October 14, 2006


Man, I could have driven home from St. Louis in the time it took me to fly, and I could have done it without spending any time fretting about whether I'd have to stay overnight in Chicago. I've got to stop connecting at O'Hare. Wind makes everything back up. My 6:25 flight didn't leave until after 9, and I was glad to hear -- at the end of that flight -- that my connecting flight was delayed until 10:35. But I still had to run through the airport -- not something that's good for a person my age, in those shoes -- and, fortunately, I made it, but then that flight was further delayed. It was after 1 a.m. by the time I got home. I'm not mad at any airline people. They all did everything right. We just need more direct flights... and less Chicago.


Brent said...

. . . less Chicago?

Isn't a little MORE Chicago really what we all need?

Dan from Madison said...

You hit this nail on the head Ann. I fly for business about six times a year. We have so few direct flights out of Madison that I almost always have to connect. So instead of trying to defy one random event (flight) you have two to deal with.

I have been hosed repeatedly by late departing flights from Madison not making it on time to my connecting flight. Last week I showed up in Memphis (airport hell by the way) to connect to Houston and my connecting flight was cancelled. I could fill your pages with the horror stories but air travel horror stories are so common anymore they get dull.

Anyway, I have vowed from this day forward if there is no direct flight from Madison to either drive to Milwaukee and park or take the bus to Chicago. That brings my random event total down to one flight and will make my life better overall.

J said...

If you can drive it in five hours, it's unlikely that flying will save you any time, and almost impossible if the flying involves a connection. I realize St Louis might be a little outside that perimeter, though I'd guess in the Audi your interstate driving habits are not unlike those of Elwood Blues. And what law professor wouldn't want to begin her lecture on developments in civil procedure with "We would especially like to welcome all the representatives of the Illinois law enforcement community who have chosen to join us here ".

"not something that's good for a person my age, in those shoes"

When you're flying, you should be wearing shoes that would permit you to run comfortably.

Bruce said...

For years I've had this idea of setting up a sort of taxi-limo type of business where you have a large SUV refitted to create a sort of office interior with room for perhaps 3 or 4 people. The idea is to get people between their house and a location within 300 miles within a productive and relaxed environment. Ideally it would have Internet access, electical outlets, a printer, plus the usual entertainment stuff for watching movies or TV.

The price structure would probably be much higher than the airline costs, but a lot of people would pay it.

Mark Daniels said...

Wah! Wah! Wah!

Actually, I do understand how frustrating that can be. A few years ago, I spent nearly all of Christmas day at the Cincinnati and Indianapolis airports trying to get to Orlando. I finally arrived at the hotel to meet my family at 3:00 on the morning of December 26, over thirteen hours after I was scheduled to arrive.


Rowena Hullfire said...

Worse...the agent meeting you as your delayed flight deplanes glances at her clipboard...yes, they are holding your connecting flight, you'll have to be there in minutes, it's in the exact opposite concourse at the far gate, so RUN LIKE THE WIND on the moving sidewalks! Go!

Then you haul @$$ and there is no plane there when you get there. They never held it. You had no chance. You were given the airport treadmill stress test for abso-freakin-lutely no reason. Scream at the desk agent and get your free dinner coupon and go entertain yourself.


robert said...

Reminds me of the guy in Cincinnati who, shortly after 9-11-2001, found a great price on a flight to Chicago. All he had to do was drive to Indianapolis, almost halfway to Chicago, where the flight originated.

No offense to anyone. Perhaps I'm just jaded -- being former military I've long grown tired of The Wait With No Alternative.

After reading your and Dan's adventures, is it reasonable to drive to Chicago to catch a flight?

rhhardin said...

I suggest getting Microsoft flight simulator for effect, and then driving to wherever you need to go.

Lou Minatti said...

"We just need more direct flights"

That's what Boeing has said is the future of commercial air travel. You will get your wish over the coming decades. Traveling through hubs is no longer the model of efficiency.

Dan from Madison said...

