It’s not the airlines‘ fault that air travel is so demeaning and degrading. Blame it on the public for demanding cheap transportation. Think about the degrading humiliation that air travel inflicts on every traveler these days. It violates every tenant of customer service. What organization would go out of their way to insult and demean their customers as a business plan for success? Unthinkable, isn’t it? It is a formula for failure in every market except one – transportation. In transportation we will accept any torture so long as you get us there cheap.
A recent trip reminded me just what humiliation we accept in exchange for cheap transportation. Young folks have no idea what air travel was like a mere twenty years ago when flying was civilized, passengers were treated like welcome guests and airlines competed by the amenities they offered. The new 747’s allowed airlines to offer passenger lounges – some with piano bars on trans-continental flights. Meals were offered on most long flights and though they were never much better than TV dinners, it was hot food, served with style and professionalism. TWA baked bread during the flights. Many airlines brought hot towels to refresh passengers at the end of the flight. Blankets and pillows were always available just by pushing the stewardess call button. Boarding was civilized as well because passengers checked baggage and carried only what they might need during the flight. You dressed up to fly because civilized people cared about their appearance and, of course, in those days you didn’t have to undress to get through security. And this was flying coach.
In those days, people flew because they wanted to get from one place to another fast and they were willing to pay for the privilege. People that weren’t, rode the bus or the train. Those were wonderful days. Flying wasn’t cheap but it was civilized.
Contrast those days with my trip this week. Start with the luggage. Most airlines now penalize customers for checking bags with the natural result that every passenger boards the plane with all their worldly possessions in hand. Without baggage, you never have to check in and can go directly to security, easing the burden of providing service by the airlines but upping the burden on TSA. This makes you a nuisance if you do want to free yourself from lugging your bag through security to the gate and on the plane. Most airlines now charge you for that service. They want to have as little to do with you as possible. And if they must deal with you personally, you will pay for that privilege.
Boarding is shear hell. You stand in line waiting for your boarding call, then lug your baggage down the boarding tunnel and wait while all the people ahead of you stuff the compartments with their luggage and squeeze into their seats. Dante must be smiling as he watches this modern day hell. Arriving you just reverse the process until you reach the relative comfort and civilization of the terminal, And we accept this! When we used to expect this.
What has brought us to this total breakdown of civilization we call flying? I think we asked for it. You ask how? Well come back on Monday to see what I think.
- Down With Flying – Part 2 (cantankerousoldcoots.com)