Paul E. Anna: High Points
November 25, 2010
Other than the perfect weather (long, warm, late fall; heavy snows just in time for opening day. SWEET!!!), the story of the season thus far has to have been the Federal Aviation Administration’s high-dollar fumble on the top of Buckhorn.
Yes, if you have been a part of United nation, you know that we have been inconvenienced, canceled, bussed, charged, etc., big-time over the last six weeks or so as the FAA tried to reconfigure a “navigational aid” on Aspen Mountain.
Many of us, including yours truly, have incurred excessive rental car charges ($177) for a one-way, 64-mile drive to Gypsum and the Eagle County Regional Airport to catch a flight. Then there are those who have spent 2 1/2 to three hours on a bus from Grand Junction after being diverted on a sunny day when a single cloud, or so it seemed, forced a diversion. And there is my favorite: The four-hour flight to the East Coast in a center coach seat because a cancellation and a drive put me on a later flight rather than the one on which I had a first-class window seat. Sound a bit bitter? You bet I am. Travel these days, as we all know, is hard enough without the Feds screwing it up even more.
But I come to praise in this column and, fortunately, there have been some very bright lights shining through this whole thing at the airport.
Start when you get to the front door. Savvy Aspen travelers know that their best resource for information on flights, lines, delays, and weather conditions are the red-jacketed professionals at the Aspen Portage stand. These guys are great. Think of them as ambassadors for the airport. Efficient, no-nonsense, friendly and they work for tips. Even tourists getting out of the vans from The Nell or The St. Regis recognize that these guys are on top of it.
Inside there is always someone squabbling with the folks at the United and Frontier counters, making a stink about the weather or a canceled flight like it was the counter attendant’s fault. Believe me, these people are not there to deny, they are there to get you where you’re going – and with a keystroke they can make madness disappear and get you on your way. Be nice to them. They are the only ones who can help you in a difficult situation. In my experience, and I have flown more than 100 United flights a year for the last dozen years, the people behind the counters here are terrific.
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It is hard for me, “choke..cough…choke,” to say something nice about the Kabuki Theatre that is the TSA. I believe that when the fall of American civilization is studied a thousand years from now, the TSA and the false safety fraud that was perpetrated on the American citizenry will be on page one. However, “cough…choke…cough,” I would rather go through security in Aspen than just about any other airport in America. The officers have always been respectful and thorough. I don’t get the same attitude that I find in, say, Denver. And that makes for a much less stressful flying experience.
Back to the FAA $#*!-up. I understand that kudos must also go to the Aspen Skiing Co. and Holy Cross Energy, both of which provide needed resources and support to the efforts to fix the equipment atop the mountain. Thanks for that.
As we move forward into ski season, let’s hope the FAA, other than their crack technicians left behind to clean up the mess, go away. And let’s all be nice (and heavily tip) those who labor day in and day out at Sardy Field, our connection to the real world.