A note from the Editor…

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On the average day in the United States, there are approximately 87,000 commercial airline flights. Of those flights, nearly 20 percent are delayed, and around 5 percent of those delays are the fault of the air carriers. In addition, slightly over 1 percent of daily flights are cancelled.

While 1 percent may seem minimal, it’s actually 870 cancelled flights per day and 317,550 per year in the United States alone. Considering these statistics, it isn’t surprising that airlines draw the ire of travelers across the country on social media, particularly via Twitter. Twitter allows any disgruntled passenger with an account to publicly contact and shame the airline for whatever inconvenience they may have inflicted upon their customers. The tweets often lead to lengthy exchanges in which some poor soul who manages the Twitter account for the company has to defend against the attacks of someone complaining as if flight problems are exclusive to them and not millions of people. Often, especially if the plaintiff has a large amount of Twitter followers, others will jump in on the conversation and fan the proverbial fire.

It is definitely not my goal to defend the U.S. airline industry in this editorial. As a person who is certainly not small in stature and can’t afford first class seats, I have never sat comfortably on an airplane. Having taken 10 or so round-trip flights in my life, I’ve also experienced my fair share of delays and cancellations, though I never bash the air carrier on social media.

But, on rare occasions, a cancelled flight can be a blessing in disguise.

Over spring break, I traveled to Jamaica with my family as I have done each of the last five years. At least three of the trips have resulted in severe flight itinerary malfunctions, and usually they completely suck.

Initially, our voyage home seemed like it would be a smooth trip. We had been monitoring the nor’easter ravaging the East Coast for days, which shut down air travel in both our layover and final destinations of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Boston, Massachusetts. Fortunately, the storm would not be an issue for us.

But as we were about to board our flight, the announcement was made that there was a mechanical problem with our American Airlines airbus and we would be receiving another update in 30 minutes. The line of passengers all loudly groaned, and one short man in a bright yellow hat sprinted up to the gate attendant and proceeded to berate her, flailing his arms in the air as if his antics would miraculously solve the situation.

Thirty minutes later, the attendant announced we would be updated again in another half hour, and this cycle was repeated for the next three hours. All the while the little angry man in the yellow hat hassled the American Airlines employees, before he eventually retreated to the bar, which I’m sure only improved his behavior.

Personally, the worst part was the Montego Bay airport itself. Although it has many appealing restaurants and stores, the seats are decades old and instead of outlets to charge your phone, there are holes in the wall where they used to be. As the wait approached five hours, these flaws began to feel less like an inconvenience and more like a matter of survival.

Finally, around hour five, it was announced that American Airlines would be flying in the necessary part to fix the plane from Miami and that the flight would be taking off “tonight.” At that point it was around 4 p.m. and they didn’t give us an idea of what time “tonight” meant. But not long after, as we were dwelling on the idea of waiting in those terrible seats until “tonight,” the flight was officially cancelled. What ensued was arguably the coolest part of the trip for me.

American Airlines gave us vouchers for rooms at the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay, and I expected it to be an inferior version of the basic chain accommodations we have in Vermont. I could not have been more wrong.

The Montego Bay Holiday Inn is an enormous, all-inclusive mega-resort located directly on the beach. I had heard rumors of places like this but wasn’t sure they actually existed. The wrist bands they provided gave us access to a delicious Jamaican buffet for our two meals, as well as unlimited free alcoholic drinks, both of which I took full advantage of.

Since we arrived after nightfall, we missed out on several key amenities. The pool was closed but it surrounded the complex like a moat and you could swim to your room, while also stopping at one of several pool bars along the way. There was also a large arcade and gaming lounge, every kind of outdoor sport or recreation facility you could possibly need and a concert venue. I’m certain there were many more features that I left undiscovered.

My only complaint is that we couldn’t have stayed longer and fully experienced the resorts greatness. Hopefully this journalism gig will eventually pay enough so I can return for a real stint there on my own dime. Maybe I should tweet American Airlines and thank them — I’m sure they would appreciate positive feedback for once.

 

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