As I mentioned in an earlier post, Frankie and I are flying to San Diego next week.
You might think that, as a former full-time travel writer, I would take air travel in my stride. Have the right luggage, the perfect nonwrinkle outfits. Be able to go anywhere with just a vest, like Peter Shankman.
You would be wrong. Even before 9-11 and its shoe removals and liquid restrictions — and, more recently, the putting-a-fee-on-breathing policies — I was a worry wart.
Now my stress cup runneth over.
What I am stressed about in general
It’s not flying itself, although being airborne does seem to defy the laws of gravity. It’s everything else. Getting to the airport on time (I always do). Forgetting essentials (it’s happened; I survived, generally by buying stuff). Having my luggage lost (that’s happened too; once again, I survived, generally by buying stuff).
That’s just for starters.
Add a fearful diabetic dog to the mix, and you get a woman on the verge…
Choosing an airline
Some decisions are easier than others to make, and when it comes to flying to San Diego from Tucson, choosing Southwest Airlines is a no-brainer. They offer several nonstop direct flights a day and most are inexpensive. There is no extra charge to check two bags.
And except for that hole-in-the-fuselage thing – hey, inspections are costly and did I mention there is no charge for bags? — it’s a great airline. And that hole incident happened just two months ago, which means that the planes were all inspected recently.
Is it odd that I genuinely don’t worry about the plane falling apart but I worry about missing the flight?
For me and Frankie
Two years ago, in June 2009, Southwest started permitting small pets to fly in the cabin. No animals are allowed to fly cargo (for which I say hurrah).
That means I don’t have to chose between flying Southwest to San Diego and traveling with Frankie (who definitely won’t worry about the fuselage).
It’s $75 each way for Frankie to fly as carry on baggage. This is annoying. But it’s slightly less annoying than it would be if I were flying on another airline, because most of them charge even more. (See DogJaunt.com’s U.S. Airline Pet Policies for In-Cabin Travel. I will be referring to Dog Jaunt frequently in my next few posts. Mary-Alice Pomputius is the guru of air travel with a small dog).
Here’s something peculiar. You cannot make a reservation on line for your pet at the same time as you book your own flight. You have to phone. But that phone reservation doesn’t guarantee that your pet will fly.
A total of five pets are allowed on each flight. The Southwest agent assured me that it has never happened that a person with a dog was turned away because there were too many dogs on board. Maybe it’s me, but it still seems odd to have a reservation that doesn’t reserve anything.
This particularly worries me — did I mention I’m a worrier?– because I can’t be flexible. Frankie’s diabetes makes the timing of the flights important (see next section). So having to wait for the next flight in case of excess pets is not a real option.
Okay, so here’s where it gets tricky. I have to feed Frankie and give him his shot every 12 hours, which I generally do at 5:30 am and 5:30 pm. He can’t get his shot without having eaten because that could cause hypoglycemia, very dangerous if it goes unchecked. And Frankie is very picky about where he eats. Missing or being late with a shot is not so terrible. The rise in blood sugar is only a problem if it’s prolonged.
So I booked my outgoing flight from Tucson for 11:40am, with arrival in San Diego at 12:50pm. It was unlikely that Frankie’s dinner could be late, even factoring in a flight delay. My return flight, scheduled for 7:35 pm, was a little less desirable. Frankie would get his dinner in time, but I was cutting it a little close for a drive to the airport and returning the rental car.
And as I was writing this last paragraph, it suddenly occurred to me: Pets are not supposed to eat within four hours of a flight. So feeding Frankie at 5:30 — or even a little bit earlier — would not work.
So I changed my flight — luckily, Southwest doesn’t charge for that either — and am now booked for a 3:45/5pm return to Tucson.
There you have it: Even worriers sometimes have legitimate reasons to worry.
Dare I ask: What do you most worry about when flying, with or without a pet? Is it rational?