Friday, January 10, 2014

Complimentary Chardonnay? Yes, please!

I love, love, love flying!  Growing up in Southern California with Disneyland practically in my back yard meant my parents felt little need to travel to vacation destinations other than to visit extended family in Arkansas and Illinois, and driving was the way we got there.  I was 18 before I flew on an airplane. I was on the Speech team in college and my freshman year we flew on a chartered flight with another college to St Louis for the National Speech Tournament.  I was equal parts excited and nervous with a touch of awe thrown in.  The idea that I could eat breakfast in California and dinner in Missouri was mind blowing. I have flown lots of times since then, mostly coach with the occasional first class upgrade, and I still get excited and a little nervous. Our airport in Missoula is a cozy, friendly place where the person behind the check-in desk printing your boarding pass is the same one who takes it from you at the gate.  Although we are an international airport, mostly due to the proximity of Canada, not many airlines fly out of here.  Of the ones that do, my hands down favorite is Alaska Airlines. 

The flight between here and Seattle is an absolute delight. It's a quick 1 hour and 15 minute trip that begins with you boarding from the tarmac to either the front or the back of the plane. It's amazing how quickly you can all get on board and settled when you use two entrances. There are only 2 seats on each side, so there is always plenty of room in the overhead bins.  I was the last person on the plane this past week as I headed out to spend New Year's Eve with my friend Cindy. I hadn't realized I was cutting it so close until I reached the boarding gate and the attendant called me by name saying she was happy I made it. Few flights means absolutely no waiting in line to take off, so once I was seated, we were in the air, winging our way over gorgeous snow covered mountains and winding rivers, a full 15 minutes early. In addition to the regular sodas, water and Starbucks, on this flight they also offer complimentary micro brews and wine from one of the growing number of wineries in the Oregon/Washington area. Even though I was on vacation, wine at 7am seemed a little indulgent, although others around me didn't seem to have a problem with that! The flight back was a different story. While booking this trip, I remembered what my brother, who travelled extensively both for business and pleasure, had told me years ago.  When on vacation, never ever pick an early flight. It's a vacation after all and the last thing you want to do is have to get up early. Try to squeeze in one more brunch if you can, he said. Don't choose the last flight, but definitely choose the one in the middle of the day. He also advised me that people were much more relaxed on later flights, no one fretting over getting to a meeting or convention on time and the planes were typically less full than the early morning ones.  I have to admit I am usually a first thing in the morning kind of flyer and had scheduled my flight over in my usual how-soon-can-I-get-there manner. But for the return flight, I decided to take his advice, so I left Seattle around 5pm, in an airplane where less than half the seats were occupied. Once the flight attendant closed the exterior doors, the woman next to me left for a window seat somewhere else and I had the row to myself. I loved it. No one to have to struggle past to get to the bathroom, no one to accidentally hit in the head with your coat as you retrieve it from the overhead bin, and no one to bump your wine holding hand. My brother was right about people being more relaxed, some of them were asleep as soon as we took off.

My brother was right about something else too.  When someone offers you free wine, he advised, always say yes.

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