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!