Did I write about our international air travel?
Before I get into that, let us mention the EgyptAir tragedy. Prayers go out for those who had friends and relatives on board that aircraft. Don’t jump to conclusions. The reason that plane went down is currently unknown, and will remain unknown for a period of time.
By the way there’s no smoking in lavatories on aircraft, and that rule exists for a good reason.
Anyway, I’m writing about the variances we experienced in our travels. We flew into New York – Kennedy. There are multiple terminals at Kennedy Airport. Delta renovated its terminal there recently, and it’s fairly nice. Unfortunately, we were doing international travel and we had to go to Terminal 1, where multiple airlines depart, including our flight on Alitalia.
Terminal 1 is a different world. The first thing you notice upon entering Terminal 1 is tobacco smoke. Smoking has largely been banned in public places in the United States, and that’s a good thing. It has NOT been banned elsewhere; it’s actually fairly popular. If you’re in Terminal 1, you’ve left the United States behind.
I’ve also noted in Terminal 1, you have left TSA behind. You’re getting rigorous checks. I have TSA PreCheck. It means little, except you have a less long line. The security checks are somewhat interesting, because you get screened before departure and during arrival. The same was true in Rome and Atlanta. I haven’t even gotten to Atlanta yet; that’s a different level of madness.
The method of boarding. Air China, their passengers were boarding a 747-8, the Intercontinental. The ones lining up did so in an orderly fashion. By the way, the Chinese are EVERYWHERE. I think it’s kind of cool because if you want peace, you have to have people with an understanding of other cultures. Anyway, our Alitalia passengers just got together in a group and filed onto the jet, no matter where it was. Because we were late departing, the aircraft commander actually backed away from the gate before passengers were seated. The airline gets fined for every minute they are at the gate. That’s a first for me, I had never heard of that.
So we flew off to Rome, on an Alitalia A-330. The flight was absolutely perfect, other than the fact A-330 seats are miniature. If you’re flying these days, you want to be 5’3″ or less. When you’re 5’6″ and squeezing into a seat, it’s unrealistic. Airlines try to get an ever increasing revenue stream, and their favorite method is to get a paying human into every square centimeter of an aircraft.
It also means carry-on restrictions because the weight isn’t getting revenue. Airbus sucks out loud, because they have modified the interior of airplanes — overhead bins — so bags that used to fit, do not. Boeing does too but not to the same degree. That’s why you now see Airbus in service with U.S. airlines. Of course, the second worst thing flying prior to their merger, U.S. Airways, loved themselves some Airbus.
We arrive in Rome; after customs, we do more screening. It seems there’s no trust between TSA and EU screening, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. EU screening is more intensive than TSA. TSA lets you know when they go through your stuff. The EU does not. They went through my wife’s bag and moved items around. Then again, we do not know these were security personnel. It could be airport employees going through luggage looking for gifts. Never put anything valuable in your checked luggage. I always put my clothing in space bags; they have a much tougher time messing with them without you noticing. Always check your bags before leaving a terminal, for potential claims. Space bags also prevent exposure of clothing to the environment.
At Rome, we were told our carry-ones were too big, so we had to check them. Ok, we didn’t have to pay but we had to take stuff out of them. Hmmm. We only had an hour flight, right? When we arrive in Trieste, one of the wheels on my wife’s carry-on is broken off. I’m currently looking for a replacement wheel.
Barcelona. You have to understand it’s not TSA. I went into the strip down laptop out mode but Barcelona didn’t make us do it. Then Delta had us go through “enhanced screening.” This is a thorough search, where you get every item you are carrying run through a scanner. So you are getting every item looked at twice … so far. At least there’s no smoking there.
Atlanta is a hub for Delta traffic. Multiple international flights arrive in Atlanta at once. This is not good, because you get rescreened there. No TSA PreCheck, everyone gets a thorough screening. You also receive your checked luggage there, and hand it off to Delta employees for additional screening! Here’s the bottom line at Atlanta: If you’ve arrived there with less than 90 minutes before your next flight, start the rebooking process. We had three hours before our flight back to Texas. We had a little over an hour left when we emerged from the security checkpoint.
I didn’t describe the actual screening techniques used, but it should be clear: passengers are always viewed with suspicion but your accompying luggage is a bit of an unknown. You are completely at the mercy of airport workers. I used to be a baggage handler for an airline, and it would surprise most people to find out what passes for cargo. A flimsy lock they can open whenever they want stands between airport workers, your personal items, or even worse.