Western Airports and Airlines Suck - Caleb Jones

I fly almost every month. In the last 12 months I have visited almost 15 different countries. Air travel is a core part of my lifestyle. I love traveling and it’s one of my greatest joys. 

The problem is that much of the travel I do is in the Collapsing West. This means I often have to encounter some of the biggest examples of Western collapse that can personally affect my life.  

I’ll give you a few examples of this from my recent trip to Europe with Pink Firefly. What I’m about to say may sound so incredible that some of you may think I’m making it up, but what I’m about to say is 100% factually accurate and I’m not exaggerating anything. This is exactly what happened and how it happened. (You may think this article is about me bitching about airports and airlines. It’s not. I have a much greater point that I’ll make clear at the end.) 

We were in London on our way to Berlin. We flew into Heathrow Airport, which was more or less okay, but on our flight out of London to Berlin we had to use Stansted Airport, which I didn’t realize is one of the worst airports in the entire world. I was about to be educated. 

Being an experienced traveler, I made sure to show up to the airport 2.5 hours before the flight left, as I always do to account for the usual delays and incompetence standard in most Western airports and airlines. I was confident we would not have to rush to our flight if we got there 2.5 hours early. Boy, was I wrong. 

There was no way to print boarding passes or tickets online, so we had to get them at the airport. We arrived, lugging our bags around, trying to find the British Airways desk so we could check our bags and get our tickets.  

There is no British Airways desk, anywhere in this entire massive airport. We go to the information counter and show them our ticket info and ask where the BA desk is. We are directed to a desk on the far distant side of the massive airport. 

Okay. We lug our bags allllllllllll the way down there, look for the BA desk. There isn’t one. The desk we were told was for British Airways is some other airline. I ask them where BA is. They tell me I’m in the completely wrong part of the airport and that the BA desk is right by the information desk where we just came from. 

Great. We lug our bags alllllllllll the way back to where we just were. Again, no BA desk. The desk numbers we were given show empty desks with blank screens.  

I ask some of the attendants there directing traffic. They inform me the BA desk doesn’t open for another hour. Confused, I show them the departure time of my ticket, and tell them that the flight will board literally 40 minutes or so after their desk opens. Isn’t that cutting it a bit close with going through immigration, going through security, and taking a tram to another terminal? They just shrug and look at me. 

So, PF and I stand there and wait. For an hour. Now we’re going to have to rush as fast as we can to catch the flight even when we showed up 2.5 hours early. In a few minutes a security guard comes over and barks at us that we aren’t allowed to wait where we’re waiting (right in front of the desks that will become British Airways in a while) because we’re blocking traffic or something.  

We lug our bags over to the food court area to sit down… only we can’t because it’s too crowded. There is nowhere to sit down, so we just stand. 

After an eternity, the BA desk opens up. We wait in line, check our bags, get our tickets and go to security. (Side note: You might be wondering why we were checking bags. I never check bags when I travel because it’s too inefficient, but I was with Pink Firefly who is a girl. The bags we were checking were hers.) 

We enter the security room and it’s a massive line that is barely moving. Great. The clock is still ticking on the boarding time for our flight. We wait in the security line forever. PF grows more and more nervous that we might miss our flight and she’s not wrong to be concerned. 

We finally get up to the front. I do what I always do and start immediately pulling out my laptop, charging brick and small microphone out of my bag to place them in the tray. I do this because I know most airport security systems flag these items. When they’re out on the tray, I never have a problem.  

A security woman sees what I’m doing and immediately tells me to put those electronic items back in the bag (except my laptop). I explain to her that my bag will get probably get flagged if I leave them in the bag. She gets agitated, raises her voice and tells me more forcefully to put them in the bag. I know better than to fuck with airport security, especially when I’m in a hurry, so I put the items back in the bag hoping that maybe I’ll get lucky this time and they won’t flag the bag. 

I put my liquids, in their usual large Ziplock bag, in their own tray. Another security staffer comes over and grabs the bag and tells me it’s too big. She hands me these tiny Ziplock bags and tells me to put all of my liquids in there instead. 

I’ve traveled through scores of airports all over the world with my Ziplock bag and never had a problem.  

Starting to get irritated, I walk over to another desk (where I’m directed), pour out all of my liquids and start putting them in these stupidly-tiny Ziplock bags. The clock on my flight is still ticking. More time is being wasted. 

I go through the security scanners and wait for my bag. My heart sinks when I see the robot arm flag my bag and pull it aside; flagged for inspection just as I knew it would be.  

I glance over at the line of security staff who are going through flagged bags. It’s huge. I’m going to stand here for at least another 10 minutes, for no reason. 

15 minutes later, they finally get to my bag. They explain to me exactly what I already know, that the two pieces of electronics were flagged. I tell them their own staff forced me to put them in the bag when I wanted them out of the bag, and they don’t have any answers, because they’re all thoroughly incompetent. 

Finally, after getting our bags, we now have to RUN to the tram to switch terminals to get to our flight, which is boarding right now. PF isn’t very fast, especially when she’s carrying her carry-on bag, so I’m constantly pestering her as I’m racing through the airport. 

We get to the train, wait for the train, get on the train, go the other terminal, leave the train and RUN with our bags through the airport. Perhaps we can make it before missing our flight (since usually flights close the doors 10 minutes prior to departure). 

We were the last ones on the plane. We barely made it. Exhausted and frustrated, we finally sit and relax. We did everything right, yet we had to rush through the airport almost missing our flight. 

You’d think that was our worst travel experience on this trip. Wrong. 

