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All Airlines Suck

There’s no point in saying “I’ll never fly X airline again” anymore.

Airplane Crash Mexico
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LAGUARDIA AIRPORT, New York- The lady behind the check in counter was annoyed. She had her hands on her hips, she was shaking her head, and I heard her divert from Spanish to say “I’m not going to do that” while staring down a family of resistant Hispanic travelers.

The continued protesting something … but the check in lady was done. She just stood there shaking her head, caught in the middle about something that she couldn’t do anything about.

Eventually the family gave up and went away.

The check in lady let out a sigh of relief and smiled as I approached.

“I hope I’m going to be easier for you.”

“Where are you flying?”

“Orlando.”

“Oh dear, that flight is cancelled.”

“Why?”

“Weather.”

Weather, in this sense, should always be put in quotes, as when flights are delayed or cancelled due to “weather” it can either mean that there is a storm somewhere that is legitimately impacting air travel or an entire array of airline fuckups that they can blame on the weather so that they don’t have compensate travelers who’ve just had their trips decimated.

I told my pilot friend who flies for this airline that the flight was cancelled because of weather and he seemed a little suspicious. He looked at a few things and told me that it was more likely that the crew timed out on the flight going to LaGuardia and refused to extend because they’re having issues with their management and the airline didn’t have another crew to replace them.

There is no need to say what airline I was flying because they’re all the same. There is no good airline out there anymore — they all suck. With the exception of Wizz Air being the absolute worst, every other airline is a varying degree of bad.

This has especially been the case since the pandemic. Even without the Covid restrictions the entire airline industry seems to have forgotten how to operate. I don’t get it. My pilot friend doesn’t get it. Nobody that I talk to seems to get it.


So I guess I wouldn’t be getting to Orlando on that night. I checked some other options, all too expensive. I shrugged and began walking out of the airport. Over the past couple of years I no longer expect my flights to depart when I go to the airport. When the do actually leave I’m always kind of surprised. So I can’t say this was something that I didn’t imagine coming.

But when I was walking out of the airport I met a Chinese lady who wasn’t giving up so easily. She was in line for the check in desk ahead of me and recognized me. She asked what I was going to do. I shrugged and said I was going to go home. She said she was going to try another airline and invited me to join her. I said thank you but declined the offer. I was done. But she was a little adamant about me going with her. I declined again and she walked off. But as I watched her walking away it occurred to me what was going on: she didn’t speak English very well and wanted me to join up with me so that I could lead the way and help her out.

I’ve done this more times than I care to admit in countries where I couldn’t speak the dominant language. It’s a fundamental travel maneuver: when things get fucked and you don’t know what’s going on find a local that does and follow them.

I shrugged and chased after the Chinese lady. I met her on a bus to another terminal and she seemed happy to see me. She told me her name was Linda. She thought there was a flight on United for the insane price of $1,100. I accompanied her over to the United counter and did some talking for her. The lady guarding the check in counter over there was a real bitch and told us that we’d have to purchase tickets online because they didn’t sell tickets in person at the airport. That seemed odd … but I figured I could find a flight for less money anyway, so we walked away and sat on a railing to figure things out.

At some point I realized that this Chinese lady — who was working class Chinese, not middle class, travel savvy Chinese — wanted to go to Atlanta rather than Orlando. She pronounced both words about the same. Apparently the first airline had cancelled both their flights to Orlando and Atlanta. I wasn’t surprised.

I found a flight on American that seemed reasonable but had to go to the ticket counter to inquire about buying it. The guy over there ran the flight numbers but the layover seemed too tight — 5 min — and Linda agreed. The last thing she wanted was to be stuck in Charlotte, a city she didn’t even know existed until I told her about it five minutes before.

I had the ticket guy look for the following day and he found a direct flight for $280. Didn’t seem bad in the situation so I recommended that she buy it. She tried to use cash. The ticket guy said they don’t accept cash. She tried her card. It didn’t work in the USA. I ended up taking Linda’s cash and just using my card.

I don’t remember anyone ever doing that for me when abroad but I imagine it’s probably happened a time or two.

She got her ticket.

At least someone would be getting to their destination this weekend.

All airlines suck.

America is becoming a third world country with a third world mentality and third world capabilities. A post for another day.

Filed under: Air Travel, New York

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3636 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

9 comments… add one

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  • DaNuck May 30, 2022, 7:06 pm

    Wade, thanks for doing what “true” travelers do, help one another.
    Yep, the USA is fast going the way of the third world, unfortunately @ 1st. world prices…
    A real bummer !

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    • VBJ May 31, 2022, 9:41 am

      I never thought that I would show up to an airport in the USA and just expect my flight to be cancelled or delayed. That’s the way you think in an emerging market. Shit just doesn’t work here anymore and nobody seems to understand why. What’s worse is that we’re starting to get a third world mentality by just accepting it.

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  • Brett May 31, 2022, 10:04 am

    I think all of these problems can be boiled down to one word: Greed. Greed on behalf of airlines for charging high fares and surcharges. Airlines that cancel flights because of short staffing and blaming it on weather to avoid compensation. But greed on behalf of passengers too. Passengers demanding such low fares that they are willing to accept substandard service. Margins squeezed so tight on fares that airlines rely on fees to make up the difference. Greed on behalf of shareholders that only care about the next quarter’s profits at the expense of the industry and the flying public and employees. People are going to start demanding that airlines be re regulated so that there are actual standards for air travel once again. This has all been a race to the bottom that has to stop.

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    • VBJ May 31, 2022, 12:20 pm

      That is true. A race to the bottom is what it is. Eventually it will get there and I’m not sure what will happen next. I agree that re-regulation is a logical step. They can’t keep fucking with people for so long without some spotlight hungry senator to take up the rallying call. They are costing people too much time and money and imposing too much disappointment for this to go on.

      I kind of miss the old days when just one or two airlines truly sucked 😂

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      • Bob L May 31, 2022, 12:32 pm

        Don’t forget some of the things the government has done to “Help”. Changing the requirements for number of flight hours a pilot needs to fly commercial, a huge change from what I hear. Ask your pilot friend about other contributing factors to all of this.

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        • Brett May 31, 2022, 12:53 pm

          BobL: Totally agree. The airline lobbyists have really done a number on the industry. The FAA has been asleep at the wheel or complicit depending on who you talk to. *sigh*

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        • VBJ June 6, 2022, 10:21 am

          It seems like when the gov tries to step in with righteous action they just make things worse. It is amazing how little decision makers know … no, scratch that. It’s not about fixing problems as much as it is looking as if their fixing problems in a way that their votership approves of. Just look at how Section 230 reformed forced legions prostitutes back into the streets while doing little to shore up sex trafficing. Good going.

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      • Brett May 31, 2022, 12:50 pm

        Back in the ’90s when I was a travel agent, there was always that group of rag-tag airlines that people avoided or took if they wanted an adventure. Tower Air, Vanguard, Taesa etc. The others tried to give good service and to differentiate themselves from the competition by being unique in some way. Now it seems like most airlines are just flying cramped, single aisle planes with nothing different from one another apart from the logo on the outside. Kind of depressing really. My interest in aviation has waned in the last decade as a result.

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        • VBJ June 6, 2022, 10:23 am

          I don’t know if this was an all inclusive study or something internal at my friend’s airline, but apparently it was discovered that customer dissatisfaction has divorced from ticket sales. Meaning no matter how much you piss your customers off, cost them money, or ruin their lives, they will continue flying your airline. As you said, it’s a race to the bottom.

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