October 1 2008 by Matthew Clyde
"Ladies and gentleman, today's flight, flight 29 with service to Los Angeles International Airport will be departing on time."
What? How can this possibly be? Why on earth would a flight take off on-time. I almost broke into a cold sweat when I heard the announcement come across the P.A. I pinched myself when they came on again as we began our descent and announced that we would be landing 15 minutes early.
I had decided earlier in the week that my most recent business trip to Los Angeles would be the perfect opportunity to break out the stopwatch and track the most important and potentially time consuming parts of the trip. I mean we all know travel is a hassle, time-consuming endeavor. But what would the numbers say? Admittedly, all week I had been preparing a scathing manifesto in my mind to the airlines, airport security, the airport shuttles, and the hotel front desk about delays and poor customer service. Years of business travel have left me numb to 45 minute delays, cancelled flights, and hotel rooms that "weren't quite ready". Much to my astonishment, in my much anticipated quest to document the pains and hassles of travel, I was proven wrong in all facets.
Travel by the numbers...
3...number of minutes it took to breeze through airport security. I left Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport mid-afternoon on a Sunday, but when are security lines ever this accommodating? There wasn't a soul in line ahead of me and the majority of my time was spent fumbling through my pocket for proper identification.
2...number of smiles from T.S.A agents. I really should have suspected something about this trip was different when I received two smiles while passing through security. On the way up to security I had already prepared my face for the proper snarl and frown that accompanies most seasoned travelers as they remove their laptops, dispose of liquids, and pry off their loafers and now I was getting friendly smiles.
3.19...dollars spent on a bottle of water. Being a perpetual cynic, I had to find something to complain about. If there was ever an easy job, one must consider "Airport Water Salesman" at the top. Since TSA restrictions have limited the amount of liquids a traveler may carry through security to three ounces or less, the necessity for a traveler to purchase bottled water inside the terminal has increased exponentially.
15...number of minutes early that my flight landed. In an industry full of delays and cancellations, "early" is among the rarest words to hear on a flight.
4...number of minutes that it took for my airport shuttle to arrive. Once again, I was left in total astonishment as the shuttle that took me from the airport to my hotel arrived almost as quickly as it took me to step up to the curb.
3...number of hotel desk clerks standing unoccupied and ready to assist as I stepped up to the check-in desk. Even for a Sunday evening, this type of service was totally unexpected. No line and no hassle.
I'm left wondering if we have become so numb to the pains and delays of travel that something as simple as an "on-time" flight has become something to marvel at. If one can travel to the world's 5th busiest airport and not experience so much as a single delay or frown, maybe it still is possible to have the perfect trip. Or maybe the secret to a perfect trip is to take a stop watch and a keen observation of your every event along with you and the universe will make things fall into place.
Maybe, but I'm still holding out for a cheap bottle of water.