On my way down to Florida I became a Song fan. On my way home, that feeling diminished.
My parents live 20 minutes from the airport so I thought leaving at 12:20 for a 3:05 flight would be fine… and it was. I had my doubts when we ran into bumper-to-bumper stop and go traffic in Lantana, two towns south of West Palm Beach.
After the traffic cleared, I took the new ramp directly from the highway into the airport. When I lived in West Palm 35 years ago this was a little airport where your bags were delivered to you outside the terminal. With all the tourist traffic, this airport is larger than what would conventionally be found in a market this size.
As you approach, a sign directs you to the red or blue terminal. Unfortunately, the signs are reversed! The first one ends with the words “all other airlines.” That’s strange.
An overly anxious skycap met our car at the curb and took my suitcase and golf bags. I carried my camera and computer into the building.
In this post 9/11 world, my carry on bags resemble the accessories counter at Circuit City. I have wires and adapters of all sorts. I also carry a laptop and digital camera. For some reason I usually escape the probing eye of the TSA. Not today.
After removing my sneakers and heading through the magnetometer, I glanced over to see the person running the X-ray machine saying something to the inspector at the end of the line. “Is this bag yours?” It was the computer bag.
My computer bag has lots of pockets, some zippered, others sealed with Velcro. He was going through every one. I offered up if he’d empty it, I’d be glad to put everything back. He looked at me with a scowl that could only be interpreted as, “Do you want to have to take your clothes off?” I took one step back and stared at the floor.
Finally he found his prey. He had been looking for a mini tripod, unidentifiable with X-ray. It was something I packed and never used.
The flight left from Gate C-1. Though that sounds convenient… and I guess it is… the first gate ends up thrusting lots of people who want to be on early, and don’t want to wait in a line, to move into the middle of the hall. That’s where everyone else is walking to the gate.
I should know. I was part of that throng.
Delta/Song uses a zone system. So your boarding pass has a designation of zone one through five. In was assigned row six on the plane and that meant zone two.
Our 757 boarded through a door somewhere around row 10. I turned left, toward the cockpit, while most people turned right.
I sat down and looked out the window. It’s good to leave when it’s gray and rainy. I also marveled at all the rolling stock airlines keep – mostly idle. I’ve never been to an airport that didn’t look like a used car lot for baggage carts, stubby tugs and flight stairs.
As the boarding progressed, a flight attendant on the PA system kept saying which side you could find seats A,B and C or D, E and F. She was right… except for those of us who had turned and walked toward the front!
What makes Song so much more enjoyable than a conventional flight is the satellite TV system. With 24 channels, there’s a lot to watch. The problems with the TV began as soon as it was turned on.
Before I get to the specifics, the system does have a few inherent faults. Song gives out earpieces that are so cheap, they literally tell you to take them home. They are the least comfortable things I have ever put in my ears.
Even with 24 channels, Song has coverage holes. They have NBC, but not ABC, CBS, PBS, or the other lesser over-the-air networks. I flew home with satellite TV during the Jets/Steelers NFL playoff game, but the game wasn’t available to me. NBC has no football.
As the satellite system came on, we were flying through a thick bank of clouds. Satellite TV suffers from rain fade and we were in the midst of clouds droplets. Reception problems were to be expected.
The picture would appear for a few seconds before tearing or distorting or just plain going to black. Sometimes an error message would pop up from the satellite receivers. Though the message buttons said to press for help or more info, and we had touch screens, they weren’t addressable from the seats, making them a source of frustration.
We cleared the clouds, but the TV system still didn’t lock in. The problems affected different channels differently – but affected them all.
After a while the flight attendant came on to tell us there was a continuing problem and she was going to reset the system. She did. It fixed nothing.
I tried to watch but it was tough to stay with a program when it would lock up. Digital lockup is worse that analog since there are no signs if things are getting better or worse.
This would be all I’d write about the TV system, except one more weird thing which happened just before the end of the flight.
I was doing something else, not paying attention to the screen, when it caught my eye. Text was scrolling across the seat back display. I was watching a computer reboot!
This did not happen with either of the two seats adjacent to me. I don’t know if there’s a computer for each display or individual computers for the different services you could be watching (there’s more than just TV to be seen).
Whatever it was, it was happening… and the computer was booting into Linux! I wish I knew which ‘flavor,’ though that scrolled by before I got my wits about me.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and I’d give Song a pass, but they did one thing at the airport that really upset me.
After around 10 minutes of waiting at the carousel, the buzzer buzzed, the carousel started moving and about a dozen bags came off. Then the carousel stopped.
There was no announcement, no excuse. We waited for another 20 minutes until the bags began to come out again.
I think I know what happened because it has happened to me before.
Airplanes don’t come and go, spread out over the day, but come and go in bunches. There were enough baggage handlers for all the flights, but not enough to keep up with the bunches. When it came time to make the decision: get an airplane out on time or get the passengers out on time – the plane won.
So, now I’m home. I’m rested. Later today I’m back to work.
As I write this, it’s snowing here in Connecticut. In Florida it will be in the upper 60s and low 70s this week. Reality never waits.