Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nightmare at 35,000 Feet

The price we pay for getting anywhere distant is flying on an airplane. Flying used to be ever so pleasant with pretty, attentive stewardesses, free booze, decent food  and some actual leg room. All that has changed now that airlines try to wring every last dollar out of every flight. On a short trip the inconveniences are tolerable, but not so on longer flights. In an interesting anomaly, as planes have become bigger and roomier, passenger space has decreased. This is particularly true in "coach" which is the equivalent of "steerage" on the ships on which our grandparents traveled to America. Three-across seating is also annoying for the person who has to climb over two people to use the bathroom.

I wish they would do away with carry-on luggage because the rules are so badly  abused. I see pinheads trying to cram steamer trunks into the overhead compartments while the rest of us wait to board the plane. I blame the airlines for this. They have clear guidelines on the acceptable size for carry-on bags but these rules are rarely enforced. Eliminate the overhead compartments altogether and let everybody check their bags. Then they can wait by the luggage carousel with the rest of us trying to figure out which of the 50 black suitcases coming down the conveyor is ours. 

Airports have also become part of the flying nightmare. Dropping off and picking up passengers is like a Chinese fire drill. (That phrase is probably inappropriate.) Then comes the security checkpoints...belt off, shoes off...passengers shuffle through the metal detectors while trying to keep their pants from falling. The last time we departed JFK they were doing elaborate body scans on everyone. Then, as our turn came, there was a problem with the computer and they practically just waved us through. I pity the poor folks with metal body implants who must undergo even more scrutiny before boarding. Yes, yes, I understand that in today's scary world these measures are necessary, but that doesn't mean I can't bitch about them.

Airplane food used to be decent, and the booze flowed freely, all which made for a mellower flight. Now they charge for drinks (when you can get them) and in place of meals they hand you a bag of stale peanuts or pretzels. A few years ago we flew Air France to Paris/Rome and I was pleasantly surprised to see attractive flight attendants roving the aisles and pouring as much excellent wine as you could drink. We also ate pretty well on that flight. The experience, while most enjoyable, just made more apparent how sadly such service was lacking on most other airlines. My final gripe is about luggage charges. I can see charging for baggage of excessive weight, but for a normal suitcase, just let it go. Airlines charge enough for a ticket without adding this insult to injury.

Why do I fly if I feel this way? Last time I looked the only other way overseas is by boat, and the idea of maybe two weeks at sea at the mercy of storms, shipboard diseases, accidents, etc. is clearly far worse than the unfriendly skies.


Children's Craniofacial Association


Joseph Del Broccolo said...

I like your idea about no overhead luggage. Check it in with everything else, then we can all plan excursions to the city it went to by accident!

Jim Pantaleno said...

Check your luggage, see the world!

The Whiner said...

I agree completely. Enough with the charges for every little thing. And the space is very small to ride comfortably for more than 2 hours. However, the thought of driving for days straight is even more un appealing. Ad that's not an option for verses, as you said. We're screwed.