LAX to JFK: The luxury of flying (economy) in 2010

Okay, so it’s still 2009. But close enough.

Rooftop of LAX entrance

Now first thing’s first: I’m not what you would call a frequent flyer. My freshman year of college, I flew home a few times a year, traveling regularly from ONT to OAK (I can only speak in airport speak, sorry).

But since I began dedicating my life to the man, it has not been easy to get away.

I got about 10 days after I graduated, right before I took on an internship and soon after a part-time job.

Now I’ve got another internship and the same part-time job, working seven days a week. And that part-time job happens to be with retail sales at the Apple Store, so time off between October and January is pretty challenging.

Now, since the recessions kicked in, it’s been great to take advantage of cheap flight deals and exploit these merciless companies for all they’ve got. You can get on a plane to Vegas for 20 bucks and vacation destinations are advertised as a couple hundred for a week’s stay. Not too shabby.

But this trip was nothing unusually affordable. $350 or so roundtrip from LA to New York. It’s Thanksgiving week, so I guess I’ll take it, but shoot – I booked the flight nearly three months in advance! (Shoulda planned a year ahead, damn)

But here I am, typing away on my Macbook in a cramped little aisle seat (praise the aisle!).

Now we all know flying has been a headache since 9/11 and I guess that’s OK if it means higher security when threat level hits the color orange. But flying out of Ontario and Oakland is a breeze in comparison to LAX. Normally it takes just a few minutes to get your boarding pass checked, and the security line is what you have to account extra time for.

But at the Delta terminal around 10 a.m. on Friday, it took me close to a half hour just to get my boarding pass stamped. Then, they made us wait 5-10 minutes because the security line up the stairs was full. Then, we got to get into the security line, file around the lineholders like we’re at the DMV, and finally make our way. But hey, at least the TSA people seem pretty chill.

The best part has yet to come. I know that’s all par for the course when it comes to flying these days – I ditched my toiletries at home because I forgot to buy travel sizes: couldn’t even take my deodorant (6 oz.) and barely snuck by with my hand sanitizer (2 oz.). This of course because I chose to carry on all my baggage instead of paying $15 (!) to check a bag, just to wait longer and possibly have it lost (seen it happen).

Now luckily the Delta flight attendants are incredibly courteous and well groomed, but I couldn’t help groaning midway through my free (!) viewing of “Away We Go.” I had already given “Dexter” and “Land Of the Lost” a shot, but one was moving too slow and the other was way too…stupid (sorry Will).

The fact that there are little TVs on the back of every chair is great. It took Jet Blue to realize that the majority of people on a plane despise the in-flight movie and that maybe they’d like to have their own personal selection.

But when the lady over the speakers told us she was rebooting the system, it was pretty, well, silly. Apparently the plane had lost some satellite coverage in the clouds and some schmucks in business (first) class weren’t getting service. But a 13-minute system reboot?! Wow. That’s a litte sad. We can touch our screens, but it takes us twice the time of a coffee break (with no coffee here) to get them up and running again.

Another nuisance is of course the lack of space. I didn’t get a prime choice in seating, and I’ll take an aisle over a middle seat any day. But I can’t fit my 13-inch laptop on the dropdown tray and still be able to see it. It’s more spacious to rest the computer on my lap. Thanks, tray table.

Last but not least is the food. I didn’t have time to grab anything at the terminal, and I of course couldn’t bring anything from home without being stopped and accused of terrorism – or smuggling dope.

So to hear they would be offering a free snack and beverage and offering us a meal to pay for, I was pleased. The prices were relative, the food looked decent; I’ll take it.

But when you’re sitting at the back of the plane, apparently that means all the food is gone before they get to you. Really?? You’re going to hand me a menu, tell me I can order a chicken sandwich, and then tell me you’re out of all meals when you get to my seat?! What kind of crap is that?!

There are two real food choices on the ever so stunning “EATS” Delta flight menu featuring hand-picked Todd English (TE) dishes. WTF? Who the fuck is Todd English? And do you really expect me to believe airplane food on an economy flight is going to be hand-anything? Other than handed to me, that is…

So I got stuck with the fruit and cheese platter — $6 for five grapes, two walnuts, four dry crackers and three chunks of cheese. So generous, Delta! You shouldn’t have. Now I’m cheap and I’m quite carefree, so it does take something for me to be bothered. Like unintelligent design: a tray that won’t fit the standard small-size laptop computer. The trash lady who makes one run in her fresh, new eco-recyclable garbage tote and then disappears for good five minutes after serving, er, selling, us.

But most of all, I was just upset I couldn’t actually get some real food on the goddamn plane. I’ll settle for a half-assed $8 chicken sandwich, at least it’ll fill me till we get there. But to be out of the only two main courses you offer? (The other was a Asian shrimp salad….not sure what was Asian about it though) That’s just rude to your fliers. I can hear it now:

Fly Delta, we’ll be out of food by the time we get to your seat!

Delta: don’t get a seat in back! You’ll not only be served last, but you’ll also have NO selection of food. All this for the same price as the first third of the economy cabin.

Damn you people. Now to get back to my 7-inch movie screening with fuzzy audio coming through pristine headphones.

Oh, and the Lamar Burton lookalike/potential real guy from Reading Rainbow and Star Trek sitting up in business class.

In the end, I still made it! Times Square and Rockefeller Center after family brunch on DAY 1:

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