Yesterday I made the journey from Cleveland to Mexico City. Everything went smoothly... in fact, the trip was rather pleasant.
Everyone complains about how miserable air travel is today. Without a doubt, it's nothing like it was more than 40 years ago when I first started to travel. In those days, even in economy class, the seats were comfortable and everyone received a half-way decent meal. Flying was an adventure, and people dressed up for the event. Now, in order to cram as many paying customers into the plane as possible, comfort is generally a thing of the past, and unless you are on a trans-oceanic flight, you have to pay for a measly snack box. At certain airports I have experienced terribly long lines at security or customs.
However (I am forcefully knocking on wood as I write this), I must say that it has been a long time since I have had a missed connection or have had a piece of luggage go missing. There are people who bad mouth United Airlines. I do wish that Continental had not merged, but I really have never had a dreadful experience with United since the merger.
Some also gripe that the airline staff, the flight crews and the TSA employees are rude. I scratch my head over that one. I have not experienced any rudeness (even from TSA), and usually everyone is quite friendly. I suspect that if you follow the rules, quit whining, and have a cheerful attitude, the staff will reciprocate with a similar attitude.
This year, thanks to having done a huge amount of traveling last year, I have "Premier Silver" status on United Airlines. That means that I receive free upgrades to first class if any seats are available. Usually there are none available; I have only been upgraded once to first class so far this year. However, when I arrive at the gate, I have been asking the person at the counter if there are any "Economy Plus" seats (the ones with more leg room) available. More often than not, they have switched me for free to a roomier "Economy Plus" seat. But it doesn't happen automatically: I have to politely ask for it.
Yesterday it seemed that everything worked out well. One nice thing about a smaller airport like Cleveland's is that there are generally short lines at check-in and security. The process was made even easier by the fact that I had "TSA Pre" on my boarding pass. For some reason, perhaps because of my frequent flyer status, I usually get "TSA Pre". That means that I get to use the security checkpoint that involves less hassle... I don't have to take off my shoes or my jacket, and I don't have to remove my computer or my liquids bag from my carry-on. I think that I finished check-in and security in about twenty minutes.
My flight from Cleveland to Houston was on one of United's smaller commuter jets. The flight was completely booked so there was no opportunity for an upgrade. The flight left on time. In spite of the full aircraft, it seemed a bit more spacious, and (was I dreaming?) there seemed to be a tad more leg room. The flight attendant announced that this was a brand new plane, a new model that United is putting into service. It seems like wishful thinking, but could we possibly hope that the airlines are going to start designing planes that are more comfortable???
We arrived in Houston a half hour ahead of schedule. My flight to Mexico City was on a standard size plane. As usual, I asked at the gate about a free upgrade to "Economy Plus". The fellow told me that the flight was fully booked. I don't know how he pulled if off, but before boarding, he was able to change my seat to "Economy Plus". Not only that, but it was the first row of economy, right behind the partition with first class. I had even more leg room; I could stretch my legs out completely!
The good luck continued when we landed in Mexico City at around 9:10 PM (twenty minutes ahead of schedule). The last time I traveled to Mexico City the line at Immigration was horrendous. I think I waited nearly an hour! This time, it seems that our flight was the only international arrival. Also I was close to the front of the plane, so I was among the first off of the aircraft. By the time Mexican citizens went to their separate line at Immigration, I only had two people ahead of me in line. I was in and out in a flash. I waited longer for my suitcase at the baggage carousel. Going through customs I got the green light and did not have my luggage inspected. On the other side, my friend Alejandro was waiting for me, and he drove me to the apartment that I have rented.
So, as you see, it was quite a "hassle-free" day of travel... hopefully a sign that the entire trip is going to be splendid.