Do Better, American Airlines

I’m flying. Right now. No, not right now, but while writing this. I’m on an American Airlines flight to Chicago. It’s a small plane. An Embraer 170/175. I used to work for a company of one of the component suppliers to Embraer for this very aircraft. We worked closely with this company so I’ve seen many different cabin layouts. Lavish ones. Comfortable ones for the economy class.

But this? This small, atrocious configuration American chose? It’s no surprise flights are being re-directed due to battling passengers.

I can see the new growth coming out of the gentleman’s scalp in front of me. I can see the flakes of dead skin. He also has one gray hair. I feel like I know this man. More than anyone should know a complete stranger anyways. Wait, there’s an empty follicle. He must be starting to bald.

Aside from the up close and personal details of the man’s scalp in front of me, he’s also decided to recline his seat. No worries of another knee-saver battle. I’m only 5’9 and my knees were hitting his seat before he decided recline so there’s no possibility of knee-saver use to begin with…if I even owned one. You can imagine the joy of my pain when he came ramming back.

You should see my posture while writing this. I had plans to work on a freelance project on my 15″ MacBook during the flight. No chance. With the tray table down, I’m barely able to use my iPad, which I’m using right now. It’s so close to my torso, I feel like a t-rex. I am not the only one, and that poor bastard has to rest part of his laptop on his gut. (P.S. My tray table is broke.)

I fly frequently for work and semi-frequently to visit family in WI. This is the worst. His seat isn’t even fully reclined. I can only hope he decides to try and force his way back even further. Maybe I can whisper sweet nothings into his ear as I bare the pain of my knee caps being pinned through the back of his seat. As it is now, the reprieve felt any time he leans forward is that of the ending of a Nickleback song. You know that torture.

I’m not going to pretend I know the financial performance and health of the major airlines to try and guess at the reasons behind their ticket pricing strategies, but I can tell you that Southwest and United are leaps and bounds ahead of American in MY customer satisfaction.

I never have seat issues on United and Southwest. I can usually sit comfortably AND use my laptop even when the person in front of me reclines.

Southwest offers wi-fi and free TV on many flights with their partnership with DISH Network. Drink service is prompt and snacks follow soon thereafter. I’ve been on this American flight for over an hour and the drink orders are just now being taken. Did I mention Southwest is usually the cheapest hub-to-hub airline and you get two free checked bags?

United sometimes has electrical outlets under their seats and in-flight movies. After Southwest, there’s a good chance United is next cheapest as long as you go through online ticket brokers like Cheaptickets.com, Expedia, Priceline, etc. Their flight network is much larger than Southwest too. I really like United if Southwest isn’t going where I need to be.

But American?

I’ve flown with American many times since 2006. They used to be good back then, but were still nothing special. Just an average airline doing average things. (Like U.S. Airways nowadays.) Because of that and their increasing ticket prices, this is my first flight with them in a couple years. It was booked through work. I didn’t have a choice. Otherwise I wouldn’t have chose them. Trust me. And you can obviously see how much they’ve devolved.

You can look around and see how uncomfortable everyone is. The only person in the near vicinity that doesn’t have their knees smashed into the seat in front of him is a man that goes about 5’6 standing. Wi-fi? Nope. In-flight movie? First you’d need monitors. Can a guy at least get a free gps flight tracker?! I mean, you don’t offer anything else. At least let me watch a dot crawl across the screen for the next 2 hours. Bonus points if you replace the dot with a little airplane graphic.

Sometimes these things can be overlooked or expected when exceptional customer service or much lower ticket prices are involved. The check-in counter attendants that took my luggage acted like zombies and barely said hi. I don’t think I’ve seen either of the flight attendants smile once. And I know this wasn’t the cheapest flight available.

American Airlines, do better. Preferrably before my connecting flight.

Update

I tweeted this post and tagged American Airlines. They replied, but I really don’t think they get it.

I’m happy they’re upgrading their fleet with newer and roomier planes, but they’re still only offering it as an add-on. I tried asking them multiple times, but they didn’t really want to give me a straight answer. That question being: Why would I pay you extra when I can get it for free with a different airline that also has cheaper tickets?????

American Airlines Denial

Wadi Rum Sunset

A Look Back at #TryingStuffinJordan

It’s one thing to write a post as soon as you get back from a life-changing, completely eye opening vacation/experience/location/all above, it’s another to write a ‘review’ 4 months later.

When I got back from my trip to the Kingdom of Jordan with Columbia Sportswear, I could not put into words the things I saw, felt, experienced, and lived. I failed to do, what I claim to do best. But can you blame me?

It was more than anything I could have imagined. Outside of Mexican resort towns, I had never left the U.S. Including Mexico, I had never left North America. I grew up, went to college, and live in areas that are predominantly white. As such, the religion is mostly Christianity as well. Despite those things, I still consider myself a fairly cultured individual and keep up on world affairs. However, reading BBC or Al Jazeera from my couch, living near the cultural hub of Minneapolis, MN for 6 years, still did not prepare me for a first hand experience.

I was so blown away by the generosity and joy the people of Jordan display every day that I wrote a post while we were still on the trip:

Young Jordanian Girl

A Cultural Awakening: The People of Jordan

The Secrecy of #TryingStuff with Columbia

On top of all the new personal experiences, there’s also the ever-present height of anticipation. When you try stuff with Columbia Sportswear, you have no idea of what comes next. I’m paraphrasing a little bit, but this is how we were told to prepare for the entire trip:

Here’s some gear and clothing; pack it in this duffle; bring this bag; here’s your plane tickets; show up to the airport on time. See you in Jordan.

