Montgomery Airport, Continued

We once wrote about the charms of flying out of the Montgomery airport. But sometimes, it can be less than charming. And lately, it has been downright annoying, sliding into an experience that one might reasonably call “unpleasant.”

It is nearly Thanksgiving, and it is already the holiday corridor when our nation’s skies are full of the most people and our airports are most crowded. As such, consider the following concerns about the local airport experience.

The airport likely has little control over TSA agents, who are federal employees and obviously free to make travel as unpleasant as possible. The airport can’t control the situation in Montgomery when one agent says to hold your hat in your hand, while the other tells you to send it through the x-ray machine. The airport isn’t in control (we assume) of the irradiating machines and the surly, bored jerks that rifle through your stuff and march you around telling you to “hold your hands up higher.” The airport itself doesn’t do the hiring and firing or the training of the sad losers drunk with power, herding rubes through a bottleneck.

But the Montgomery airport does employ the cops circling the single paved loop out in front, wasting gasoline and enforcing the ludicrous 15 m.p.h. speed limit. The Montgomery airport police officers make campus cops look like FBI agents.

And the Montgomery airport is also responsible for the wireless network, which is free but inoperable at least a third of the time. We’re glad it’s free, but hate that it is poorly maintained. The airport’s local strategists are also behind the unavailability of a bar after you clear security, and the airport is responsible for the monopoly of the crazy Christian and militaristic cartel’s coffee shop that doesn’t seem to understand how to provide decent snacks to hungry travelers.

The airport is bereft of any art or humanity. It offers virtually no choice of airline carriers, and is astonishingly bad in the department of flight delays and even outright cancellations on the mandatory leg to and from Atlanta. Increasingly, we experience exhilaration and delight when we get wheels up leaving Montgomery in a timely manner. And although we are often glad to be coming home, it is often with a sense of looming regret that we’ll spend an additional half hour or 45 minutes waiting for the lethargic baggage crew to unload a single arriving plane onto the  single baggage carousel.

Nine times out of ten, I’ll take slow-moving laid back apathy over an aggressively hostile and militant efficiency. I’m just Southern like that. But sometimes, people getting on an airplane are going someplace laden with stress, and the loafing and gossiping of every employee in sight is maddening, especially when things are delayed and there seems to be no interest in crisply getting you where you’re going.

So, again, it’s not the fault of the Montgomery airport that the TSA decided to do a special secondary screen at the gate, demanding photo ID from the same people that had already passed through security 200 yards away. And it’s not the fault of the Montgomery airport that those agents are on pathetic power trips, making people take off sunglasses with unpleasant demands (“Let me see your eyeballs”). Those agents are clearly saving America from terrorism.

But again, unionized federal jobs aside, it’s important to focus on the accountability parts that we can control: It is the fault of the Montgomery airport that flight departure and gate information is not updated on the screens. With only six gates (and usually one flight leaving at a time), it’s not hard to walk up and down and try to figure out where you need to sit. But it’s also not hard to update a screen, especially if there aren’t going to be gate agents present to let people know what’s going on.

And the fault lies with either the airport or the airlines (or both) when the same plane that has been sitting empty on the tarmac for nearly an hour isn’t refueled until after everyone has boarded. Nothing adds frustration to a planeload of delayed passengers like seeing a fuel truck pull up next to the plane after the doors should have already closed.

These anecdotes are from a single recent outbound trip through Montgomery Regional Airport this week. May your future adventures be more enjoyable.

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2 responses to “Montgomery Airport, Continued

  1. I agree with your observations. That’s why generally, we drive to BHM to catch a nonstop to Baltimore to visit family. Anything to avoid the horrors of ATL with its stairways to nowhere and an absolutely confusing layout.

  2. Agreed on the cops circling outside (who make people idling in front more than 2 minutes “move along” even when the airport is completely deserted), the wireless network (at one point, it was down for almost 2 months), and the flight info on screens (it boggles the mind that this is difficult; as you pointed out, there are only six gates). These are things that would be incredibly easy to fix. I’m also amazed how the one coffee shop can be so understaffed and slow; the last time I was there, the one person working literally took 10-15 minutes to handle the three people in front of me.

    I have, however, had a different experience with the TSA agents in MGM, who I’ve always found to be friendly. And while I had tremendous problems with flight delays when I first moved to the Gump (esp. flying to Atlanta), I’ve been delay-free now for years. Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’ve probably cursed myself.

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