Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"The whole experience of flying is now totally abusive, authoritarian and dysfunctional. It is guaranteed to bring out the worst in everyone ..."

This above quote is from a commenter at the New York Post in response to the JetBlue flight attendant who "snapped" on a flight:

But police sources said he also used the public-address system to lash out at the "the f - - king asshole that told me to f - - k off!"

Then Slater grabbed his own two bags, swiped some beer, activated the inflatable emergency chute, slid down, headed to the parking lot and drove home in his Jeep Wrangler. He was later arrested there as his boyfriend looked on.

I agree with the commenter at the Post who said that flying is a frustrating experience. You feel like you leave your autonomy and rights at the door and I suspect some passengers react with more frustration than usual when they are asked to give up their freedom to engage in normal acts such as getting their luggage and being herded like cattle onto a plane. However, abusing the flight attendant doesn't seem like a good way to vent that frustration. What is your take?


Blogger Dr.D said...

For these reasons, I will fly only for the most desperate reasons now. If I can't drive, I usually just will not go. It is not worth the frustration, indignity, and abuse for anything but the must urgent reason now. This is really too bad, because there was once a time when flying was something to look forward to, a real pleasure. They have certainly killed that.

12:15 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger JBL said...

I've always thought that if the airlines would just double the prices on everything, it would solve a lot of problems.

They wouldn't have to pack so many people onto one flight in order to make money. So, they could move the seats further apart and give everyone more room.

All the riff-raff that get on-board right now -- people that don't know how to behave in public, people that have no manners, people that bring their snot-nosed, noisy, ill-mannered children on... yeah, they wouldn't be able to afford to fly any more. Oh yes, I know, there are also well-to-do people that are rude... but mostly, their rudeness is a different kind of rude, not usually crude and swearing and abusive. Seems I have not seen too many country-club Moms allow their children to grab my airplane seat behind my head, yank my hair, scream in my ear, and snot all over me... that's been the exclusive province of mothers/children who look as if they sold their food stamps to bag a bargain on cheaptickets-dot-com.

Regarding food and other in-flight amenities: Passengers could either pre-order and pre-pay for food along with their ticket, or they could buy something at the airport and take it on-board. Pre-paid food would be competitive with airport prices; anyone buying last-minute (after boarding) would pay double.

Bags should go back to being 'free', though, so people will quit overstuffing their carry-ons and cramming them into the overhead. Just add that $25 or $50 right back into the cost of the ticket, and make people check their oversize bags.

And then the airlines should go back to paying a decent wage to the support staff: flight attendants, baggage handlers, even the pilots -- should be able to have a career they can take pride in, not something they are stuck in.

Or maybe, the "discount" airlines like Southwest can still cram in the cattle for a cheap price, but the other airlines should not even attempt to compete on price -- they should compete on value. So if you want a decent air experience, go with "Classy Airlines" -- pay the money, fly into the convenient airport, fly with other people who know how to behave, fly with folks who know how to treat you... or, if you want to save money, go with "Cheapo Airlines", and plan to get what you pay for.

There should be bigger differentiation between what you get for the money.

12:38 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger John said...

I suspect that what most people see as a miserable experience actually long before the flight; I think finds its roots in the airport --- the TSA "experience." By the time the passenger gets to the aircraft no amount of good treatment will overcome the dissatisfaction.

I rarely fly unless there is no other alternative and the part I dread/hate begins at the TSA lineup.

12:57 PM, August 11, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flying is a necessity in our lives, much like going to the toilet. Unfortunately it's a disreputably business done in public.
The wisdom of those running this public toilet is on full display when they demand we go thru full body scanners. Why do they do this? Because they couldn't catch Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka the Christmas bomber, even though he bought a one ticket to American, had no luggage and paid cash and by the way happened to be Nigerian, a country with a large Muslim population.

If you have the time and the money, I suggest Amtrak and get a sleeper room. They actually treat you well, the foods good, the rooms can be clean and if not the porter will usually take care of it immediately. No intrusive searches either.

1:00 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Kurt said...

I know you already conceded that people with money can be rude, JB, but I suspect that some of them can be some of the worst offenders. People might pay more for an airline you describe if they felt confident that the experience would be a little less dehumanizing than it seems currently. What I notice, though--and one reason why I think this flight attendant story has gotten so much attention--is an enormous amount of entitled people on flights who think that the normal rules don't apply to them. They get up out of their seats when the "seatbelt" sign is on, they mess around with luggage in the overhead bins during the flights, they use electronic equipment after the captain has announced that all electronic equipment is to be shut off. I can go on and on with what I've observed over the years.

1:00 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Dr.K said...

Yes, flying is a huge hassle. No doubt, my fellow passengers are typically somewhat rude, but I think it may have to do with the overall stress of the situation.

About a year ago, on a trip to China for business, I was in coach, and was somewhat annoyed when a mother and her 6 or 7 year old child sat next to me. The kid was well behaved, and the flight was not so bad. The mother kept the child busy with things to do, and I gave her a couple-3 sheets of paper from my pad so she could draw.

The Stupid Academy (TSA) is another thing altogether. It amazes me that law-abiding citizens get more hassle from DHS and CBP than the illegals do when crossing the border. I was asked if I wanted to join a program to "ease my transit through customs". Looking at the requirements and cost, I basically said "not until you give at least the same level of scrutiny to the illegals."

1:06 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger RebeccaH said...

The part I especially hate is the "TSA experience". I feel like cattle being prodded through a chute, and although I am a white-haired grandma, I've been stopped and searched more often than not while people who look like they could be foreign terrorists just sail on by. I hate having to pack my pooty little bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and my pooty little tubes of toothpaste in a quart ziplock, and I hate having to struggle to get my shoes back on (I've taken to wearing Crocs on planes), and I absolutely despise being charged an extra fee for my check-in bag.