Robert - it is reasonable to drive to Chicago to catch a flight but unreasonable to park at O'Hare for upwards of thirty dollars a day. Midway is cheaper but further away and with impossible Chicago traffic nearly almost always a three hour drive from Madison. Chicago traffic is always a crap shoot anymore, even getting to O'Hare which isn't really in Chicago, rather the far western edge of Cook County. The only real option unless you pay the big bucks to park at O'Hare is to take a bus there which isn't too much money.

Ann - I would have definitely driven to St. Louis from here.

David said...

Bruce, it is called a "Motorhome" or an "RV!"

A 22' class C will provide you with a television, internet access through cell towers, your own bathroom, microwave, stove, two beds, gps, and will take 6 hours for a leisurely drive of approximately 300 miles on one tank of gas. When you arrive you can dry-camp in the back of the parking lot at your destination, or any open all night business.

Not advisable in snow or tornadoes, but then you wouldn't be flying either!

Derve said...

Most of the northern Chicago people fly out of Milwaukee. Southern Chicago people use Midway. Minneapolis is a nice option for international travel.

O'Hare is for necessary business travel, and the unknowing.

Now you know.

Pogo said...

I stopped choosing conferences to attend that were on long multi-connection flights for the very reason you cite. I began to attend more conferences within driving distance because I seemed to have more control over my own fate.

Curiously, it doesn't seem to be any faster to fly 3-400 miles than to drive (when you count door-to-door time fully).

Are the airlines noticing this loss of business? Sure they are.
Are they going to change their business model as a result? Yes, but when?

And P.S. to Chicago: I love visiting your city, but the corruption and graft affecting your highways is all too apparent. Whenever some contract detail needs approval, you can bet the roads will be choked to a trickle. This affects air travel, too. Whatever the cause, Chicago no longer works very well.

And as soon as people recognize they have an alternative, they'll take it. Current question: How do I avoid Chicago? should concern them. Will it?

ed said...


Which is why Boeing has put it's money on the 787 Dreamliner and other such aircraft. The intent is to move away from hub-spoke flight patterns and more towards regional airports by providing aircraft capable of long distance comfortable flying from these smaller airports.

Let's face it the major airports are completely saturated.

Which is also why the people at Airbus are completely and utterly insane for putting a dime into the A380 concept. Sure the A380 can handle more passengers per flight. But who really wants to deal with the massive problems of the hub-spoke system anymore?

Ann Althouse said...

I just checked an saw that the distance is only 360 miles. Someone made the plane reservation for me, and I just accepted it. I could have said, I'll drive, but the trip down was nonstop and that seemed really easy, so I put the trip back out of my head.

By the way, driving down we had to go into a holding pattern that was nearly as long as the flight because President Bush was flying in at the same time!

As for driving to Chicago, not only is it expensive to park (not to mention the toll road), but you park very far from the terminal and have to take a bus and a tram to get in! Coming back at night and going alone to your car in a big parking lot is not something women find appealing.

paul a'barge said...

You forgot to post a picture of those shoes!

chuck said...

I live five minutes from O'Hare. For a couple of years in the 90's I commuted to work in New York City. I'd leave my house early Monday morning about 20 minutes before my flight. Since I wasn't carrying any luggage I'd just walk onto the plane. I experienced maybe two delays the entire time I was doing this.

Fast forward to today. I'm attending a conference in DC this week. When I was booking the flight a couple of weeks ago, visions of flying out of O'Hare kept preventing me from hitting the purchase button. I actually made the somewhat extreme decision to drive.

Granted, I like to drive and I can use the time to go over some issues I need to resolve. The point is, I wouldn't have even thought of doing such a thing ten years ago. Now, flying out of O'Hare makes me look at alternative methods of transportation.

DailyAviator said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DailyAviator said...

The hot aviation business model is the jet air taxi business. Prices are forecast to be comparable to business class.

Eclipse Aviation (started by an ex-silicon valley mogul with Bill Gates as one of the investors) recently certified a new tiny 6 pax jet just for that purpose. Cessna, Adam Aircraft, and even Honda are joining the competition.

The 1960's were the decade of big airplanes. The 2000's will begin the generation of small.

Dawn said...

