I flew on Airtran recently, and thought it might be advantageous to offer others, and the company itself, some input as to what’s working for their passengers and what is in desperate need of repair. Ok, so my ultimate goal is the need to vent. I had a horrendous headache to start the day and some of the experiences I had on the first flight made the headache grow into…serious pain.
The Good: I chose to fly Airtran this trip because they had great ticket prices. The other airlines I queried for this trip had prices double or more than what I found on Airtran. Plus. Airtran offers free WiFi on all flights. Although when one is sitting back in coach, the tight quarters make retrieving a laptop from a bag under the seat a serious challenge. Still, a plus. Airtran offers “charging stations,” or what amounts to a large supply of electrical outlets, in many airports for passengers to recharge cell phones, computers, what have you between connections. Serious plus, especially when one uses serious electronics in flight. Also in many airports, Airtran passengers can enjoy free coffee in the morning. When I flew through these airports, sadly, the morning hours had passed and I was unable to partake, but theoretically a plus.
The Bad: Airtran does not allow you to select your seats when you book the flight, like most airlines do, without charging a fee PER FLIGHT SEGMENT. Serious NO! However, if you wait until you check in, you can choose a seat fee-free. The free XM radio is nice. In theory. Passengers bring their own headphones or earbuds and plug into the feed in the armrest on the plane. All goes well until: you realize the feed is not stereo, only feeding through one side of the phones/one bud. Talk about feeling unbalanced! Bad. The flight attendants and pilot make announcements in-flight. Normal. Unless you’re plugged into the XM radio feed. These announcements come through at volumes that would burst a snare drum! I jumped so high and was clawing at my ears to get the buds out of them while looking like a crazy person! The contents of my lap ended up in the aisle three years back and nearby passengers who had not been plugged in were quite entertained. Bad. Serious bad.
The Ugly: Airtran, like most airlines, uses newer and older planes. The ugly happens when the older airplanes are not maintained so well. Oh, sure, the engines and running parts may be maintained, but the convenience equipment the passengers many times are NOT maintained. My experience today illustrates this point quite nicely: Shortly after takeoff, when the attendants announced the all-clear to use electronics, I pulled out the tray table in front of me to prop up my Kindle. Woe is me, the tray table’s arms were broken. The tray unfolded, sure, but used my knees as the stopper. The result was a moving target. When using the Kindle, the only inconvenience this caused was that it was not very useful to prop it up. When the beverage cart came around and I ordered a hot beverage, this uneven flat surface did not seem to be an issue. Until the plan hit turbulense the same time I tried to add cream to said hot beverage. Needless to say, the coffee ended up all over me. Scene II: I go to the “lavatory” in the back to rid myself of the remainder of the hot beverage which was suddenly not so appetizing and to try to clean up some of the coffee on me. I reached for what I thought was the handle to open the door. It was not a handle. It was an ashtray. Now hanging from the door by a cord. I found my way inside the restroom and found the sink already filled with dirty water from previous occupants. Not sure why the drain was not clear, but I can’t imaging that’s SOP for airlines. That’d just be unsanitary. But I could be wrong.
After swiping at my coffee-stained limbs with paper towels, I made my way back to my seat. Just before I reached it, the plane hit turbulence and launched me forward just enough to bang my head on the overhead bin above my seat. So my headache became an angry beast.