November 26, 2006

do you know the way to DIA?

We're back from our Thanksgiving trip to Idaho (where Patrick's brother, his wife, and our magical niece live), and we had a fabulous time. I'll post more about the trip itself later, but I wanted to post about the travel itself while it's still fresh in my mind.

We flew Frontier Airlines for the first time, and our experience with the airline was great. They have one gate in Nashville in the A terminal, which is typically less crowded. Frontier's headquarters and main hub is in Denver, making it a good way to get to Boise. You could fly from here to Orlando on Frontier, but you would change planes in Denver. If Frontier served the Moon, you would change planes in Denver. You see where I'm going with this. Anyhow, this was my first experience with the Denver airport, and our first impressions where great - bright, open, lots of moving walkways. At the end of one walkway, a friendly man representing a local donut maker handed us eat a pumpkin spice donut! We walked into an atrium which had several shops and a food court with options for almost any palette. I learned that you can get fried chicken or Chinese food there at 9:00 in the morning. We enjoyed a morning snack from KFC, and started following the signs to the gate for our Boise flight.

Next, we decended an escalator into airport hell. The signs to our gate (A60-something) led to DIA's dungeon. At the bottom of the escalator, there was a open, apparently unused gate area with a counter facing the escalator. Patrick thought we were at our gate, but I saw the signs that led us deeper into this darkness. We walked behind the counter to a long, dark hallway with a decor that I can only describe as Early Alcatraz - gray, concrete-block walls. There is no food available in this commuter jet cave, however bathroom facilities are available, but trust me, they are not for the faint of heart. We passed several gates with destinations like Ponca City, Billings, and other western destinations. We came to the end of the hall where there is a large open seating area that resembles a refugee camp. The few chairs are less than desirable.

There are several "gates" in this area, which are doors that open onto the tarmac. While jetways might not be a must in a tropical destination, this is COLORADO. When a flight boards, "gate" agents must herd refugees, I mean passengers, around chairs and counters, send them through an open door, and wish them luck. When we landed there on the way back home, they told the folks claiming gate-checked bags not to walk to the rear of the aircraft. Getting sucked into a jet engine can ruin your whole day.

As much as I dislike flying at Thanksgiving, we did pretty well. We didn't experience any delays, and no bags were lost. However, if we were not frequent air travelers, I cannot imagine how stressful the whole experience would be.

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