Is the Van Galder still running between O'Hare and Madison? I used to take that every other week when I lived in Chicago to visit my then bf/now husband when he lived in Madison. Yeah, it doubled the drive (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours), but at least someone else was driving and I could nap/read/listen to my Walkman (remember those?).

AJ Lynch said...

I flew out of Chicago twice in the last month. Once my flight left six hours late and the other time, they asked for volunteers to give up their seat. I did , got a free round-trip ticket, a short but free hotel stay and got to the office the next day about 1 hour later than expected.

If I were a baseball player, I'd say that's batting .500. which is phenomenal but Ann's post did remind me of one thing. I have noticed almost all travelers are grumpy and unhappy. Why is that?

Ann Althouse said...

Last time I went to NYC, I paid extra to get the nonstop flight. When I showed up, I was told it was 2 hours late and asked if I wanted to wait for it or take the plane with a stop that was scheduled to arrive earlier. I took the latter option and, of course, I didn't get a refund of the extra $100 I paid for the illusory convenience. So, while I like the idea of more direct flights, I'm wary of getting ripped off like that again.

SteveR said...

I once spent the night on the floor at O'Hare because I missed a connction due to weather and I really had no choice, Great Fun!

360 miles with a connection makes driving a good option.

Yeah Robert unless you flown military, you have no idea how bad it can be. Show up three hours before the flight with all your stuff and wait around only to find the flight cancelled and your next chance is 24 hours away, etc etc. The classic hurry up and wait

AJ Lynch said...

Dan from Madison said:
"Robert - it is reasonable to drive to Chicago to catch a flight but unreasonable to park at O'Hare for upwards of thirty dollars a day."

Dan, perhaps you could find a safe neighborhood near to Chicago's Blue Line, park your car on the street and take that Blue Line for a $2 fare to Ohare (this suggestion does not address Ann's concerns about road tolls to Chicago nor safety.)

I rode the Blue Line last week from downtown Chicago to Ohare and the trip was 50 minutes at rush hour on Friday. There must be some safe places to park your car (for a 3-4 day trip) between the congested downtown stop and Ohare.
And if you try this, don't forget to jot down where you parked the car.

Dan from Madison said...

Dawn - there is no way you are driving from Madison to Chicago in 1.5 hours, unless you are going 120 mph. The Van Galder is still running, takes about 2.5-3 hours to O'Hare because it stops in Janesville and I think Rockford too.

AJ Lynch - I drive a pretty nice car so the leaving my car in Chicago on a side street is a no-go. I used to do that when I was younger. I lived in Rockford at the time, drove a junker. Parked it near a friends house and took the el to O'Hare.

Joel said...

The problem is central planning.

No system can take into account every concievable variable, and the more variables you ask a system to take into account, the slower that system will be to react to the normal functions it was created to perform.


Jack Wayne said...

No one has pointed out that the current mess has been caused by Congress. Political payoffs to the older airlines explain a lot. None of them want to compete with SW or the other discount airlines. So hub and spoke is what the discounters have to do by the messy political rules governing which cities an airline can fly direct to. Do you think Air Tran wants to route every flight through Atlanta? Plus, H&S works economically also as it guarantees full flights. Fed Ex saw to that.

M. Simon said...

Van Galder is excellent from Rockford.

I used to commute from Rockford to Knoxville, Tenn.

Pick up the bus at Sweden House. Two more stops then on the road. Drop off at the terminal. With the bus going straight to the terminal about the same travel time as an auto.

BTW the parking in Rockford is cheap. Leave your auto at the Van Galder lot and take the bus into Chicago.

And yes the route is Madison, Janesville, Rockford, O'Hare.

miked0268 said...

I recently spent about a year and a half consulting, and man, I hate air travel now about 100 times more than I ever thought possible. My "drive instead" radius has expanded out to about 8 hours at this point. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the results of flying twice a week for all those months...but still, sheesh.

What is up with that A380? Are they nuts? Was it just an ego project to have the "biggest"? Even back in the 70's, big airliners like the 747 would not have been very successful if they had been able to build medium sized liners with equivalent range, like they can now. This is no original observation either; it should be obvious to anyone in the aviation industry. What were they thinking?

