Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Travel Bit: Maryland Flights

Not much of a post and not much of a punch-line, but it's what I have today.

On Wednesday November 22nd I headed to Maryland to visit JK and the rest of the Kamauff family for U.S. Thanksgiving. I had devoted a lot of effort to travel planning; it paid off, but not entirely as I had expected.

I avoided flying into MIA (Miami) from GCM (Grand Cayman). Lots of other folks share my aversion: MIA international arrivals can be a zoo - often flights have been delayed and sudden bursts of arrivals swamp customs/immigration and baggage.

I took an afternoon Delta flight into ATL (Atlanta), having scheduled a long (almost 4 hour) layover. I also flew first class, in order to have a shot at priority baggage handling (which rarely seems to do anything in the U.S., as opposed to Europe where I gather it almost always has an impact) and to get the speedy security line for my next flight after clearing customs/immigration.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the customs/immigration at ATL was emptier than I've ever seen international arrivals anywhere, and this on the biggest U.S. travel day. That was a breeze. Baggage came quickly, although the priority handling had no obvious effect - lots of regular baggage came through ahead of mine. The security line was easy, perhaps somewhat influenced by it being late afternoon (part of the planning).

One nice thing about flying Delta is that they are still recognizing my old (since cancelled) American Express platinum card, allowing me access to their lounges when I'm on their flights. They'll stop doing that when the card reaches its natural expiry date; maybe I'll have another one by then. Anyhow, that made a nice chance to sit, drink beer, and chat with a couple of friends who had been on the same flight.

My connecting flight to BWI (Baltimore-Washington) boarded on time, but was delayed in taking off. The pilot offered the explanation that the software had some out-of-date data and required maintenance personnel to upload updated datafill. That cost us going on an hour; ah well, it was another opportunity to sit and drink beer. Urp. The flight itself was uneventful, and JK was timely in collecting me at BWI (I'd updated him on our delay via cell from the tarmac at ATL and he doublechecked for flight updates).

On Sunday November 26th I took a morning U.S. Airways flight from BWI to CLT (Charlotte) to make a connection to GCM. Since I expected airports to be a bit quieter, and because I would stay behind the security line making the connection, I flew economy.

It was here that I received the unexpected payoff to my travel planning. I'd booked through Travelocity, and it wouldn't offer me the round-trip itinerary that I wanted; hence, I put together two separate one-way legs. It had slipped my mind that this pretty much guaranteed that security would want a closer look at me. Upon presenting my boarding pass they pulled me from the regular security line to a separate line, complete with the air-puff explosives detector. There was no one ahead of me in the special security line, as opposed to the long queue of people who had been ahead of me in the regular line.



Blogger Wendy said...

Score indeed! Fun with man-made turbulence (not as good as the real in flight experience, but nevertheless) and a scoot through security lines!

Who knew Travelocity's refusal could end up a plus?

11/29/2006 08:12:00 am  
Blogger David Rotor said...

The one-way booking was my ace trick when flying out of Buffalo to Atlanta or New York. BUF security was notoriously slow, but the one-way booking always triggered the special security line. I used it often enough that some of the TSA agents would welcome me back.

11/29/2006 10:52:00 am  
Blogger Habeela said...

Security as a positive thing. I love it! I'm sure the DHS will be happy to know someone appreciates their special screenings. :)

11/29/2006 11:51:00 am  
Blogger Brent Buckner said...


Let's draw a line on the appreciated special screenings to exclude the ones that involve touching or more invasive measures!

11/29/2006 12:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Nigel. said...

I will make the observation that busy security seems to be better than idle security. Having flown from Quebec City today, with only a couple of people in line for security, the metal detector goes off for everyone. Heck, my wallet set off the detector and had to be X-rayed. Whereas in Toronto there was a line up; walked up, emptied my pockets of change and keys walked through and went on my way.

So what is the difference? More experience or better training at the busier airports? Or (more likely) boredom at idle airports.

There is one other possible explanation but I will leave it to others to point that one out.

11/29/2006 07:07:00 pm  
Blogger Wendy said...

Nigel, on my fast trip to Toronto, the rivets on my jeans near the the hip set off the detector in Ottawa. The security person apologised when she asked if she could pat me down. On my way home my shoes set it off. So I got full service security at both YOW and Pearson ...

11/30/2006 07:15:00 am  

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