Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On Flying

While this question may seem to be asked in jest, I seriously want to know; when exactly did flying on airplanes start to suck? I mean I remember as a child that air travel was among the most exciting things that we could do. Going to the airport and staring out those huge windows at the terminal just marveling at all of the huge airplanes was something that I used to thoroughly enjoy. Now, I can’t even seem to muster the excitement necessary to get to the airport any sooner than is absolutely necessary to get on my flight, then once aboard the plane, I can’t wait to get off and get out of the airport.

Why is this? What happened? True, we all get older and the mysticism associated with flying as a child was quickly debunked by the simple science of flight. Fine, so I now sort of understand how a several ton aircraft carrying 200+ people and more cargo than all the people in Africa combined possess can get off the ground and travel from point A to point B, but that really has little to do with my complaints. So here we go, these are the things that I saw and experienced yesterday traveling from Los Angeles to Baltimore.

  • Lines, everywhere you looked there were lines. 6am there were lines outside at the drop-off point. The line to get into the terminal at Southwest was all the way down the street about 500 people deep. Thank god I wasn’t flying on their airline. But the lines didn’t stop there, oh no, there were lines at the ticket counters, lines at security, lines at the Starbucks, lines at the gate. Hurry up and wait, I arrived 97 minutes before my flight was scheduled to depart and I barely made it to the gate in time.

  • Other passengers. As I’m sure you all know, they don’t make flying any easier. Here is a short snippet of what I saw other passengers trying to do.

  • Use the line clearly marked “electronic tickets only,” while visibly holding paper tickets in their hands;

  • Boot up their laptop computer in order to argue with the person at the electronic ticket counter about their flight information;

  • Attempt to check 8 bags for a single person domestic flight;

  • Numerous people trying to cut into the security line because their flight was boarding in 30 minutes;

  • Not removing laptop computers from their bags after 6 signs and 2 verbal warnings;

  • Trying to go through the metal detectors with both keys and pocket change (which are made of metal, mind you)

  • Attempting to board the airplane out of order. (I don’t understand what about the procedure of loading from the rear of the plane people just do not understand.)

You get my point. Now I readily admit to being an arrogant elitist snob, but come on now, the least that we can try to do is follow simple instructions. Nevertheless, time and again it seems that there is something about airline travel that throws people for a loop and they loose their ability to read and comprehend simple instructions. Maybe it’s the recycled oxygen in the cabins, or maybe its too much turkey and stuffing, I don’t know, but it has to stop and quick. Here’s something else that has to go, the rolling suitcase. Convenient, yes I understand, but we need to exercise some self control people. If you can’t lift your rolling suitcase off the ground, you have packed too much stuff and must either check the bag, or go home and rethink which of your worldly possessions you can do without for a few days. It has gotten to the point where there are 4 bags for every person. People are now carrying with them as they sprint across the terminal, 1 suitcase, 1 briefcase, 1 laptop bag, and one all purpose rolling suitcase with everything that didn’t fit into the first 3 bags. I asked one poor woman with 4 bags how long she was traveling for, her response; 3 days. I’m not kidding; even I couldn’t make the stuff up.

Mind you all of these things happened before I even got on my plane. Once there and safely ensconced in my seat things did not improve. Since when did airlines stop feeding passengers? Even more shocking; when did they starting charging you for bad airplane food? Seriously, it was $3 for dried meat, cheese, cookies, and chips and another $2 if you wanted headphones to watch the in-flight TV; you’ve got to be kidding me? I suppose there is a sucker born every minute, but come on now this is simply taking advantage of people. I paid almost $400 for my ticket (and that was after a 15% discount), the least they can do is provide me with some stinking microwaveable food.

I could ramble on forever, let’s just say that flying is not enjoyable anymore, and it seems to be getting worse not better. It’s no wonder airlines are going into bankruptcy protection faster than TSA can perform strip searches. Sure fuel costs and pension prices are part of the reason, but their lousy service has got to be factor in their losing money. Trust me if it didn’t take 3 days to drive across country I would gladly do that rather than fly. What’s sad is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Flying could easily be enjoyable if everyone just put a little bit of thought, effort, and patience into it. A little effort could go a long way, but then again effort equals cost, and cost cuts into profits, so who am I kidding.


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