Sunday, December 4, 2011

New All-Time Low

WARNING: RANT IN PROGRESS

I thought air travel had gotten about as bad as it was possible to be. I've been flying so long that I can actually remember when the stewardess (as flight attendants were called in antediluvian times) would cook your filet mignon to order - yes, on a commercial airline. Back then, the airlines competed with service, trying to lure passengers by being the most friendly, delicious, accommodating, helpful.

Along came deregulation, and airlines began competing on price alone, and the services, one by one, were dropped. No more helpful reservations people who would even book you for a connecting flight on a different airline if their own flight wasn't convenient. Now, we all go to discount websites and look for the cheapest flights. Even as a frequent flyer, those open seats became very hard to schedule and required more and more miles before eligibility.

Luggage, something that was once included in your ticket price as long as you didn't exceed two enormously heavy bags, has also changed. Now, they charge (except for Southwest, bless their hearts!) for even the first bag - and it's a hefty charge. Overweight bags are even more. The result has been that everyone tries to cram their entire wardrobe into a roll-aboard bag that is really too big to fit in the overhead compartments, but they try to stuff them in regardless. Since many passengers haven't the upper body strength or the height to hoist that weight over their heads and into a bin, the risk to already-seated passengers is real and immediate. More than once, I have had to duck falling luggage. The flight attendants, who didn't sign up to be baggage handlers, must hate this, too.

Long lines. I frankly don't believe that the safety screenings at airports will deter a determined terrorist - in my view, it's a colossal waste of money and time. However, I'm willing to undergo the invasive screenings and the long lines if it helps other people feel safe. But, when the long lines form at understaffed ticket counters where they have inadequate staff to teach the average bozo how to print out his own boarding pass, that truly honks me off. Lines to check your luggage, lines to go through security, lines to board the aircraft, lines to pick up your luggage (surprisingly, the number of lost bags seems to have declined over the years - a small triumph for airline travel) - if there was any real alternative, I'd avoid all these #*&#%* lines and never fly again.

Food quality dropped along with the prices, too. No more macadamia nuts; now, you're lucky to get peanuts instead of some random pretzel thingie - if you get anything at all for free - even on cross-country flights. Now most airlines will sell you an overpriced "snack box" of stuff that Michael Pollan aptly labeled "food-like substances." Only soft drinks are still free, and I'm pretty sure beancounters at the airlines will soon clamor to charge for those, too.

I thought air travel had gotten about as bad as it was possible to be. I was wrong. It has reached a new all-time low.

On a recent flight to visit family, I was offered a cup of coffee. Sure, why not?

This is what came - instant coffee in a packet and a cup of warm water to dissolve it in. Holy crap! What is this world coming to when even coffee, that staple drink of pilots, isn't brewed on board any more? I don't expect 100% Kona coffee, but couldn't it at least be brewed? All the cutesy slogans printed on the paper napkins won't make up for the lousy service, the long lines, the narrow seats, the crummy food and the all-around discomfort of flying.

United lost my 40-year loyalty on this last trip, even though the flights themselves were on time and the pilots did a good job of landing those giant airplanes, kissing down on the runway like a butterfly both times. The hassle just isn't worth it.

Okay, if you read all that, thanks for letting me get it off my chest. If you didn't, I can hardly blame you, so I hope you'll come back tomorrow, when things will be more cheerful around here.

END OF RANT. Whew!

18 Comments:

Blogger Kailyn said...

United lost me years ago since it was usually guaranteed that they would lose my luggage. Since I usually travel to the South, it's been all about Delta. Remember the days of printed menus? Sigh.

Nowadays my preferred airline is Jet Blue. The person in front of me can recline his/her seat without it touching my knees. Also first checked bag is included in price of ticket. Meals are for purchase; if I do buy one, I usually get the selection of cheeses and crackers with fruit I believe. The free snacks? Usually a variety of five different things available.

I have been told that Virgin America is even better than Jet Blue but that means flying out of San Francisco instead of Oakland.

