A tale of two airports

I returned late Tuesday night from visiting with my grandchildren and I had an absolutely wonderful time. The two boys are 5 and 2 ½ and a lot of fun, curious and energetic. The only downside was that on the morning after my return I threw up and had a slight fever. Naturally, my first thought was that I had got covid but the test turned out to be negative. Then the following day, my temperature was back to normal and a second covid test also showed negative. Since I had no other symptoms at all, I think I had got food poisoning on the trip home.

It was my first flight in over two years thanks to the pandemic and I was reminded once again what a terrible experience flying is.

But I was able to compare two very different airport types. I left and returned from Monterey which has a small regional airport and it was interesting to see how a small airport operated. The ticketing area was a single room that consisted of about eight positions for all the four airlines that serve the airport. On my way out, the woman who checked me in at the ticketing counter later showed up as the person who checks people in at the gate. When the plane arrived, she went out on the tarmac and was one of the people with those little light saber thingies that guide the plane to the gate. Once the plane got there, she went and helped unload the luggage from the plane onto the carts. Talk about being versatile! I was half-expecting her to next get on the plane and fly it too.

The TSA security checkpoint was in the next room to the check-in area with just one person checking the ID and what was nice was that there was no line at all so I just breezed through the ID check and the security screening. The boarding area was in the next room and consisted of just four boarding gates. In short, the place was highly compact which made everything speedy. On my return, there was only one baggage claim carousel which is also right there and when you go out the door, the taxi stand and ride share pick up location is just there. It is all so convenient.

I had to make connections at Phoenix airport on both trips and the contrast was staggering because that airport is massive. To get from my arrival gate to my next flight departure gate was easily over a mile even though I was not changing airlines. Fortunately about a third of it consisted of moving walkways but still it was quite a hike through rather barren hallways. I had a three hour layover so I was not worried about missing my connection but on my return my layover was much shorter so this time I got a ride on one of those electric carts that airports have to ferry people around and I am glad I did because this time the distance to my departure gate was even greater. Boston airport is also large and to get from the ride-share drop off point to the ticketing counter was also quite a hike.

On my return trip, I had a very nice person sit next to me and we had an interesting conversation that made the long flight more pleasant. But there was also some drama. A couple right behind us were having a major domestic spat that kept going on and on loudly, so much so that other passengers told them to shut the hell up, that no one was interested in their problems and to save it for after they landed. The woman also alleged that the man had hit her, which he denied. I think that they had been drinking quite a bit too, which did not help the situation. The flight attendants tried to rein them in. The woman asked them to move him to another seat but he refused and she did not want to move either. I am not sure how the move would have been accomplished anyway since the plane was full. I am usually agreeable to moving to help the flight crew deal with a problem but in this case I would have declined because then I would be subjecting my nice seat companion to a pest.

I have to say that small airports provide a much better flying experience. But I still hate it.


  1. steve oberski says

    Similar experience many years ago, flew into Miami just once, after that terrible experience I paid the extra cost for the flights and started to fly into West Palm Beach, which was my ultimate destination anyway, it felt more like a country club than an airport.

    Luckily Air Canada had direct flights from Toronto (another terrible airport) to West Palm Beach at the time.

  2. says

    I miss flying from our old regional airport back in the 1980s. I could show up 20 minutes before the flight and still have plenty of time. I do not like flying anymore, and the “security theater” has made everything worse. To minimize hassle I try to get a direct flight. If not, I won’t go.

  3. jenorafeuer says

    Yes, there’s a reason that when I fly from Toronto to Chicago I go from Billy Bishop airport to Midway airport, using the smaller airports for both cities. Sure the trip itself is slower (Billy Bishop doesn’t have long enough runways to handle jets, so it’s a turboprop plane) but the chaos and time spent at the airport is a lot less in both directions.

  4. billseymour says

    I agree that flying is pretty awful; so when I have the time, or can make the time, I much prefer to take a train.

    My next reason to travel will be to Kailua-Kona, HI in early November (COVID permitting).  I can’t ride the rails to the Big Island, of course; but I can take Amtrak to San Diego where direct flights between SAN and KOA take only about five hours, give or take, which is survivable.  Also, the Kona airport is mostly outdoors, so it’s only the San Diego airport that I find unpleasant.

    My last pre-COVID trip was to Belfast, Northern Ireland; and this geek thought it would be Really Cool to make the whole trip on the surface.  This involved taking the Queen Mary 2 both directions across the Pond; and I had plenty of time before and after my meetings to do touristy stuff in the UK, which included riding lots of trains all over England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  (I’ve still never been to Wales.)  I can honestly say that I’ve been from Land’s End to John o’ Groats…downhill and not by bycicle, but still … 😎

    Normally, when I fly to Europe, I take Amtrak to Boston where I catch an Icelandair flight precisely because I can get off the plane and stretch my legs in Keflavíc.

  5. Silentbob says

    Sorry, not to pick on Mano in particular but all I can think of when I read stuff like this is how spoiled we are.

    “Yes, I flew in a pressurized container at 30,000 ft and 800 kph completing in 8 hrs a journey that would have taken my ancestors at least a month, and yes I did it in a shirt-sleeve environment with staff to wait on me -- but there was a drunken couple fighting behind me so it was very unpleasant”.


  6. brightmoon says

    I live between JFK and LaGuardia airports . I guess I have a fondness for Laguardia as I used to hang out there as a kid . Obviously can’t do that now . I’ve flown out of both pre-Covid and both times it was a slight hassle. The airport in Bridgetown Barbados is smaller than LaGuardia which surprised me as Barbados gets a lot of tourists . There were no hassles there .

  7. KG says

    Yes indeed. I haven’t flown at all since I left permanent employment in 2012. I haven’t flown for non-work reasons since 1992. I appreciate that not everyone can do this as easily as I can (I’ve sacrificed visiting various places I will almost certainly now never go to, and taken a good deal longer to get to others I have visited, but that’s about it) -- but flying really is the most GHG emissions-profligate activities most people could ever do. Particularly if you hate it, do the world as well as yourself a favour and find ways not to do it.

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