I can’t stand people who recline their seats on airplanes

I haven’t had a good travel rant in a while.  However the recent debate over the Knee Defender and the incident on a flight from Newark to Denver which has been in the news, reminded of a situation I was personally involved in back in February.

For the most part travel is what it is.  A necessary evil.  Maybe I am jaded having flown so much over the years but there isn’t anything glamorous about it.  Full flights, competition for overhead bin space, delays, minimal service – I am not sure why anyone would think flying is glamorous.

There was an opinion piece in today’s Raleigh News and Observer from Froma Harrop that caught my eye.  As I read Ms. Harrop’s opinion piece I sat there and shook my head and concluded Ms. Harrop must not travel much.  If she does, she and I are 180 degrees out of phase.

In my opinion, Ms. Harrop couldn’t be more wrong.  After reading her article I wondered who she is (a syndicated columnist) and found her web site where she had another post about the Knee Defender.  This post contained a link to the story in the NY Times by Josh Barro.  Ms. Harrop had stated in her post that Mr. Barro defended the Knee Defender user but that isn’t how I read his article but that is besides the point.

Maybe Ms. Harrop would have a different opinion of seat recliners had her computer been damaged by an over zealous seat recliner like mine was on a US Air flight back in February.

I’ve read a bunch of articles and comments I am squarely on the side of the Knee Defender user and firmly believe that people who reline their seats to the max and/or without consideration are simply rude.  Particularly those who do it without concern to who or what might be behind them.

My job requires me to travel.  Over the 20+ years of doing what I do for a living, I have flown in excess of 3,000,000  (yes million) air miles.  Most of it is on American Airlines (by far my favorite airline) but for the past 5-6 years I’ve mostly flown on United  (starting with Continental until the merger).  USAir had been part of the Star Alliance (their participation ended at the ended of March due to the AA merger) so I also had quite a few flights on USAir.  USAir via Charlotte is by far the best (and cheapest) way for me to get to Phoenix from Raleigh which I’ve been doing 8-10 times a year for the past few years.

I get a lot of work done on the plane.  I find it very productive time and actually look forward to being disconnected from my phone and the Internet for an extended period to work on something without interruption.  For me time on the plane isn’t down time and it isn’t fun time.  It is work time just like if I were in the office.

About the only time I recline my seat is when flying on the red-eye.  Why?  Because I think it is rude and discourteous to lean my seat back into someone’s face.  I am also fully aware that a lot of people, particularly those who don’t travel much, feel it is their birth right to recline their seat.

Some people are fairly reasonable – if you ask them if if it is really necessary to fully recline their seat, most will accommodate the request and recline partially.  Of course some won’t.  I’ve dealt with obnoxious people over the years.

Yes, it is your right to lean your seat back but if you must do it, and I really don’t think you do, at least be courteous about it.  Look before you lean back.  Lean back slowly.  Ask if it is ok.  I’m fairly tall, 6’2″, so on some flights a reclined seat results in my knees in the back of the seat.  Does that bother you Mr. or Ms. Seat Recliner?  Too bad.  I don’t like it either but you are the one who chose to recline your seat.

So what happened to my computer?  As I was working away on a flight from Charlotte to Phoenix, the woman in front of me reclined her seat very quickly and very forcefully.  I am usually aware of seat recliners because I am worried about my laptop.  However this woman surprised me and I wasn’t ready.  When she leaned her seat back, the corner of her seat where the tray table sites caught the corner of my laptop and stopped the seat from reclining.  I guess I had my laptop at just the right angle because instead of moving the lid one way or other, the force of the seat coming back compressed the screen and hinge to point where it broke.  Because her seat recline was temporarily impeded by my laptop screen, she began really pushing it back almost as if she were bouncing against it.  This caused the screen to bend and an audible crack was heard as part of it broke.

This all happened in a matter of seconds and I immediately yelled “stop it” and put my hand on the back of the seat and pushed it back forward.  This made the woman very upset and resulted in a minor scene.  Needless to say I was upset – the damage to my laptop was obvious and the screen immediately showed a entire area of dead pixels and vertical lines.  The woman kept going on about how she was “entitled” to recline her seat.

She wasn’t the least bit sorry that her recline had damaged my laptop.  She was offended that I was upset.  I was dumbfounded as to how she could be so selfish as I would (a) never had done what she did and (b) if I were involved in a similar incident, I would have apologized for being negligent.

Accidents happen and had this woman shown any remorse what so ever, I would have chalked it up to one of those things which happens if you fly enough.  The only thing she was worried about was her right to recline her seat which she was “entitled” to.  She then said to me “you must not travel much” which left me almost speechless.  Almost.  I told her I travel plenty and I would never do anything as rude and inconsiderate as what she had done.  Ever.