It’s our last day in Paris and tomorrow we fly back home to Portland using Icelandair with a long layover in Iceland. I purposely try to do three-hour minimum layovers on all international flights, to again, account for the usual security delays, late flights and other incompetence. I had a threehour layover in Iceland on the way to Portland so I figured I was in the clear.  

I was wrong. 

The day before the flight I’m informed that the entire flight has magically switched from Icelandair going to Iceland and then Portland to an Air France flight going to Washington DC then a United Airlines flight going to Portland.  

What the fuck? 

There is no reason given for this sudden and massive change. (Later, when my assistant speaks with Icelandair they won’t have any explanation.) 

The flights leave and arrive at more or less the same times, so that’s no big deal. The problem is the layover; it’s only one hour and 40 minutes…on an international flight. Jesus, that’s cutting it really, really close. Nothing can go wrong with a time frame that narrow. I’m skeptical but A) there’s nothing I can do about it this close to the flight; B) I figured we’ll just have to fucking run through the airport yet again. Sucks, but if that’s what I have to do, fine. 

We check our bags at Charles De Gaulle Airport and get our tickets. They don’t have seat assignments. We are told that we’ll get them “at the gate.” Okay. 

We go to the gate and there are several massive lines waiting to get onto the plane. There is no way to get to the gate desk since all these lines are in front of it, because airlines are thoroughly incompetent. I have to push my way through five lines, ducking under separator tape just to get to the desk.  

When I get there the woman tells me I just need to get in line and my seats will be assigned when I enter the plane. Huh? I’ve never seen an airline do it this way. I ask her if she’s 100% sure and she assures me she is.  

Back through the lines, PF and I wait in line. It slowly starts to move. Halfway through the line my name is called, and I’m told to go to a different desk to get my seats. Great. I leave PF in line with our carry-on bags, run over to this other desk, wait in another line while PF is still moving closer and closer to the plane. 

I get our seats and run back to the first line just before PF gets on the plane. 

We fly to Washington DC. I explain to PF that we may have to fucking RUN through the airport at DC yet again, even though we’ve done everything correctly, because we only have one hour and 40 minutes for our layover and Dulles is a big, slow and typically American incompetent airport. 

We land in Dulles and leave the plane. We round the corner to passport control (yet another line we need to wait in before boarding our connecting flight) and then we see it. Imagine a room the size of a Wal-Mart filled with one gigantic line weaving back and forth filling the entire room with people. This is the line we need to use in order to get our passports stamped before we can get on our connecting flight home. 

And the line isn’t moving. 

Immediately I know we’re going to have a serious problem, but I don’t tell PF yet because I don’t want to worry her. We stand in this massive line. And stand. And wait. And don’t move. The line piles up behind us, actually going out of the room and wrapping around the hallway we just left, all the way back to the plane(!). 

The line barely inches forward. I check my watch. We now have 92 minutes before our flight boards. We continue standing. After 30 minutes we’ve barely moved.  

We’re going to miss our flight home. 

I get on the phone with my assistant, tell her what’s going on and have her check for other flights we can take to Portland this evening so we can get home. She gets on it. 

I tell PF that we’re probably going to miss our flight and if we can’t find another flight, we may have to fucking stay in Washington DC overnight at a hotel because airports are thoroughly incompetent. She immediately panics… her checked bags. What will happen to those? They’ll be on the plane to Portland that we’re going to miss. How do we get those? Also, all of her stuff is in those bags. If we spend the night at a hotel she won’t have any clothing or bathroom stuff.  

Fuck. 

I call my assistant back and tell her to get on the phone with Icelandair (or United Airlines, or whomever, since now it’s really fucking complicated) to have them instruct someone in Portland to grab the bags before they hit the conveyor belt so they won’t get lost or stolen. She gets on it. PF is now extremely stressed out, nervous and agitated. On top of all that, jetlag hits us and we start to get drowsy.  

Feeling like utter shit, we keep standing in line forever. Eventually we make our way closer to the front. I see the problem. There are 15 security desks here where staff could stamp people’s passports but only four of them are actually staffed with security personnel because the American federal government is thoroughly incompetent. 

As we near the front of the line, I check my phone. Our flight has left. We missed it because of this fucking line. We’re stuck in DC and PF’s bags are on their way to Portland. 

Dejected and angry, we stagger into the Dulles terminal, an airport we were never supposed to go to. (I purposely chose a long layover in Iceland to avoid this very problem.) 

I get back on the phone with my assistant. She tells me that Icelandair can offer us a flight tomorrow night at 5pm and they will pay for a hotel. Unacceptable. I have her check for any other flight going to Portland tonight. She does. There is none that don’t have stops and long layovers. 

She checks tomorrow. Again, there is none. The least-bad flight we could take is tomorrow at 7 A.M. to Portland with a layover in Dallas. I tell her to go for it. I pay $1,100 for a ticket for both of us. I also tell her to get on Icelandair’s ass to get a refund for this entire flight. The fucking airlines know that 100 minutes is not nearly enough time for an international layover. They know this and they shoved me on this flight anyway. Unacceptable. 

The odds of me actually getting a refund are less than about 30% since airlines are thoroughly incompetent, but I tell her to do her best to try anyway. 

PF and I are angry, half asleep and just wanting to be home. We take a taxi to the hotel and try to make the best of having no clothes or bathroom items that night only to have to wake up at 5 A.M. the next morning (getting a few hours of sleep because of the jetlag) to head back to the airport and go through this all over again. 

There are many more problems we experienced with the airlines and airports on this trip and these kinds of things are not unusual. 

Now let me make something clear. These were all Western airlines and Western airports. I literally never have any of these problems when I fly in Asia. Never. 

