The first in a series of occasional travel diaries, about life on the road as a hockey writer
DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, THURSDAY – It’s 7:20 a.m. and I’m sitting in a seat near the gate where my flight was supposed to take off 75 minutes ago. Let history record that Frontier Airlines Flight 149, Denver to Seattle, did not take off on time. We are being told that the flight “might” be ready for boarding in another 30 minutes. At least we are hearing something; from roughly 5:45 a.m. to about 6:25 a.m., there was nobody in a Frontier uniform anywhere to be seen by Gate 54. No gate agent, no flight attendants, no pilots – nada. Just a lot of passengers like me standing around asking each other if they knew what was going on?
So, in this, the inaugural travelogue for my inaugural flight to my inaugural road trip on our new site here, let me reaffirm to what you might already be guessing what I’m about to say: travel can be one huge aggravating pain in the you know what.
I’ve been flying regularly for 25 years now, and there’s just no question that it’s a lot less fun than it was when I first started. The airlines are overwhelmed, understaffed and almost never on time. The planes are packed with more seats and a lot less leg room. In the mid-’90s, when I first started flying a lot, the seats were comfier, had more leg room and the airlines were mostly always on time. You got a hot, free meal on most flights. Passengers actually talked to each other.
Now? Absolutely nobody – nobody – talks to anyone else, either at the airport or on the plane itself. Everybody – everybody – is staring at their phones now. Everybody. Hey, I’m not judging on that. I stare at my phone quite a bit too. But it’s just quite startling to me, the change in how people interact now – which is, not at all. That can’t be good for society in the long run, right?
I don’t really care about the less leg room, even though I am 6-6 and need to practically get a knee transplant after every flight now. The prices on most airlines are still pretty good, so you know there are going to be some tradeoffs. Airlines that are consistently late, though? Nobody likes that. It’s all just wasted time. Why can’t they do a better job of being on time? We don’t even have a reason yet as to why this flight is delayed. Nothing has been communicated to us about that yet.
I have a middle seat on the flight, seat 5B. I’m usually a pro at talking my way into a window or aisle seat, but when I went up to the harried gate attendant who finally showed up at the counter, she quickly shook her head no when I asked nicely if there might be another seat available.
UPDATE: Outrage here at the gate. After being told “maybe a half hour”, the harried gate agent came on to say “we’re now estimating an additional 45 minutes.” At that moment, a young woman sitting directly across from me here exclaimed “SERIOUSLY???” She then got up, grabbed her bag, yelled “This is outrageous!” and stormed off.
Also, there is a dog barking nonstop near the gate and a couple of young brothers are bickering about who gets to use mom’s cell phone. I think I’m going to go to the Dunkin’ Donuts for a bit.
Next: Flight to Seattle, then drive to Vancouver. More here when/if I get there.
SEATTLE – Made it. Frontier gave everyone on the flight (who was registered in their mileage program anyway, I think, maybe to everyone I don’t know) a $25 voucher toward a future flight. Hey, I’ll take it. Thank you to Frontier to getting me to the Pacific Northwest in one piece. The middle seat wasn’t too bad. I mostly leaned my neck back against the seat and tried to rest the eyes. I can’t really sleep on planes without a pill, so I was awake the entire time. But I felt more refreshed upon landing, after the 3:30 a.m. wakeup call and 9 a.m. departure on a flight that was supposed to leave at 6:05.
Long wait in the rental car line. Promptly re-enrolled in the Budget Fastbreak program for next time. They tried the usual upsell on me at the counter (bigger car, only $8.95 more per day! Would you like full coverage on the vehicle? No, ok then, you’re responsible for any damage). Those are ways car rental agents can make commissions, selling you those unneeded things. Your credit card AND your private auto insurance will cover the damage on a vehicle. And if you do damage a vehicle after buying their “coverage”? They’ll find a way to stick you with another bill anyway. Don’t be a sucker to rental car companies.
Pleasant drive to Vancouver. Made all the more pleasant by the free Sirius XM I had in my Ford Fusion. I played the Phish channel and…really loved it. I can’t believe I’ve never listened to Phish before – and I am a Vermont native. I will be listening a lot more now.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – I am actually staying in Burnaby, the town Joe Sakic grew up. I actually asked Joe for sushi recommendations, but he said the best sushi is downtown Vancouver. Where’s the hometown spirit Joe!
I mentioned to a clerk at the store where I bought some food why I was in town and that I knew Joe Sakic, and the look on the guy’s face was priceless. Joe Sakic is still a huge name around here.
OK, so here’s the Airbnb I’m staying at, along with National Hockey Now partner Dan Kingerski. Dan, as you will see, is responsible for it. Hey, running water, hamburger and rice and I’m good.
See you tomorrow.