Recent airline trips coupled with the inability of Boeing to get its new 787 jets back in the air and a European proposal of new rights for fliers when they are delayed has inspired me to discuss the current state of affairs relating to air travel.
I started flying for business in the late 70s. Fortunately, my employer at the time allowed me to fly first class for long distance flights. It was a wonderful experience that included arrival at the airport 20 minutes before departure, no security, no pat-downs, and no undressing in front of other people. The flight attendants were enthusiastic women who seemed to really care about passengers having a pleasant experience. The food wasn’t superb, but everyone got something to eat on long flights, and first class was almost elegant (china and cloth napkins).
Today, because of the tragedies on 9/11 and a few other idiotic attempts to destroy airplanes with bombs in sneakers and in underpants, billions of flyers are subjected to a torture chamber of inconveniences.
Here are nine reasons why I hate to fly.
1. Heightened anxiety. The moments before a flight are very stressful for a person. There are many things for a traveler to worry about, such as being late, having a ticket, packing correctly, and whether baggage will show up at your destination. Passengers and service people alike are not in a cordial frame of mind at the airport.
2. Airport arrival. Have you ever driven up to the airport and not encountered a massive traffic jam? It is rare. Generally, it is total chaos as travelers unload luggage and jockey for position trying to find porters to assist them.
3. Lines and more lines. If you must obtain a ticket and check your bags inside the facility, a long line is more common that not. Why are the lines so long? I can think of three reasons (1) passengers are not prepared (2) computer systems are so complicated that you need to have a computer science degree to efficiently operate them (3) clerks are so unhappy, all the time, that they do not give a damn about providing good service.
4. Security lines. I’d like to know how security agents are recruited. Is it required that an agent be uneducated, rude, sloppy, aggressive, and incapable of recognizing a terrorist? Maybe this group comes from the same sources as traffic rent-a-cops.
5. Traveler incompetence. Long lines are not solely the fault of check-in and security people. Travelers bear some responsibility for making the process dreadful. You would think that after 12 years, passengers would know that they must have their boarding pass and ID handy. And, you must take off your coat and shoes and reveal computers. Don’t ask questions or argue. Just comply and keep the line moving. And, do not bring water bottles or large tubes of toothpaste in your carry bags (knives, amazingly, will soon be permitted). If every one complied, security lines would be much shorter.
6. Political correctness. This is a sensitive topic for many. But, if you look like a terrorist, act like a terrorist, are really nervous like someone about to blow themselves up, you should be checked by security. Young children and grandmas are not likely to be on a jihad, so give them a break security people.
7. The airport experience. Before you leave home for the airport do you ever say, “I can’t wait to get to LaGuardia. It’s such a pleasant place?” Or, “The people are so nice and helpful at the airport.” Let’s face it, we all hate everyone we come into contact with at airports. And finally, airports are disgusting pig sties as some passengers are slobs and the cleaning people are few and far between.
8. Baggage. Checking bags and retrieving them are major ordeals. And, why is luggage always treated so harshly? It’s as if chimpanzees are handling our bags and throwing them around. And, how often do security people cut off the locks that they are supposed to be able to open with security keys?
9. Fees for everything. I recognize that it is difficult to operate a profitable airline. But, if you need any help, like speaking to a real person about a problem or need to change a flight, you get charged a fee. The most recent rip off is charging for extra bags. This, by the way, encourages more people to carry on bags and slows the loading process.
Disclosure: I wrote a book titled I’m Pissed Off a few years ago. I referenced material from my book while writing this essay. The novel contains candid and humorous comments about many other aspects of American life that drive me crazy.