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Scowl of the Year

And Janet's Scowl of the Year Award goes to….Tower Air! (or, more appropriately, Tower SCAir&#41, the airline on which I wouldn’t make my worst enemy fly.

Since we were flying to the East Coast during the holiday season and Avery’s mom was paying for the tickets, we decided that in order to save a little money we would travel via Tower Air. Now, Avery’s mom flew Tower when she came out to San Francisco a year or two ago, and the only thing that I remember going wrong with the flight was that it took in the vicinity of 45 minutes for them to unload the baggage from the plane. No big deal really. We thought.

We decided to do a search for Tower Air on the Internet, just for kicks (and to assuage our fears about flying on a discount airline&#41. The only things that we found were horror stories from previous Tower passengers with all kinds of airplane problems and flight mishaps. On the Tower Air site proper, the bunches of statistics they listed indicated that their planes had never crashed, so we figured that the disgruntled passengers people had just flown on "off" days for the airline, or perhaps were just blowing the regular problems and frustrations associated with flying on any airline out of proportion.

[Let me just interject that the whole entire process of traveling by airplane makes me extremely tense. I hate it. Not because I’m afraid of the plane crashing or anything, it’s just that it’s a seemingly endless cycle of one hurry-up-and-wait scenario after another, and it seems as though you are always a blink of an eye away from everything going very, very wrong. We begin our Tense-Fest with Super Shuttle, an airport shuttle service, who, even though they get to have a 15-minute window during which they can arrive at any time, expect you to be outside your apartment waiting at the beginning of the 15-minute window, and they usually will not arrive until you’ve been waiting at least 14 minutes and 30 seconds. I can just picture all those blue vans, sitting a block away with their lights off and the motor silent, waiting until they're sufficiently late enough. There was one instance where we had to catch a 7:00 AM flight, so consequently had dragged ourselves downstairs at 5:30 AM, waited until 5:45 AM, started to get a sinking feeling, called Super Shuttle at 5:50 AM, and learned that despite us confirming with them the day before, they had our pickup time in the system as 5:30 PM. When they did manage to send over another van, the driver had no idea how to get to the airport. Pass me the Advil.]

So we got to the airport an hour and a half early for a 9:00 PM flight. At 8:00, when we were supposed to board, we queued up at the gate along with the 500 other people on the flight. Before we knew it, it was five minutes to nine, and still no boarding! Not only were we not boarding, but there were no Tower Air personnel to be found. We joked about the conversation that the flight attendants must have been having, since the door to the walkway just kept opening and shutting with no results: "Are they still there?" "Yup, they’re still there, a whole bunch of ‘em, just standing there." 15 minutes the door opens again: "Shhh. Are they still there?" "Yup." "Shit, what are we gonna do now?" "I dunno…maybe they’ll just get sick of waiting?"

We eventually board this immense monstrosity of a plane where we proceed to sit and sit and sit some more, and after almost 2 full hours of sitting motionless at the gate with no flight attendants in sight (we pictured them peeking out of the bathroom: "I told you we shouldn’t have let them on the plane! Now they’re never gonna leave."&#41, the so-called captain makes an announcement that we haven’t left yet because they were still loading the baggage onto the plane. (At this point we pictured the solitary one-armed baggage-handler trying to heave an overstuffed suitcase into the luggage compartment…and missing. And trying again. And missing again, tears streaming down his face, "I’m gonna do this EVEN IF IT TAKES ME ALL NIGHT, GOD DAMMIT!"&#41

During the 120 minutes that we were sitting motionless at the gate, one of the flight attendants made an appearance to actually admonish a man for not having his seatbelt fastened! So I go to fasten my seatbelt securely around my waist and notice that I can’t because I…don’t have one. Well, I have one, but the two parts don’t click together. At all. No matter how many times I keep trying to jam the two pieces together as if it was magically going to change from a broken piece of crap into an actual seatbelt. I start to panic; I’m afraid to say anything for fear they'll make me deplane, but on the other hand I'm afraid not to say anything because I don 't want to hit my head against the ceiling if we happened to have bad turbulence, like those poor Japanese people that made the news a while back. So I knotted it around my waist, twice, which wasn't easy. The turbulence problem now taken care of, I started wondering what would happen in the instance that the plane went up in flames and I couldn't get out because I had essentially knotted myself into a hot flaming Seat of Death, which, under normal circumstances could have been alleviated with one un-click of the seatbelt, but knowing this airline all the flight attendants would hide and there wouldn't be a Swiss Army Knife in sight to cut me free.