Let me repeat that because it’s the entire point of this article. I literally never encounter problems like this with any airports or airlines in Asia. They only happen when I fly Western airports/airlines.  

If all airports/airlines were like this all over the world, that would be one thing. But they aren’t. This is just a problem with the West (although second and third-world airports/airlines have their issues as well).  

When Asia does all of this correctly and the West is full of massive and non-stop problems like this it tells you something. 

It tells you where the West is going.

33 Comments on “Western Airports and Airlines Suck

  1. Ah, the old “4-of-15 booths staffed”. It looks miserable, like from an underdeveloped country that once had a bright future ahead and planned for it.

    What’s the problem with getting the British Airways app? You can even save boarding passes of PF on your phone. I must be missing something.

    Also, can you elaborate on the whole assistant thing? Sounds great.

  2. Caleb, I really miss your more insightful blog posts. What the hell happened? All I see nowadays are promotional posts for your courses, movie reviews or rampages ( which I agree with, but I doubt readers can take away much from it ).

    I miss articles you used to publish on sublimeyourtime.com :(.

  3. This sounds strange, normally you neither use the desks nor do you print, you have the boarding pass on your phone. British Airways was in fact one of the first airlines to have introduced this. Usually when this is not possible there are self check in kiosks at the airport. Are you sure you didn’t miss anything?

    I would almost never arrive at the airport that long in advance. I also fly very often and I do between 1 and 2 hours always and literally never had any problem. My credit card also gives me insurance in case something would happen so I would just enjoy the champagne and nice hotel and arrive at the destination one day later on the off chance something might happen.

    but I was with Pink Firefly who is a girl. The bags we were checking were hers

    Haha what a rookie mistake. I never met a girl who I wasn’t able to convince what she should and shouldn’t take as bags. Seems very strange for such an alpha guy to let the woman decide her bags. Was this on purpose you wanted to let her have her way or an oversight?

    The flights leave and arrive at more or less the same times, so that’s no big deal. The problem is the layover; it’s only one hour and 40 minutes…on an international flight. Jesus, that’s cutting it really, really close.

    This is extremely rare what you describe but can happen but in this case: 1) the airline is completely responsible for anything that might go wrong and 2) you can reject to take the flight in exchange for full refund, though I doubt you’d want to, but anyway good to know

    When I get there the woman tells me I just need to get in line and my seats will be assigned when I enter the plane. Huh? I’ve never seen an airline do it this way.

    This used to be done in the past on regular basis some 10 years ago but they all abandoned. It was often a good deal for some people since when travelling alone you could wait a bit and then decide who to sit next to. A huge benefit for lone traveller. However they figured out they can make money from people with obsessive need to book specific seats so now the cheap airlines sell seats instead or when you dont pay you get a random one at the time of check in. In this case it was probably just done by the short notice change. It sounds like the flight had to be cancelled and they offered you a replacement flight but failed to say that this is what is going on.

    We fly to Washington DC. I explain to PF that we may have to fucking RUN through the airport at DC yet again, even though we’ve done everything correctly, because we only have one hour and 40 minutes for our layover and Dulles is a big, slow and typically American incompetent airport.

    Yes if you really need to take that following flight or if in no hurry you can stroll at a laisury pace and then get huge compensation from the airline since if they cant give you a new connecting flight they have to pay for a hotel and meals and stuff.

    This is the line we need to use in order to get our passports stamped before we can get on our connecting flight home.
    And the line isn’t moving.
    Immediately I know we’re going to have a serious problem, but I don’t tell PF yet because I don’t want to worry her.

    You just skip / push through the line / use priority line instead and if someone objects you tell them calmly you have a flight boarding you need to catch. Works 99% of the time and the people almost never check whether its true or not.

    Feeling like utter shit, we keep standing in line forever.

    That is just pointless. Should have either tried to skip the line or sit back and book a hotel in local town, enjoy some seafood and champagne and then send the bills to the airline and let your credit card insurance deal with it if the airline doesnt pay.

    I am not trying to defend airlines or airports however, there is a huge amount of nonsense and incompetence but as a frequent traveler I have to say most of the issues you described I would have expected an experienced traveler like you has back up plans for and knows the tricks to get through. I have been in seemingly similar situations where I got through no problem because of the tricks and suggestions I described above. Also hopefully you learned your lesson to not let your women take check in bags. Just tell her she can buy whatever stuff she wants new in destination and you will pay for it. Most likely she will forget about it but if she remembers still sounds cheaper and easier than what you describe.

  4. We’re stuck in DC and PF’s bags are on their way to Portland.

    I don’t understand that part.  Normally when you arrive at an airport of entry you have to claim your bags in order to go through customs, and then check them back in again.  They wouldn’t just load them onto a connecting domestic flight with no opportunity for a customs inspection.

  5. What’s the problem with getting the British Airways app? You can even save boarding passes of PF on your phone. I must be missing something.

    I never fly BA, but technically it wouldn’t have helped either way since we still would have waited in the same lines to check PF’s bags.

    Also, can you elaborate on the whole assistant thing?

    I have in my courses and Sublime Your Time blog. Outsource everything!

    All I see nowadays are promotional posts for your courses, movie reviews or rampages

    Then you should immediately make an appointment with an optometrist to get your eyes checked because here are some posts I’ve made at this very blog in just the last 50 days :

    The Marketing Ladder

    The Story of My History in Business – Part 9 – Six Figures

    I’m Getting A Farm in Paraguay

    Who Is Alpha Male 2.0 For?

    This sounds strange, normally you neither use the desks nor do you print, you have the boarding pass on your phone.

    When you have to check bags (which we did) these kiosks tell you to go wait in line anyway. See above.