Todd said...

I hear ya. I live in Des Moines. Recently, my new employer sent me to Chicago for some training and said "don't worry, the company will book your flight." My reply was an incredulous "Fly? Are you nuts? It's only a 5 1/2 hour drive!"

Kev said...

A few summers ago, we took our college jazz band from Dallas to Vermont for a festival. The plan seemed simple enough: Fly a big jet from DFW to Newark and catch a regional jet from there to Burlington. Unfortunately, we got delayed by rain coming out of DFW, which made us late to our connection in Newark...which they wouldn't hold for us, even though we were a majority of the passengers on that connecting flight! Since it was late in the day, we had to stay in a nearby hotel (on our own dime) with mattresses that were about as comfortable as concrete blocks. Mention Newark to anyone who was on that trip, and even now, three years later, you'll still get an "ewwww" out of them.

And as for the hub-and-spoke thing--that's one reason I avoid DFW like the plague if I'm picking my own travel; Southwest out of Love Field is way more convenient, and the recent lifting of Wright Amendment restrictions makes it even more so.

J said...

"Traveling through hubs is no longer the model of efficiency"

Actually, it is and will be in domestic flying for the forseeable future.

"Which is why Boeing has put it's money on the 787 Dreamliner and other such aircraft. The intent is to move away from hub-spoke flight patterns and more towards regional airports by providing aircraft capable of long distance comfortable flying from these smaller airports"

I agree with your remarks about the A-380, though it will probably move into the cargo realm almost immediately and be quite successful there (like the MD-Lemon). What's really insane is airports agreeing to alter their physical configuration to accomodate it. The 787 is an immeasurably better idea, but it's larger than a 767-300; it's not going to be flying to secondary markets in the US.

"So hub and spoke is what the discounters have to do by the messy political rules governing which cities an airline can fly direct to"

The only airports in the US with such rules are Dallas Love and Washington National, and they're eroding at both. Nobody forces airlines to use connecting hubs - it's the most efficient way to operate.

J said...

"not something that's good for a person my age, in those shoes"

I almost forgot - you weren't wearing a pair of those Via Spiga flip flops were you?

Jay said...

You can connect from St. Louis to Madison thru Milwaukee or even drive to Milwaukee and fly from there to most places you might want to fly.

TheDoctorOfLove said...

Or do what I do. Learn to fly and get your own plane. You can bring all the shampoo and guns you want. No weird passengers you don't know. You can stretch out. You make your own schedule. 4500 airports instead of the 500 served by the legacy air travel providers. XM provides music and real time doppler radar to slide around those nasty thunderstorms while singing along, WWII provided all those smaller nearby airports in all the big cities, and it's fun.

Basically, it's the same as driving your car, but you go 180 and in a straight line, with no construction delays and no traffic.

Just don't turn too sharply to the left when you are buzzing tall buildings in Manhattan at just above stall speed.

Mellow-Drama said...

I wish I'd known you were going to be speaking at SLU; I would have come to hear! We don't often get the celebrity professors around here, in the middle of nothing/everywhere.

Jib said...

From the Madison area, it can be maddening to fly to such places as St. Louis. Last week I drove to Louisville rather than put up with the likely hassle of a flight. And there is nothing worse than connecting in Chicago. I once was flying back from Philly and the plane ended up delayed (on the tarmac) by over 3 hours because of storms in Chicago. Two of us had a connecting flight from Midway to Milwaukee which had also been delayed, but we had to beg them to hold the puddle jumper so we didn't have to sleep at the airport. Getting stuck overnight in Chicago is maddening because you are so close to home, but so far away.

Madison is tough, though-everything has a connection and it is usually more expensive. I prefer the Madison airport, but I only fly out of Milwaukee now. And I only use O'Hare when I have to...and never during winter. There is nothing like getting to one of those surface lots at midnight, chipping the ice and snow off of your car, and finding the battery is dead because of a cold snap.

Ann Althouse said...

Jib: I've been keeping cars ungaraged in Madison for over 20 years and never once has a battery gone out on me (except when I left the lights on).

One thing about the Madison airport -- it's incredibly posh now.

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