Monday, June 16, 2008

Taking the Scenic Route

Several years ago, Pipi and I flew Southwest Airlines from Oakland to New Orleans. It was cheap, but it also took all day, the itinerary involved three stops, and a drunk lady in party seating spoiled a big part of the book I was reading. After the second stop in the state of Texas alone, I vowed never to fly Southwest cross-country again.

That vow held for almost 10 years, but recently, temped by a low fare on the ultra convenient Oakland-Harford route, I broke down and decided to give it another try. The web site promised just one stop each way, which I find acceptable on that route, so I thought it might not be so bad.

And it wasn’t too bad heading east, where I really did have just one stop, in Nashville.

On the way home, I was expecting a stop in Baltimore. The leg between Baltimore and Oakland, however, turned into a frustrating lesson on the difference between a non-stop and a direct flight

Instead of proceeding non-stop from Baltimore to Oakland, the plane traveled directly—we touched down in Chicago, where I didn’t have to get off the plane, but I did have to sit in my seat for an entire deplaning/cleaning/boarding cycle before we were airborne again. I know that’s not so bad, but I found it annoying because I hadn’t been aware of the Chicago stop until I got to the airport in Hartford.

The moral is study your itinerary carefully. When Southwest tells you that you only have to change planes once, that doesn’t mean you’re only stopping once. They don’t actually use the words “non-stop” or “direct,” so you can get tripped up even if you do know the difference between the two terms.

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