Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The airport guessing game

You may have guessed from the lack of posting, but I've been pretty busy at work lately, and that, of course, means traveling and plenty of it.

I was in Ohio when the most recent round of FAA regulations kicked in regarding liquids and gels. Reportedly things were absolutely nuts at the airport after that so the next morning my co-worker and I arrived early to make sure we had plenty of time to check in and get through security. Having arrived so early, it was almost disappointing when things went smoothly. There was no line at the United counter; so check in was a breeze. Better yet, things were so quiet at the security checkpoint that the security people stood around and chatted with me for a few minutes. There was nobody else to check, so I assume they wanted the company.

Skip ahead two days and I was back on the road again, this time taking United's red-eye flight from O'Hare to Dulles. I arrived early (4AM) and scoped out the security situation. As usual, one line was closed until 5AM while the other was overflowing with people. It was bad enough that I waited from 4:30 to 5 at the closed checkpoint. I was 3rd in line there when they opened and I think I came out about the same as if I had waited in the other line.
Dulles of course was its usual mess of construction, shuttle busses, and lines so I figured I should be plenty early again when I came back later that week. I couldn't have been more wrong. I came back to Dulles, and dropped off the rental car in a nearly deserted return area. The United line had seven (yes I said seven!) people in it. This was at Dulles where I normally have a minimum wait of 20 minutes at the check-in counter! Security was just as deserted.

Maybe I'm starting a good streak and I'm getting through the airports without the congestion and hassles. Maybe this last round of restrictions is actually discouraging travel, making it much easier for us business travelers to get around

Wishful thinking.

2 nights ago I came through O'Hare again and it was worse than usual. The check in counters and security lines were full of people and stretching out beyond the areas where they normally 'corral' everyone. The TSA agents were slowly filling their 55 gallon drums with toothpaste, deodorant and other such suspicious products. The concourses are absolutely packed with people and several flights were having trouble taking off because they were missing crew members.

I wonder what my next flight will be like.

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