    My credit card also gives me insurance in case something would happen

    I use debit cards, not credit cards. There is some level of insurance on those as well; my staff is looking into it.

    so I would just enjoy the champagne and nice hotel and arrive at the destination one day later on the off chance something might happen.

    If that doesn’t bother you at all, that’s great. It would bother me, particularly when I’m jetlagged and traveling with another jetlagged (and thus irritable) human.

    I never met a girl who I wasn’t able to convince what she should and shouldn’t take as bags. Seems very strange for such an alpha guy to let the woman decide her bags. Was this on purpose you wanted to let her have her way or an oversight?

    I’m not an Alpha Male 1.0. I don’t tell women what to do. If you want to, that’s fine, but you’ll never live a low-drama lifestyle that way.

    In the future she’ll probably ship her bags instead.

    It sounds like the flight had to be cancelled and they offered you a replacement flight but failed to say that this is what is going on.

    Correct. Complete and utter incompetence on multiple levels.

    then get huge compensation from the airline

    Yeah, in theory, get a huge compensation from the airline. I said I was working on that.

    For some reason you’re making points as if the airlines are competent, organized, fair, customer service-oriented organizations. They are none of those things.

    You just skip / push through the line

    Incorrect. There were security guards screaming at people who attempted this very thing. (You didn’t think I thought of that?)

    use priority line

    Incorrect. There was no priority line and no line for Global Entry. (You didn’t think I thought of that?)

    if someone objects you tell them calmly you have a flight boarding you need to catch

    Incorrect. I tried that; so many people were trying that so the security guards looked at everyone’s boarding passes (including ours) and only allowed line-skips for certain flights they had on a list. Our flight was not on this list so we weren’t allowed despite my protesations. (You didn’t think I thought of that?)

    Works 99% of the time and the people almost never check whether its true or not.

    Incorrect. See above.

    That is just pointless. Should have either tried to skip the line or sit back and book a hotel in local town

    You don’t understand. You had to get through the line I’m referring to in order to exit the airport. We had to wait in it no matter what our plan was. (Why do you think I would stand in line for an hour and a half if I didn’t need to?)

    These “points” you keep trying to make are really weird.

    I am not trying to defend airlines or airports

    Uh huh. Re-read of your statements I just quoted and then say that again.

    Now respond to my comment about never having any of these problems in Asia.

    as a frequent traveler I have to say most of the issues you described I would have expected an experienced traveler like you has back up plans for and knows the tricks to get through

    I responded to every oddball point you made above. And I wasn’t traveling alone; I know that when you travel alone you can get away with more sneaky options (somewhat).

    I have been in seemingly similar situations where I got through no problem because of the tricks and suggestions I described above

    I have too. They wouldn’t work this time. My point, that you’re missing, is that these problems shouldn’t exist in the first place when Asia rarely has them.

    Also hopefully you learned your lesson to not let your women take check in bags. Just tell her she can buy whatever stuff she wants new in destination and you will pay for it.

    You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. I hope you’re not serious. An Alpha buys a woman an entire bag or two full of shit every time they travel together, huh?

    Most likely she will forget about it but if she remembers still sounds cheaper and easier than what you describe.

    Actually try something in real life before you give the actual advice.

  6. I don’t understand that part. Normally when you arrive at an airport of entry you have to claim your bags in order to go through customs, and then check them back in again. They wouldn’t just load them onto a connecting domestic flight with no opportunity for a customs inspection.

    Yeah that’s what usually happens in my experience as well. I have no idea why this didn’t happen this time around. I was surprised too. Maybe someone else knows and can chime in?

  7. I work at BWI. It gets a bit disorganized with an insidious apathetic “that’s just how it is,” undertone.

     

    this increases the value of getting out and seeing the world and how more elite companies and cultures perform. will keep this post in mind if I catch myself accepting standards that are actually average or below average.

  8. Wow

    These things happen to the best of us.

    You won’t ever go back there.

    To the posters above those are superficial criticisms especially the one about a woman not bringing a bag to check. There’s Alpha 1, Alpha 2, being a gentleman, and just being an idiot.

    I travel with professional women who are executives and I’m not going to tell them how to pack. They are intelligent adults who know the intricacies of travel just like Caleb. So the “why didn’t you do this” statements shows you just don’t understand.

    I was told in some cases you cannot check in online because immigration has to “interview” you. A huge inconvenience but there’s nothing you can do.

    The lesson here is traveling with money helps immensely. Lot’s of cash and a balance on credit cards for when you don’t want to deal with these things.

    Personally, I would have waited. A thousand dollars could go a long way somewhere else but I can most certainly appreciate the level of frustration at that point.

    Although it sucks it is good to see these types of posts and know that others experience similar things.

     

     

  9. I work at BWI. It gets a bit disorganized with an insidious apathetic “that’s just how it is,” undertone.

    I did some consulting work for an airport-related agency years ago and I ran into the same thing. Airports just don’t give a shit. As a quasi-governmental entity it’s not surprising.

    So the “why didn’t you do this” statements shows you just don’t understand.

    I’ve had comments like that before and I’m sure I’ll get them again; “Why didn’t you make PF do such-and-such?” “Why didn’t you just force HBM to do such-and-such?” It represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the Alpha 2.0 mindsets and techniques I teach, as well as a lack of long-term thinking. (What kind of relationship are you going to have long-term if you’re regularly trying to force women to do things?)

    I was told in some cases you cannot check in online because immigration has to “interview” you.

    Yes, I’ve run into that too. With domestic flights (including EU citizens traveling inside the EU) its never a problem but international is a whole different thing.

