The recent spate of meltdowns on domestic airlines is yet another reason to cringe at the thought of flying and while I can’t condone passengers hauling off on flight attendants or attempting to (allegedly) hijack a plane , I do understand the public’s nuclear-level anger at flying because I have the same disdain for air travel.
At the risk of sounding like I’ve become this generation’s Andy Rooney, air travel used to be an event. Old-timers will regale you with tales of people dressing up to go on planes and enjoying a pleasant experience from the time they boarded until they landed (unless you happened to step aboard one of the planes from the vintage Airport disaster movies). Sadly, the days when you could board a plane and conveniently forgetting you had a loaded handgun are long gone.
Cramped Seats: One of the biggest complaints is the complete lack of space while you’re traveling. Whether it’s the small seats or the lack of leg room, it’s uncomfortable to fly and I’ve been more comfortable in car trunks than some of the airlines.
You might think your ever-expanding waistline is the reason seats seem more cramped but it’s probably not (although it is in my case). A 2019 TIME article notes:
Less legroom is now the industry norm. In the early-2000s, rows in economy used to be 34 inches (86 centimeters) to 35 inches apart; now 30 to 31 inches is typical, though 28 inches can be found on short flights, according to Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Flyers Rights. Seats have narrowed, too, from about 18.5 inches to 17 inches on average.
Lack of Service: The complete lack of amenities aboard flights continues to amaze me. No one is going to rave about airline meals (although they tend to stay down), but good luck finding an airline that serves a meal unless you’re on an international flight.
Layovers: I’m constantly amazed by the number of short flights that become endurance contests thanks to one or more layovers. A flight that might take two hours suddenly turns into six (or more) thanks to you having to disembark at an airport and transfer to another plane. It is understandable that airlines simply can’t afford to run flights out of every airport, but sometimes it seems like there is no rhyme or reason to layovers.
Airlines always seem to be crying the money blues which is why they’ve reduced everything from seat size to amenities. However, the following complaint is inexcusable.
Surly Flight Attendants: I know flight attendants have a tough job, but is it too much to ask them to be pleasant? Sure, passengers can be a pain in the ass but like any service industry job, you’re expected to be pleasant and not act like you’re doing your job out of the kindness of your heart. This doesn’t excuse abuse from passengers but don’t talk down to passengers and try a little friendliness. Just Google “why are flight attendants so rude” and you’ll see why this is a growing concern.
Security: TSA remains a joke, regardless what airport you’re in. Even worse, passengers have to deal with examinations normally found in colonoscopies as overzealous security technicians strip search a nun in their attempt to ascertain whether rosary beads are actually plastic explosives.
And these are just regular occurrences aboard flights. What about things like tarmac delays where passengers endure hours of waiting aboard a plane. Things got so bad that in 2009, the U.S. government passed the 3-Hour Tarmac Delay Rule which states:
- The airline must return to the gate and allow passengers to exit 3 hours after passengers had an opportunity to deplane. (4 hours for international flights)
- The airline must provide water and snacks after 2 hours
- The flight crew must provide flight updates every 30 minutes
- The airline must provide working lavatories and appropriate medical care at all times
If you think you’re getting worked over by the airlines, check with Flyersrights.org which has some helpful resources for passengers including the aforementioned tarmac delay rule.
In the meantime, unless I’m flying international or it’s an emergency situation, don’t expect me to get aboard a plane anytime soon as I’m more likely to get there just as quickly and with a lower blood pressure reading than if I fly.
What do you think of airline travel? Let me know in the comments below.