Flying has always had unpleasant elements—awful food, ear pain, and middle seats, to name a few. Carriers have reduced legroom space to the intolerable to squeeze in more seats. Conditions have been declining for many years, but we can all agree that 9/11 introduced an adversarial tension. From that moment on, not only were we to contend with poor customer service, every one of us also got the honor of being treated as a potential national security risk.
It’s rather impressive what we will put up with for the privilege of traveling vast distances in short periods of time. Rudeness from customer service employees, removal of half our clothes before the body scan, the smell of feet pervade the security areas and emptying our wallets to receive services that used to be included in the price of the airfare. That personalized pat down where the TSA puts their fingers inside your waist band. All for the facade of safety and security, harassing an 80 year old is now the national sport at airports as suspicious people pass untouched through security. At least the TSA no longer oodles at the images from the scanners as many have been removed.
By the time we snap our seatbelts on, we’ve already been dealing with the airport experience for hours. We’ve stood in at least three different lines, one of which required us to remove our shoes and belts and “assume the position” inside a sci-fi scanning machine while our belongings get the same treatment. We count ourselves lucky if we make it through without losing our toothpaste or getting felt up.
Once we are allowed on the plane, we make our way down aisles that are way too narrow, jam our carry-ons in the stuffed overhead compartments and now on some carries pay for that privilege, and secure ourselves in our minuscule seats, praying the guy in front of us doesn’t ever recline, sending the tray table into our ribs and hope the person next to you isn’t over weight, obese or an overall large person. We hope they used deodorant that day.
But don’t sit down on your wallet. Airlines think you need to rent your headphones, your Internet, and maybe a really awful sandwich and a drink if your dumb enough to pay their prices . They used to want you to pay for your peanuts and soda. They don’t do that anymore, but if they thought they could, they’d charge for the flotation device and the safety card. I love the new charge to get a seat at booking instead of waiting for you A, B, or C 24 hours before the flight. The upside is that you may be lucky enough not to sit next to your spouse.
Complaining Is All We’ve Got to Make Up for It
We were infuriated when security measures were increased. We were upset when airlines jammed more seats on the planes. We were irate when they started charging extra for our luggage. But while we soon settle back into complacency, our blood pressures remain elevated.
Few things unite Americans like hatred of our major domestic airlines and their constant disregard for customers. In a nation where we are increasingly divided about everything, we all can come together in our resentment of being treated like airport cattle. Complaining about flying is one of the only travel privileges we still have, and it is free.
Some of the other stresses that we endure: Lost and abused baggage; reservation errors, rude, unhelpful employees and of course, awful airline food. Until we are safe at our destination, we fully expect anything could go wrong. Most of the time, nothing happens, but there is an atmosphere of negativity we can’t shake until we are free of the airport.
Each of us plods through the terminal with a certain level of fear and consternation. We already feel victimized or potentially victimized by each travel experience.
That’s travel for me, hope your travel experiences have been better. I now drive pretty much everywhere avoiding the airlines and the insanity of air travel