All that aside, traveling inside the plane itself has become just an unacceptably irritating and uncomfortable activity, so I will not fly any longer unless I'm absolutely forced to.

1:07 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger I R A Darth Aggie said...

Flying isn't so hard, if you know what you're doing. Have your ID and boarding pass in hand at the initial check point. Wear easily remove footwear. Use the bins at the xray scanner.

Mind your P's and Q's: yes, sir, thank you ma'am, may I please, just like your momma taught you. Most of the time, that gets you further with TSA, security, and airline employees than being rude to them.

As football coaches used to tell their players, act like you've been there before, and expect to come back.

1:10 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Gullyborg said...

I think a lot of the frustration is there before anyone gets to the airport, because of the ridiculous variances and changes in ticket prices, combined with the myriad of alternative routes (you want to stop in Phoenix or Dallas before you change planes in Chicago before flying back to Denver?) to sort out drive potential passengers insane. It would be great to see the industry just raise the prices uniformly to a reasonable profit point and then KEEP THEM THERE FOR EVERYONE, while at the same time, adding more direct routes that do away with changing planes.

1:10 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger mishu said...

Waah, Waah, Waah. Yeah the lines suck but the idiot woman had it coming to her. Why the obsessive need to get up before the plane parks? There's a ton of activity on the tarmac and the pilot may need to stop suddenly. So any idiot standing just to "get ahead" could wind up on her face. Of course, the standing idiot will file a lawsuit afterward. I'm sick of this sense of entitlement some passengers feel over other passengers. Jacking the fares up will only exacerbate this snobbish attitude. You get to travel 2000 miles in 4 hours. Do you know how long it takes to drive that far? Deal with it.

1:10 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Gil said...

Whatever the state of airline travel or the professionalism of flight crews might be, the person in question in this incident demonstrated exactly WHY the airlines ask people to stay seated until parked at the gate - in getting up and trying to pull her luggage out of the overhead bin, she hit someone else. Not all rules are stupid annoyances designed to inconvenience you.

I imagine if the plane had suddenly lurched forward or abruptly stopped while that passenger was up, she, or another passenger injured by her action, would have been standing at the lawyer lottery window post haste.

Aren't there laws about interfering with flight crew etc. that they could at least ding this a**hole with, and share her cheerful identity with the rest of the world?

1:14 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

I fly all the time for business and don't find the experience all that unpleasant. Maybe I'm just inured to it.

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1:14 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger jason237m said...

I have been on a plane virtually every week for the last 10 years. Yes it was somewhat better before 9/11 but it's not that bad. Take the effort to understand the routine and rules. Don't overpack and think ahead and you can get through it without all of the frustration. I have noticed those that complain the most about flying tend to be those who do it the least.

1:16 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger mrs whatsit said...

I think it says a lot about just how spoiled we've become as a society that we can use words like "abusive" to describe the inconvenience and irritation of traveling under crowded conditions. Yes, flying is a lot less fun than it used to be, and the TSA experience is not exactly warm and friendly -- but let's get real, we are talking about tedium and annoyance, not torture. It seems to me that passengers who don't control their children or who refuse to turn off their electronic equipment when asked are not the only ones who feel hyper-entitled.

1:16 PM, August 11, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What JB and John said!

I have to go to Colorado at least two and preferably three times a year to look after some property that my mother owns. If it wasn't a three day trip, I'd drive every time. The Stupid Academy (I love that Helen!!) is one of the biggest reasons that I hate to fly. I fly into Colorado Springs to avoid the foreign, non-English speaking TSA employees in Denver and have had airport personnel tell me that people drive down from Denver to fly out of the Springs for that same reason. Why have we allowed the inmates to run the asylum?

1:17 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger David M. Knights said...

As the husband of a flight attendant, I could go on for hours with stories of rude passengers like the one in the Jetblue story. There are miltiple problems in todays travel experience. TSA and its rules certainly put folks in a bad mood to begin with. Add to that the fact that having paid for a ticket, passengers have a sense of entitlement all out of proportion to the situation. FAA has rules that flight attendants are required to enforce (at the pain of a $10,000 fine if they don't) and the traveling public are in such a rush to get off the plane 10 seconds faster that they overstuff carryons and try to move while the plane is still in motion on the ground. (Which is a terribly dangerous thing to do)

The number one solution would be for everone to get a dose of politeness, but i am afraid the me generation was never taught those lessons by their parents. Thus, I don't think there is a solution.

1:20 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Patrick said...

I've only flown four times since 9/11.

Every time I do fly, the experience gets worse.

first is the sheer dishonesty of ticket pricing. You never pay the price advertised. You always pay $100+ more, after junk fees.

Next is getting past the Thousand's, Standing Around.

Then there are the flight attendants, whose attitudes have gotten worse and worse, and seem to get worse with every merger.

Finally, nobody wants to stay in the airport longer than they have to, so everyone goes carry-on, even with bloody steamer trunks.

Something has to give.

1:21 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Most people are decent, respectful and kind. There is a small percentage that have issues, and these are the folks that make the world a miserable place to be. Most of their core problem is they feel like they have very little control over what is happening to them (real or imagined) and feel they are justified in asserting control over complete strangers. They also have absolutely no empathy for others.

So when their bags are misplaced they feel perfectly justified in slamming the overhead bin on the flight attendant. They don't mind stepping on your toes to get to their seat, after all YOU are in THEIR way. If their kid behaves badly then you are the problem because you don't understand what it is like to be a parent. If they are fat and take up half your seat you will just have to move over and accommodate them, it isn't their fault the seats are too small.

