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A Grand to Fly to See the Grandkids? Nah, I’ll Drive…

09/21/2011

Here’s essence of it: wife Kathy (a.k.a. ‘Nana’) and I (a.k.a. ‘Buppa’) dote on our grandkids, all six of them. Two live in suburban Washington, D.C., and one of them just celebrated her first birthday. No way we were going to miss it.

Once upon a time, when leisure airfares were more amenable to reason, there would have been no debate. We’d have punched up AirTran on the computer, booked a couple of early Saturday morning seats and flown. The per person tab from Atlanta to Washington Reagan National was under $100. That’s on a 14-day advance purchase. Today, the price is $114 per, exclusive of all the add-ons. Throw in a Sunday afternoon return for $276 per person and the airfare alone, sans taxes and fees, is $780 for a party of two.

Did I mention that one of those parties, my decidedly better half, is phobic about flying? She also bridles at security, security that has Light Years to go before it’s truly “risk-based.” At approximately $800 for air alone, a window and aisle seat on the left-hand (port) side of a 717-200 just aren’t as attractive as they once were.

We did the trip, via car. It cost around $450. Gas for our 2011 Honda Accord was about $200. A room at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria ran just shy of $150. Factor in meals and the total tab was about half what it would have been had we taken the plane.

There is, of course, a price to be paid for traveling terrestrially – and part of it is braving the Interstate. Pilots they license. Drivers, I’m not so sure. I-85 and I-95 are especially brutal, and the drivers in northern Virginia are singularly scary. It took nine hours it to reach the Raleigh area, where we spent the night with another of our kids en route. From there, it was five hours to D.C. Used to be able to make the whole drive from northern Alabama to D.C in one 12-hour gulp. No longer. At age 63, I’m a four-cylinder sort of guy.

Used to be only trips of 200 or 300 miles were subject abandonment by disaffected flyers. Now, the reactionary radius is 500 mile, or even more.

I understand, even sympathize, with the airline’s plight. Fuel prices are still daunting. The only thing that’s going to render them lower, and more predictable, is bio-fuels. And while refined pond scum and plant life isn’t as far off as you might think, right now the carriers are at the mercy of something they simply can’t control. Their reaction has been to cut capacity, and do so rapaciously. The result is higher fares.

I’m not about to abandon flying. You can’t write about something and not do it. Anyway, when I fly on business, my client usually picks up the bill. Leisure travel is another matter.

Until airlines are able to fuel their flying machines more cheaply, and predictably, the metered migration to the Interstate is going to continue – slowly perhaps, but basically unabated.

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3 Comments
  1. Try using I-81 to DC – lot better than 85/95.

    • Jerome Chandler permalink

      RY,

      I love I-81. Far more scenic. Sublime. But our family is arrayed along I-95.

  2. Sorry, but it is pie-in-the-sky dreaming to suggest bio fuels would lower the cost of jet fuel. Quite the opposite.

    Bio fuels are considerably more expensive than good old oil based fuel – just look at the difference between regular diesel and bio-diesel at your local gas station.

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