Zipping to FLA in a matter of hours

April 10, 2008 by Steven W. Ells, Associate Editor

I’d like to report that America West/USAir did a bang-up job of transporting me and my belongings from my home town in the central coast of California to the west coast of Florida. When everything works airline travel is hard to beat, especially timewise. I awoke at 4 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, and touched down at the Tampa airport at 4:02 p.m. Florida time. I rode aboard a jet-powered commuter from San Luis Obispo to Phoenix; 50 minutes later the A-320 I was on pushed back, and three hours and 20 minutes later it touched down at Tampa. There was even an empty seat next to me!

This sort of makes up for the airline experience I wouldn’t  wish on my worst enemy that took place as I tried to return from Phoenix after visiting Deer Valley airport during Super Bowl weekend.  My 5:35 p.m. flight was cancelled, then the 8:30 p.m. flight was cancelled. Two hours later the America West/USAir staff told us there would be no more flights that day. It took two more hours before the counter crew finished writing up hotel and taxi cab vouchers. The day finally ended when I was told that there was a confirmed seat for my flight home in two days. At least the concourse manager didn’t call the airport police to haul me away as she did one customer who was very distressed at not being able to get home to her sister’s memorial service.

The moral of these two widely different airline experiences seems to be: you pays your money and you takes your chances.

Of course, since airlines are now exploring other revenue streams we were subjected to a dose of advertising before the safety briefing was shown. I also have to tell you that I always study the products for sale in the catalogs in the seatback pocket. We never see products such as a germ eliminating tooth brush sanitizer, gravity-defyer shoes, and watch winders–you can get one that winds up to four watches for only $299–in the small town I’m from. Either the airlines are getting desperate or someone buys this stuff because, just after we leveled off, an announcement was made that a 10-percent discount was available for those filling out a “buy-in-the-sky” coupon.

The time it took to cover the 1,991 miles from takeoff to major airport to Tampa was 8 hours and two minutes. Then it took another two hours and 20 minutes to get the passengers off the airplane, retrieve my checked bag, pick up my rental car, negotiate the downtown Tampa rush-hour traffic, and drive the 37 miles to Lakeland.

Just unpacked my bag, drove a block for a Subway sandwich and am ready to start covering general aviation events tomorrow morning at Sun ‘n Fun, which started last Monday and runs until next Sunday afternoon. If you’re looking for something to do in the next couple of days, the Sun ‘n Fun airshow  is a good way to meet up with airplane people, get a look at the latest products, and kick off the 2008 flying season.


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