Airplanes are small spaces with lots of people squished together. Here are my suggestions that work very well for me: Arrive at the airport 2 hours ahead of time. Make sure you have everything you need easily accessible. Take dry food snacks and an empty collapsible bottle. Wear Crocs with socks. Once through security find your gate, then find a waiting area that is unoccupied near your gate. Fill your water bottle, eat your snacks read the newspaper.

Here is the key: Do everything you can to be the very last person to board the plane. If you do this you can minimize your time with all the other people. Since you are the last one to board the plane bin space will be almost nonexistent. Ask the flight attendant near the exit door for help. They will then allow you to store your bag in a bin nearest the door, let them move stuff around for you.

Find your seat, it will have a large person in it because they think it is the only seat on the plane that was going to be unoccupied. Or tell the parent with the kid with the coloring books and crayons to move. Tell the person who thinks they are going to be taking a nap in your seat to move. Whoever thinks they are going to be enjoying your empty seat to move. By the time you are seated the plane will start moving almost immediately.

Enjoy your flight. Relax. Eat your snacks, drink your water. When the plane lands relax. Let everyone else stand up and fool with the overhead luggage. As soon as the coast is clear dart to the front of the plane and grab your bag from the near-empty overhead bin.

No muss no fuss.

1:22 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Donald Sensing said...

This is all an excellent example of why I advocate raising the Interstate speed limit to at least 100 mph.

Not only will it ease airline congestion, it will fight global warming since cars are less polluting than jetliners!

1:24 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger CBI said...

I fly perhaps once a month or so, using a couple of different airlines. I'd echo what I R A Darth Aggie,Jason, et al., have written. It's not a lot of fun, but not torture, either. TSA people generally are doing their jobs -- it's not their fault the rules are stupid -- and usually civil, if not friendly. Ditto airline gate staff, steward(esse)s, etc.

So are most passengers, by the way. The rude and arrogant jerks are far in the minority -- but they make it worse for others. I'm not excusing the reckless endangerment and tantrum of the flight attendant, but I'm not without sympathy, either.

1:30 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Victor Erimita said...

Yeah, the TSA stuff puts everyone in a bad mood to start with. And some of the onboard hassles may result from TSA stuff too. But the main cause of the degradation of airline servie is price wars. Airlines used to be Bergdorf Goodman. Then they were maybe Macy's. The old Macy's. Now they are Walmart. food, charge for checked bags, so no room in the overheads, less leg room, narrower seats, and people packing their unruly, snotty, noisy kids everywhere. It's been a race to the bottom, and now all the airlines have reached bottom.

I too swear by Bose noise-canceling headphoes connectd to an iPod playing New Age music, something I nnever listen to elsewhere. It does wonders to sooth the nerves and deaden the sounds of noisy kids and other fellow passengers. Reduces my stress by maybe 75%.

1:36 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

One who has not traveled by bus in Mexico has no right to complain about any form of transportation whatsoever in the US.

I didn't like flying even twenty years ago, but that's because I don't like flying, not the process. I used to arrive four hours early and hop any empty seat headed my way. Same overall time, but I got home earlier so I felt better about it. Fly on an off time.

A train ride in India should bestow a little appreciation as well.

1:38 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger orthodoc said...

Oh, for crying out loud. Have some perspective.
Until recently, travel that was both fast and safe was out of reach to almost everyone. For travelers from the Eastern United States to the Pacific Coast in 1870, transcontinental train service enabled a three-day train trip rather than a hazardous, months-long journey by ship around the southern tip of South America, or by wagon across the vast expanse of the West.
Until the turn of the 20th century, train travel to the Western United States was largely equated with social status. Travelers were generally wealthy Americans who could afford both the high fares and the expense of staying in a resort hotel for weeks or months at a time. In a generation when six-room houses rented for eight dollars a month and schoolteachers taught for two hundred dollars a year … one might expect to spend a total of about eight hundred dollars to take in Northern California. The first crossing of the U.S. in a personal automobile occurred in 1903; the trip took nine weeks and cost $8,000.

What about the 1960s? Well, flying was expensive, there were no cheap fares because of regulation, there was no security, everyone smoked, and the planes crashed. Fortunately, you could buy life insurance in the airport. Terrific.

Get a life, people. For a few hundred bucks, you can fly from New York to LA in 5-6 hours. That's a movie, a nap, and a short book, plus a trip to the can. You have a 99.9999% chance that you'll get there.

Yes, it's crowded. Yes, it stinks that poor you have to put up with a crying kid, or a smelly fatso, or rudeness. Yes, it stinks that you have to buy your drink and your peanuts. Yes, it stinks that you have to wait an hour to get your luggage. Yes, it feels more like WalMart than Nordstroms. But they get you there safely, occasionally on time, and with your stuff.

1:42 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Tex the Pontificator said...

I have not flown in more than 10 years, and I have no plans to do so any time in the near future. A few years ago, my wife and I drove from Texas to South Carolina to avoid flying.

1:45 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

I fly fairly frequently, once or twice a month. It is not that bad, although easier if there are more business travelers than leisure travelers. Business travelers know the routine and everything moves faster at the airport.

I think the airlines should make checked bags free and charge $15 for any carry-on that isn't a purse or a laptop bag. That would certainly free up the overhead bins.

1:51 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger rhhardin said...

I was on an Eastern Airlines flight, one of only two passengers, on an L1011 from Newark to Miami, in 1974.

We got moved to first class to save the stewardess steps; got the steak and wine treatment.

That hardly ever happens anymore.

1:52 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger wardcase said...