We kept joking about this whole fiasco for a while, since we were going on vacation, after all. We'd sit there in silence and then one of us would start giggling and go "I know, I know…they're having trouble filling all the balloons tied to the top of the plane with helium" or "They can't find anyone to push the plane down the runway for takeoff", but that got old real quick. (Though it was funny when someone yelled out "Distance from origination: ZERO MILES! WOO!"&#41 After whatever happened that caused the place to actually become airborne, we realized that the reading lights above our seats weren't working, so we couldn't read. Not only could we not read, we couldn't watch the movie (the only other thing left to do during the four-and-a-half-hour torture that is a cross-country flight&#41 because supposedly there was no electrical flow whatsoever to our seats and countless numbers of other seats around us. The so-called flight attendants were walking around the plane like zombies: "there is nothing we can do, nothing we can dooooo…"

Basically, we could do nothing but sit there for, well, six and a half hours, if you count the two hours we already sat at the gate. Avery sighed and wrote this on his Nino:

Flight boarded very late…at 9pm for a 9pm flight.
Jan has no seatbelt
Her entertainment center doesn't work… Mine doesn't even exist.
Neither of our lights work.
10pm and they are still loading the fucking baggage.
Tower Air Sucks.

The flight back wasn't any better. We had a 4:00 PM flight, and as luck would have it, encountered absolutely no traffic whatsoever from Manhattan, so got to the airport nearly 2 hours early. As we got into line to check in, I asked Avery "Why does the monitor say 'San Francisco 8:00 PM?" Ah ha! It's because the wonderful folks at Tower Air had decided to "reschedule the flight." When we asked the smarmy attitude-laden counter drone WHY, she shrugged and replied "They just did." She then went on to tell us that it said in The System that they called our home number in San Francisco, but we were unreachable. I said, all mad, "Well, that's because we're HERE IN NEW YORK." (for the record, they didn’t leave a message on the answering machine, which was in San Francisco the whole time.&#41 Avery sighed and wrote this on his Nino:


First off, the 4pm flight was unexplainedly re-scheduled for 8pm. When we asked the counter agent why the flight was delayed, she could provide no reason. At all.They did, however, give us $10 each in free food at the deli.

When coming through the metal detector, the thing beeped at me. So, I took my keys out of my pocket and went through again. Beeeeeep! Off comes the leather jacket that sometimes sets the machine off. Beeeeeep. At this point, I suggest that they break out the little wand thingee because I was wearing too many small things that could be the culprit. The 'security' guard tells me to remove my chain wallet. Ok… it's a bother, but I'll do it. Beeeeeep. So Shecky (my name for the guard&#41 tells me to remove my belt. At this point, I start to get a bit pissed off. I whip off the belt and walk through the detector. No beep. Thank god… because if it wasn't the belt, it would have been either my button-fly or my piercings. Either way, it would have resulted in a major scene.

10:18pm… Somewhere over Toronto. The light over Janet's head is blinking like a defective 'LIVE NUDE GIRLS' sign. The stewardess' answer? Tin foil. Sigh.

Yes, the electrical system was again faulty. No surprise here. At this point I was feeling mighty irritable, and the overly-caffeinated teenage Chatty Cathy seated next to me didn't help one bit: "Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom. Excuse me, I need to find a pillow. Do you have a pillow? Where can I get a pillow? I have some candy and gum if you guys want some. <fidget> Do you guys want my sandwich? I didn't get an Oreo. Can I move so I can see the movie better? <fidget> Is that light bothering you, too? I'm so excited. <fidget fidget fidget> Bless you. Do you need a tissue?" Picture my dirty looks and stony silence here.

They made an announcement while we were waiting for our bags that anyone who was traveling with animals should report to the window immediately. I don't even want to know what happened there, but I know this: I have never been so happy to get away from an airline in my life. I join the ranks of disgruntled Tower Air survivors as I virtually beg of you, under no circumstances should anyone, living or dead, fly Tower Air!

Posted in Scowls.

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