I returned yesterday afternoon from New Orleans (also known as NOLA, New Orleans LA), flying United from NOLA to Houston and then Lufthansa to Frankfurt and Rome. My luggage was tagged all the way through and arrived safely in Rome – kudos to Lufthansa. I now have a number of remarks about flights, airlines and planes.

I’ll start with good news. I flew roundtrip Frankfurt-Houston on Lufthansa’s Airbus 380-800, the double-decker plane whose photos you might have seen on my Facebook page, though I did not totally capture its mammoth size.  Lufthansa is one of my top three favorite airlines, perhaps the top one, and I’d willingly go again on the Airbus 380 with one caveat – I would not book Economy.

I paid a bit more to fly Premium Economy (a few airlines have introduced this new class) and it is wonderful – this was my second experience of PM. You have more seat and leg room, you have leg rests (a real bonus, as far as I am concerned – the main reason I’d buy Premium Economy on a long haul flight), receive a bit of an upgrade in food and you even get a small amenities kit. PM and Economy are on the “lower” level of the plane whereas Business and First Class are on the upper level.

As far as I know there were 500 passengers on yesterday’s flight!  I was among the final four to board as the staff started booking from the back of Economy – a smart decision but had I known in advance, I’d have remained seated at the gate and continued to read my book. PM is in the front of the plane, thus the last class to board and boarding, though smoothly done, took 35 minutes. Business and First Class enter through a different door and that was, needless to say, very smooth as there are fewer passengers in those classes.

I try to walk around the plane a number of times on long flights and I nearly stopped in my tracks when I saw Economy – 10 across in row after row – I could not even see the back of the plane from my front frow seat!  Maybe I have travelled for too many years, but I just don’t think I could make myself do that. I said a silent “ave” for the Economy passengers!

Now the bad news story.

I arrived Houston from Frankfurt last Thursday on time and had a couple of hours to kill before my 5:48 Spirit Airlines flight to New Orleans.  I went to a snack area and sat down with my iPad to check email, see news of the papal encyclical, etc. At the proper time I walked the short distance to Gate 26 for my flight, and heard an announcement that it was delayed until 7:30. I milled around with passengers and then we heard the delay was until 8 pm. It was 5:15 at this point and decided I’d better go to the restaurant and have some kind of dinner.

The patio area was now filled with Spirit passengers. Those flights that had not been cancelled were averaging 6-hour delays! A couple seated at one of the high bar tables in the patio recognized me from earlier and asked about my flight – theirs was delayed also. I joined them and we had a delightful conversation and dinner and got back to the gate area about 7 pm and learned that departure time was now 10:30!

Only the Holy Spirit could have helped at this point. I saw on my iPad that United had a 9:25 flight so I asked if my luggage could be taken off the plane and I’d reserve on UAL.

I also researched the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights so that I, and others, would know what our rights are and what obligations the airline has. To make a long story and a very long evening short, I will only say I was told 3 times in 3 hours that my luggage had been  “dropped,” that is, taken, off the plane, went three times to the luggage carousel and returned to the gate so many times through security that we were almost on a first name basis.

Never got my luggage, got a full refund from Spirit (bill of rights), reserved on United but had to go to a hotel. I did get a call Friday morning in my hotel that my luggage was now in NOLA – never had been taken off the plane! So there was some good news.

I heard a lot of negative stories about Spirit over the hours and will never consider flying with that company but I absolutely must say that the staff at the check-in counter should all be given medals for bravery. They were absolutely amazing in the face of angry customers, raised voices, misplaced luggage and a million other snafus. Each person, including staff who came to the airport on their day off, kept a smile on their face, a cool and even tone in their voice and a calm demeanor.

The perils of travel behind me, I enjoyed every secon d in New Orleans and can’t wait to go back. Will post some pix soon.

In the meantime, here are some very important words from Pope Francis. If you are a parent, you will absolutely want to read this!


Speaking under overcast skies in St. Peter’s Square at the weekly general audience, Pope Francis reflected on St. Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus tells his disciples, “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” He also highlighted Christ’s warning: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Francis noted that, “through our words, actions, or omissions, instead of expressing love for our spouse or children, we can sometimes diminish or demean that love.  Hiding these hurts only deepens such wounds, leading to anger and friction between loved ones.  If these wounds are particularly deep, they can even lead a spouse to search for understanding elsewhere, to the detriment of the family, especially children.

When conjugal loves diminishes or disappears, resentment grows and spreads and when a family falls apart, it is like a “landslide” that buries the children. Have we not perhaps become “anesthetized” to the psychological trauma that children suffer, Francis asked, even though we have access to the most “refined psychological analysis.” Giving them gifts and snacks just desensitizes us to the deep pain that children suffer. “We speak often of behavioral disorders, psychological health, the well-being of the child, of the anxiety of parents and children… But do we know yet what is a wounded spirit?”

The Holy Father, in an emotional tone, said, “We feel the weight of the mountain that crushes the spirit of a child. … When adults lose their heads, when everyone thinks about him/herself, when the father and mother hurt each other, … it is the children who suffer the most.”

Everything is tied together in the family, he said, and when one part is injured, the whole becomes infected.

Pope Francis did admit that, “there are cases in which separation is inevitable. Sometimes it can become even morally necessary, precisely when it comes to subtracting the weaker spouse, or small children, from more serious injuries caused by arrogance and violence, by humiliation and exploitation, by non-involvement and  indifference.”

He thanked God for those couples who “sustained by faith and love for their children, give witness in their loyalty to a relationship in which they believed, even though it appears impossible to revive it..”

Francis concluded the catechesis noting that today some families live in so-called “irregular” situations. He said “I do not like that word,” adding we must reflect on how to help and accompany them, especially so that the children do not become “hostages of the father or the mother.”