The flight attendant was actually pretty helpful as he told the woman to calm down and be reasonable.  He also gave me some information to take to US Air customer service once I got to Phoenix.  He dodn’t know what they would do but he said it was worth a shot to make a claim.

In Phoenix I visited customer service and even though it took a while, the woman I spoke to said there was a chance US Air would do something.  After several weeks of phone calls, faxes, and emails, I actually got in touch with someone at US Air who seemed to have the authority to do something.  Much to my surprise, US Air paid to have my laptop repaired although it took a lot of my time to chase it down.  The repair costs was about $350.

Personally I’d like to see all seats be fixed so they can’t recline like the seats in front of the emergency exit row.  I think it it would prevent quite a bit of in flight aggravation and eliminate the need for devices like the Knee Defender.

So Ms. Harrop, you’re absolutely entitled to your opinion.  I just think you’re wrong.  I felt that way years ago and I definitely reaffirmed my opinion back in February dealing with the “entitled” seat recliner.  I hope the hour of recline that woman had was worth it – her selfish act probably resulted in 20 hours of legwork and follow up for me with US Air to get my computer fixed.

By the Skin of My Nose


I haven’t posted about any of my travel in a while but I finally have something worth posting about and it isn’t even a rant!  I re-qualified for United Gold status this week.  I had concluded I was going to come up short so it was a pleasant surprise when I checked my account and saw that I had crawled over the 50k mark by 12 miles!  Who-hoo!  I still like American Airlines better than United but my travels recently are served better by United so I expect I’ll continue to fly them as my primary carrier.


United Airlines – Meh

I haven’t posted much about traveling lately.  In fact, now that I think about it, it has been quite a while.  My work travel ebbs and flows, it always has.  I can go several weeks to a month without traveling to having to travel 3-4 weeks in a row.  I do my best to keep my trips as short as possible.  I know it is cliche, but there is very little about traveling which is glamorous.  In fact there is a lot of it that just plain sucks.

I have been a loyal American Airlines passenger for 20 years but as AA’s service out of RDU has scaled back, I sometimes have to fly other airlines.  Spreading oneself around a bunch of airlines is (IMNSHO) a bad idea as there is nothing worse than traveling a lot and not having and status to show for it.  For a number of years Continental has been my second choice airline.  A few years ago I became a OnePass Gold member on Continental which was nice because their upgrade policy is waaaaaaay better than AA’s is.  Of course, I then didn’t fly enough on Continental to retain my status, in fact, I didn’t fly enough to even keep Silver (big mistake on my part).

I have Lifetime Platinum status with American Airlines so there really isn’t a lot of motivation for me to fly AA.  They treat me well and I like the fact that their planes have more spacing between the seats and most have power in them but I have zero desire to travel enough to qualify for Executive Platinum.  This year I’ve flown on Continental again quite a bit so I am in the ballpark for qualifying for OnePass Gold.  The United-Continental merger is a great unknown so I’ve tried really hard to keep my Continental flying on real Continental flights.

This week I had to fly United (best price, best schedule) to SFO but I booked it as a Continental flight.  I was curious to see how this turned out.  For the most part it was fine although moving my seat worked sometimes and didn’t work other times.  Not real sure what is going on there.  I ended up with an exit row aisle seat from IAD to SFO (yeah) only to find a huge guy in the middle seat when I boarded the plane (ugh).  I spent most of the flight leaning into the aisle (bleh).

The thing which bothered me the most about these United flights (on United equipment) was the lack of seat power on any of them.  Most AA flights have seat power in all rows up to the exit row and then pretty much every other row from the exit row on to back.  The AA seating map on their web site denotes which seats have power so you can move yourself around to get one that does.  I like power.  I like to be able to use my laptop while I am on the plane.  I get lots done.  Many of the CO flights I’ve taken this year have power in the seats.  The four United flights I was on this week had none.  Even in First Class (I was upgraded once).

I was thinking that the UA-CO merger might be ok because it might offer some more options for me but if none of the planes have power, I may have to rethink it.  It may all be a moot point as I am inline to get a new laptop soon (mine is 3+ years old) so whatever I get will likely have plenty of battery for a 6-7 hour flight.

Still, the United equipment was visibly old.  I thought the merger would address some of it but it looks like all they did was paint the planes with the Continental colors.

I’m Liking Continental Airlines

Historically I’ve been a loyal patron of American Airlines.  20 years ago when I started flying a lot American had a hub at Raleigh-Durham International Airport so flying American was easy and made the most sense.  I’ve been a AA Platinum Flyer every year since 1993 and passed the 2M lifetime miles a few years ago which (currently but subject to change as their paperwork points out) means I am Platinum for life.  This is a nice perk as I don’t have to worry about re-qualifying every year.  Even though I haven’t had to re-qualify, I have continued to fly AA primarily with a few flights on other airlines mostly Continental.

