The Airlines and Their Holiday Highway Robbery: Because not only do they have the power to render you penniless just because you want to fly back to see your family for Christmas, they also force those flights to have insanely short (or long) layovers. Direct flights don’t exist between where you are and where you want to go – so you are practically guaranteed to miss your connecting flight because it’s impossible to change terminals during that time when lugging around two children and the corresponding baggage they bring in less than thirty minutes – heaven forbid if your flight runs ten minutes or more late. Your other option is you lose an entire day by waiting for your flight in the airport and risk having that flight be canceled and camping out in an airport.
In case you haven’t noticed, the holidays are nearly upon us.
Okay, so it didn’t hit me until a few days ago – I still have a hard time thinking about Christmas when it’s 80 degrees outside. Then the weather switched to needing a light jacket – at least for a few days – and I looked at the calendar.
How could it possibly be almost three weeks past Halloween??
Ludicrous speed indeed.
Christmas is no longer as “simple” as holiday shopping. Now Christmas means “How The Frak Do We Visit Our Families Over Christmas Without Going Broke” – and that’s before any gift buying occurs.
Before children, we typically rented a car and drove – not wanting to taint our now delicate Southern Cars with the salt and sand so prevalent this time of year. As one who grew up in the upper Midwest of the United States, I know once those two elements creep their way into those small parts of a car, the path from Pristine to Rusted Out Bucket of Junk is traversed in a very short period of time.
Once The Future Tackler arrived on the scene we switched to flying into Kansas City – about a 3.5 to four hour drive from our destination of Des Moines, IA. Why? Because it cost about half of what the flights to Des Moines were. As any of my friends and family will tell you – Des Moines International (HA!) Airport is the most ridiculously priced place to fly into compared to any other city of similar size in that region. For a while direct flights also existed from here to Kansas City, so we also eliminated the hassle of connecting flights and being stranded – a very real possibility thanks to Mother Nature during that time of year.
The Direct to KC Flight saved us in 2008 – twice. The hub we typically fly through was fogged in on our way out – all the flights were delayed indefinitely. On our way back, a snowstorm hit overnight in Kansas City. We arrived late to check in, only to find the check in person for the counter hadn’t even made it in yet. We boarded late, then sat around on the ground for over an hour waiting to have the plane de-iced.
Entertaining an almost two year old on a non-moving plane is a challenge on par with keeping one’s house immaculate with two toddlers – an impossibility.
Still, it could have been far worse. We took off two hours late, so had a connecting flight existed, we would have long missed it and been stranded in Houston, Denver, Dallas, or Chicago.
Christmas 2006 and 2009 marked the only years we did not return to Iowa: in 2006 because I was 33 weeks pregnant with no wish to become one of those Births Over 30,000 Feet stories; in 2009 because I refused to travel with a newborn certain to get the flu if trapped on a plane. Instead, they were the years of the Great Family Invasion to Texas: my parents, G-ma & G-pa, sister (and in 2009 her husband), and my brother all came here.
Which is a very long story for another post.
After double checking the math, my cell phone, and my laptop only to to find that the dates were in fact correct and mid-November had arrived, I began the dreaded search for flights to Des Moines – because I have no wish to taint my delicate Southern Odyssey – which I fully intend to run into the ground until my children graduate high school – with salt and sand (and lack of 4-wheel drive), or rent a car we barely fit in while we spend two days driving there, and two days driving back in possible crappy road conditions.
What I found depressed me.
If we fly any time – other than Christmas Eve – into or out of Des Moines between December 17th and January 3rd we are looking at spending over $500 per person, not counting taxes or luggage fees. None are direct flights. The cheaper fares want us to have two stops.
I’m pretty sure we could fly to Europe for less. If we all had passports.
Then I found a small solution: Frontier. They have a direct flight from Austin to Kansas City and their pricing is much more forgiving during the week between Christmas and New Year’s – with the exception of a few days.
I gave my mother a choice: A) have us fly closer to them and have a thirty minute drive to pick us up at the airport – but thanks to the Ridiculously Raised Rates of Holiday Highway Robbery we’d have to leave on The Night Before Christmas or B) we fly into Kansas City via direct flight and have a 3.5 hour drive to pick us up but we can actually stay for Christmas.
My mother greatly prefers we fly into Des Moines, which I don’t blame her for – she’s the poor soul stuck picking us up from another airport. However, when faced with the grandchildren missing the actual day of Christmas – she chose the Kansas City option.
Still ridiculously expensive, just not bank breaking.
At least not until we check all the luggage required for four people, two of them young children.
And god forbid another blizzard hits Kansas City while we’re traveling.
But at least I know people who live there – my sister being one of them – even if they live nowhere near the airport.
Still, if the airlines had at least a few affordable flights for The Most Expensive Capital City in the United States to Fly To, I wouldn’t have to worry about Kansas City weather.
Or if layover times were reasonable instead of extreme: not 29 minutes versus 3.5 hours.
And don’t even get me started about the futility and uselessness of TSA’s new security polices we’ll be forced to deal with. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about that after our trip.
Come on airlines, what the frak?!