Saturday, May 25, 2013

Navigating the Airport


Recently I had a 34minute layover between a flight landing in ATL – that’s Atlanta for anyone who isn’t Southern (or anyone who has never flown Delta). And, if you’ve been to Hartsfield Airport, you are well aware that a short layover is not good. For any of y'all that haven’t flown through ATL, this is how it works:

I’ll start with how the airport is organized. Hartsfield has Concourses A – E, the infamous Concourse T, and the “where did this come from” Concourse F. Here is the simple version1:

That’s just getting into the airport – adding in each Concourse map would make this way too long and redundant.  In this instance, my plane lands in Concourse D at Gate 44. The layout of each Concourse is that the extremes of numbers 1, 2 or 45,46 are at the far ends of each Concourse with the only way out being the middle. That is, A – D are basically straight lines. (Concourse E is a weird “T”; Concourse T is just weird; and we still don’t know what F is.)

Ok – back to the story: I land at the far end of D it’s 1:33pm and my connecting flight departs at 2:05pm (and, no, I had NOT booked the flight because I know better than to have booked such a short layover). My next flight is out of A, Gate 2. I run down the aisle to the middle of Concourse D; push past people on the escalator; have to decide whether to run and use the moving sidewalks or take the tram; power up the Concourse A escalator; and race all the way to the end where Gate 2 is located. I was actually praying for a delay. (Be careful what you pray for.) Lo and behold, as I am panting and sweating from the exertion, there is a delay - an hour. Now two. (Oh… and if you are seated behind say, Row 15, on the plane, you will never, ever de-plane in time to make that run because it takes every bit of your effort and time to make that next flight. Thank goodness I was in the front of Economy Class.) On the bright side of all the running and then the delay, I was finally able to get food.

These days you aren’t likely to get food on a plane. I mean, some of them don’t even offer food to buy, and I’ve now been on four flights where they won’t even come down the aisle with water, much less Coca~Cola or juice. It’s horrifying. You can’t bring water through security; you may have to race between gates not allowing you to buy the $6.00 12oz. bottle of water; and then the airlines have decided they won’t provide it for you either. What is this world coming to when you pay $400 for a plane ticket (or more) and can’t even get a glass of water? This problem I can’t fix.

However, I do have some ideas for fixing the Concourse-to-Concourse conundrum… The best, most practical one: they should make an express lane down each concourse aisle where if you aren't runnin’, you can't be in it. Move over tourists with 3hour layovers. Move over window shoppers. Move over people who are on their break hour from one of the million restaurants, shops and kiosks in the airport. Move over – because WE are coming through. Time is of the essence, people, and this is the fast lane. Would I like to stop and eat? Yes. Would I like to sit at the bar and watch the Dawgs play a quarter or two? Yes. Sadly, I can’t. I have a plane to catch… and it may as well be in another state. I am hustling. Please, please get out of the way.

Another even simpler idea is to just not allow people to book flights with less than an hour layover. Yes, I know some people will argue they want to get to their destination as quick as possible and use airports where 30-40 minutes is plenty of time to make a connection. Well, y’all can just rent your own private jet because those of us that book through and Travelocity take what we can afford. Sometimes, that means we don’t even see how tight those connections are – or we are delayed at our starting destination only to be stuck navigating a complicated, crowded metropolitan airport. Hell, the Atlanta airport is bigger than my hometown – at least by population. So, if you are a city unto yourself – Hartsfield, JFK, SFO, DEN (you know who you are) – then do NOT allow passengers to have short layovers. Please.

I have a few other ideas: One of them is to issue those cute li’l two-wheeled Segways to every passenger who needs a quick transit from one end of the airport to the other – whether due to inept booking or to delays prior to even landing at the airport. A second suggestion would be to cordon off all shoppers, tourists and lollygaggers. They just need their own li’l section to take all the time in the world to meander around doing nothing. Maybe instead of designated lung cancer rooms – that is, smoking sections – you could have “hangouts” for those fortunate folks with time to spare – aka the lollygaggers.

And finally the ultimate idea: use some of that research money to develop teletransportation. That may sound far off, but nobody thought Star Trek’s tricks of cell phones and computers would be real – yet now they are. Why can’t we shoot for “Beam me up, Scotty!”?


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