e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

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Another Reason to Avoid Air Travel

Once upon a time, in my childhood, there was one reason not to fly: cost.   Airline travel was expensive.   But if you could afford it (we took a trip by air to the east coast when I was eleven and one to Colorado to see my cousin graduate from the Air Force Academy when I was eighteen), it was fun and pleasant.  Just considering the actual trip itself, what the airline was responsible for, it was definitely a plus.   Seats were wide enough for real people, with actual leg-room (even a leg rest you could raise and lower) so you could get in and out of the seats without crawling across  laps.   Tray tables had enough room for trays (and enough room for today's laptops, for that matter.)  Snacks and meals were free to coach passengers, as were pillows and blankets.  Checked baggage and carry-on baggage were both carried free, up to a set limit.   

And back then, of course, before the first round of terrorists hijacking airliners, you could count on making your flight as long as you were at the airport before the plane left.   
No security lines.  No semi-disrobing.  You could lock your checked luggage (and thus, could ship valuables in it and needed less carry-on) and you could carry whatever grooming tools you needed in the overnight bag you took on the plane.  You could also bring your own food, if you wanted, though actual cooked meals eaten off real plates with real utensils were sufficient for most of us.  (Sneering at "airline food" came later.)

Airlines were regulated back then, of course, and those of you who oppose regulating any commercial activity (in the face of the current mine disaster?  Ooo-kay...) might like to consider just what passengers have lost as airline regulation was replaced by passenger regulation.   Now airlines can charge what they like, and treat passengers any way they like, while passengers are treated, more and more, like stupid and dangerous cattle who deserve to have their needs ignored on the grounds that the airlines can't make enough money.  Hence the overbooking, cancellation of non-full flights (and subsequent stranding of passengers), parking away from the gate for hours while passengers are denied food, water, toilet access...and any passenger complaints are treated as "air rage" with the passenger now labeled as the bad guy. 

Airlines now charge for booking flights through anything but their own websites (inaccessible to those without an internet connection, people with visual limitations, etc.), for changing reservations, for asking for any seat anyone considers desirable,  for any onboard amenities (snacks, "meals," blanket, pillow--while limiting use of blankets and pillows and not providing enough for all passengers), checked baggage (which you can't even lock--though thieving by both baggage handlers and TSA personnel has been reported), and now one airline ("Spirit" based in Florida)  is charging for carry-on and another (Ryanair, based in Ireland) is considering charging for toilet use onboard.   Thanks to security regulations, I have to have both checked and carryon luggage on business trips (because, surprise, surprise, when you're on a book tour you do not have time at every stop to go out and buy new grooming tools, or another set of underwear if the airline doesn't get your luggage on your flight, as has happened to me about once every fourth trip.)  Thanks to being human, I do need water and a toilet at regular intervals (airline magazines remind passengers to stay well-hydrated on long flights--and that means, boys and girls, that what goes in must come out.)

I realize it would be easier for security personnel and the airline if passengers were to arrive naked at the airport with nothing but their e-ticket boarding passes, be put in adult diapers and prison jumpsuits by security personnel, chained into their seats, and sedated for the duration of the flight...but I have news for both airlines and security personnel...this will not increase airline profits (because damn few will fly) and will not reduce air rage (rather the contrary) or airport security (as real terrorist threats will shift from passengers to airline and airport employees.)

Why fly?   As someone who used to love flying--good weather, bad weather, little planes, big planes--I'm now convinced that there is no good reason for me to fly on 99% of the trips I make, and the remaining 1%, that I'd really like to make, I probably won't.   I'll miss it...I really like being up in the air...but I will not miss the treatment meted out to passengers.   I will not miss the security personnel, or the risk of whole-body X-ray at some airports, or being the "random" older white woman (so random that I can count on being pulled aside, partly because I arrive at airports early, apparently) who has to stand there in an awkward position while other passengers stare.  I will not miss the overbooking; I will not miss the sitting on a motionless plane  for hours as the clock ticks down and I realize I'm not going to make my connection at the next airport...just because the airline screwed up.   I will not miss the rude, insensitive, airline employees who always blame the customer and threaten passengers with arrest if the passenger dares to make a complaint about something.  

Point of comparison.  Last fall,  I took a long train trip.   First leg, I stopped in St. Louis for a conference.  When I went back to the station to get on the train for the next leg, the train was late...(it's not like airline flights are never late...if you're about to say "See!")   Turns out the train, which originates in San Antonio, was late because a bridge washed out between San Antonio and Austin.   So Amtrak, in the aftermath of severe storms in south-central Texas, located and hired quality buses, loaded all the passengers, the train crew, and their baggage, and delivered them to Fort Worth, hundreds of miles north...along with all the passengers at intermediate stops.  Meanwhile, they organized another train's rolling stock and got it to Fort Worth.  When the passengers arrived, they and their luggage were whisked onto the train and away they went.  Hours late leaving Fort Worth, yes.  But only about an hour late arriving at St. Louis.   And only 15-20 minutes late arriving in Chicago, which meant that passengers who were transferring to another train made their connection. 

I heard this from passengers who had started in San Antonio and were amazed at how determined Amtrak was to get them to their destination on time.  And how different it was from their recent experiences on airlines.  Flights cancelled, flights delayed, connections missed, flights overbooked...airlines act as if none of this is ever their fault and passengers should just be cool with arriving a day late.  (I remember vividly a flight from Austin to Chicago that left Austin 10 1/2 hours late...with the airline making no effort at all to help any of us find another flight, and offering no real information as to when the flight might actually leave.  And when we finally got to Chicago, after midnight, with no facilities open in the airport, the airline was prepared to dump us into the empty, dark, terminal and make us wait until morning to find out if we had connections to our destinations.  Someone with more clout than I have badgered them (this was pre-9/11 or I'm sure he'd have been arrested) into at least finding us motel rooms for the night.  People on that flight missed weddings, graduations, business meetings...)

The charge for the first checked bag was my final straw...because as a woman traveling on business, and business that involves public appearances,  I must have grooming tools and makeup with me on the trip...and yet, thanks to "security concerns" I can't have what I need in carry-on.  Airlines know that.   They also know that it's not possible to travel for business without having some carry-on...business people need their laptops, their cellphones, and (since airlines lose luggage) something to sleep in, clean underwear, and a clean outfit for the next day.   If they had just increased the price of the ticket overall, that wouldn't have have bothered me nearly as much as an add-on charge that I have to be ready to pay at the airport.  Same with the other things they now charge separately for.  

The charge for carry-on, and the possible charge for using the toilet, are nails in the coffin of the now dead flying camel that last straw killed.   No, I'm not flying.   Why should I?   Listen up, airlines:  if you want me back as a passenger, treat me like a person...a person with needs you recognize as legitimate, a person who has paid you for a service you should then make every effort to provide.   If you can't make a living without treating me like sh*t, then you can't make a living by doing it, because I'm not flying.  
Tags: airlines
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