This is part two. If you missed part one of Down With Flying then follow the link.
It’s our own fault!
I say that the problems with flying are all our own fault. I think it comes down to two things – Americans have rejected the concept of class and we are cheap.
The airlines, just like any other business in the free world, cater to their customers and compete to provide what customers demand. Today , we insist on cheap transportation- at least when we fly. Since 1995 airfares have increased about 20% (my mental trend line analysis of the chart below) while inflation has been nearly 45%. It is not a perfect measurement because not everything increases in cost but it suggests that airlines have had to compromise to keep airfares from increasing to provide the same levels of service 1995. Something had to give and it was service.
The more complicated question is why we tolerate the degradation in service levels since we manage to pay for increased costs in other areas of our lives and take for granted that we are entitled to cost of living adjustments for wages. For most of us, travel is not a regular part of our lives. We fly infrequently and are therefor more willing to put up with occasional inconvenience.
I think the biggest problem is that Americans have lost respect for class. I don’t mean social class like living on the right side of the railroad tracks. I mean having class: dressing up rather than down and looking like you matter. People associate class with snobbery or pretense. Nobody cares how they look or wants to be seen as pretentious. Look at your plane-mates next time you fly. Try to imagine what went through their minds selecting their wardrobe for the day. You can be sure that they weren’t thinking that the wanted to make a good impression. Everybody is afraid of looking classy. Nobody minds looking like trailer park trash, shlepping all their worldly belongings on and off the plane in their ratty luggage. And if you do check your bags (at additional cost on most airlines) and dress in a civilized way you get looks from the other passengers as if to say. “You think you are too good to shlep bags?”
Yes I am!
The answer is easy. Yes, I do think I am too good to shlep bags and while you are at it, I’m too good to look like I took a break from slopping the hogs to fly to Cincinnati today. People don’t respect themselves enough to dress themselves well. I don’t think anybody thinks they are worth getting good treatment these days or care enough about how they look to dress like somebody deserving of respect. So if the airlines treat passengers like cattle these days, don’t blame the airlines. They are just providing the good customer service demanded by most of their passengers who don’t think they are worth any better treatment and dress to prove it.