Airlines around the world are suffering from a plethora of issues that have made flying a tedious and unpleasant experience for their customers. High fuel prices, labor unrest, costly equipment, noise and pollution restrictions, bankruptcies, decreased flight schedules, and terrorism have seriously impacted operations and how Americans feel about traveling.
Airlines were doing fine until 9/11 changed the industry forever, inspiring governments around the world to take airline security to a new level and resulting in horrendous costs and inconvenience to businessmen and vacationers everywhere.
While on a recent flight, I reminisced about the golden years when I traveled regularly in the 1970s and 1980s. I remember relatively small airport crowds, arriving 30 minutes before my flight, minimal hassle from airline employees, decent food served on the plane, really accommodating flight attendants, amicable relations with fellow passengers, and so on.
Now, travelers are advised to arrive two hours before their flights because of long check-in and security lines. Upon arrival at the airport, cars, taxis, and buses block passengers from reaching the terminals. Everyone fights to get to curbside check-in (if it is available at all). Airline employees are unhappy and resentful in response to stressful working conditions. Security is conducted by a brigade of amateurs who would not recognize a terrorist if they were smacked in the head with an Uzi. Travelers get x-rayed and felt up by the aforementioned agents. Even if not singled out, everybody must remove belts, phones, watches, shoes, computers, and anything else that is metal. Then, passengers head to the gate where they standby for a couple of hours and try to connect to the Internet for a fee.
The on-plane experience is frightful. After all these years, the airlines still have not mastered the art of loading a plane without causing a stampede (it should be noted that aggressive passengers exacerbate the problem). I have a suggestion- board the people from the rear first and move towards the front. As if there were not enough bags coming on the plane before, airlines now charge passengers to check their bags so the overhead bins are even more congested as passengers try to save some money. The flight attendants’ job is to harass passengers to move quickly or be subjected to delays. Still, planes are always late.
When everyone is finally in his or her seat, the plane taxis forever. Flight attendants threaten passengers continually during this time about standing up and turning off electronics. They position themselves strategically and do a kabuki dance with seat belts as if we do not know how to clasp them, pretend to blow up a life vest, and point aimlessly at the exit doors.
During the flight, one should never, ever push the call button. It is verboten! I always wondered why the airline manufacturers even install them. When the plane reaches cruising altitude, flight attendants deliver your meal — a soft drink in a plastic cup and micro-sized bag of pretzels. Flight attendants must be exhausted at the end of the journey having provided ten minutes of service and discussing their love lives for the balance of the flight with their work mates.
Thankfully, the flight lands safely. The plane taxis for another “forever” and the passengers must wait as the ground crew tries to line up the exit ramp with the plane for ten minutes. Of course, everyone on the plane is standing, taking down their luggage and jamming each other in the aisles. In about 45 minutes passengers will receive their checked luggage and can then wait 20 minutes on line for a taxi to take them home.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons