It’s time to stop picking on United

My grandparents used to tell me that when televisions first started becoming popular the news stations had only one job: report the news. It was really simple: here is the story as we factually know it and presto…news! oh-how-the-media-likes-to-sensationalize-things-82123Once the networks realized that sensationalizing a story and essentially beating it into the ground was profitable, there was no stopping them. Everything now is breaking news and having the most up-to-date details, no matter how trivial, can equal millions in extra revenue. This of course means that networks have to continually provide new content and what better way to do so than to go back and further scrutinize a person, business or organization that you have already slammed before. At this point, it’s no longer called news…it’s called bullying…

The easiest way to describe the behaviors of news organizations is by comparing them to a middle school gym class playing dodgeball. The networks are the taller, stronger kids whose pubes have already started sprouting and have the cool parents who let the kids get drunk at their house because they say, “it’s safer under our own roof.” The target organization is the overweight, nearsighted sci-fi nerd who accidentally shit his pants in 4th grade and still hasn’t lived it down. dodgeballOver and over they pound him with red balls and insults, laughing at his cries for mercy and mocking his very existence until he finally cracks and (well, I’m not going to go there…do have some resemblance of a conscience). Celebrities, oil companies, fraternities and sororities, and political parties (varying depending on what channel you watch) are all easy targets that never make it off the bench before taking a round, rubber bullet to the side of their head sending their glasses screeching across the gymnasium. Airlines are in the same boat. Every now and then, one airline will screw up big which will put them in the media drawn crosshairs for at least a few years. Right now it’s United’s turn…and there seems to be no end in sight.

I’m sure United has gone through their share of issues but this particular onslaught seems to have started with one incident which I’m sure we’re all too familiar by now. Let me provide a recap: guy purchases a United ticket from Chicago to Louisville; while buying this ticket he also checks the little box which, paraphrasing, says something like, “I agree with the terms and conditions”; guy gets on United flight; guy is asked to de-plane because of overbooking (here is where those ‘conditions’ come into play); guy refuses (therefore, violating those ‘conditions’); 170410170634-united-airlines-mobile-cut-full-169guy gets dragged off by security allowing another passenger to become a momentary Twitter sensation. Remember that? Immediately following came a serious of unfortunate events including a rabbit dying, two girls not being let on a flight for wearing leggings (or tights…what’s the difference…), a musician fighting a flight attendant and a parent getting pissed for her snot-nosed little brat having to share her seat. All of these things seem to suggest incompetence amongst the airline. However, as bad as they are, this is just the nature of air travel…plain and simple.

Airlines exist for two reasons. To fly passengers and cargo from one point to another and to make a profit while doing it. 26_DrunkPlaneThat’s it…nothing else. And they have to do this while also facing constant public scrutiny, regulations from every government agency on the planet, tight schedules, exhausted employees, new technological breakthroughs, political correctness and the person in seat 30F throwing pretzels down the fuselage because the airport TGIFriday’s served him one to many. Oh and at the same time, do all of this on the cheap because, lord knows, people get pissy when an airline tries to send up a 200,000lb, gasoline filled Megabus across the United States for more than $300.

The one common denominator for all the issues faced by any airline including United are humans. Yes, I know, a rabbit is not human but it was a person who decided that the fucking Easter Bunny needed to fly economy that day. All being said, people are what causes the problems on flights. f129046538de1d7dc688a4e2377ed284People refuse to follow FAA regulations and crew member instructions, people bring their precious animals on board and let them shit all over the aisle, people book tickets way too late leaving them a crappy seat and people dress in provocative clothing and then get mad when it’s brought to their attention. Jerry Seinfeld said it the best, “people are the worst!” He wasn’t kidding.

I have no emotional or economic reason to be defending the airlines but I feel it is necessary to be a voice of reason when it comes to all the bad things we hear about one over another. I’ve had plenty of issues while traveling but never let it get to me. Don’t let the media be your deciding factor when choosing who to board. All airlines are going to have their problems from time to time but for the most part, you’re going to take off, land and live to enjoy your final destination. United we stand (no pun intended) with you through this time. It won’t we long until another carrier screws up enough and you’ll be off the hook for a while. Until then, I’ll see you at the airport!

-DPW

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Five Reasons Americans are the BEST Tourists!

Every six months or so I see an article about the terrible behaviors of American tourists traveling abroad. As a long-time domestic traveler, I just took those at face-value since I wasn’t able to confirm or deny any of the claims made by the authors. Now that my travels have hit the international circuit, I have to say that my perspective has changed and I’m no longer sure that those articles really carried a lot of water. low toleranceAre we really as bad as they say or do the authors just have a low tolerance level for those not from their own homeland? I suspicions are towards the latter and I’ve created this post to explain why.

Americans, like any other visitor to a foreign country, are going to be lost especially in regards to local customs and behaviors that differ from their own culture. No place is every going to be exactly like home and no tourists is ever going to be exactly like a local neighbor. Therefore, I have decided to break the mold of travel writers and provide some evidence on why American are the BEST tourist in the world. I mean, we claim to the best at everything else so why not keep it going on the world stage!

1. Respecting Space
I’ve read that the United States is the land of abundance. Huge food portions, gigantic egos and cars that are bigger than some houses are just a few examples of the American obsession with size. Although, those can be seen outright, one thing we have in great abundance is personal space. According to the World Bank, Americans enjoy 5,000 square meters of open space per resident. This means that every person in the country could spend their time doing donuts in their own personal school parking lot and never hit another car. We like space…a lot!

Many popular travel destinations can be completely opposite. Not only for the country or city itself, but also for those who travel from even more dense areas. People from these places just grow accustom to being so close to everyone else which also means they have no issue violating the personal space of others. close talkerThey’re not doing it to be rude, it’s just they’re way of life. Americans on the other hand will do just about everything we can to maintain the space around us. We also do our best to extend that courtesy to everyone else. Breathing on other people’s necks, touching while riding public transit and even kneeing people in the butt who move too slow (yes, that happened to me) is taboo. If you happen to see some Americans wondering down the streets on your hometown, you can guarantee they will keep their distance. And be thankful!

2. Money to Spend
America has a lot of space while at the same time, we also have a lot of money. We are by no means the richest country in the world (despite what many actually believe) but our personal income does rank in the top five. Add the fact that our tax rate is lower than most of the other countries on the list and you will see that, in most cases, Americans have more expendable income to burn…and we love to spend it!

In 2016, Americans spent over $123 billion on international travel. Only second in the world to China. When we come to your home, we come packing…with cash! Not only do American’s spend, we will buy all the cheap, mass-produced tourist crap you can throw at us with as much of a markup as you can handle. This along with our obsession and having an “authentic” experience is where the locals can rake in the big bucks. leaning towerOf course, by our standards, authentic refers to doing the exact same thing that thousands of other people have already done (and already posted on Instagram) yet for some reason we still think it’s special. Venice gondola drivers figured this out years ago and the price tag for them paddling you down a sulfur smelling canal with 5,000 of your closest friends has skyrocketed. Be on the lookout world, whatever experience spot your locality has to offer then Americans are your cash cow…one photo at a time!

3. We Don’t Hold Grudges
One thing America is really good at is pissing off the rest of the world (there I said it!). We come by this naturally. Our country started because a bunch of old, business men got tired of drinking tea and decided to chuck boxes of it into the ocean and start a war. peaceFrom that point on, it was just one fight after another. Great Britain, Mexico, Germany, Austria, Vietnam, Iraq…you name, we’ve fought it. Yet despite all this aggression, we for some reason have a burning desire to visit the countries we have either beaten down, or those who have handed us our own asses and told us to go packing. It seems like we have a middle school mentality when it comes to warfare; you fight, get up, shake hands and move on to get a juice box!

Out of the top international destinations for American travelers, the ones where we have fought extensive and bloody wars have steadily grown in popularity. Over the last few years, American tourism to Vietnam has increased over 30% making it one of the most popular places in Asia. And it’s not just the generations to come after the war traveling to these areas. Many veterans and even tours specifically for veterans of foreign wars are the ones heading there the most. This just shows that although we may be the world bully ever now and then, we’ll eventually let our defenses down and go enjoy the destination…maybe as a way to say, “Hey man, I’m sorry!”

4. Obsession with Sanitation
Every suitcase, carryon, backpack, purse, fanny pack or satchel either carried, dragged or worn by an American tourist contains one item in common…hand sanitizer. You will never find an American anywhere in this world without at least one tube of jellied alcohol stashed somewhere in their luggage. 457821This is just a single example of how crazy we are about sanitation and the lengths we will go to so that nothing funky from somewhere else in the world enters our bodies without at least having to wade through a sea of anti-bacterial, -viral, -parasitic concoctions.

Like Starbucks, shopping malls or commercials advertising pharmaceuticals, sanitation is just part of the American lifestyle. It’s forced-fed into our brains from the minute we pop out of the womb and continues throughout our lifetime. We take this mentality with us when we travel overseas by means of anti-bacterial products, preventative medications, water filters and even face-masks on some occasions. Of course, there are plenty of locations where precautions are needed and anyone traveling to these regions should take heed. Americans just seem to take this (like everything else) to the next level. Another tip to the locals: If you want a quick hand wash without going to the restroom, just look for the nearest Yank…we got you covered!

5. Discovering our Roots
One hot-button political issue in America over the last decade has been immigration. Depending on whichever polarizing media outlet you choose to frequent, this can either be a good or bad thing. The funny thing about U.S. immigration is that if you really stop and think about it, we’re all immigrants from somewhere (and no, that is not me taking a position…). That very fact (although, hated by one side of the aisle) makes for a great reason to travel. Americans, by and large, want to discover our heritage. And we will travel far and wide to find it.

Nothing solidifies this argument more than the impressive growth in genealogy services and products sweeping their way across the U.S. 4thCousinEvery day you see a new commercial advertising a different type of service allowing you to spread your DNA on some sort of swab or piece of paper and send it back to a lab for analysis. Of course, a red-headed mick like me doesn’t have to think too hard about where my ancestors originated but for many, this is a mystery. Once their newly found heritage is revealed, the next part of the journey is to travel to your soul’s original destination and pretend like you fit in. This American sense of discovery seems like a trivial matter, but I can’t help but think the rise in new popular tourist destinations isn’t at least somehow connected to this phenomenon.

So, there you have it. Solid and not at all sarcastically opinionated reasons why Americans are the best tourists. Although, I will concede that the occasional American jack-ass will ruin our image for some unsuspecting locals, in the grand scheme of things, we’re really not that bad. Having people visit from other parts of the world, wherever it is, is always a treat for both the tourists and the hosts. The hope is that we all continue to learn from each other and create a more unified global community. Ha, ha…yeah right. Let’s just do our best not to start another war!

-DPW

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Membership has its Perks!

I know it’s a tad cliché but the phrase “Membership has its perks” is never more relevant than when travel as often as I do. Obtaining even the most minimum level of status on any airline, rental car company or hotel chain transforms your experience especially in certain situations. Most associate this to getting upgraded to something better than what you reserved. However, other times it is what you are allowed to avoid which makes these programs worth it.

This week took me to Phoenix and the self-titled “America’s Friendliest Airport “, Sky Harbor International. When I arrived at gate at quickly noticed (actually heard) two separate groups who were getting ready to board the same flight. On my right was a group of women going on girl’s trip. girls guys tripThey really didn’t even have to say it because they were all wearing matching T-shirts that read “Don’t Panic, It’s Just a Girl’s Trip.” Can’t get any more subtle than that.  Although as entertaining as they were, on my left was another group. This time it was a bunch of fashion-challenged men (see Dudes) who were off on their own adventure which we later learned (again heard loudly), it was a fishing trip to Mexico. It was 6am, the collective volume had already reached club-level and I thought to myself this was going to be a long flight…

This is where the perks come in. Given my status with the airline was able to upgrade to a premium economy seat which not only had more leg room, but was also in the very front of the plan. I smiled heavily as I watched both groups march south heading towards the rear in what I could only assume was about to be a bloody-mary fueled festival in the sky. empty sinkSources in back tell me they all talked the entire flight 3.5 hours. Any I’m being generous with the word “talked.” Apparently when you’re in an enclosed space with a couple hundred other people, yelling to the person sitting right next to you is not appropriate behavior. For a moment, I felt bad that I had a nice quiet seat with an open one between me and the window and no distracting assbags to deal with. No I’m just kidding…that’s their problem!

-DPW

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