Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Welcome to the Friendly Skies

We drove, we flew, we drove some more . . .

Reunion time!

Too far to drive all the way, so 8 tickets, 5 suitcases, 7 carry-ons and a 12 passenger rental van later we arrived in Rexburg.

The flight out wasn't so bad. By the time we arrived at the airport, Matt parked one car - caught a shuttle, parked the other car - caught a shuttle, we checked in, checked luggage, got 9 people (8 of us and one nephew) through security and to the gate - they were actually boarding for our flight. The two car seats were a bit cumbersome. Always fun trying to squeeze sideways down a narrow aisle with a car seat held over your head trying not to hit someone in the head or catch the doors on the overhead bins. Add small children to be herded along as well and you have a recipe for small airplane fun! They had our seats all together - two full rows for the flight out. The return flight - different story.

We checked in over an hour before departure and were told we'd get our seat assignments at the gate. By the time we got to our gate (E-81 - yes, it was as far away as it sounds! I think we actually left city limits at one point) we still had a significant amount of time to kill. Matt went to the desk and requested our seat assignments and was told by the lady there that "she wasn't ready to do that yet" and she would page us. Well - we sat 10 feet from the desk and she never paged us. I sent Matt back to the desk about the time they should have been boarding us. He was asked how many people we had under the age of 12 (answer: 5 out of 8) and then handed our boarding passes with seat assignments. Not only did she put us in the third group (which is the LAST group to board) - our seats were midway and to the rear of the plane, and not all together. I would think you would want to board from rear to front - but then again, what do I know about planes and what makes aeronautical sense? Apparent also, was her belief that somehow the over 12's in our group would naturally want to sit as far away as possible from the under 12's in our group. Something I am sure would naturally engender many warm and fuzzy feelings from our fellow passengers - particularly those stuck next to said under 12's sans parents. Ummmm, no - this is so not going to work! We did the slide and squeeze with kids and car seats down the crowded aisle (did I mention we were last to board? No - they did NOT call for preboarding for children or those with special needs - which we certainly qualified on both counts there . . .). So, I am trying to strap in car seats, keeps kids in check and locate our scattered seats and figure out who is going where because obviously - much as I would like to - sticking Garrett or the baby by themselves 5 rows and across the plane away from me or another adult/responsible family member is just not going to fly (no pun intended - okay, well maybe intended!). Fortunately, the stewardess on the flight realized that there was a bit of dilemma going on and came to our assistance. With her help and the good natures of a few people willing to swap seats, we managed to get seated mostly together. Sadie was a little distressed that she was across the aisle, albeit in the same row, as daddy. She quickly warmed up to her seatmate who offered her a pen to draw with and was fine after that. You can see in the pictures below - Garrett was across the aisle from me and seated next to a man who was asleep for the entire flight. This worked out pretty good given Garrett's propensity for squirming and other such behaviours that a conscious person might find annoying. He kicked the back of Sadie's seat on occasion - which is infinitely preferable to kicking a stranger/non-relative from behind, at least in my book! The two littlest ones did fairly well - though I did have to bribe them back into their car seats and harnesses with lollipops for landing. Nathan did some low-level fussing for about 3 minutes, but found a sucker quite to his liking and decided that licking a typically forbidden treat was much more worthwhile than expressing any personal opinions.

All in all - the wear and tear of traveling aside, things went well. We had a great time at the reunion. Given that on neither flight no committees were formed to eject us at 30,000 feet - I'd say it was a rousing success.


loribeth said...

Sadly, all I see are boxes with little red Xs in them. :( But I can picture it...!! Glad you all survived! (What was that woman at the gate thinking??)

excavator said...

I think this is one niche that could be profitable for the airline industry to expand into--truly good service, that is beyond courteous-to-friendly service. I mean consistent pre-boarding, assignment of seats, trying to group smaller siblings behind family members (I shudder when I think of flights trying desperately to keep restless children from kicking the seat) and most importantly an overall attitude of kindness and empathy toward people traveling with little people. Sadly, this has been a big exception, and not a rule. (It is completely unacceptable to separate families with small children and then leave the families to negotiate with other passengers to sort it out.) In general there seems to be a lack of sympathy, if not outright hostility to families in airports, and it hasn't gotten any better.

Rant over.

Your children looked pretty happy though.

Thanks again for the tutorial over on Mrs. Spit's blog. I'll see how well I remembered it when I press "public".

P.S. I used to live in Richmond Heights, about a hundred miles from Rolla. I don't really miss St. Louis when it's hot, but we had good years there.

P.P.S. I love the title of this blog!