Friday, February 26, 2010

Fear or flight

Although I love to travel, I pretty much can't stand flying. Like everything, 9-11 and the recession have taken most of the fun out of it. I say this after having just returned from a business trip to Florida and having spent about 12 hours travelling yesterday (if you factor getting to the airport, checking in, waiting in security lines, cooling your heals at the gate waiting to board, standing in line on the plane while morons block the aisles trying to get a steamer trunk into the overhead bins, getting out of your seat four times to let the customer of size sitting in the center seat get up to go to the bathroom, cruising to the gate and waiting for your luggage).

Flying used to mean adventure (the good kind). There was a time when everything was included in the cost of your ticket. Even in coach you could get something that resembled a meal. The flight attendants used to treat you nicely and not like cattle. Now you have to pay to check luggage (which is why the morons try to bring luggage the size of Texas on board as a carry on and squeal like a stuck pig when they can't get it down the aisle). You have to pay for a snack. You have to pay for a drink other than soda or juice. Pretty soon I imagine they will make you pay to go to the bathroom (though that might deter that customer of size seated next to me from getting up four times in one flight).

I was fortunate on this trip to be able to upgrade to First Class on my way to Florida. But the perks of First Class have been reduced to being able to board first (after the wheel chairs, babies and old people with walkers), sitting in comfortable seats that aren't making you intimate with the person seated next you, free drinks and your own bathroom. Oh you do get that warm towelette before your premium snack.

I suppose they don't really treat you first class in First Class anymore because no one actually pays to be in First Class. Most people use frequent flyer miles to upgrade. Because the airlines are putting more and more restrictions on using the miles that prevent you from actually getting a free ticket anywhere. So First Class is basically filled with a coach class of people taking their shoes off and letting their dogs breath on the bulkhead.

Regardless, I used all of my First Class karma on the trip to Florida and had to suffer the indignity of coach on the way back. There isn't even a a pretense of treating people decently in coach anymore. At one point after forcing my way to my seat strategically located at the back of the airplane I wanted to scream, "I'm a man, not an animal" or "Soylent Green is people." But I am sure no one would have got either reference or cared. They were all just focused on getting their fair share of the coveted overhead bins.

I know I rant about airplane travel every year or so, but it just kills me that the airlines -- who I am sure are struggling financially like everyone else -- continue to pretend to give a rip about customer service. They could stop making the stupid announcements about "We know you have many choices in what airline you use and we sincerely appreciate you flying ______." For one none of us have any choice. We are at the mercy of who flys to where we want to go for the cheapest price. Two if you truly appreciated us flying your airline you wouldn't treat us like mindless cattle (though I admit most people in coach are mindless cattle).

Don't waste our time with the safety talk before each flight. If someone doesn't know how to buckle a seatbelt in this day and age, they shouldn't be let out unescorted. And if there really was an emergency you can bet it would be everyman for themselves the way it is trying to get your crap into the overhead bin.

I also don't care to hear from the flight crew. I don't give a rip about what altitude we'll be cruising at or the airspeed. And if I want to see the Grand Canyon, I'll visit the damned thing, so don't tell me it is visible out the left side of the plane because I've got a fricking customer of size blocking any view I'll ever have of the window.

And stop telling us to turn off and stow any electronic devices for take off and landing. My iPod and Kindle won't make the airplane drop like a stone if they are turned on. Nor will my tray or seat being in the full upright position really affect anything either. You are just yanking our chains for having to wait on people in the sky without getting tipped.

This is all my impassioned plee for high speed rail.

1 comment:

R. said...

I think the plan is to make flying conditions so horrible that only suicidal terrorists and drug smugglers would consider buying a ticket. The desired result is that the TSA can say "We told you so! Give us more funding and a union."

High speed rail would be nice. There just isn't any money in interstate lines. Just look at Amtrak's train-wreck of a history.