One thing I’m known for in writing trip reports is that I go into detail. Some even go as far as to call it like writing a book. There was a lot more detail I could have gone into but I felt doing a four part trip report was long enough. Hope you enjoy it, those that take the time to read it all that is. Trip Report Las Vegas, Nevada April 3 – 8, 2003 DAY ONE (part 1) Our trip begins in Jacksonville, Florida. Here we witness the good, the bad and the ugly of today’s air travel. It is just shy of 4 hours before our flight when we arrive on the airport property. We have 4 bags, 2 to check in and 2 to carry on. So we decide to drop my wife off, with the luggage, at the departure curb. After that I would go park the car in the economy lot and then join her. As we approach the terminal, we are greeted by flashing construction zone type lights. A lighted sign ahead says “all vehicles subject to inspection” and a sea of orange cones, set up to direct traffic. To the left of the flashing message board sign and the orange cones are two lanes heading out to the daily parking garage. To the right, we have one lane headed to the terminal. The speed limit before the work zone or sea of orange cones is posted 25 MPH. There are signs also that say “speed limit strictly enforced with radar”. Behind us, it was clear. Basically no traffic. As we slowed down, coming into the orange cone area, we are doing about 25 and it is clear of traffic all around us. A few seconds pass as we enter the coned off area, heading to the terminal. Out of nowhere this SUV comes from behind us and passes us like we were parked. They are in the two left lanes heading to the garage parking. I’m glad I was paying attention and decided to obey the speed limit this time because as that SUV passed us, they made a hard 90-degree right turn. They drove through the cones and heading straight for us, forced us off the road. Cones flew everywhere. I quickly gathered myself and the SUV already had passed the curve ahead and was nowhere in sight. As we approach the curve, we hear a whistle blowing repeatedly. We make the curve and see that same SUV. In front of us both is a police car and an officer directing traffic. From here we can see the departure curb at the terminal. The driver of the SUV is stopped and revving his engine. While the Police Officer has us both stopped he is directing traffic out of the parking lot. The parking lot quickly clears and the SUV tries to proceed straight ahead, to the main airport terminal. One problem stands in their way, a Police Officer. The officer is directing all of us to turn right, into the parking lot. The driver of the SUV is refusing the orders of the Police officer by insisting that they be allowed to proceed straight ahead. About one minute goes by where the driver of the SUV is pointing straight ahead and the Police Officer is blowing his whistle, trying to get the driver of the SUV to turn right. Things get interesting after about the third time the driver inched their vehicle closer to the officer, we saw the officer place his hand on his hip. Just so happened his pistol was on his hip. The driver of the SUV made an abrupt right turn and raced into the parking lot. We were herded into a circular area where there were three checkpoint stations. At least 2 Police or security officers each manned each station. It was quickly clear that these big boys took nothing from anyone. Each of them were wearing not only pistols but draped across their chests were huge, what looked like automatic weapons (AK-47’s?). We were directed to a station where we were ordered to pop open our trunk and our hood. Another officer used a mirror and walked all around our car, checking underneath. They closed our trunk and our hood. Thanked us for our cooperation and we proceeded on our way, back to that first Police officer that was directing traffic. The officer signaled us ahead and we are on our way to the main terminal and the departure curb. Looking back in our mirror, we see that the SUV is still back at the checkpoint. Their trunk and hood were up and four or five big Police Officers were taking their sweet time giving the vehicle a through inspection. I drop my wife off, with the luggage, at the AA Departure curb. Find her a place to sit and then proceed to go park the car. I pull into the parking lot, obtain my ticket and find an open space. Park next to the bus stop, lock the door and within 30 seconds the shuttle bus is here. Great, Fast Service, or so I thought. Five people are on the bus as I board. We proceed through the parking lot, on our way to the next bus stop. We reach the next bus stop; three people want to get off while 7 are waiting to board. The FUN begins. The doors of the bus will not open. After about five minutes of the shuttle bus driver flipping switches, trying to open the doors, one of the passengers trying to get off suggests the driver pull the emergency pin and push the doors open by hand. The driver agrees and manually opens the doors. Three get off and now 9 get on. The bus is packed and we are ready to go. But wait, now the doors will not close. After a couple more minutes, the bus driver decides to get on his radio, call for help and a back-up bus. After about three more minutes, the driver decides the doors are broke and orders us all off the bus. Says that another bus is on the way. We wait outside; at the bus stop and about 10 minutes passes before another shuttle bus arrives. This bus has passengers on it already so only about half of us could board. I got on first so I made sure I had a seat. Bus is full. Airport terminal, here we come. My wife is still sitting at the American Airlines departure curb with the luggage. At the door here is where the skycap’s and curbside checking used to be. The equipment and the station are here but closed. We drag our bags inside, to the AA ticket counter. The line is short. Only 2 people standing in the coach seating line. 3 people are in the first class line and 3 are using the self-service check-in. I counted 9 ticket agent slots and all had big signs saying open. We had about 3 hours now before our plane departed so I relaxed, knowing we had plenty of time and there was no line. Welcome to reality. Why should this next step be any different than the rest so far? There were three self-service machines and three people trying to use them and all had great difficulty. One AA employee was assigned it looked like to only help these people. At the other 9 counter slots there was one lady assigned to handle first class. The other ticket counters all had opened signs overhead but no one around. For the next 45 minutes we saw 8 or 9 other ticket counter workers come out from a couple doors, which looked like a back room. Some walked around, some just stared at us and some walked away. Those that stayed just walked back through the doors they came out of, behind the ticket counter, without helping any of us. The three using the self-service machines finally got their bags tagged, after 30 minutes of trying. That agent asked anyone of us in line if they had a credit card and wanted to use the self-service. We all said no. The First Class ticket counter got empty so that agent called the next in line over while the other agent, right in front of us, just stood there and kept asking anyone who walked up if they had a credit card and wanted to try the self service machine. Side Note: Three people we talked to in line behind us had done the check in on line on their home computer but the security did not let them pass. They had their boarding passes printed from home but security said they had to check in at the ticket counter. Talk about hot!!! It has been about 45 minutes since we got here. We are next in line. There are about 30 to 35 people behind us by now. The First Class line has three waiting. The self-service machines look to be broke again. 5 more agents step from the back room, behind the ticket counter, stand for about one minute, look around and then all go back in their private room while we all wait. Guess our pleas for help scared them or they just went in the back to laugh their butts off at us poor saps standing in line? We get called over to the only agent working, at the First Class counter, after almost one hour and check our bags. We were only number 3 and 4 in the coach ticket line almost one hour ago. There are now close to 60 waiting in that same line and two more just walked in the First Class line and still only one ticket agent and all the other 9 ticket counters still say open but no ticket agents. This was all around 2 o'clock in the afternoon! Guess it was the kindergarten naptime? You think I was upset...could be.... We were lucky. We got to the airport ticket counter 3 hours early and already wasted over one hour just trying to check in. And we were the third in line. How long will the other 50 to 60 passengers have to wait to check in? Hope they fly out the next day! Security was tight at the concourse. Neither of us had to remove our shoes but my carry on had our video camera, digital camera, wires and batteries. My bag was pulled aside for further inspection. They ran the special cloth over it looking for signs of explosives. Slight delay that I did not mind at all. These TSA agents were very business like and respectful to us. This was the pleasant part of the airport.