What makes international travel international and other international less international? It seems United Airlines for one has created a class system. True airlines were once broke and needed revenue. Now they are bleeding the consumer dry and not thinking twice about what they are doing to make travel less fun than in the past.
Our flight from Munich, Germany to Newark, New Jersey was 8 hours and 20 minutes, longer than I remembered from Europe. Shortly after take-off, the staff informed us there would be a drink service. Yada, yada, was free. Beer, wine, and stronger alcohol was purchasable with cash or a credit card. Okay, fair enough! There were too many alcoholics flying and being disruptive. Now they would have to pay the price. Later we were served a meal. Nothing fabulous, but then again when is airline food going to be written about in Martha Stewart Living? Before landing, we were given a snack. Again, nothing gourmet, but it filled a need.
Diverting off topic here:
The staff was not at all what one has in mind when thinking of airline attendants if you have been flying for as many decades as I have. Of the seven flight attendants I witnessed, all seven had to be over 50 years old if they were a day. Of the seven, six of them were women. Six of the seven could easily without any hyperbole coming into play, be considered obese. If obesity is defined as >30 lbs over optimal body weight, they were obese. With the push to get as much out of a plane as possible, the aisles are just wide enough for the carts to get through. Some of these attendants had to transverse the aisles sideways, due to their girth. This was more than a little shocking when I consider those I have known personally who have applied for flight attendant positions and know the standards set for being hired.
Once in Newark, we had a 4-hour layover. As it turned out with Passport Control, Customs, and security once again, we utilized the time well. One would think that being a transit passenger, you could skip much of this, but not a chance.
Passing by an Irish pub, Ron’s eye caught a football game on the TV. This was US American football, not European type football. He used this as an excuse to have a pint. Once I spotted the menu outside the door offering Reuben sandwiches, I quickly agreed. It has been over 12 years since I have had a Reuben. So much for trusting an Irish pub in an airport. There was not a shred of sauerkraut. Ron brought it back, but it turned out they were not made there, but brought in. They couldn’t do a thing about it.
Our gate changed 4 times for our flight from Newark to Panama City. The plane was an hour late getting in. We were over an hour late getting out. This is when it occurred. The flight crew announced there would be drink service with the same yada, yada, as before with alcohol having a price tag. But this was the kicker. They then announced the meal service and listed off the prices for each entrée. There were no free meals at all. Then the TV monitor on the seat back facing us had TV shows and movies on offer. For flights more than 2 hours, it would only cost you $7.99 for unlimited services. Without providing a card, all you were entitled to was a ten-minute teaser which then became glossed over with the advertisement luring you to swipe your card or lose out entirely. No video for you! I chose to sleep instead. It was a bumpy flight, but still a boring one.
Here is a tidbit for future reference. When you go through Immigration in Panama, they give you a card allowing you to receive FREE medical care for 30 days at no cost. They are trying to promote tourism; this is their way to entice potential visitors. Had I known, I would not have bought health insurance for this part of the trip.
Monica from our accommodation was waiting for us. The drive, around midnight, was long. The place is an oversized apartment co-owned by a US American and his Panamanian wife. More about this later.