Thursday, October 4, 2012

Life in the Friendly Skies

I reflected upon my recent traveling experience trying to remember the golden days of flying, when passenger comfort was what air travel was about instead of making a profit.

Yesterday, at times. I felt more like self-loading cargo, a term I remember pax (as we were called) being referred to when I was on active duty in the Air Force.
Looking at the 737 Being Readied to
Fly from Denver to Baltimore

Starting with the screenings before being allowed into the terminal, everything seems designed to remind us that we are the by-product of the system rather than the reason everyone there has a job. Oh, generally the people who work in the airport are nice and deferential--but I am convinced they believe that it would be a great place to work if there were no passengers.

Kind of like schools--a great place to work except for the students.

I remarked to another passenger that with all of the cost cutting measures (or cost increasing measures from a passenger perspective) soon we are not going to need to check our bags anymore. The will have us walk down the ramp and stow the bags in the cargo hold ourselves before going back up the ramp to our seats. And we will retrieve them after the flight. Oh yeah--they will still charge $25 per bag for the self-service option.

I have to chuckle at United's boarding sequence. I guess they have seven boarding groups. Somehow I was in group four yesterday. Turns out, I was the only person in boarding group four. And the plane was jammed. Many people went before me and most came after me, making me feel very conspicuous going through the gate.

Food on a flight? Fly first class or buy it. I remember when meal service was standard for all classes. Problem was that everyone complained about the food so they did away with it and now we can complain about not getting any.

I think the greatest thing that has happened in air travel is the permanent no smoking situation. I remember the days when the back  of the plane was blue with cigarette smoke. Getting stuck in the back was a sentence to a terrible trip--worse than sitting next to a screaming infant that pukes on nearby innocent passengers.

The next greatest thing in air travel will be allowing mobile devices to be used during take-offs and landings. The pilots are using iPads, why can't we? From a practical perspective it would save the airlines money because I wouldn't drag a book along with me to read during take-offs and landings. Since books have weight and fuel is used to fly weight--there would be some savings if most people decided not to bring additional reading material along.

So many stories and so little time.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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