On Friday afternoon M and I loaded up the car with the suitcase and we headed north to pick C up from daycare. I wanted to get to the airport nice and early so that I could make sure C and I didn’t get bumped from the flight. I always get a little nervous when I don’t have assigned seats ahead of the departure date.
M dropped us off and I loaded C into her stroller. I slung the car seat onto the back of the stroller, hoisted our backpack onto my back and grabbed the suitcase. We were off. Minutes later I was in the terminal checking us in at the automatic teller. Still no seat assignment. Not a single person available to help. With our load only lightened by one less suitcase C and I head toward the security check-point.
Amazingly I manage to get us through security without holding everyone up for hours. In no time we have our shoes back on our feet and we head for the gate. Two very grumpy stewardesses greet us with barely a smile. One hands me the boarding passes she had pre-printed out. Relieved I ask about gate checking the stroller. She doesn’t have the right tags, I’ll have to take care of it when I board the plane. Whatever. We have time to go grab a bite so off we go.
A grilled cheese sandwich and some fries later C and I are back at the gate. They’ve called First Class passengers, but nothing about people traveling with kids. I shoulder my way to the front of the line. The stewardess begrudgingly lets me through. At the end of the tunnel I unload C, grab my car seat and the backpack. Once on the tiny plane I tell the stewardess that I have a stroller that I left outside. She hands me a gate check pass and snootily tells me that she can’t get off the plane, I have to go put it on the stroller myself. I just stare at her, my toddler at my feet, the car seat in my hand, my belly bulging out. She sneers and tells me to leave the baby and the car seat with her. I turn and fight my way off the plane to go put the tag on the stroller. When I get back on the plane she lets me pick up the car seat and watches me struggle with my load as I head back to our seats. That is the last of the interactions I have with the staff on that plane.
Fast forward two days later.
We are heading home after a fun weekend. (Honest, I’ll tell you all about the wedding soon.) Again we get dropped of in front of the terminal. I load up C and our gear exactly the same way as before. I’m less worried this time; we have assigned seats and it’s a different airline. At the counter the airline employee greets me with a huge smile and leans down to say hello to C. She prints our boarding passes and gives me some customs paperwork to fill out. She gives me a gate check tag for the stroller, she explains how to get to the customs desk, and asks me if I need help. I decline and head back.
We get through customs in seconds and go find something to eat. With our boarding passes in hand and the stroller pre-gate checked I’m feeling pretty relaxed. We grab some dinner and head to the gate. I can’t believe my luck when I see some toys in the waiting area. This airline has really thought of everything. I sit close to the play car and watch as C entertains herself for the half hour before we get called.
People traveling with young children are called first. I gather my things and head towards the tunnel. Each employee bends down to say hi to C. At the door to the plane I unload her and leave the stroller. The instant I set foot on the aircraft a steward leaps toward me to grab the car seat out of my hand. He walks us to our seat and stays with me while I secure the seat. He explains to me everything that would happen in case of an accident, clearly understanding that I won’t be able to watch the safety video when it comes on. With a parting smile he heads off to help the other passengers. At the end of the flight he says a cheerful goodbye to C and hands her some sticker wings. The whole experience has been a roaring success.
Two different airlines, two worlds apart. Which one do you think we’ll be flying again?