This year I have not traveled domestically as much as I normally but I have gone to Europe five times and three of them have been all or partially on Continental so I  have accumulated a fair number of miles this year.  Enough that I became Silver a few months ago.  This was nice because it means I can board in the Elite Access line.  Two weeks ago I went to Europe, again on Continental and with their double qualifying miles program, I have now become Gold and have an outside shot at Platinum.  I never would have expected this flying from Raleigh where Continental flies to three places – Houston, Cleveland, and Newark.

My experience so far with Continental has been very pleasant.  I can’t see making them my preferred carrier, American will always be that but having status on another airline is nice and gives me some more options.

That 70's Weekend at the Baltimore Inner Harbor

This past weekend we went to Baltimore for a weekend with my extended family.  My Dad had sent my sisters and I a request to host some sort of birthday celebration for he and my mom since they were both turning 70.  As I am sure many families can attest, coordinating the logistics between five families (total of 18 kids and adults) who live in four different cities (Raleigh, North Virginia (x2), Milwaukee, and San Diego) is a bit of a challenge.

Where to go?  When?  Fly?  Drive?  We thought about the beach, the mountains, skiing, a C&O Canal trip, and many other ideas.  We quickly realized that between school for the kids (some on traditional schedule, some on year round), work for the adults, other obligations, there just weren’t many weekends to choose from so we ended up choosing the period between Christmas and New Years.  With that period falling on a weekend this year, it worked out well.  All the kids were out of school and work is for the most part, pretty quiet.

Once we settled on a weekend, we still needed to decide where to go.  We eliminated a lot of choices by picking a winter time slot.  We had thought a trip to Great Wolf Lodge would be fun and it would be but it is pretty pricey and if you aren’t into water parks, there isn’t a lot else to do unless you leave the resort.  Leaving the resort doesn’t make a lot of sense since that is what you pay for so we ruled that out.  Skiing?  Could be pricey and would divide up the family between skiers – good and fair, and non-skiers which defeated the purpose of getting together.  So we ruled that out too.  My parents live in the DC area and there are ton of things to do there but over the years we have done most of them and we wanted to do something else.  Baltimore is close and the Inner Harbor has lots to do so after checking out a few options, we settled on Baltimore.

We ended up making a game out of the weekend and divided the family up into five teams.  We had a series of contests or Clues as we called them, with a winner for each event.  This made the weekend a lot of fun and mixed the families up into groups they normally wouldn’t be in.  Having a series of activities on the agenda also kept us from looking at each other and trying to decide what to do next.

We had activities which could be done at the hotel and some which were done at various attractions,  We had a scavenger hunt at the National Aquarium and another at the B&O Railroad Museum.  We had another around the Inner Harbor itself which involved going all over the place to track down information.  We had a Family Feud inspired trivia contest and a “snack association” game where some sort of snack food was associated with each family member and teams had to figure out who went with which snack.  My sister from Milwaukee lives near the Jelly Belly factory and brought 18 different types of jellybeans to be identified by color and taste.  After you have a couple, they all start to taste the same, except of course, the jalapeno ones which taste terrible!

We stayed at the Residence Inn on Light Street which is about 5 blocks from the Inner Harbor.  I love Residence Inns – they work really well for my family of six.  Breakfast is nice, the extra room is really nice to have, and having a refrigerator to keep food and drinks help us from having to eat out for every meal.  The Light Street Residence Inn is one of the nicer ones I have stayed at – I highly recommend it.  I have added it to my list of list of Hotels that Don’t Suck.

All in all, we had a great weekend, my parents were thrilled and everything came off without a hitch.  About the only thing that was bad was the drive home.  DC traffic is bad.  Really bad.  I simply cannot fathom commuting up and down the I-95 corridor every day like some people do.  I would be insane.  They really need to figure out how to bring the Metro down into Prince William county.  Probably never happen but it would help a lot.

I just love Newark Airport ….

I had to go to New Jersey yesterday for a meeting and had a 6:10 PM flight scheduled to continue on to Orlando for another meeting today.  I was flying Continental and while their planes are newer, the seat pitch just isn’t what American’s is.  That 2-3 inches makes a huge difference.  Anyway – when I got to Newark my flight was showing on time but by the time i got to the gate, it was clear it wouldn’t be.  There was still a flight at my scheduled gate so we were moved one gate down the terminal.  Then we were delayed.  By the time we started boarding it was about 6:40 and since the flight was full, it took a while to board.  After departing the gate we sat on the runway for another hour, maybe more.  The pilot made up some time in the air – and we finally landed about 10:30, about an hour late so he made up at least 30 minutes.  Just a typical Newark experience!

