To St. Lucia and Back
• Four American flights (via Miami) all with excellent service, and not one flight attendant under 40, several over 50. One tells us she has been flying for the airline for 32 years.
• I love to watch people as they walk to the rear of the plane. On each flight, at least four smirking guys (never women) say while glancing into the cockpit, “I hope there are no laptops in there!!” (referring to the Northwest pilots’ overshooting Minneapolis).
• My colleagues from Germany and Australia required over an hour to get through customs returning to Miami, and I’m embarrassed for my country. (We got through in 8 minutes.)
• In St. Lucia, you slide your passport and forms through a tiny slot (reminiscent of the East German booths at checkpoints I crossed in 1963), and the immigration officer talks to you through a microphone behind glass. But there is nothing on the sides or behind the officer, and you could reach right around if you chose to! Sort of like the Wizard of Oz.
• We encounter a TSA woman returning to Boston, who has on latex gloves and a surgical mask, and demands that I open our passports to the photo page, at which point she finally takes it to examine our identification. I found her absolutely detestable, everything I hate about bureaucracy and officiousness.
• Every single person in St. Lucia with whom we interacted was courteous, pleasant, and helpful.
• The setting of our suite at Ladera Resort was one of the top ten we’ve ever had, and that includes 58 countries and 49 states.
• Seeing a moray eel was amazingly cool, but given that it was living where you’d expect it to, it was probably much less surprising than the stag grazing a few yards beyond our front gate last night as we drove to dinner.
• The Four Seasons in Miami, where we spent a night on the way down and the way back, has beautiful rooms, views, and service. But charging $15 for Internet access is not something I’d do if I owned the chain.
• Joe Kennedy II, his wife, and an aid sat in front of us flying back to Boston. He was very pleasant, but acted as if he’d never been in an airplane before (had to be told to shut off his electronic stuff, to get his belongings off the bulkhead floor, and so on).
• Living without TV for a week was no problem, but probably because we recorded all the programs we generally watch! (I didn’t miss the news, amazingly, and never read a newspaper since there weren’t any. My only concession was to keep track of stocks and email on my lap top. Ironically, they don’t charge for Internet access at the Ladera Resort in St. Lucia!)
• Barricading the front aisle and stationing a flight attendant there every time the pilot or first officer uses the lavatory is so silly that I scarcely know where to begin with it.
• You haven’t lived until you’re serenaded to sleep by tree frogs.
© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.
Great insights, Alan. May I add some observations?
– a pilot who has the courage to say “we have to taxi back to the gate,” just before entering the runway when he doesn’t manage to run the right engine (what happened to us) earns applause (what didn’t happen) rather than complains about the delay (what happened)
– you can forecast the outcome of a conversation while regarding the faces of a pilot and a mechanist who are discussing outside of an aircraft even when you don’t hear something or you don’t speak their language.
– an employee at an airline club who didn’t let you in with a Priority Pass, a Lufthansa Senator Card, or an Amex Platinum appears as an idiot when her colleague says “Of course. With an Amex Platinum you are a member.”
– American did a great job on four flights (in five machines.)
– there are – roughly estimated – a kizillion differences between a Delta First Class domestic flight and a Singapore First Class international flight.
– I didn’t know that the question of overweigh baggage could be answered differently depending on a tip.
– the St Lucia guys must have taken the Swiss imigration cabins, but only the front half.
– 28 hrs of net flight time in one week plus a significant amount of lounge hours lead to a number of books read, teleconference recordings listened to, hours slept and ideas written down.
– there is no reason to believe ground staff who says “We book your luggage to the next flight,” or “in 95 percent they manage to transfer the luggage to the other flight.”
– there is no reason to believe a desk clerk who says, after your baggage hasn’t arrived at the airport, “Normally we deliver your delayed baggage to your home address within 24 hrs.”
– we miss the tree frogs.
American was smack on time for four flights, with an edible meal and very gracious service, two flight attendants assigned to first class. I gave away four American “reward” coupons which some of us carry, which is not all that common!
I’m not sure about “courage” when I’m sitting on that plane myself as the pilot, way up there in the nose!!
Yes, American was very good. Delta served us crisps in First. Thank you.
The pilot could have tried harder, longer, more often, whatever. But he tried, failed, decided and got back to the gate. Some passengers were not amused. We were glad that he made this fast decision – for our safety and for rescheduling reasons.