    The lesson here is traveling with money helps immensely. Lot’s of cash and a balance on credit cards for when you don’t want to deal with these things.

    Yup! Money solves all problems. 🙂

    Wow that is really weird that dulles didnt have global entry, since its on the list

    Heh, it’s not weird. It’s standard incompetence for this sector. Just because a website somewhere says it has it doesn’t mean they have it, or have it at all times.

    They definitely didn’t have it, at least that day (I’m sure they probably have it at other times). They had one extra line for old people in wheelchairs and that was it. And amazingly, that line moved even slower than ours did even though it was much shorter. It was amazing to witness.

    I assume that Dulles was encountering some kind of problem that day. My point is that these kinds of problems are regular and common in Western airports. And extremely rare in Asian ones.

  10. Every single problem listed was caused by understaffing. I would guess that Asian airports can simply afford to hire more people, given that wages are lower there.

  11. Every single problem listed was caused by understaffing.

    Incorrect. Changing my flight, not letting me remove my electronics, forcing me to use different bags for my liquids, giving me the wrong gates and desks multiple times, and so on, none of those things had anything to do with understaffing. Just rank incompetence.

    I would guess that Asian airports can simply afford to hire more people, given that wages are lower there.

    Incorrect. The Tigers, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, etc, those airports utilize  highly paid workers.

    (Perhaps in SE Asia you might have a point, but I don’t normally go there.)

    Asia has their shit together and the West is collapsing. Period.

    The airport experience makes it so that traveling is not worth the effort.

    I’m not quite there yet. Also, one of my biggest financial goals right now is to get my disposable income up to the point where I can fly first class or business class literally every time I fly regardless of where I fly to. That will help some of this bullshit. Not all of it, but some of it.

  12. Caleb,

    If you don’t already, you and PF may want to invest the time (and minimal $) to obtain the Global Entry pass.  It allows you to skip lines at passport control/customs at many (but not all) US airports when entering the country, and also gives you TSA PreCheck when flying domestically.  It’s saved me from missing flights a few times when the security lines were understaffed.

    It may not have helped any in the Dulles situation, and I know you will be spending less and less time in the US going forward, but may still be worth looking into.

    If you have GE then kindly ignore my comment, although readers might want to look into it if they travel more than a few times a year.

     

  13. Reading this has made me add airport security to my ever growing list of worst inventions of the last century. Possibly the worst invention of all time to be honest.

     

  14. I responded to every oddball point you made above. And I wasn’t traveling alone; I know that when you travel alone you can get away with more sneaky options (somewhat).

    Your responses answer my questions and are reasonable. However, you did not mention these things originally in the article so it was not clear.

    Maybe it is clear to you because as you say you know all these things but most people I regularly advice on travel have no idea about any of this.

    You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. I hope you’re not serious. An Alpha buys a woman an entire bag or two full of shit every time they travel together, huh?

    I admit I wrote that comment without thinking.

    I don’t understand that part. Normally when you arrive at an airport of entry you have to claim your bags in order to go through customs, and then check them back in again. They wouldn’t just load them onto a connecting domestic flight with no opportunity for a customs inspection.

    In my experience when both flights are from same airline then yes they would. I have seen this all over the world. It is probably not a standard practice but it is definitely something that happens.

    “that’s just how it is,” undertone.

    Yes this is the mentality in corporate in the west in general. No wonder many of the big companies have serious problems and only survive due to corporate welfare.

    I travel with professional women who are executives and I’m not going to tell them how to pack.

    No, but you would leave them behind. That’s what I would do. And it is what I did. I traveled with male colleagues before who thought it was smart to come with check in bags so I told them okay, cool, see you in the business lounge. Seriously, they deserve that. It is a business trip not a vacation where you stroll on a promenade.

    I’m not quite there yet. Also, one of my biggest financial goals right now is to get my disposable income up to the point where I can fly first class or business class literally every time I fly regardless of where I fly to. That will help some of this bullshit. Not all of it, but some of it.

    Already getting access to priority lanes and lounges solves most of the problems. Sometimes they cant be acessed without business/first but in many cases they can via other means.

    However I find that the airline of choice and airport make huge difference. I have noticed some airports and airlines never have problems and if something goes wrong they are very good at finding alternatives and others are consistently bad.

    So far the choice of airport and airline has mostly been combination of price, convenient location and convenient times for me.

    Now I am starting to get more picky where and who I fly with.

  15. I would like to in fact learn or have enough back ups to be easily able to do the following: not care a walk through in a relaxed pace. Even though it is often not necessary (and sometimes it is – by my own belief) I often hurry and rush while traveling. I have enjoyed watching the people in Japan who walk slowly to the train / metro and simply wait at the platform for the next one if they miss it patiently. No one is rushing there.

  16. Funny now that I think of it, when traveling to South and Central America (which I do about 4 or 5 times /year), the layovers that cost the most time and are stressful are always in the US, especially Houston. Panama City, Bogota, Cali, even San Salvador are all more efficient despite their quirks.

  17. One thing I don’t quite understand is how PFs bags got on that Portland plane. They are usually extremely strict that if you don’t fly your bags don’t fly (and FWIW, it seems one of the few sensible rules that terrorist airport nonsense has brought us.)

    As to why they didn’t go through customs, sometimes the customs people will check them at the originating airport (CDG here), but I imagine you would have noticed that if you had. My suspicion is that they should have gone through customs at DC but the incompetent boobs who run the place screwed up. (BTW that is one of the frustrations of the whole thing: if all this bureaucratic nonsense and inconvenience actually made us safer you might even argue it was worth it, I wouldn’t, but at least there is some rationality behind such a case. But in tests the TSA misses something like 95% of the test items they pass through. 95%!! How long would you stay in business if your basic core responsibilities were 95% unsuccessful?)

