(AP photo of BWI)
Skip this if you saw it on the news or if it's likely to cause a horrible flashback of one of your own similar travel experiences.
I was scheduled to fly into Pittsburgh's airport around noon on Saturday. My Southwest connecting flight had gotten me to BWI (Baltimore) on time and our plane was loaded around 11 AM. We sat on the runway for a while and then they unloaded the plane telling us there would be a short delay because of a regional computer problem. New departure times were set and then reset. Finally sometime after 2 PM, our flight, like most of the other flights around the DC area, was cancelled.
BWI is a huge hub for Southwest and so the lines for the customer service desks were massive and moved ever-so-slowly. After 30 minutes, I gave up to try and retrieve my luggage. About an hour later I found my luggage and then took the shuttle to the rent-a-car facility where I found more long lines as some of the agencies were already out of cars. Some time after 6 PM I got lucky (?) and was rented a Kia (I think the person behind me got a Yugo) and then began my trek to the Pittsburgh airport to retrieve my car. Semi-exhausted, I gave up in Hagerstown and finally made it to Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon. My experience was not a good one but I'm sure it was a minor irritant compared to the problems faced by the elderly, those with special travel needs, or a parent with a couple of screaming kids.
I'm old enough to remember when travelling by air was a pleasant experience. For most of us the decline has probably been in baby steps so that the present experience doesn't feel that much worse than our previous experience. And then you experience something like Saturday which affords you ample time to reflect upon how much worse the overall experience has become. On a good air travel day you are still faced with long lines everywhere, full planes, seats with no leg or elbow room (Southwest is the worst), hidden fees, a tiny bag of pretzels for sustenance, and, of course, increased fares despite fuel costs that are half of what they were a year ago. ( I hope the Justice Department is serious about its airline collusion investigation.)
I'm done with my rant -- back to more important matters.