Into the wild gray yonder

The holiday travel season is in full swing even with the light rain and heavy overcast here in the Twin Cities on the winter solstice. Terminal 1 at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport seemed to do brisk business today, and I am sure Terminal 2 was also busy. I dropped off a friend at the airport this evening for a flight into the wild gray yonder to visit family and friends.

Holiday travel has occasionally been fraught with peril. All the airline consolidations and the constantly changing TSA regulations create many opportunities for screw ups. Overbooking and bumping complaints are quite common. For example, my consulting collaborator had the booking airline change the flight time AND date a mere few days after purchasing the ticket in late October. The date change went unnoticed until Friday night because of a heavy work schedule. Fortunately, it was a “no harm, no foul” change, but it was still somewhat unnerving. It also stole one day away the family visit. Weather surprises cause delays and cancellations, but this seemed to be a case of overbooking a flight, and then bumping the passenger before check in to avoid offering Denied Boarding Compensation.

One of my favorite movies during this time of the year is “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. I spent over fifteen years traveling extensively on business and occasionally fell victim to the foibles of missing a connection, getting bumped, or once (and only once) having my employer change my return ticket to ship me to another customer site rather than back home. I’m quite proud of the fact I have not been on a flight since April 2000, and I am in no hurry to end my streak. Another thing I am proud of is I never had a business trip spoil holiday plans. I would have endured a “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” trip to be home for the holidays, and came close to doing so a couple of times. Since most of my traveling was in the days before smartphones and when travel sites on the Internet were in a nascent state, I could not easily change my plans at the airport or car rental agency. It occasionally necessitated renting a car and driving an hour or two to a different airport in order to get a flight that got me home eight hours sooner.

Christmas is Thursday and many companies close early on Christmas Eve. Unsettled weather is here until Wednesday. Our current rain event might change over to snow now that all the snow has melted again. By Wednesday morning, the Twin Cities could have between 1″ – 4″ of new snow. Holiday traffic is usually slow and go, and the snow could snarl it badly. Other areas of the United States are forecasting heavy rain or heavy snow. Our forecast is a minor annoyance in comparison. Cancelled flights mean people will try booking travel on buses or renting cars to finish their trips. In some cases, the trip means spending the night in an airport terminal.

For those of you traveling into the wild gray yonder, I hope you safely arrive at your destination without any extra adventures or weather delays. Time with family and loved ones is precious, so take time to enjoy that gift. Be generous with the hugs and smiles. If you are flying, try being nice to the shower curtain ring salesman, because even well-meaning dolts need compassion, too. Just don’t let him handle your credit card.

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