April 15, 2017

Come fly with me

There has been a lot of electronic ink and angst over the airline industry and United Republic Airlines  this week. Let me tell you, bad customer service is nothing new to the airlines. We are far away from the times where air travel was a glitzy wonderful experience as depicted in song and film.

I have flown less than many and more than most. I did a rough calculation and I guess I have been a passenger on more than one thousand commercial flights. I have been to hundreds of different airports around the world. At one point in my career I was flying every week. I was a Platinum/Chairman level frequent flyer for six years straight. In one year I was Platinum on one airline, gold on.another and Silver on a third - simultaneously. I flew so much the airline gave me free access to the sooper sekrit clubs they maintained in the airports. There I got  comfy couches, free drinks, salty snacks, and personal reminders on when it was time to board my flight. I think I have the credibility to discuss the miserable experience flying has become.

There was always security at the airport. Some airports were better at it than others. In the pre-TSA days the airlines ran security. Usually the small airports were tougher than the big airports. In the wake of the Unibomber (remember him?) threats things started getting ridiculous. Security screeners would actually ask you if you were carrying a gun or anything hazardous. Seriously. If you said "no" they passed you through. In the wake of 9/11 we entered Kabuki Theater of security and turned the whole process from aggravating to insulting and intrusive.

Perhaps even more than most businesses, the airlines suffered greatly during the 2008-2010 recession. Several airlines did not survive. Gone were the days of flying with an empty seat in the middle, of late night flights half full and meals on your flight. Routes were consolidated, amenities were dropped, and space for each seat was reduced so that the airline could cram more folks onto the plane. Baggage fees and charges to board early were instituted.

Flying went from a luxury to an airborne bus to a cattle car in the skies. I'm not sure I could tolerate 100-150 flights a year anymore. Airlines have fought the battle between customer service and profit for a good while now. Profit wins. Gone are the airport clubs, free bags, meals, and seats big enough to accommodate more than an average 12 year old. During the sailing ship days of the British Navy a sailor was allotted 14 inches of space to hang his hammock. We read that and wonder how they managed. Your average economy class seat width on a regional carrier is 17 inches. How wide are your shoulders?

Airlines know they have a captive customer base. They don't have to do better. For the next month or so, bumped passengers will be treated better. Harried gate people will try to smile more. But in no time flying will be back to treating the passengers like Third Class passengers on the Titanic.  But we will keep flying; usually we don't have a choice.

I will be mooing and bleating and oinking like the rest of the cattle as I am herded on board a flying tube Monday morning. Like the rest of the passengers I will hope my name is t called to be booted off the flight because the airline oversold the plane or just needed the seat to move a flight crew.


Anonymous said...

Flying stopped being fun a long time ago.

James Old Guy

Ed Bonderenka said...

I find it more fun to drive two days than fly two hours.

Wraith said...

This is the internet age. Dang near anything can be done online--even 'facetime' can be accomplished via Skype or its equivalents.

Until the airlines begin once again treating us as sovereign citizens and valued customers, rather than cattle, they can kiss my skinny white butt. Ask yourself, how much do you REALLY need to fly in 2017??

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