October 11, 2010

What a difference just ten weeks makes. Those incredible flights in business class to and from India seem all like a dream to me. It was high class at high altitudes, a privilege only a relative few ever get to experience in their lives. Glad I was one of them.

Today’s flights from Phoenix to Boston via Memphis to Boston was as back-to-earth experience as there ever was one. Just another example of just how much flying has changed – and not for the better – in the 30+ years I’ve been traveling.

Take the first leg of my journey, for instance. Yesterday, like a good doobie, I checked in early so I could try and get my seat changed to an aisle or window seat. But no luck – the Delta website “couldn’t process my request at this time”, so it was either suck it up and take the middle seat or take a chance doing the kiosk rumba at the airport.

I chose the former and paid for it dearly – getting stuck between two people who could barely fit into their seats – one vertically (obviously a basketball player), the other horizontally because of her weight. I felt bad for the basketball player dude and offered him a portion of my leg room (a gesture he greatly accepted); unfortunately, there was little I could do for the lady in the aisle seat. Like my good friend Ben “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis is wont to say, “I can drink them cute, I can’t drink them thin”.

Six rows in front of us, a three-year old spent the entire flight – the entire flight, from gate to gate – alterantively screaming and screeching at the top of her lungs. It was bad six rows ayay, I can’t imagine what how the mother felt, she tried everything. What are you supposed to do? Me, I just scrunched myself up in my seat as best I could and thanked my lucky stars I had remembered to bring my “Tropical Breezes” mp3 player with with me.

The second leg posed its own unique challenges. We had a full flight and was flying one of those smaller planes with two seats on each side of the aisle. Not a lot of room for carry-ons, but did the Delta people inform anyone? Not until everyone started piling in and began to realize their carry-on items wouldn’t fit. So the piling in turned into a spilling out, with two poor flight attendants frantically trying to tag bags and get people seated.

While I welcomed my window seat and the room I had to do some work, the guy next to me was a foreigner who was, shall we say, hygenically challenged; in the small quarters we were traveling in, no one was immune. I mean, it was bad. I didn’t know who to feel sorry for – him or us. I was just hoping the people around us didn’t think it was me – I mean, what was I going to do?

So my row companion falls asleep, his had resting on the tray table. The guy in front of him was a big strapping fellow, and all of a sudden he decides to push his seat back, and does so violently. Whack! His seat back crashes against the smelly sleeper’s cranium. He lets out a yowl – and no one around us blinks so much as an eye.

Unfortunately, none of this is unusual; you see this kind of thing all the time. The flying experience has changed radically since I started flying 30+ years ago, and it’s not for the better. But then again, what hasn’t changed? Some things for the better, some things for the worse. And flying definitely falls into the category of the worse. More people are flying and more often, and the whole experience has gone pedestrian with it.

People want to fly cheaply, so the airlines, in order to attract more passengers, cut costs wherever they can. As a result, planes are always jam-packed with people who aren’t getting any smaller. Because people don’t want to pay for checked bags unless they absolutely have to, the carry-on situation has gone beyond mustang; it’s worse than a joke. It’s almost as if the airlines are afraid of enforcing any kind of rule of order or behavior at the risk of being sued.

And it can’t be easy on the flight attendents – they must feel like they’re herding groups of 6th graders from city to city.

I suppose the answer is to fly less and pay more by checking baggage and only going first class, but that’s expensive. Or meyb there are airlines that do it better I don’t know of. So I guess I’m just as much a part of the problem as everyone else is.

It’s just that the flying experience shouldn’t be as awful and stressful as it is. There ought to be a better way.

Pool temp: 70 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:18 | Comments Off on Flying The Friendly Skies
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