Today I was planning to write a “Good Stuff” article about the subject of weddings and marriage in Russia. After finally posting the previous entry I knew that there would still be dozens of people who would miss the point and stupidly characterize it as “Russia bashing,” therefore I figured it should be followed up with a positive article where I present one of the few aspects of life in which Russia whoops America’s ass hands down. Marriage, as in the process of getting married and the traditions associated with it, is one of those categories. At least that was what I was going to do, until I saw this recent entry from one of my favorite blogs, Gin & Tacos. So it looks like the marriage article will have to wait till later this week, because here we have another aspect of life that actually happens to be better in Russia.
I highly recommend reading the article because Ed is a hilarious writer, but for those of you who can’t bear to leave my page I’ll summarize. It’s an open letter to American Airlines, who gave the author a serious dicking over during his recent vacation. Thanks to this and a few other articles I’ve read over the last couple of years, I’m starting to get wise to the fact that air travel in the US sucks now. The last two times I flew to the States I used Delta, but lately I read online that Delta is worse than Hitler. Now I realize that some American readers might be wondering how I could possibly be unaware that air travel in America sucks, but that’s what happens when you spend roughly eight years in Russia, only returning to the US twice in that whole time.
For most of my flights since moving abroad I have flown Aeroflot. I returned to Russia on Aeroflot. I then used Aeroflot to fly to Turkey two out of the three times I’ve been there, and I’m planning a fourth. I’ve flown it to Spain, China, Krakow, and Vilnius. I have never had a problem with it. Scratch that, I had one “problem,” which I would like to relate now.
It was late December 2009, I was flying to Istanbul. If I remember correctly heavy snows had just started a few weeks prior; winter had arrived. For those who haven’t been to Russia, know that there have been years where we have virtually no snow until late December, or later. Snow may fall as early as October, but this will usually melt quickly due to bizarre temperature changes. Our flight was delayed, naturally. The explanation they gave was that the airport was short of ground crew and there was an issue with prepping our plane, so they decided to switch it for another plane. This was probably the safest bet. Incidentally the plane was a Russian Tupolev but I have to say that inside there was nothing radically different from a Boeing or Airbus. In total I think the delay lasted maybe three hours, but in the meantime we were given vouchers for food, in stark contrast to poor Ed of Gin & Tacos. His flight, in the summer, was delayed for “weather.” We had a fucking blizzard outside. A similar thing happened the following year, once again going to Istanbul but in this case it was a charter airline. Delays yes, but we made it, snow be damned.
I can say one thing about my American flying experience in recent years. Without going into details, I had to travel to several American cities back in 2012. Between major cities, the only flights I could find from Delta were flights which had stops in between, despite the distance not being terribly far. What is more, some of the stops actually entailed flying in the opposite direction. There was also some kind of issue in Minneapolis involving roller bags. Apparently too many people, i.e. everybody but my wife and I, had roller bags and they had stored them in the overhead compartment, thus leaving no room and requiring people to fly with their coats on. The attendant made several requests for people to voluntarily check their roller bags to make room, but alas a prisoner’s dilemma arose and nobody wanted to check their precious roller bag. Why the fuck are roller bags allowed as carry on luggage in the first place? Make people check their fat, inflexible roller bags and this problem will not occur.
Also despite being Delta, I don’t remember any actual meals during the flight. I distinctly remember than on flights between Phoenix or Houston and New York there used to be meals. Not the kind of meal you would get on an international flight, but meals nonetheless. For fuck’s sake I once flew from Vilnius to Moscow via UTAir, a lesser-known Russian airline, and despite the fact that it was a twin-engine prop-plane I still got a complete meal for a flight which was just over two hours.
Security checks have caught up with the US in the sense that you can no longer carry large amounts of liquid on board with you, but on the flip side despite having body scanners and making you remove your shoes the security checks are not really invasive. I’ve never heard any Russians complain about being groped. Probably the only disadvantage of Russian airports is the slow passport control, but I’ve seen worse, much worse. In Krakow we must have waited at least 45 minutes in a passport control line, around noon, much of that time standing still. Apparently a thirty-something blonde Russian woman bore an uncanny resemblance to some Salafist arms dealer and thus the customs official had to make several calls to determine if it were safe to grant her entry into Poland.
So apparently this is just one of those things I’m going to have to get used to whenever, if ever I end up back in the United States. We’re constantly told that the free market ensures more choices and greater service, and yet it seems that every major airline in the US excels at treating its customers like shit. This serves as one of those reminders that the only reason I’m considering moving back to the US is because it is the sole other option open to me. This enjoys the company of other things such as potentially terrible internet service, lack of employment prospects, and horrible political views rooted in profound ignorance.