Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Air Travel Rant ירידה על חברות התעופה

Picked up this gem from EgyptianZipper*:

“I refuse to fly, and it has nothing to do with fear. It has to do with hassle. I do not want anyone going through my personal belongings at the airport. I do not want anyone patting me down or otherwise touching my body. I do not want anyone telling me to take my shoes off.

Then there is the little matter of airlines leaving their aircraft on the tarmac for six or eight hours, with no food, water, or access to restrooms for the passengers. The airlines should be sued for this and charged criminally with false imprisonment.”

I’ll add that what other industry besides the airlines takes your money with absolutely no guarantees to get you where you’re going when they say they will? i.e., “We’re cancelling / bumping you from your flight. Ooops! Sorry you missed your mother’s funeral. Nope, no refund. That was a non-refundable ticket.”

And don’t get me started on how you’re treated if and when you do actually manage to use your ticket: They herd you like cattle into a box where get to you sit for 10+ hours. OK; not their fault. But must the captain get on the PA and announce the altitude and the fact that the duty-free carts will now be trawling the aisles “for your shopping convenience”? And must they wake me up at 01:00 origin time to feed me a meat meal “because we want to transition you into destination time”? Can you say “paternalistic”?

How about just shutting up and letting me sleep and feeding me a nice, light, non-meat meal at a reasonable hour, and letting me decide when and if I want to transition into destination time? You’ve already got my money; it can’t possibly cost you anything to leave me in peace.

It's finally happened: "The surge in oil prices, a sinking dollar, and sagging Western economies have left commercial aviation on its knees…In the past six months, at least a dozen commercial airlines have failed, while others have been forced to ground planes, raise fares, cut jobs, and consider mergers as oil prices have climbed to record levels.

We’re scraping the bottom of the (oil) well, as has been predicted since I was born. What I don’t get is: Instead of casting about for alternative fuels a la “algae; halophytes, a group of salt-tolerant plants; and jatropha curcas, a bush native to Central America that can grow in poor soils” -- most of which won’t be commercially viable for years, if ever―and circulating e-mails like the one I got explaining how the common consumer can bring down fuel prices by boycotting Exxon ― why are consumers / travelers / drivers and airlines alike not scrambling to be the first to do the obvious: bring back rail travel?

Americans in particular ― who “moved on past” trains circa World War II and, imagining them to be passé, haven’t looked back ― should be demanding the resurgence of rail travel.
How many times have you heard someone say how sick and tired they are of the airlines? Of the waiting in ever-lengthening lines at ever-more-annoying security checks (the efficacy of which seem not to increase with their complexity)? Of the prohibitive cost of fares? Of the airlines’ bullying tactics (or what they no doubt refer to as “strategy” or “policy”) of Bumping, Cancellations, and Delays (BCD)?

When will we (and Americans especially) wake up and smell the coffee regarding the overwhelming advantages of 21st-century rail travel? Instead of the never-ending remodeling that seems to be taking place in every existing airport (Pardon Us While We Serve You Better!), those same airports could be adapted for use as train stations.

Not only would it remove most of the hassle from long-distance travel (it certainly couldn’t be more of a hassle), once you’re on board―comfort! You can actually get up and walk around! Even sleep! Eat without your elbows plastered to your sides. And use the bathroom―whenever you need to, without climbing over four other passengers. Another plus: no turbulence; no airsickness.

While it might not be quite as rapid as air travel, think about the frazzled nerves that are now an integral feature of the latter: the luggage that got waylaid…the passengers that got waylaid…need we say any more? Once we’ve adjusted our expectations in terms of the timing of our travels, I predict that we’ll leave air travel in the dust and never look back. Who’ll pick up the gauntlet? Airlines? Entrepreneurs? Anyone out there listening?

*another fellow Carolyn Hax commentator

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