    It used to not be like this. You used to be able to hop on a plane like you were getting a bus. I have run into an airport, bought a ticket AT THE GATE many times in the past. I think this is comprehensive proof that the terrorists of 9/11 won. They destroyed our travel business turning what used to be a pleasure into a nightmare.

    FWIW, one lesson for us all to learn here is that if you travel a lot you NEED an assistant who you can call 24/7 to sort out the crap that they put you through. I can’t imagine how you could possibly travel today without a cellphone or deal with it without an assistant.

    I am curious to know what you think is the cause of the differences. I mean governments are incompetent everywhere, it is in their nature. So why is it that in Asia they can run, for example, the train system, or airports so much more effectively? I wonder to what degree it is due to the fact that Americans and Westerners are more independent and demanding, while Asians tend to be more naturally compliant?

     

  18. As to why they didn’t go through customs, sometimes the customs people will check them at the originating airport (CDG here), but I imagine you would have noticed that if you had. My suspicion is that they should have gone through customs at DC but the incompetent boobs who run the place screwed up.

    That’s called “pre-clearance”, where US immigration and customs officials are stationed at overseas airports by agreement with the host country.  In that case, you clear both of these hurdles before departure and upon arrival in the US you disembark at a standard gate and are free to leave the airport.  You don’t have to go through these checks again.

    However, the United States has no such arrangement with France. Plus, Caleb reported that he was standing in a line for immigration control so there was obviously no pre-clearance (both the immigration check and the customs check occur at the same location, either pre or post).

    US Customs and Border Patrol requires that you carry your belongings through the customs control point.  They may or may not actually get inspected …. that is a matter of random checks and also depends on what you declared on your form. It is not a question of airline policy, nor is it something that they could easily “screw up”.  If it’s the same airline, they can tag your bag all the way through, but you must pick it up off one conveyer belt, carry it through customs, and then put it back down on another one.

    Caleb would have known this procedure since he travels so often.  And if they did somehow manage to “screw up” and load the luggage on another domestic airplane (however unlikely) he would not have known that that had happened until after he had cleared the immigration control point.

    So I’m puzzled as why he would be standing in line for immigration control worried about the bags going to Portland, as opposed to just reassuring PF that she’d be able to collect her bag.

    And there is also the counter-terrorism issue that you raise, which is yet another reason not to put the bags on the next plane.  But because they haven’t cleared customs, it would never even get that far.

     

  19. One thing I don’t quite understand is how PFs bags got on that Portland plane.

    They were. They were there waiting for us in Portland baggage claim when we arrived they next day.

    As I said above, I never check bags (the last time I checked a bag on a flight was 2006, seriously) and I don’t understand when they pull them for customs and when they don’t.

    But in tests the TSA misses something like 95% of the test items they pass through.

    Correct. Wrote about that here:

    https://calebjonesblog.com/airport-screeners-have-a-95-failure-rate-finding-weapons/

    Big government just causes problems and fucks everything up, as usual.

    So why is it that in Asia they can run, for example, the train system, or airports so much more effectively?

    Several reasons…

    1. Modern-day Westerners are more lazy than Asians.

    2. Asians have the concept of saving face (whereas Westerners don’t) so doing badly at your job is a “bigger deal” in Asia than in the West, where doing badly at your job is the norm.

    3. Asians’ careers are tied to how their family views them, so there’s perhaps more pressure on them to do well.

    4. Many Asian countries (like China) are hell-bent on taking over the world and really hate being number two. Countries like the USA who are already on top (or assume they are) don’t have this need or motivation.

    5. Asian cultures focus more on engineering than Western ones, so airports, train systems, etc, tend to be designed better.

    6. Much Asian infrastructure is newer, much Western infrastructure is 0ld and has not been updated (and probably never will be in any significant way).

    There are more reasons but those are the ones just off the top of my head.

    I wonder to what degree it is due to the fact that Americans and Westerners are more independent and demanding, while Asians tend to be more naturally compliant?

    Yeah, that could be part of it too.

    Caleb reported that he was standing in a line for immigration control so there was obviously no pre-clearance (both the immigration check and the customs check occur at the same location, either pre or post).

    Correct, at least in this particular case.

    So I’m puzzled as why he would be standing in line for immigration control worried about the bags going to Portland, as opposed to just reassuring PF that she’d be able to collect her bag.

    As I said, I literally never check bags so I’m completely unfamiliar. I just figured they’d be moved to the plane like on a domestic flight (and I was inadvertently correct). It wasn’t until the next day when I remembered that the last time I checked a bag (in 2006 going to Hong Kong) they indeed intercepted it and inspected it right in front of my during the layover.

    Again, I have no idea, other than they were probably incompetent and dealing with some kind of problem at the airport that day.

  20. As I said, I literally never check bags so I’m completely unfamiliar. I just figured they’d be moved to the plane like on a domestic flight (and I was inadvertently correct).

     

    Ok.  But then in response to my earlier comment you say:

     

    Yeah that’s what usually happens in my experience as well. I have no idea why this didn’t happen this time around. I was surprised too. Maybe someone else knows and can chime in?

     

    So which is it  …. you’re completely unfamiliar and blissfully unaware, or a customs inspection is what usually happens in your experience and you were surprised?  My head is spinning here …

  21. As I said above, I never check bags (the last time I checked a bag on a flight was 2006, seriously) and I don’t understand when they pull them for customs and when they don’t.