I was flying back from Houston to Boston on Continental and happened to have gotten an upgrade to first class. Before the flight I had a beer in one of the airport bars, and saw an attractive blonde forty-ish female, 5'6" and 135 pounds, who could politely be called ditzy and overly friendly, chatting with some of the businessmen at the bar. I overheard that she was heading to Boston to her father-in-law's funeral. At one point a man and a nine or ten year old boy came up to her, and then left saying they were getting something to eat. I thought it was sad that Mom was hanging at the bar while Dad was making sure the kid had dinner before a four hour flight, and crossed my fingers that they weren't going to be sitting near me.
When it was time to board the plane, I saw the dreaded TSA team set up their "random check" table at the door - as if the general screening process was not inconvenient and farcical enough.
Sorry for the long intro, but I needed to set the scene.
It is a full flight, and I am in my seat reading a book while the boarding goes on. Typical cattle line, when I happen to see ditzy blonde - who has now had several beers - shuffle down the aisle in that boarding cadence anyone who flies knows, turning in her overly friendly way to the person behind her and saying something like "they didn't stop me, I guess they don't stop terrorists," and laughing.
I don't know how the flight attendant heard it - I was sitting next to her and barely could - but he stopped her, asked her what she had said, and ordered her off the plane (back through the crowd of people trying to board.) She starts to cry, husband asks where they are taking his wife, and tells the son to wait in his seat while husband tries to sort out what has happened.
A "supervisor" was called, then the TSA, then heaven knows who. The husband explained he was going to his father's funeral the next day (and since I had overheard the same story at the bar, I tended to believe it); couldn't they let his wife back on the plane?

But the flight attendant, having established his Mr. Macho pose, was not going to budge. No, the woman could not get on the plane. Upon hearing about the funeral, he condescended to allow that the husband and son (who was now in tears, and had been brought forward by another passenger) could fly on "his" plane, but not ditzy mom. It must have made him feel so magnanimous to give the husband the option to abandon his distraught and tipsy wife in the airport alone so he husband could make his father's funeral. What a choice. And so we waited another twenty minutes while they took the family's bags off the plane.

I was shaking with anger and could not say a word unless I too wanted to spend the night in Houston; it was the last flight of the day. And that made me feel even more like a serf.

If I had had the opportunity, at the end of the flight, to tell Mr. Macho flight attendant what a total ass he was, I would have. With maybe an F off for frosting. But I had to get in the cattle line to leave the plane.

Yes, I can catalog a variety of passengers who have been boorish and rude, but the vast majority just want to get where they are going in one piece. Passengers know it is safer to not make a scene.

When individuals who don't deserve power are given it without question, and then exercise it capriciously, pettily and as if they are entitled to it - well, it is no surprise that the consequences are not civil.

I guess I am saying I don't assume the flight attendant is the "victim" here.

1:55 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

On a good day, flying ain't so bad. On a bad one, it can kill your entire season.

A loaded plane is a great psychological playground for mob mentality research. When the plane stops and the seatbelt sign turns off, everybody gets out of their seats. They race to grab their bags. They're not going anywhere for a while. It's not comfortable to stand up in the non-aisle seats. They're just doing what everyone else is doing.

It also illustrates social proof...a few bad actors on a plane can cause everyone to abandon civility.

As for flight attendants, I've almost never had a problem with one. I cheered recently when one threatened an unruly passenger with returning to the gate and an ejection (not with the slide, presumably).

Airlines as businesses have abused their passengers with all manner of what-can-we-get-away-with BS. I had a friend who missed his connection to a job interview because the connecting flight was cancelled. The airline rerouted, sold him a ticket on another flight, and refused to refund him for the flight they cancelled.

When he protested he was making up for services they declined to render, they simply said "you signed this contract" and walked away. He then found out they had done their lobbying and are immune from lawsuits in most states about this activity. A--holes.

JetBlue drew raging and deserved criticism for leaving planes on the tarmac for hours upon hours, not because it was unsafe to move them but because they are only allowed a certain number of gate accesses per hour. So they keep one plane parked for half a day rather than cause a domino delay of their other planes of paying customers.

As happens with abusive business practices, the FAA "adjusted" the marketplace, instituting fines for tarmac-parkers that exceed a million dollars for a full cross-country plane.

The fare structure is also absurd, if only because it's such a complex system that it's impossible to really understand and internalize the financial incentives that go into the pricing. We don't have access to important information, like do airlines have "loss leader" routes, or how accurate are their predictions about capacity and fuel costs?

Supply and demand really means soak the customer. For example, flying from DC to Milwaukee through Chicago costs half as much as just flying to Chicago. Why? Because more people want to go to Chicago. So pay up.

2:08 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger JBL said...

Huh. I'll see your tipsy blonde and raise you two nasty brats who refused to sit in their seats, thus delaying the flight. Useless Mother ignored them, Flight Attendants (yes, several of them) took turns begging nasty brats to sit down and fasten their seatbelts... and all I wanted to do was say "throw them off the plane and let the rest of us GO!"

There is plenty of fault all around.

Oh -- and yes, I've been the target of many a "random" search by the TSA... seems I am a nice balance against any profiling claims. But you know what? I maintain my power and my dignity by choosing to engage with that TSA agent respectfully, with class, and yes, kindness and appreciation for the job that they are doing. My choice.

As to "entitlement" -- it's funny, the psychology of that. I've run into far more "entitlement" attitudes from people who pay very little for things (or receive them for free). When people actually have to work or sacrifice for something, when they perceive it to be of greater value, they tend to be more appreciative, not more entitled.

2:12 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

"I've run into far more "entitlement" attitudes from people who pay very little for things (or receive them for free)."

It's part of their psychology. Almost everyone who is entitled doesn't know the value of what they are entitled to.

I meet lots of entitled young people of both genders, and the consistent trait they show is that they almost-literally don't know where money comes from.

2:15 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

"The whole experience of flying is now totally abusive, authoritarian and dysfunctional."

Flying can suck, but this is hyperbole (except for maybe the authoritarian part). The TSA, not airline staff, is the biggest perpetrator of power trips.

Like someone said, ride a bus or a long train in Mexico and see how you like American flying then.