Hotels That Don't Suck update

I was in Europe last week and visited Finland and Sweden.  Although I have been to Sweden upwards of 15 times, I have never stayed at a hotel at the airport.  I had a 7:00 AM departure to London and a co-worker I was with had an earlier flight so I suggested we stay at the airport and save the 40 minute cab ride from Kista where our office is.

We ended up at the Radisson SAS Sky City which is right in the airport.  I have added this hotel to my Hotels that Don’t Such list.  It is a nice  hotel and being right in the terminal save a ton of time in the morning.  It may cost a little more but taking some of the risk out of early morning connections in Europe is well worth the risk.

Hanging Rock State Park

Last weekend we took the family up to Hanging Rock State Park in north central North Carolina.  We had planned to camp for two nights in the park but when we arrived about 4:30 the camp ground was already full.  Uh-oh.  Now what?

We had passed the Sertoma 4H camp on our way in the Camp Host told us there was a small campground as part of the 4H property which we should try.  So we headed back down the hill and found Camp Sertoma.  It doesn’t look like much when you pull in but considering we didn’t have many options, it met our needs.  It turns out, it is actually a pretty nice campground as long as you don’t mind fairly primitive camping (we don’t).

A small storm moved in just as we arrived and we ended up setting our tent up in the rain on a site near the stream.  This turned out to be a great site as the kids played in the stream constantly for two days whenever we were back at camp.    We picked up some firewood from a local resident down the road a mile or so and were ready to make dinner.

On Saturday we hiked three trails – Hanging Rock, Upper Cascades, and Hidden Falls/Windows Falls.  Of the three, the kids liked the Hidden Falls/Windows Falls the best as there was lots of rocks to climb and they liked following the stream back up the hill.  The Hanging Rock trail is a nice hike, it is fairly long and some of the steps up are tough for smaller kids but our four (ages 6-13) all made it without any problem.  The view from the top is impressive.  After about 6 hours of hiking, we went back to camp for a while to get something to eat and drink and veg out.  We then went back to the park to check out the swim lake.

On Sunday we hiked the Lower Cascades and the Tory’s Den / Tory Falls trails.  The Lower Cascades is well worth doing, the falls are the nicest we saw in the park and there are some smaller, less traveled paths up and down the falls area that are worth exploring.  The Tory’s Den/Falls trail was disappointing as there was very little water flowing and what there was, was hard to see.

All in all, a great weekend, it was nice to get away before every weekend is consumed with soccer games for the next 3 months!

The Marriott CDG doesn't suck!

I travel a fair amount for work so over the last 15+ years have stayed in some nice hotels and som really crappy ones.  This week I found one which truly does not suck.  The Marriott at Charles de Gaule Airport is a nice hotel.  It has everything I like in a hotel (except ESPN) and as anyone who has traveled in Europe will tell you, a known good hotel is not something to scoff at.  It was such a pleasure to stay here, I decided to put together a list of hotels that don’t suck.

Why do I like the Marriott CDG?

  1. It is close to the airport (CDG).
  2. Free shuttle to and from CDG.
  3. Free Internet
  4. Full size bed!
  5. Excellent pillows
  6. Nice bar
  7. Reasonable (relative considering the crappy exchange rate) good prices
  8. Drinks and Snacks available without having to use room service

The next time I am in Paris I will almost certainly stay here the night before I fly out.

MacBook Pro? Dell XPS1330?

I need a new laptop and need one soon.  My HP is on it last legs.  On my way home from Denver the other day (a crappy trip home, I missed my connection and had to sepnd the night in Dallas due to the tornados in the Denver area) it acted as if the delete key was stuck again and deleted about two weeks worth of e-mail.  It is a real PITA when it does this.  I end up having to go back through my deleted items to determine what shouldn’t be deleted.

Anyway, enough whining about that.  I am going to get a new laptop.  My employer has standardized on Dell machines although there are exceptions (I have had an HP for a while).  I have mentioned earlier that I like the Dell Latitude X1 I borrowed from one of our IT guys so I am thinking of going small and light instead of high end workstation replacement.

I wish the Dell XPS1330 had a good docking station solution – the lack of one is the only thing which turns me off.  I am also intrigued by the Mac – if I get one it would be the 15″ MacBook Pro.  The only thing which I don’t like about the Mac is the lack of a three button mouse because I will have to run Windows on it too.

Decisions, decisions.  Going the Dell route will be easier because I will have IT support (if I want it) but I also like the idea of the Mac – they are really elegant machines.  Either way, I want to make a decision next week – I am headed to Europe in a couple weeks and would like to have it before I go although it is unlikely.