    When you fly with same airline doing transfer then when you go to the desk to drop off the bag / check in they will normally tell you whether you need to pick up the bags or whether they are automatically transferred. If they don’t tell you, you can always ask. If they say its automatically transferred then its a full responsibility of the airline if somehow later it turns out that wasn’t the case.

    You can also tell easily based on the tag they put on the bag. If it has the final destination airport code it means it will be handled automatically.

    My guess is that in your situation it was not supposed to be auto transferred but due to a mistake they put final destination code which means the transfer airport then transfers it automatically. This stuff is usually fully automated on most airports so basically the people who collect your bags at departure decide what happens with them during transfer and the transfer airport has no say in it.

    As for security there are no security issues in this case. Every transfer / departure / arrival airport can run the bag through x-ray scanner (and often do) and besides the bag was already on a plane. The only issue is customs related but that is a money / taxation issue. Not a security one.

    It used to not be like this. You used to be able to hop on a plane like you were getting a bus. I have run into an airport, bought a ticket AT THE GATE many times in the past. I think this is comprehensive proof that the terrorists of 9/11 won. They destroyed our travel business turning what used to be a pleasure into a nightmare.

    I would change that to saying that the extremist left wingers won. It would be very easy to continue with high security with minimal impact since they could only apply these checks to certain types of visually different people. Or they could just forbid them from flying altogether. But left wingers would never accept such a solution, therefore they are the problem.

    So why is it that in Asia they can run, for example, the train system, or airports so much more effectively?

    Several reasons…

    1. Modern-day Westerners are more lazy than Asians.

    2. Asians have the concept of saving face (whereas Westerners don’t) so doing badly at your job is a “bigger deal” in Asia than in the West, where doing badly at your job is the norm.

    3. Asians’ careers are tied to how their family views them, so there’s perhaps more pressure on them to do well.

    4. Many Asian countries (like China) are hell-bent on taking over the world and really hate being number two. Countries like the USA who are already on top (or assume they are) don’t have this need or motivation.

    5. Asian cultures focus more on engineering than Western ones, so airports, train systems, etc, tend to be designed better.

    6. Much Asian infrastructure is newer, much Western infrastructure is 0ld and has not been updated (and probably never will be in any significant way).

    There are more reasons but those are the ones just off the top of my head.

    I would add to that a political ideology difference. In the west there is a lot of nonsense and contradiction arising from misguided political ideas and extreme shift to the left in politics. I see a lot of the issues are directly related to this. The asian tigers do not have such political stance.

    By the way I have seen even Russians are upgrading the airports and starting to make them pleasant. It’s gonna be fun to watch when even the Russians will do these things better. Aeroflot has gone up in recent years from one of the worst airlines to an airline that easily beats most western airlines in terms of service and comfort already. You know things are really bad in the west when Russians are getting ahead.

    As I said, I literally never check bags so I’m completely unfamiliar. I just figured they’d be moved to the plane like on a domestic flight (and I was inadvertently correct).

    Same here, since at least 3-4 years, with the exception to when I am flying to go camping abroad. Which I still do at least once a year and I have not figured out how to manage with just hand luggage. This has been smooth so far always except for the return trips which are to a large airport and the return bag can take a long time.

  22. So which is it …. you’re completely unfamiliar and blissfully unaware, or a customs inspection is what usually happens in your experience and you were surprised?

    Both. It usually happens when I check bags, and I haven’t checked a bag since 2006. But back when I used to check bags way back then, that’s what usually happened. I haven’t checked bags in so long that now I’m a little unclear on it all.

    I would change that to saying that the extremist left wingers won. It would be very easy to continue with high security with minimal impact since they could only apply these checks to certain types of visually different people. Or they could just forbid them from flying altogether. But left wingers would never accept such a solution, therefore they are the problem.

    That’s only half right. You forget that all of this TSA bullshit was initiated by the neocon Republican right, not the left. Once this right-wing neocon system was in place, then yes, the left took control infused their own brand of insanity into it.

    He was right the first time. The terrorists won.

  23. What was the effect of 9/11 on security controls? Scanners and detectors were in use since the 80’s, weren’t they? And the liquids insanity started years later with another excuse.

  24. What was the effect of 9/11 on security controls? Scanners and detectors were in use since the 80’s, weren’t they?

    It was a world of difference. You just talked through a scanner and put your bag through a scanner and that was literally all you did. The entire process took a few seconds in most cases. it. You didn’t have to take off your shoes, belt, laptop, tablet, liquids, and 27 other things, walk though an entire body-scanner that gives the TSA an make picture of you, get flagged and have them rifle through your bags, pat you down, etc, etc.

    And the liquids insanity started years later with another excuse.

    As did the shoe thing, but the liquids thing, shoe thing, etc, would never have occurred without 9/11.

    The terrorists won.

  25. I agree but I’ll simplify a bit.

    Why American-based Airlines suck: Extreme capitalism

    Yes, I know — against BD’s typical views.

    Cram as many peasants into the airline as possible and cheap out on snacks and drinks
    Overbook the flight to squeeze out more profits. Better to bump a couple people than have a couple empty seats.
    Leave almost no room for error in terms of tight scheduling. So if anything goes wrong on the incoming flight, the next flight will be delayed 3-5 hours.
    Have the airlines buy each other out so there’s only really 3 carriers an no real competition and its a race to the bottom.
    Pay TSA agents federal minimum wage. So the only people willing to work for them are utter chimpanzees.

    Why European-based airlines suck: Behind American technology and no-service culture.

    As BD noted, have barely any self-service kiosks whatsoever.
    Minimize any customer service interactions and help desks.
    Chaos is the order of the day. All employees should be rude.
    Charles De Gaul makes Ohare airport look like a breezy summer day.

