Once upon a time—about fifty years ago—flying in America was great adventure. People put on their Sunday-best clothes, went to the airport early, and were treated like respected customers, if not royalty. Planes were often still propeller-driven, so they weren’t as quiet and reliable as today’s jets, but the people on the ground and in the air made flying a positive experience.
Today … not so much.
Younger readers may not recognize this storied past, they know only today’s crowded airports and flights, rude government and company employees, and the adventure of not knowing where or when they’ll land once they commit themselves to the no-longer-friendly skies.
It’s be easy to blame Osama bin Laden. September 11, 2001 changed many things in America; few for the better. Travelers today can expect to be strip-searched and have their luggage pawed through by fat, lazy bureaucrats.
But the downward slide of air travel into frustration and bother began years before.
Partly, the decline started with us, the customers. Flying became routine, and we developed a sense of entitlement for services for which we were unwilling to pay. We dress like slobs, we act like slobs, we talk like slobs. And, despite decreasing seat size, we’re bigger.
The worse culprits, however, are the airlines themselves. As airlines devour one another to create regional, then national monopolies, they pay more attention to their bottom line than to their customers. Seats and seat-spacing shrink; more daily flights are wrung out of each air frame; amenities—such as a person to help with the fallout of overbooked, delayed, and canceled fight–fall away. In short, once they have your money, you’re an inconvenience–not a potential return customer.
Commercial flying is avoided rather than anticipated. Time and distance are the only motivators to fly. And distance is elastic. Except in an emergency, I won’t fly if my goal is less than 1200 miles away. A night in a motel and two days driving is preferable to the hassle, the discomfort, and the abuse we are subjected to flying.
How ‘bout you? Is flying still a pleasure? Or is it a pain?