Thursday, March 4, 2010
Tim Waites from Phoenix, Arizona writes:
Dear Mr. Sunshine,
I'm an Informational Technology consultant, so my job requires a lot of travel. Over the past few years, I've noticed that the airline system has gone straight to hell. I make it a point to get to the airport two hours before my scheduled departure so I can check in and pass through security, but inevitably my flight gets delayed and I wind up sitting around the airport for five or six hours. In fact, just a couple weeks ago I had to fly from Phoenix to Des Moines to attend a seminar entitled "Byte Me: How the Internet Screws Up Society." Well, instead of leaving at 4:00 as scheduled, my flight didn't depart until after midnight. Is there anything travelers can do to deal with these frequent delays?
Instead of focusing on the inconvenience of delayed flights, which are beyond your control, make the most of the extra time that your airline has so thoughtfully provided. There are many exciting activities that you can organize on short notice.
First, though, you'll need to determine just how much time you'll have to fill. If you're booked on a reasonably reliable airline, say Southwest, your flight will probably be delayed for less than an hour. If you're flying Delta, plan for sixty to ninety minutes. Of course, if you're one of the unfortunate souls who still flies American Airlines, you may as well break out the sleeping bags, popcorn and DVDs and get ready for a good old-fashioned slumber party.
If you're into gambling, you might consider appointing yourself your gate's "bookie" and take bets on your eventual departure time. I'd suggest one of the two following formats. The simplest would be to have all the passengers on your flight kick in five bucks and pick a departure time. The person closest to the actual time (without going over) wins the entire pot. Or you could establish what's known as an "over/under". As the bookie, you predict a departure time, say, 5:35 PM. Bettors would then place wagers on whether the flight would leave before or after the set time. Some lucky passenger could end up winning a hundred bucks or so, which could pay for an in-flight drink or two.
Another fun activity would be an airport scavenger hunt. Put together a list of items, divide your flightmates into teams of four to six, and see who could complete their list first. There are lots of interesting items to be found in the terminal. You might include: a child's shoe, a broken luggage tag, the flight number of a plane that's actually leaving on time, a photo of someone sleeping and/or passed out, someone else's boarding pass, one of the X-ray trays from the security checkpoint, a pilot's hat. You're only limited by your imagination.
If your travel plans include changing planes at another airport, with your delay there's a really good chance that you're going to miss your connection or at least cut it close. If you can find someone on your flight that's making the same connection, how about holding an "Airport Steeplechase" from your arrival gate to your departure gate? This will be especially exciting in airports like Dallas-Fort Worth where the terminals are in different ZIP codes and you have to use their impossibly convoluted monorail system. Plowing through your fellow travelers, sprinting up escalators, and dealing with last-minute gate changes will turn potential stress into the heart-pumping thrill of athletic competition.
You see, Tim, flight delays are only a nuisance if you allow them to be. Sure, you could sit around the airport drinking ten-dollar beers and listening to kids whine to their parents, but why put yourself through all that? If you tap into your creativity and spirit of adventure, those extra hours until departure will just fly by.