2:29 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

One problem is the idea that being a flight attendant is a "career" rather than something young people do for a few years before going to college, getting married, etc. Even so, the main issue I see with flight attendants is occasional lack of attention (sitting in the back reading a magazine) rather than rudeness.

As others have already observed, making flying a lot more expensive would solve many issues.

2:32 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger J said...

"they could move the seats further apart and give everyone more room"

Airlines that have tried this have consistently been punished severely by the market. Passengers want more legroom but, for the overwhelming majority, steadfastly refuse to pay for it.

"although I am a white-haired grandma, I've been stopped and searched more often than not"

That's called "keeping the stats even". Don't take it personally.

"I don't know how the flight attendant heard it"

Did he, or was he told by someone else? Also, when asked, did the woman contest that she'd made a remark about being a terrorist? If she didn't, at that point it ceased to be an issue the flight attendant had any say in, macho posturing notwithstanding.

"If I had had the opportunity, at the end of the flight, to tell Mr. Macho flight attendant what a total ass he was"

Bad idea.

2:38 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Kim said...

Wow. I've had a few bad experiences with flying - namely with American, U.S. Air and Northwest.

But now, I fly solely Southwest. I have everything ready to go when I hit the security area. I check most of my luggage so I can relax unencumbered by heavy carry-ons, and I board in numerical order. The flight attendants on Southwest are always pleasant, firm when they have to be and have a sense of humor. I get where I need to be on time.

I fly with the attitude of "go with the flow" and treat the TSA folks and the flight attendants with respect. I don't have an issue with sitting next to someone who is heavy, and I have entertained kids sitting next to me with cartoons on my computer (with parent's permission).

If Southwest doesn't fly to an area, I don't go. It's that simple.

I accept the security restrictions as a necessary inconvenience and try to make the rest of my trip as easy as possible.

American, U.S. Air and Northwest - now THAT's abusive...

2:49 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger RightWingNutter said...

I'm with Dr.D up top and John a few comments later. Flying used to be more a convenience than a trial. My radius of "it's worth it to fly" used to be about 500 miles. Now it's 1500 miles or so. I'll schedule the time, budget the gas and motels, and drive rather than fly if I really need to get there.

For business conferencing I can go with broadband video and save both time and money. My actual work is strictly local.

The terrorists didn't do this to us. Our own politically correct stupidity did.

2:57 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger ken in tx said...

Back when I first flew on the airlines, most passengers were the rich and government employees on travel vouchers—like me. Then it was cool to fly. Now, not so much. Ever notice how the people in the airport are dressed now days—like in a bus terminal. So, do we want to make it so that only the rich and the connected can fly? I don’t know if that would be a step forward or a step back.

3:06 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Jack Steiner said...

It won't matter if you raise the fares or lower them. You have boorish people to deal with regardless of what race/religion/socioeconomic class.

Flying feels like a major pain in the ass now. Security can take anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. The variance might be from a mechanical error or because someone created an issue.

That delay sometimes forces you to race to the gate so that you can board your flight.

And then you get on board to be stuffed in seats that are small and cramped. it doesn't lend itself to a tranquil state.

Not to mention that we bailed out the airlines who allowed our planes to be used as flying missiles.

All that money went to pay more to receive less.

FWIW, I think that the majority of flight attendants and passengers are great. But it is a situation that is rife for trouble.

3:15 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Locomotive Breath said...

The dive for the bottom is what happens when you de-regulate a natural monopoly.

3:16 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ever notice how the people in the airport are dressed now days—like in a bus terminal.

Given that a passenger aircraft is essentially a bus with wings, this is not surprising.

Yes, it's a pain sometimes, and yes, some of the passengers are classless and boorish. But look at the upside: We have available to us, at a price affordable to nearly everyone, a mode of transportation that can reach nearly anywhere in the world within a single day. It certainly has its drawbacks, but (in my view, anyway) those are utterly negligible when compared to the benefits.

3:24 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Jennifer Whatnot said...

I've got one word for improving your flying experience, when you have to fly: Xanax. Trust me on this one. One Xanax, even a halfa, 30 minutes before the scheduled flight time, and nothing will stress you out. I'm surprised airlines don't dispense them to passengers.

3:33 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Genie said...

If the passenger deliberately hit the flight attendant in the leg or kicked him, it's assault. The flight attendant should have filed charges, and kept people on the plane until they could obtain statements or contact information for witnesses. All of that should be explained to the passengers so they will HATE their fellow inconsiderate passenger.

The experience of flying is bad enough - I agree with the cow in a chute analogy - but it's bearable as long as everyone understands they're traveling - not shopping, not dining at a restaurant, not babysitting children. (I am all in favor of drugging children with Dramamine for the flight and giving the other 200 of us a break.)

My personal peeve? All the seat cushions are made out of horrible padding. I don't have arthritis or muscle injuries but I HURT when I get up. I normally spend half the flight shifting back and forth trying to lie on my side. Upgrade the seats, please!

3:45 PM, August 11, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ride a bus or a long train in Mexico and see how you like American flying then.

I'm not quite sure why this is constantly advanced as a "defense" of our generally appalling civil aviation system (one that I typically am on at least twice a week for work).

It's a bit like me telling a woman subject to constant humiliating sexual harassment at work to "try working in a Soviet gulag in Siberia for a decade and you'll be begging for the guys at the factory to be leering at you and copping a feel." That there are demonstrably worse "options" in the third world does not discount the poor quality of the US product (on most major carriers).

And BTW, a train/bus in Mexico doesn't cost $1,000 round trip either.

3:45 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger TMS said...

@ JB: So is this a business plan, or are you proposing legislation?

4:00 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger fboness said...

The current state of our air travel system tells me that the terrorists have won.

4:41 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger PatHMV said...

