I know everyone has had their panties in a bunch over United Airlines lately. But a lot of airlines have the same kind of gall. Like any business, the money is the most important thing and the customers are the ones that have to suffer. And one example of that is tight connections.
The airline industry is an animal all its own, and a lot of intricate processes go into determining what makes a connection “legal” or not. Technically, a legal connection is anything that is humanly possible, usually at the extreme effort of the person flying. It’s kind of like saying it’s technically possible to drive 5 miles in 1 minute, but only if you’re going 150 mph and flying over other cars.
I recently had a connection in Vienna on the way to Prague from Bucharest that was 30 minutes. This means that my time of arrival was the same as my connecting flight’s boarding time. That wouldn’t be so bad if the airport was small and all you had to do was walk a couple of feet. But Vienna International is a pretty large airport with three levels and several terminals and lettered gate areas.
But it gets worse than that. Vienna International Airport is one of these awful places where half the flights park somewhere on the tarmac and passengers have to be shuttled from the plane to the terminal. That’s one of my biggest flying pet peeves. Because this means that the plane’s official time of arrival is meaningless, for the purposes of calculating a legal connection. Because the cute little bus ride eats up at least 15 minutes of connecting time.
On my particular flight, I was also going through passport control since I was entering from a country not in the Schengen area. And the problem with that is so are hundreds of other people from other international flights. And for some reason they only had 4 immigration officials checking passports. I don’t want to be that person that’s begging a crowd of people to let me pass because my flight started boarding 15 fucking minutes ago. And I shouldn’t have to be. The airline should account for that kind of time (especially at its home airport).
Then to add even more insult to injury, between my arrival and departure terminal, I had to go through security. Fuck any airport that makes you go through a full security check if you’re not even stopping there. To get on any plane anywhere in the world I have to go through security. So by the time I arrived at your shitty airport in Vienna, I had already scanned all of my bags and gone through a metal detector in Bucharest.
But Austrian Airlines doesn’t care about any of these obstacles. Even though any airport in the world suggests arriving at least 2 hours before a flight to do all of this, Austrian Airlines thinks it’s fine to squeeze it into 30 minutes. Because it’s technically legal. I guess if the airport is completely empty and you’re on a motorized scooter.
Which is my other problem. I’m 29 years old, relatively fit, and I travel light. So I can easily book it for a mile to another terminal to make my flight. But if my parents were taking that flight or if a family of 5 was taking that flight, they simply wouldn’t be able to go fast enough. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s physically possible for everyone. And that is a fucked business practice. It’s purposefully difficult, inconvenient, and sometimes impossible for paying customers.
And to be honest, we need to start demanding more from the companies that we invest our hard-earned money on. Flyers should be entitled to the minimum service they’ve paid for without having to put suffer through added stress and airport cardio.
So did I make my flight? Yes, sweaty, out of breath, and without so much as having an opportunity to go to the bathroom. And I had to throw out my water when I went through security, so I didn’t even have anything to drink. But the only reason I made it was that when I got to my gate 5 minutes before takeoff, my connecting flight was delayed because the plane had to be changed at the last minute.
Fortunately, I’m really productive when I’m traveling. So I spent my 50-minute flight writing this as a warning to other travelers. And writing a strongly worded complaint to Austrian Airlines for their inconsiderate planning.