Within the past couple of months, Ruth & I have taken flights to and from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest airport based on number of passengers served. H-J opened a new international terminal that cost $1.4 billion in 2012. We were domestic and didn’t see the new terminal, but its presence seems to have helped passenger movement. There’s a new highway entrance, lots more parking, etc. However, in the domestic terminal we still found signs inadequate, airport employees surly, huge distances to walk, long lines, etc. Major city airports are becoming too spread out as they rush in the direction of Hartsfield-Jackson. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean easier. The opposite, in fact, is more likely.
In the past couple of years there have been more international flights into the U.S., airline mergers, and major investment in newer planes often with more seats, etc. These changes make larger terminals necessary. Ruth & I have noticed big infrastructure changes at LA International, Las Vegas’ McCarran, and Kennedy in New York. However, the decision makers seem to be saying, “Hey! Let’s make our airports a lot bigger and more hellish to process through.”
On the other hand, airlines and airport personnel seem to be doing a better job of connecting passengers to their luggage faster and with less pilfering and on-time departures seem to have improved. But flying is far more expensive. Have you recently had this experience? You find what seems to be a really good fare but by the time you get to PURCHASE, the price has escalated to what all other airlines are charging.
While it’s true that as soon as I hear something about air travel, like that Tuesday is the best day to buy tickets, it’s already outdated information. However, I have noticed that Wednesday is still generally the least expensive day to fly, Saturday arrivals are more on-time than any other day of the week (Friday’s the worst), weekends remain bad times to book flights, Sunday is the day you don’t want to fly anywhere, international terminals are more pleasant than domestic, and that airport car rental agencies have gotten far better at processing users through. But wi-fi in most terminals continues to suck, if there’s an empty seat next to you on the plane when you sit down, it will be occupied before you take off, and that virtually no one enjoys non-charter flying anymore.
And hotel prices are on the rise. Yesterday I spent an hour on the phone trying to use a $100 coupon with a man clearly either from or in India. I ended up using the coupon but spending $50 more for the room than I planned. And a 2nd night in the same space would cost me $250+. Oh well, it’ll be a nice accommodation. Or not.