Saturday, June 1, 2013

The miracle of flight ...


"Were you made to feel like a valued and special customer during Air France flight 0012 from Paris, Charles de Gaulle (CDG), to New York, John F. Kennedy (JFK) on 05/28/2013?"

After reading the above question in the Air France Customer Satisfaction online survey, I let out a snort of disbelief. A valued and special customer!? Were we talking about the same flight, the one with the chaotic boarding process at Charles de Gaulle Airport that resulted in the economy class passengers snapping and snarling at each other out of frustration? Or perhaps the survey was referring to the opportunity that I had to interact with the Air France ground staff in Boston while filing a lost baggage form. After all, who wants to go immediately to their hotel and drop into bed after a long flight? Certainly not me!

As an expat who has lived in far-flung countries around the world, I've developed a love-hate relationship with air travel. For years, planes have carried me across time zones. They've delivered me into the warm embrace of my family. After my father's unexpected death, being cocooned in a plane for eight hours offered a welcome respite from reality. The noise of the jet engines muffled the sounds of my tears as I came to grips with the finality of his death and realized that for the first time in my life he wouldn't be waiting at the airport to greet me. Planes were even more important when we lived on islands. Physically cut off from the rest of the world, they represented freedom. Other than a boat, planes were the only way to escape the island if there was a coup, something which used to be a valid concern when we lived on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

Hoping to regain my appreciation for air travel, I was happy to have a window seat during my flight from Boston to Washington DC on Thursday afternoon. Gazing at the puffy cloud formations and the green and blue tapestry far below, I realized that it's a miracle to be able to soar through the clouds. The sensation was so strong that I didn't even mind waiting an hour and forty-five minutes for Stéphane to clear immigration. All of the joyous reunions at Dulles Airport reminded me that a little bit of discomfort is a small price to pay in exchange for the joy you feel when you're welcomed home by the ones you love.

The relative ease with which we can now travel from one country to another has been on my mind ever since Thomas Stumpner sent the link for an account of a woman's journey from Chicago to France to visit her son's grave shortly after World War II. Please click here to read "Silver Wings to Europe".

Waiting in the international arrivals hall at Dulles Airport in Washington DC




9 comments:

  1. I've had the same feeling after many of my flights with AF, don't know why I still stick with them hehe...


    xx Le Grumeau

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    1. I guess you stick with AF for the same reason I do -- we live in Paris! ;) Still, they're a better option than lots of the American carriers so I don't usually mind. At least they serve free champagne!

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  2. I have been having great trips with United and Lufthansa. Highly amusing, though, is my new Global Access card from the TSA. Both times I used it departing Reagan National, I have been "pre-selected" for additional screening. It was terrific though, the last time we returned from Europe and sailed past Customs lines!

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    1. Thanks for the info about the Global Access card. I've been thinking about getting one. The only problem is that it wouldn't work on the rare occasions that I travel with my husband. Unfortunately, they only allow American citizens, residents of the USA, Mexicans, South Koreans and people from some other country to apply for the GA Cards. My husband started looking more seriously at the regulations after waiting 1 hr and 45 minutes at Dulles. It's a sore point with him that Swiss people aren't allowed to have them. If they ever change the regulations, we'll definitely get cards!

      Strange that you were "pre-selected" for additional screening!

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  3. I too have a love have relationship with air travel. I travel frequently and I find it exciting because I am going somewhere but scary and uncomfortable at the same time.

    The only way I can cope is to sit on an aisle seat and try to forget I am in a cigar shaped tube thousands of feet up in the air and there is nothing between me and the ground but the floor of the aircraft! It is only recently that I have been able to look out of the window. With the confidence of regular air travel actually being safer than the ride to the airport!

    As to airlines....well they are much of a muchness. Gone are the days of air travel being a luxury and being treated like royalty. ( unless you can afford first class, but who pays those prices?) and I find it amazing how similar airports are. You could be anywhere in the world.

    I can never understand the scrum at boarding when people have allocated seats. What is the rush? the plane will not set off without you if you are at the gate. Even on airlines like easyjet, where seats are not allocated. I always wait till last. and are perplexed by the fight. On a short journey what does it matter if you don't sit next to your loved one and my experience is that people are willing to move for families. The stewardess has often moved me to accommodate a family.
    .
    In the UK, budget airlines have opened up the world to the working classed and good for them. The concept that getting on a plane is like getting on a bus instead of a luxurious unique experience and just to get you from A to B.

    BTW, have you registered for the PARAFE at CDG. it works on fingerprints and allows you to sail through the glass box at security instead of the long queue.

    http://www.aeroportsdeparis.fr/ADP/en-GB/Passagers/Procedure-practical-information/Crossing-Borders-Easily/

    Love Denise

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    1. "The scrum at boarding" - that is how I shall think of it from now on, Denise! It will put a smile on my face as I watch everyone rushing for a seat ... so that they can sit for 8 hours.

      I love PARAFE! I don't qualify for it as an American but I do as a Swiss. It's one of the reasons I LOVE my Swiss passport: Why I love my Swiss passport - PARAFE (Automated Fast Track Border Crossing)

      The first time that I traveled to Europe it was on Sir Freddie Laker's Laker Airlines. I worked, scrimped and saved all through high school so that I could afford a trip to Europe before I started university. Thank goodness for the arrival of low cost, no-frills airlines!

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  4. Denise, I feel exactly as you do about flying! I think that the boarding rush is to secure overhead bin space, at least that is what I see in the Washington, DC area.

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    1. Unfortunately, the rush to secure overhead bin space seems to be worldwide. It's gotten worse ever since airlines reduced the number of checked bags per passenger.

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