January 28, 2005

Getting there is not half the fun

When the pilot refers to turbulence as "a bump in the road," I can't help asking: does this man know what type of vehicle he is commanding and what is its relationship between altitude and ground level?

That is before I notice that the window does not have a proper seal between it and the plane interior to which it is connected. Maintenance, anyone?

Let us not discuss the "flight attendents," the lack of food (dinner is not generally construed as a "turkey pastrami" sandwich), the get-your-own pillow/blanket/reading material affair, the lack of peanuts or pretzels with drink, or the general idea that on a six-hour flight, an airline might provide more in the way of entertainment than its own magazine and the retail opportunity known as SkyMall.

Let us simply name the airline Continental, and query its public relations office about the paucity of service and amenities. (If the front lines of P.R./customer relations are the flight attendents, they are doing a woefully poor job.) Or let us report the off-duty flight attendant (flight 1473, 1/27/05, in 14C) next to whom I was seated, who did not think a paying customer should have such high expectations as I did. Note for the record that the term "stewardess" has not been applied.

Neither has the name "customer attendant." This term calls attention to the fact that the person hired to run the drinks cart and check that the paying customers have seat backs and tray tables properly stowed for descent is not, in the least, concerned with my personal comfort. I don't ask that the attendent listen to my life story, but there are a few tasks generally designated to fall to not to the ticket holder but to the ticket collector.

The airline industry may call itself "crippled" and blame "9/11 and higher fuel costs," but don't try those excuses on someone who experienced that hideous, horrific day on her local news, wondering whether her cousin was alive. That person can also explain that in time-value-of-money terms (inflation-adjusted, for the uninitiated), fuel is considerably cheaper than it was 25 years ago, and she isn't biting the dead fish on offer. She wouldn't buy it if the fare were inflation-adjusted either.

Children acquire the ability to walk and talk in less time than has elapsed since that day. One wonders why the airplane industry has achieved nothing more than a heightened ability to whine in the same time frame.


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always always always fly American. See it is based in Dallas/Fort Worth so we provide southern hospitality.

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