    Why Asian airlines are ACTUALLY good.

    In China, Thailand, and Japan, the national airlines are heavily subsidized by government money. Yeah, crazy socialism, uh oh.
    Thailand’s economy is dependent on tourism. The government subsidizing their airlines and making the service fantastic is purely a profitable investment in the country’s economy.
    Authoritarian governments are usually bad. However, one pro is that they actually get things done without constant jawing. The Big Chinese government took its hands and forced high speed rails and modern airline practices. In America, to get a high speed rail would lead to thousands of protests and political potatoes and clucking and braying and retardation, so progress simply doesn’t happen. The Status Quo is the order of the day.
    In Japan there is pride in the collective good, and collective cleanliness in public spaces. In America it’s “every man for themselves.” The US airlines have no pride. That’s why American and United recently deployed “Economy Minus” — it’s like Coach, but with even less dignity. You board last and have no baggage. Lol…

    That said, I’ll be honest. Even the European airlines are mostly better than United/ American. Lufthanasa is generally superior, and a few others. The main reason is that Europeans can easily take a train to Paris or Barcelona or London. High speed rail = competition. So the airlines try to shape up a little bit.

  26. It’s definitely NOT JUST airports and airlines that suck.  Every service sucks, pretty much.

    I worked at banks, and I can tell you they are staffed by morons.  After 3 months I accomplished things they insisted were impossible.  Recently, a bank manager called to offer me a safe deposit box I asked for.  I went in at the appointed time, and she wasn’t there.  Nobody else could fill out a simple form and give me a key.  Nobody bothered to call and reschedule the appointment.  I had to go there and waste a trip.  This was a bank manager, who cannot keep an appointment like any rookie professional would do.

    I went to a starbucks, and they couldn’t make me an iced tea without putting 10 spoons of sugar in it.  Twice they got it wrong.

    Doctors and hospitals still seem to be competent.  If you need surgery, a competent assistant will schedule everything and it goes like clockwork.  I guess that’s because these are highly educated, elite IQ people.  They make a lot of money and won’t tolerate having their time wasted by poor staffers.

  27. Why American-based Airlines suck: Extreme capitalism

    Incorrect. Airlines in the USA are quasi-governmental agencies that are massively regulated and government-directed more than most other industries and regularly get bailouts from the government to stay in business whenever there’s trouble.

    In China, Thailand, and Japan, the national airlines are heavily subsidized by government money.

    So are western airlines. It would be extremely difficult to find any major airline in the West or Asia that didn’t get ever government funding in some way.

    Major airlines are not capitalist entities. They’re either socialist entities (Europe, Asia) or corporatist entities (USA, Canada). If they were truly capitalist entities we wouldn’t have these problems because the bad airlines would very quickly go out of business. Read this.

    You’ll never see a capitalist airline in the USA because such an airline would not be allowed to use the airports (which are government-owned and completely government-controlled).

    Authoritarian governments are usually bad. However, one pro is that they actually get things done without constant jawing.

    Correct, that is one of the advantages of authoritarianism.

    In Japan there is pride in the collective good, and collective cleanliness in public spaces. In America it’s “every man for themselves.” The US airlines have no pride.

    Correct, I already stated that in a comment above.

    It’s definitely NOT JUST airports and airlines that suck. Every service sucks, pretty much.

    Correct. Customer service getting worse is part of Western decline and began in the mid 1960s.

  28. The west is a very diverse place and Asia is not, Coincidence? I think not. Diversity is perversity. Nowhere in the world or in history has this much diversity worked in any culture.  The places you plan on moving to  once the west collapses are not very diverse places, coincidence? I think not.

  29. The west is a very diverse place and Asia is not, Coincidence? I think not. Diversity is perversity. Nowhere in the world or in history has this much diversity worked in any culture. The places you plan on moving to once the west collapses are not very diverse places, coincidence? I think not.

    Of course. Diversity means lack of cohesion and union. The most cohesive societies are the least diverse ones. It is well known with overwhelming evidence from around the world that diversity results in loss of cohesion and conflict in almost every single case.

    There is however also good diversity. The problem is that people confuse the good and bad diversity and think all diversity is good whereas it is the opposite. For example if you have a team that has to solve some complex problem you need a diverse team. Diverse he means perhaps different professions, educational backgrounds, different ways of thinking.

    In the west right now they are going completely against the good diversity (different opinions, way of working, thinking) – at least in politics and corporate work environment, whilst supporting the bad diversity that almost always leads to loss of productivity and conflict (different social and cultural backgrounds, visual diversity etc).

    Diversity is not the problem it is focusing on the wrong diversity that is the problem.

    You can see this in companies very often for example: they are trying to hire more diverse people visually and based on cultural and social background (why? how does that benefit to productivity and profits?) but try to come there and be like that you have a different working hours and communication style than the norm and will they be happy they are now diverse and can think outside the box because of it or will they say you are not a team player and fire you? Hilarious.

  30. Nowhere in the world or in history has this much diversity worked in any culture.

    History shows that a high degree of diversity creates internal conflict, yes. The conservatives are right on this one.

    The places you plan on moving to once the west collapses are not very diverse places, coincidence? I think not.

    Ah, now you’re doing the right-wing thing of moving it a little too far. Scandinavia isn’t very diverse and I would NEVER live in a place with those kinds of tax rates and who worship the welfare state that much. Japan isn’t diverse at all and I would NEVER live in such a high-stress, repressed, collectivist society.

    Right-wingers like to imply that racial diversity it’s the problem, and it isn’t. It’s one of many.

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