Stark: Flying United seems like a punishment
I rarely ask for sympathy from my readers, but I hope that all three of them might be empathetic towards me knowing I flew United Airlines last week from Fargo to Missoula, Mont. As thousands can attest, United Airlines is sort of a retribution f...
I rarely ask for sympathy from my readers, but I hope that all three of them might be empathetic towards me knowing I flew United Airlines last week from Fargo to Missoula, Mont. As thousands can attest, United Airlines is sort of a retribution for the otherwise privilege of air travel.
I've always enjoyed Hector Airport for its ease and friendliness, though certainly not fancy, frilly or famous. Hector lost its wonderful Barnstormer restaurant and offers airport displays that strive to be ... modest. The most exciting exhibit was a Bobcat Skid-steer loader on the floor next to the baggage carousel. This being Fargo, there's also a mandatory bar.
Missoula's smaller regional airport sadly bests Hector in display beauty, sense of place and creativity. But, both airports have United Airlines.
The four legs of my travels were assigned on the tiniest planes in the United fleet. The last time I rode on a plane that small was with my granddaughter at the Red River Valley Fair midway.
The ceiling of the fuselage offers a metal head massage if you're over five feet tall. It appears the passenger seating was designed for Hobbits.
Standard carry-on luggage was prohibited from being stored overhead because it couldn't fit in the dinky compartments. United, however, treats all its customers uniformly, so we paid the same ticket price as if we had been on a real plane.
Did I mention it was puny? United's fleet have assigned numbers such as A 787, A 370, and the like. Ours was numbered minus 5!
The teensy passenger cabin, however, makes up the difference with grown-up airplanes by being noisier than the inside of a cement mixer!
Did I mention diminished size? If I'm not mistaken, the pilot and co-pilot shared a seat belt. I don't know if the crew actually chose to fly this particular airplane. I suspect they're assigned there as punishment for something. We passengers certainly were.
The engine's din was too noisy to hear the captain's "Welcome to United" speech over the speaker, which was no great loss.
The lone, thin flight attendant who bumped her way down the skinny aisle was suitably pleasant as she handed out half cans of soda and miniature pretzel bags. They've evidently established the pretzel as a theme because that's what your body feels like twisted in one of United's toy seats. I'm an optimist, however, and glad to say that the leg cramps mostly went away this morning.
It's not all bad. Most United planes offer inflight entertainment. We were not large enough to get a movie or music, so the stewardess gave us a puppet show. I couldn't hear it. The noisy, tight trip was topped off with an hour-and-a-half delay lifting off from Denver on the return. I was never so happy to see Hector Airport.
Business, like politics and life, is difficult and complicated. Do our selfish expectations exceed reality? Please feel free to let me know. My hearing should come back in a week or two.
Stark is a Forum editorial cartoonist and columnist. He presents illustrated history programs in schools, for professional groups and in other venues. Email Stark at firstname.lastname@example.org