This year for vacation I simply want to travel in the United States rather than Europe because there is so much I still have left to see in our great and beautiful country.
I was fortunate to start my first trip of the summer this past week. A friend was celebrating a big birthday and invited about 50 of us to travel to Champaign, Illinois.
She is the Director of Teacher Education at the University.
After the four-day celebration I then traveled to the Island of Mackinac, Michigan and then to Chicago as the last stop in a seven-day trip.
Mackinac Island is beautiful and unique. You can only get there by ferry, and the whole islands transportation system is by horse and carriage and bicycles.
Had the opportunity to stay at the Grand Hotel. It rained the whole time but what a way to look back in time and experience how people moved around for so many years.
Champaign is a lovely college town with a newly renovated down town and one new hotel, the Hyatt Regency. The hotel prices were incredible, and several us were lucky enough to get a suite which was huge, modern, and had a full view of downtown, and open farming fields all for the price of $240 dollars nightly.
What fun to land at a small airport with no wait lines and an easy baggage claim. Outside the airport you immediately see nothing but large areas of grass, trees, and newly planted colorful flowers. Out of a plane and into a car in ten minutes.
Champaign does not have the many things to do we have in Newport but it has a change of scenery that is much needed by me. No traffic, less people, no homes sitting on top of each.
The part of the trip that was a learning experience, and a troubling one, is the control the airlines now have on us.
I was on five flights in seven days. I always try to avoid changing planes when possible to avoid lost luggage, possible cancellations and longer wait times at airports.
However, Champaign requires a trip from Orange County to Chicago and then a commuter plane to Champaign or a rental car ride to the city. The commuter plane was so small I felt like a sardine in a very tight can. You also cannot take your carry-on luggage with you inside the cabin. This presents a huge problem for me.
Since having my suitcase stolen last year from outside my home ten minutes before leaving for Europe, I am especially cognizant of how important it is to have some back up clothes, shoes, make-up, tooth brush and items of necessity with me at all times.
The carry on can get you through another day or more anywhere you go until your luggage shows up or you buy new things.
Commuter planes separate you from your carry on while in flight and then it have to be retrieved somewhere after you get off the plane. Here is another chance for it to be lost or stolen or gone through by someone looking for passports, money, jewelry, and of course our tech tools.
Today watching the news I was shocked to discover that Delta now is considering preloading our carry-ons to speed up the boarding process. Their staff would place your carry on above your seat. Once one carrier starts this process it is likely the others will do the same.
The places I fly to most are the Delta Airline routes. Our carry-ons are sacred ground to most of us regular fliers and an important part of us if we get grounded or delayed. People with young children have to have a bag with them at all times for various reasons.
A large part of why it takes so long to board passengers also has to do with the airlines method of making huge dollars by charging everyone except first class for every bag they take on a trip. People bring more stuff on the plane to avoid these fees. It is that very policy regarding bags that is causing us to now have to possibly give up our carry on.
The next big rip-off comes for changing a ticket. Since not liking the commuter plane my friend and I decided to not fly back through Champaign on our way home from Mackinac. We called American airlines and said we would not be using our seats and expected to get a refund (as her sister-in-law had done). We were charged extra money for giving up the seats and got no refund.
So American Airlines gets to resell two seats we gave up and make an extra $200 from us for not using them.
What kind of business model do we call this? I guess it also depends on what person you get in the Call Center when you need to make a change in flight.
Next time we will hang up and call a different person and try to at least minimize paying more for something that we pre-paid for but will not be used.
We need passenger regulations, and consumer rights. This has gone too far.
That is my Travel Take,
Dr. Gloria J. Alkire,