I travel only infrequently, but I too have come to hate the flying experience I once loved. I follow all the rules carefully and am by nature exceedingly polite and respectful to TSA officers and others, no matter what I may think of them. I have had absolutely no problems with any of them.

BUT I still feel like a damn piece of cattle by the time I get through the inspection line. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Shoes off. Belt off. Laptop out. Shoes in bin. Laptop in bin. Everything else in yet another bin. Through the line (I never set off the metal detector, because I put my phone, keys, change, and everything else in the carry-on before I get to the checkpoint). Then on the other side, it's hurry, hurry, hurry again. Grab your stuff (before some airport thief nabs it). Shuffle over to the seats, shoeless, with your laptop in one hand, the case in the other, your other stuff in your 3rd and 4th hands. Get repacked and get your shoes on as fast as you can, so you don't stall the lines.

I HATE it. And I've never even had the misfortune of being near some idiot making an "I'm a terrorist" joke such as the one described above about the poor wife accompanying her husband to a funeral. Just that 15 or 20 minutes in the security process makes me feel like livestock, it's so dehumanizing.

Personally, I think they should return security to the airlines, so long as the airlines are legally liable for damages if the plane is hijacked, etc. Then let the market sort out those who are willing to put up with more inconvenience in return for more security, as opposed to the other 99% of us who think that now that post 9/11, hijackers will be most deterred by knowing that the passengers will most likely attack them.

5:03 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger rrpjr said...

I hate flying but don't feel as if the burdens on us are overbearing. I pass through the inspection without fuss, get seated without fuss, and otherwise handle it no differently than I always have.

In a way, I wish the airlines would be more authoritarian regarding carry-ons. It seems that even as they codify more size restrictions and cost penalties the bulk and number of the rolling nylon crates people carry on a plane and attempt to stuff overhead just grows. Excess and inefficiency! Do people really need to take half their homes with them when they travel? Also, I notice people really have a problem getting to their seat, stowing their bag and sitting. It's really all that is asked of them. But this doesn't happen until the attendants remind them 10times.

5:09 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Jim O said...

Airlies must treat you like that on planes becaue of FAA regs. If a plaincloshes FAA agant spots a flight atendant letting someone get her bags while they are still taxiing, or some other such triviality, there's hell to pay. Not by the passenger, but the airline. Same thing with all the other harrassment and indignity passengers claim they suffer. FA's are forced to be cops,but it's the cop who gets in trouble when a crime occurs. Passengers can do almost anything on an airplane with impunity except smoke, and FAs are expected to grin and bear it, day after day.

My wife is an FA, and it's rare that she dousn't return home without a story about how rudely she was treated by by some of the people who think an airplane ticket makes them a jet setters with the right to be treated like royalty.

People today are spoiled rotten. They get to LA from NYC in a matter of hours, sitting in a chair 6 miles above the Eath's surface,and they gripe about the food, the movie, the crying kid next to them, how the FA didn't answer their call button for 6 whole minutes, etc. If that describes you, please quit bitching. You don't like it, take a goddam stagecoach like your ancestors did. Or stay home, where your obnoxiousness is less of a problem for the rest of us.

5:11 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Edgehopper said...


"they could move the seats further apart and give everyone more room"

Airlines that have tried this have consistently been punished severely by the market. Passengers want more legroom but, for the overwhelming majority, steadfastly refuse to pay for it.

Try Airtran. The business class upgrades are reasonably priced as opposed to first class upgrades on other airlines--if you have a checked bag, it's around $30 for the upgrade on a short flight like Cleveland-New York, more like $60 for a longer flight. In exchange, you get more leg and seat room, and free drinks.

5:15 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Locomotive Breath said...

This seems to be relevant

5:21 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Michael said...

Seriously, think what it is from one door to the door at the other end, with travel to the airport, check in ahead of time, etc. and it's surprising how many flights you take that are really no faster than driving. If I fly, somewhere pretty far away and pretty damn great had better be on the other end.

I flew Chicago to Columbus OH a while back. On the way back, a little weather delay was enough to delay takeoff until the time I would have been home if I'd driven. Stupid.

5:24 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger MacD said...

I have not flown anywhere since 2007 and I used to be quite the frequent flyer. Vacations are now taken within my own Province or somewhere I can drive to. It's just not worth the hassle to fly any more.

6:04 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger BillyJoe'sBrain said...

Somebody give Jim O a hug....

6:10 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger JBL said...

@TMS -- def a business plan, not legislation. I am a firm believer in the free market. I just do not understand why the market would not support this.

Speaking of which: a good friend of mine recently flew to Dubai on Emirates Airlines. He was picked up from his home in a BMW 700 series car, and driven to the airport. His valet ushered him through a special security station that had no line; then he was escorted back to the car, which drove him out onto the tarmac directly to the waiting plane. His business-class seat was so large it would have engulfed two entire rows of coach seats (so he reports to me), plus it reclined to a full-out laying down position. He was given hot meals, served on real (normal-sized) plates with real linen cloths and real silverware. According to my friend, the flight attendants were really nice, too. They mentioned that Emirates Airlines is hiring right now, and would love to get more American FAs, but for some reason, American FAs won't apply.

So maybe "Classy Airlines" already exists, and I just didn't realize it because I'm still buying tickets on "Cheapo Airlines" myself? All I know is, the next time I fly, I'm saving up my pennies to go with a little more style and comfort than that peanuts airline.

6:20 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

To inject a little humor amidst the many complaints:
At the Atlanta airport, I was among the large herd of passengers directed to the security area which was cordoned off in a zig-zag manner with several lanes to accommodate the long lines. In order to beat the crowd, I and another passenger enter our lanes and scurried as fast as we could through the zigs and zags. Halfway through zigging & zagging, I turned to him and said, "There's a big piece of cheese for us at the end!" "I'm salivating!", he replied brightly.

