Considering how much I travel abroad and domestically constantly, I'm actually surprised how much I hate and resent the thought of flying. It’s not the fear of heights, or the turbulence, or even the perpetual fear of a terrorist attack. No, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of airline carriers. Also, the utter agony and different standards for every airport of what can and can't pass through security screening is baffling.
Think about it. Every major industry today is progressing. Auto manufacturers are building cars with better fuel economies, more room, more horsepower and with fewer emissions. The same holds true for consumer electronics, power companies, phone carriers, freight rail, and trucking. Even the Postal Service seems to be trending in the right direction. Except the airlines.
If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself when was the last time you boarded a flight that wasn’t full to the gills? When did you actually have room in the overhead compartment to store your belongings? When do you last recall getting a meal or a cup of coffee without having to hand the flight attendant a major credit card? The seats are smaller, more uncomfortable, certainly more dirty than they have ever been. Smell that foul stench coming from the back of the plane? It’ll pass. Want a blanket? That’s $5 please. Want to watch TV? Another $5 please. What’s next, a coin-operated toilet??
For example, I honestly cannot name one colleague of mine who, when forced to travel to New York, doesn’t opt for the AMTRAK train over a flight into LaGuardia. In fact I've flown to NY only twice from DC since 9/11 and the Acela train is my only mode of transportation to and from the Big Apple. The Acela is truly a rare gift from Heaven and Earth when you think hard and along about future travel plans.
To add insult to injury, major air carriers either don’t seem to notice the plight of travelers or don’t seem to care. What they care most about is fleecing your wallet for the cost of your airline ticket.
There was a time when, if a plane were parked on the tarmac for hours at a time, the local news would show, interview passengers coming off complaining, and the airlines would be forced to run commercials pledging new commitments such as a passenger bill of rights. Today, they don’t even get so much as a meal voucher.
When oil spiked at over $155 per barrel years ago, airlines were first in line to complain they were going under if they couldn’t hike fares. They added surcharges for baggage to help defray the costs of the additional fuel. Today, oil is hovering around half the price of its all-time highs. Are the baggage fees gone? Heck no. In fact, they’re now charging more!