were back when Delta served soup as a main course. It hydrated and warmed me, and helped me sleep. I still miss it. (Aeroflot domestic meals in the 1990s were best described as "slopping the hogs," and surely allowed them to retire the trophy as the most consistently nauseous cabin service in civil aviation history.)

2) I've had some scary flights, including an aborted takeoff in Sharjah, a food service cart strapped to the emergency exit handle in Albania, and nape-of-the-earth flying in a BA 747 to avoid antiaircraft missiles during the Gulf War. But the scariest was when I boarded a US Air flight at the old Pittsburgh hub and my seat did not have a back; the flight crews dispatched a maintenance tech to the sold-out flight, and he unhelpfully suggested that I might lean forward during takeoff and landing. That was how my last-ever US Air flight ended –– storming off the plane in disgust and heading to a DL customer service rep.

3) I still miss two airlines: PSA and Northwest Orient. If you ever flew either of them, you know why.

4) I once flew as the lone passenger on an AA flight to Port-au-Prince from MIA; it was the last flight in before they suspended service during one of the many 1990s Haitian crises. The crew was terrific, and I got all the food I wanted.

5) My best move was abandoning the AA-BA alliance and taking my Pan Am miles to Delta. Never regretted it. They don't always make strategic decisions that I like, but they have never stranded me or left me wishing I had ridden a bicycle instead of flying.

6) Say what you will about about the old Sabena, but they were the source of my most memorable flight. They were partners with DL, and they had a New Year's special package via Delta travel: JFK-BRU outbound Christmas Day, return New Year's Eve Two person with hotel, total cost $500 per person. I pounced and took my 12-year-old son. On the return, Sabena had brand-new aircraft, and since it was New Year's Eve, there would be free Champagne. What they didn't say was that it would be served each time we crossed westbound into a time zone where we would be flying when midnight local time passed. Thanks to the Great Circle Route, an 11 p.m. departure and winter headwinds, we experienced four New Year celebrations, cheerfully announced by the pilot.

My 12-year-old got a little jigger of Champagne for each celebration. Hey, Belgians look at wine differently that we New World colonials.

7) Never check a bag at ORD. Ever. And fly out of Midway instead. Better, take the train from NYC.

8) But my most memorable moment was on the ground. Maybe a decade ago I hit 2 million miles on a JFK-MEX flight, and before I boarded I was feted with a bottle of wine and other goodies, presented by the station manager, pilot in command and DL customer service rep.

When we landed at MEX, the flight attendant said the pilot wanted me to wait on board, so I did. After everyone disembarked (I hate the term "deplaned") the pilot asked me to follow him. We walked past the very long lines at immigration, and at the crew station each member flashed their IDs. When it was my turn, the immigration agent had her hand out for my ID and instead all I had was my passport. The crew all together pointed to me and said, "He's an airline official." Immigration stamped my visa and away I went!

Too cool. Like I said, never regretted switching to Delta.

9) Did I mention that no one should check bags at ORD?

10) The one moment when I questioned whether flying was to best mode of transportation: I had just taken Air India from KBL to DEL and grabbed a newspaper to read in the taxi to the hotel. On the front page: A dozen or so Air India pilots were caught with counterfeit pilot licenses. (For the record, my onward flight to Milan was on Jet Airways,)

11) My most annoying moment: I was in Italy for a meeting and about to head home when the office called and changed my flight to MXP-CDG-KWI, via Alitalia and Air France. At MXP I boarded Alitalia on a ticket issued via American Express, but when I got to CDG, an AF agent was waiting: How was I able to board? I showed her my boarding pass, but she explained that no one ever paid for the ticket. Alitalia had issued me a boarding pass with no ticket!

The AF agent marched me off to their AF FTO and I was presented with the sole option of a 10,000 euro ticket for CDG-KWI-JFK with the only flight leaving in one hour. I called Amex and they swore the original ticket had been paid and issued -- they even had an Alitalia ticket number. Then to make matters worse, the FTO agent said that I had to pay a 100 euro penalty because I was buying the ticket at the airport! I simply refused to pay the lousy 100 euros, and the AF "customer service" rep stood her ground. They finally shaved 100 euros off the ticket price so that they could still charge me the penalty.

Dweebs.

I was so pissed off that when I got to KWI I made a beeline for Emirates' CTO and bought a one-way bizclass ticket to JFK for just $1,500, a Ramadan special fare.

When I got back to NYC, AF told me that the 10,000-euro ticket was non refundable!

I threw the problem to Amex, my company's longstanding travel agent, who several months later got AF to refund the ticket by threatening to blackball them.

Adios, traveling for work. I won't miss it. From now on, I fly for me.




The perfect day: 2 million miles and great flight to MEX.

Last edited by RIP-PSA; Nov 21, 2022 at 7:24 pm
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 9:57 am
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great story! upvote for FT Hall of Fame (if that even exists)
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 10:15 am
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Congrats on the (2nd) retirement! Sounds like an amazing career. That was a great read. I'm shocked by the seat thing on US...wow.

Originally Posted by RIP-PSA
After everyone debarked (I hate the term "deplaned")
I mean I guess many folks refer to an airplane as a "ship", but I think of a ship when I hear "debark". When I google "debark", all the hits on the first page were actually about dogs.
strickerj, becks1 and OldAsiaHand like this.
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 11:27 am
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This post was awesome and a pleasure to read! I was expecting this to be a complaint thread.
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 11:28 am
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I see you've been on FlyerTalk for 20 years next month. What a great post with wonderful stories looking back at all your years flying. I loved your story of your 2MM flight. "He's an airline official."
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 11:35 am
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Originally Posted by HDQDD
Congrats on the (2nd) retirement! Sounds like an amazing career. That was a great read. I'm shocked by the seat thing on US...wow.



I mean I guess many folks refer to an airplane as a "ship", but I think of a ship when I hear "debark". When I google "debark", all the hits on the first page were actually about dogs.
The more common word is disembark of courseto disbark is a verb meaning to strip of bark from a tree!
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 11:35 am
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This is one of the single best posts I've ever read on FT. Thank you for sharing the stories! If I may ask, what sort of work led to all of that flying to such a variety of places? Sadly, my line of work basically only gets me between SEA and SFO these days

Congrats on retirement and flying for yourself now. May there, be, uh, fewer instances of avoiding anti aircraft missiles in your future!
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 11:35 am
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Originally Posted by HDQDD
Congrats on the (2nd) retirement! Sounds like an amazing career. That was a great read. I'm shocked by the seat thing on US...wow.



I mean I guess many folks refer to an airplane as a "ship", but I think of a ship when I hear "debark". When I google "debark", all the hits on the first page were actually about dogs.
Or trees! It's "disembark". A great read, any way you slice it, though! Thanks for the musings OP, and congrats.
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 12:31 pm
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Your post made me smile, so many great memories and some not so great but overall what an amazing life flying. Congratulations and best of luck on this new chapter of your life ✨️
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 12:37 pm
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Fabulous post. What I have noticed here is that for every person who hates Airline A and loves Airline B, there is someone who hates Airline B and loves Airline A.

Probably because they are all mediocre.
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 1:19 pm
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Chalk me up as another that considers this a fantastic post. Kudos to you!
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 1:48 pm
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Right you are!
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 1:50 pm
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As pointed out elsewhere, it's disembark. I'll fix the text so as not to spread the misused English.
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 2:16 pm
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A fantastic post. Loved the recollections.

Thank you.
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Old Nov 21, 2022, 2:18 pm
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Great post. Congratulations on retirement!
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