6:29 PM, August 11, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It already exists, it's called First Class or Business Class.

The TSA stuff can't be avoided with a business plan solution.

6:30 PM, August 11, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm saving up my pennies to go with a little more style and comfort than that peanuts airline."


A high-class dame, I'm sure.

6:32 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Mike Smith said...

The suggestions above to create a "Classy Airlines" will never work unless the airlines are reregulated. Even though I am a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, I think we need to seriously consider reregulation. The reasons are here:

8:14 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Mario said...

My take is that anyone who has ever held a job where they've had to deal with the public should be able to understand what this flight attendant did.

I worked as a clerk in a big box bookstore for two years. This guy is my latest hero.

8:30 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Howard said...

People are spoiled. Flying is safer and cheaper than ever. I love flying. It is amazing how they move so many people so fast all over the planet without crashing.

Jet Blue is great. Cross-country non-stop, business-class legroom, leather seats, TV/Movies, and Flight Attendants who are unobtrusive. Lots of free drinks and snacks.

The trick to flying is to act like you are going to the Soup Nazi. If you act like a putz, they treat you like a putz.

9:35 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Jasmina Boulanger said...

Flying is not what it used to be. But, merely by being nice to the gate agents and flight attendants [how hard can that be?] I've been treated well and often gotten unexpected bonuses like upgrades! Blogged about it at

10:48 PM, August 11, 2010  
Blogger Tina said...

Why would anyone ever fly again on an airline that treats them badly, or through a bleak, disorganized airport? There are too many choices to allow oneself to be mistreated and patronized. Continental and American don't get my business, nor do I fly through Houston GB or DFW. Who cares whether those companies miss me - I now have pleasant flights, pleasant trips through security, and I know I am fully in control of who I do business with.
I second Kim @ 2:49 PM, August 11 - Southwest is "1st Class" all the way. To start with, they fly into and out of small airports where you can actually stroll leisurely the 10 yards or so to your next gate. Often what is called a stop is just a few minutes on the ground with no need to move from your seat. The small airport means happier security people who still think it's nice when everyone has a good day.
I've also had good luck with Delta, choosing flights so that I go through smaller airports.
The shorter security time and lack of need for a gate-change layover mean I come out ahead even if I drive 3 hours to or from a smaller airport to my destination. :-)

2:48 AM, August 12, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Traveling by air for business on a regular basis is just something I have to do. I check all my baggage just so I don't contribute to the hassle of getting on and off a flight. One has to go to the baggage area of most airports anyway to rent a car.

If you need more leg room, just get an emergency exit seat. Works for me.

5:43 AM, August 12, 2010  
Blogger Debbie said...

I have to say that I try, as much as possible, to do only carry on luggage. I have a bag that fits right into the overhead without cramming and jamming (unlike so many). We are down the aisle and stowing our bags (the hubs and I) with speed and accuracy as we travel fairly frequently. I would gladly surrender my bag for jetway pick up on any and all flights but on the larger jets they tell us that they "can't do that" which makes no sense as they do it for strollers. Until they do that I will continue to use only carry on.

7:40 AM, August 12, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I have a story about the mistreatment of a flight attendant. On the way home from a business trip a few years ago I had an aisle seat. The gentlemen in the aisle seat across from me decided they wanted to go on a bender and the FA was happy to oblige. They kept on buying those little tiny bottles of something and got progressively more obnoxious.

At some point they asked to buy more and the FA brought what the wanted. When she was serving the man in the aisle seat he stuck his hand right up her skirt. He deserved to be slapped and restrained. Instead the FA giggled and walked away. The guys thought it was hilarious. Since I was returning home and didn't have much to lose I waited for her to be out of earshot and called him a pervert and threw him a dirty look. The FA refused to sell them anymore beverages after that.

Looking back, the reason the man did that is that he figured the FA would put up with it. My guess is the lady wanted to keep her job without a fuss and even though she had every right to react, the FA decided her best course of action was to tolerate the abuse. She probably has had to put up with a lot and was expected to put up with bad behavior from passengers by the airline. FAs aren't the only employees expected to tolerated physical, verbal and sexual abuse, many other industries expect their employees to turn a blind eye. Very sad because this is where we are in this day and age.

8:40 AM, August 12, 2010  
Blogger prairie wind said...

Be polite to the TSA folks. Be courteous to the FAs. Do as you're told. Obey the rules. Don't bring a carry-on. Wear Crocs. Put your less-than-3-oz. liquids in a quart ziplok bag. Don't complain.

Excellent advice, except that if the airline has ever lost your luggage, you know that traveling without a carry-on is foolish. If the Crocs and the ziplok were truly a means of ensuring safe flights, I'd be all for it. But they are nothing of the sort. And that's the problem. Why should we put up with rules that don't make sense? Even the TSA can't figure out what the rules should be. My laptop stays in my backpack at one airport; it must come out at another. One airport looks for the ziploks, another doesn't.

Don't pull stuff out of the overhead when the plane is moving: that makes sense. Turn off your cell phones in flight: Why? Is the plane really going to fall from the sky? Someone needs to convince me on that rule. Already, people (I can't be the only one)don't turn off their phones and the planes keep flying.

Be polite and be courteous: always good practice.

Funny FA story: When the FA came around to collect trash, I made my contribution and expected her to move on. No, she stood there, looked at me, looked down into her trash bag. Then she dug through the trash, pulled out my unopened cookie and said, "You don't want this?" She wasn't being funny; her intention was to embarrass me. Over a cookie.

Best TSA experience--Kansas City. Worst TSA experience--Washington DC.

9:35 AM, August 12, 2010  
Blogger Locomotive Breath said...