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Pink Granite said...

Hear, hear - all true!

JetBlue is the only airline we use now. Sadly, JetBlue doesn't go everywhere.
;o(

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Believe it or not, I haven't flown since *before* 9/11. I would be completely clueless about printing out my ticket, and I would probably faint in the scanning booth.
I don't think I'll ever fly again. I'd rather stay home with my dog.

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger kudzu said...

I'm with Cookie. I have flown once since all the deterioration started post-9/11, and that was with five supportive people around me to tote and lift and make sure I didn't turn around and run away instead of boarding. I am not afraid of flying, never have been -- it's the airports and the cattle call mentality. Rant on.

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Chilebrown said...

I am out of breath reading this tome. I never got to hang out at the piano bar on the "New" 747's. I remember getting a beer on TWA on a flight to Canada.(Propeller) I was only 16 but felt very important.

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger namastenancy said...

I absolutely DON'T blame you for ranting- this weeks airline news brought the images of an elderly woman, rudely and intimately frisked by our fearless security guards. She banged up her leg pretty badly but they didn't have an ounce of compassion for her. Between stupid security rules and the relentless drive to squeeze the last penny of of the public, the airlines have lost my respect - and my support whenever possible. My dad worked for Pan Am after he got out of the Navy and I could cry when I remember the kind of service we got. Fantastic food, seats, the works. Thanks for the recommendations on Jet Blue and Virgin; if I have to fly, I will be checking those out.

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Kitt said...

I still enjoy Southwest. Their free bag policy obviates the carry-on madness, their boarding process is generally speedy, and half the time I get free booze on my flights because they never ask for my drink coupon after I order.

I fly at least six round trips a year and while it's definitely not what it once was (yeah, I remember *smoking* on the plane, real silverware and complimentary wine with dinner), I'm still OK with it.

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kailyn, yes Jet and Virgin are better but none of them is really any good except Southwest.

Pink, thanks for the confirmation.

Cookiecrumb, lucky for you that everyone you care to visit is within driving distance. I have family back East and in Hawaii...

Kudzu, exactly. Moo!

Chilebrown, those were the good old days.

Nancy, my first choice these days is Southwest, whenever possible.

Kitt, I think of flying as an unpleasant necessity - and that's sad, as I used to really look forward to flying. Amen about Southwest, however. They even have a sense of humor.

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Anonymous Evil Empress said...

Virgin Atlantic/America and Jet Blue, Southwest and possibly some of the Asian airlines. That's it. The rest are awful. Of course, I had to go back and rewatch this wonderful video by Fascinating Aida. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPyl2tOaKxM

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Kailyn said...

Southwest, really? They are fine for within California but my one experience with them in flying cross country paled in comparison with my experiences with Jet Blue. Then again if I remember correctly, you are shorter than I am. Leg room is key for me. I generally ask for an aisle seat for this reason. When I think cattle call, I always think of Southwest. Flew them for many years after the demise of PSA from San Diego to SF in my college years.

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Ms Brown Mouse said...

Crikey, and I thought it was bad over here!

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Ms Brown Mouse said...

Cookie - if you don't fly how will you get to visit me? ;)

Sunday, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Evil Empress, I enjoyed being reminded of Fascinating Aida - very funny.

Kailyn, yes, you are very leggy compared to me. Legroom is never my issue, but width definitely is!

Ms Mouse, it may be bad over there, but it's hard to imagine that it could be worse! (And I think Cookie will wait for your return to our shores.)

Monday, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Greg said...

Hate to the third power is what I think of flying. We trained it to San Diego this weekend for a business trip. Seems so much more civilized.

Monday, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, so smart - and wouldn't it be great if we had the high-speed rail? If only trains ran to Hawaii!

Monday, December 05, 2011  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Mouse: I will take a dog boat. :)

Monday, December 05, 2011  
Anonymous love poems said...

Hmm thats way long article but then its great. thankss..

Monday, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Lovepoems, shame on you for spamming. Boo.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011  

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