Well, I’m traveling now from Whitehorse to Reno, Nevada, and then on to my folks place for Thanksgiving. That’s right, we’re celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving (the Early Edition of Thanksgiving, available everywhere north of 49).
I intend to tell you a bit about how the States are doing right now.
First up, Airlines.
I don’t have good things to say about airlines, but I do have some warnings. First up, most US airlines are charging for checking ANY baggage. $15. No one lets you know, unless it’s in the fine print of your ticket. I’ll check and get back with you. I find this a bit rude to travelers. Basically, after giving you high fees and prices anyway, they penalize you for packing. Better if you take everything on the plane with you. Remember the time that they actually tried to convince you to check stuff that could go on board? Yep, that’s over. They want you to take everything you can on with you. Maybe they can’t pay their luggage handlers….I’m not sure. But $15 for every piece of checked baggage is a lot–and you have to pay it there at the check-in counter. They told me that Southwest was an exception. If you don’t know about Southwest, go to www.southwest.com and drool over those prices. They are exceptional. And they go to a lot of places in the US. If you take a shuttle across the border to Seattle from Vancouver ($40) you can fly roundtrip for less than $200 to most places. And, apparently, they don’t charge you for checked luggage.
US Airways is probably typical of US airlines.
Another disturbing development: they now charge for ALL beverage service on board the aircraft. They even charge for spring water. (And most travel books tell people to avoid the tap water on planes….for obvious reasons). So, for flights that are three hours, not only do they take your water from you at the door (except for 100 ml), but they now charge you $2 for drinks, $1 for coffee/tea and $7 for alcohol. They also charge for food, but I was watching that happen last year….those snack boxes. Now, even on a three hour flight–no water, no pretzels. And they will only take cash. So, get American dollars, exact change, for flights into the US, or you will have no food or drink on board. (I don’t know if you are allowed food….seems like I see these signs that allow dinner on board now if you are buying it in the terminal.) *
The inflight movie? A) you have to pay for headphones. no surprise there. But B) you are scolded over and over again to close your window-shades for those watching the movie, even if you are passing over some stunning landscapes. I mean, the window is the cheap entertainment. It’s why you buy a window seat! Geesh. I think they didn’t want us to see Area 51. I couldn’t afford the headphones, but I can afford the window–it was $232 dollars. I didn’t have change on the plane, so I enjoyed the dry landscape as a dry person. *The good news: airport food has gotten better. yes, you can find Burger King everywhere, but I’m talking about a Mexican burrito place called the Blue Burrito Grille (all fresh ingredient burritos) in Phoenix, and Opa’s Greek restaurant in Vancouver’s restaurant (before you go through security). Opa’s is great food. I was impressed. All fresh ingredients, tasty, affordable. $10.49 for a gyro/pita with greek salad and medium drink. If these are any indication of airport food, it’s getting healthier, and somewhat cheaper.
So, traveling right now can be surprising, yes. And it isn’t getting all that better on the planes. Except for AIR NORTH which I love with all my heart. If I could date AIR NORTH, I would be the proudest guy on the planet, showing Air North off to everyone, ready to introduce Air North at every party. (Yes, I sometimes have an article for Yukon: North of Ordinary, Air North’s in-flight magazine…but this is not why I’m in love with Air North) FREE Midnight Sun coffee!! Free Cheesecake! Free Food!! Free Beverages! Free magazines and newspapers! Friendly Staff! Yes, I want the prices to come down, but you know what?? I think service on Air North compensates for the prices…. They are, BAR NONE, the best airline in Canada, and except for my former affair with Southwest Airlines (love ya, babe–we’re just too far apart) they are the best in North America for price. My beef with them has more to do with having to come home so late only on certain days from Calgary, but this is not a series on Air North….but traveling Outside makes me compare airlines…and Air North comes out favorably against US Airways/American Airlines, etc, anyday!
So, go to Vancouver and Calgary, Fairbanks and Inuvik and Edmonton….Until Air North flies farther, I’m recommending a tight traveling circle.
*okay, the flight attendant on the second US Airways flight was very kind to me and gave me a coffee for 50 cents, when I didn’t have enough cash. I can’t trash US Airways–as I said, they are typical of the fee hikes that are invading the airline industry.
**American Airlines does not charge for drinks on board. The flight attendant said, “Please keep flying American.” He is aware that “other airlines” have begun doing that but it turned his stomach.