I'm going to have to disagree with the wear Crocs advice that's appearing here. It's a little known fact that most people survive the crash (injured) and are killed by the subsequent fire because they can't exit fast enough.

I don't know the flamibility resistance of those Crocs but I just bet they'll melt off your feet if not burst into flames. Kind of hard to move quickly when your feet are slippery fireballs.

In fact, avoid synthetic shoes entirely. What you want to fly in are leather slip ons of some kind. I wear a standard loafer which also tend to separate me from the slobs. Make sure the sole is leather too. The loafer lets you go through security just as fast and also do a better job protecting your toes when the food cart is rolled over them.

Flip-flops maker you look like a slob and are entirely useless from any safety point of view.

10:41 AM, August 12, 2010  
Blogger prairie wind said...

Good point, Locomotive. You've given us a much better reason to buy special traveling shoes than to wear flip flops (or Crocs) because they make the TSA process faster. The stupid TSA process.

11:43 AM, August 12, 2010  
Blogger J said...

"So maybe "Classy Airlines" already exists, and I just didn't realize it because I'm still buying tickets on "Cheapo Airlines" myself?"

Emirates is great. On the other hand, when you're owned by the government and don't have to concern yourself with unseemly irritants like having to occasionally turn a profit, you can focus on that sort of thing.

"Turn off your cell phones in flight: Why? Is the plane really going to fall from the sky? Someone needs to convince me on that rule"

Turning on your cell phone inflight is not going to cause the airplane to crash. What it can (rarely) do is interfere with system monitoring, which can be extremely inconvenient. If you've been waiting 2 hours to take off and just prior to taking the runway one of the engines has a momentary EEC fault, you're going back to the gate. If you're heading into JFK with less than 1800 feet of visibility reported and get a comparator fault, enjoy that diversion to Pittsburgh; you've earned it. Use of electronic devices on an airplane doesn't put you in any physical danger, but has the potential to waste a huge amount of your time, especially during taxi out and in the approach phase.

2:48 PM, August 12, 2010  
Blogger bmmg39 said...

I'm starting the local chapter of the Steven Slater Fan Club. First meeting is Wednesday at 7:30. I'll spring for the bagels.

12:49 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Daniel Welborn said...

I love the detailed well-written comments people have posted. Good stuff. I used to love flying, when people thought it was special, dressed up a bit, and were civil... and the airlines treated you well. Also, I used to be very trim and the seats were roomier, but now I'm overweight and the seats are smaller, so it's quite uncomfortable for me. Like other people writing here, in recent years I've pretty much stopped considering trips where I have to fly, preferring driving or train. After 9/11, where you have to arrive so much earlier to the airport, and after the horror stories of people sitting in planes for hours, driving sounds fine by me. I always hear good things about SouthWest, I'm going to have to try them. Or, save up for first class on one of the better airlines, of which I consider Delta to be one.

6:53 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger globalman100 said...

LOL!! I first started flying in 1986 when I was 22. Back then it was business class all the way. However, I was always treated badly. Being Australian I flew Qantas and we all knew that means 'Queers and Nancies Training as Stewards' at the time. Comedy shows used to take off the gays at Qantas because pretty much ALL the male stewards were gay.

Back in the 80s a "mans man" like me was treated really badly by all the gays on Qantas so I've been used to bad service, even in business class, all these years!! Qantas got a lot better in the mid 90s when they seemed so embarrased by having so many so obviously gay men that they actually started hiring some straight guys who would provide good service. The qantas women have consistently maintained lousy service over these 24 years. I guess there is something to be said for consistency. Sigh.

Nowadays I joke with the Germans that sooner or later we will all just take out clothes off and walk onto the airplanes naked. Indeed, in Germany there have been a few 'naked' flights. In german gyms and health clubs naked is 'normal' and there are very frequently mixed sex areas. Germans are all very casual about the idea of being naked.....welcome to 'Naked Airlines' where 'we have stripped back prices' might take on a whole new meaning! LOL!

And oh....don't even talk about Ryan Air. Sure, they seats are cheap...but the riff-raff are a real problem. Stanstead is a pretty horrible place to be at 6am!

10:54 AM, August 17, 2010  
Blogger globalman100 said...

Yep...I agree. Just 'suck it up soldier'. After all. Flying is not nearly as irritating as being married! LOL!

I used to fly a LOT. And I mean a REAL lot as I was based out of Sydney and covered asia pacific. When I would cycle around Asia Pacific it would be 5 countries in 5 days. I would present in the morning....lunch with prospective client, few drinks before going to the airport to catch the next flight to where-ever and on to the next place. I would often not get to my hotel until after midnight each night. At one stage I had enough points to fly around the world three times. I used to give them away.

I moved to Europe in 2001. I was flying between the US/Ireland just after 9/11 and Newark was a lottery as to how long you might take but it eased off after a while. Years and years of this shit makes you completely immune to it. And yes. Those bitching are usually the 'holiday crowd'. I fly less now....usually just one or two trips a month but sometimes I am blissfully in on place for 2 months or more.

One thing I found with endless travel was I felt 'displaced'. No matter where I was I felt like I should be 'somewhere else'. I felt like that for years before I identified the cause of it.

11:11 AM, August 17, 2010  
Blogger Sarah Rolph said...

What Kim said. Fly Southwest!

It IS the better airline. (Delta? Seriously?)

Best safety record, best on-time record, friendliest flight attendants, best experience overall.

All the small things are done right--there is never a wait for the jetway, for example, the door is always open fast.

Best policies--no fee for changing a ticket, you just pay the current price; cancel a non-refundable ticket and the money stays in your Southwest account for a year.

Best frequent-flyer program. Best website! Join My Southwest and it gets even better--the site keeps track of everything for you.

Southwest is truly customer-focused. I love doing business with them.

12:46 PM, August 17, 2010  

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