Yeah, ok!

It didn’t get much better once we arrived. We had no idea what was going on from day to day until dinner the previous day or breakfast the day of. And then it was basically, “we may or may not be getting wet. You may or may not want board shorts. You may or may not want your PowerDrains.” Or, “Today might be dry. You should consider the regular shoes.”

C’mon, MAN!

Can you imagine? All the anticipation, all the treasures Jordan has to offer, and all you can do is sit and wonder? We were never disappointed when we’d arrive at a destination. Every single day was one jaw dropping experience after another.

And I think this is why keeping everything a secret is so important and so awesome. It prevents you from looking past one day’s experience and onto the next. It forces you to live in the moment and take everything in. Because you have no idea what comes next, there’s no need to occupy your mind with anything else.

Admittedly (and very obviously if you read my site), I’m not a huge fan of hiking. I mean, I’ll do it, especially when we’re hiking through The Lost City of Petra, one of the Wonders of the World, with 11 of my best friends in the world, but it’s still not something I’d be like, “hey, let’s go to Jordan so we can go hiking!” If I knew we were going to the Red Sea the day after hiking in Petra, I can guarantee I’d be thinking about the sea instead of enjoying my time learning about the ancient history of Petra.

Without knowing that, without knowing anything, you truly get to live the moment.

Our Jordanian Guide: Mohammad

Never stopped working, just to make sure everything was perfect for us.
Never stopped working, just to make sure everything was perfect for us.

It’s one thing to get on a tour bus and listen to someone that has done the same tours over and over and over again to a bunch of senior citizens going to the local casino, it’s another to have someone that appears rejuvenated every single day he comes to work. There was never a time I didn’t see a smile on this guy’s face. If there wasn’t a smile, it’s probably because he was building up to the punchline of a joke.

There was no history question he couldn’t answer, and there was never anything we couldn’t do (inside the laws, of course). If there was something we wanted, chances were good, Mohammad could make it happen.

One of my favorite memories of the trip, and possibly the best day of the trip (possibly) was the last full one. Justin and I were giving interviews and the rest of the group went swimming up a slot canyon. We had to stay back so Mohammad took the two of us and Jeff (a badass slow-mo cameraman) up to the waterfall himself. I can’t remember the last time I saw 3 grown adults acting liking such children. We were jumping, splashing, swimming, smiling, and laughing for the entire trip up the canyon. It was a bittersweet end to the entire trip. Without him, who knows if it would have turned out the same.

Mujib Biosphere

The OmniFamily

I know you’ve heard me talk about this before, after I got back from Park City for the original Season 4 #OmniTen trip, and those feelings only strengthened. I absolutely loved getting to know better the nine other people with me.

When we were in Park City, it was a zoo. There were 30-something of us running around, partying, and acting like morons. It was really hard to spend quality time with people to get to know them. I was there a couple of days earlier with my Season 4 posse so I did know Seth, Beth, and Andrew already when we got to the airport in Chicago. Heather and I live close to each other and have hung out on other Colorado trips so this gave me the opportunity to bond with Jon, Casey, Erika, Caleb, and Justin.

Of course, I not only extend this designation to all #OmniTen, but also to all of the Columbia people that made this happen like Mark, Daniel, Scott, and the rest of their teams that we haven’t met.

And there’s new people too! The film crew that followed us around tirelessly easily put in double or triple the miles and double or triple the hours. These guys weren’t just faceless film crew, walking around like android props, but actual, real people with stories of their own. I know, right?! It was a blast hanging out and getting to know all of them.

 

Dead Sea

Four Months Later…

If you remember, I started this post talking about not being able to aptly describe the experience as soon as I got back. And here’s why I think a ‘review’ 4 months later might have even more value than the knee-jerk reaction:

After the initial exuberance wears off, after you forget the tiny little details, after you forget about the exact daily itinerary, what’s left?

What’s left is what truly stuck with you. What’s left is the important stuff. What’s left are the things that you’re going to tell people for the rest of your life.

Here’s what’s left for me:

Everything I mentioned above: the Jordanian people, our guide, the #OmniFamily, our film crew.

I remember seeing the sun rise over Amman.

Sunrise over Amman, Jordan

I remember seeing Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan from a single point in the Red Sea.

Red Sea Sunset

 

I remember sleeping under the stars at Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum Sunset

 

I remember walking into the most breathtaking and picturesque hotel I’ve ever seen or been in, and it was 100% off the grid. Feynan Ecolodge:

©Feynan Ecolodge, photo by Bashar Alaeddin
©Feynan Ecolodge, photo by Bashar Alaeddin

I remember floating in the Dead Sea.

©Columbia Sportswear, photo by Mark Going
©Columbia Sportswear, photo by Mark Going

I remember spectacular slot canyons and more nature than I had ever expected.

Slot canyon

I remember giant burial tombs for kings and MASSIVE stone architecture in Petra.

Petra Cathedral

I remember camels.Wadi Rum Camel Ride

This trip will forever hold a place in my heart. Right before we left, I put up a Facebook status: “I may never return from this.” And I don’t think I have. Since we’ve gotten back, I’ve focused my time around freelancing. I’ve focused my money around #VanLife. I’ve took control of my life, and it’s time to start living it to the fullest. This trip provided the insight and motivation to make these things happen. I was right. There is no coming back.

Thank you, Columbia Sportswear, and thank you, everyone in the Kingdom of Jordan.