May 7, 2008
Jackets? We don't have to give you no steenkin' jackets!
Proof that there is no airline service so cheap and shoddy
It does basically make you look fat and naked, but you see all this stuff." - Susan Hallowell (above), Director of TSA's Security Laboratory.
that some bean-counter can't make it worse:
The woman checking me in informed me that Delta discontinued the use of the ticket jackets as of Monday in order to help cut costs!
Food goes, blankets go, seats get jammed in, pillows vanish, oxygen is reduced, peanuts change into tasteless "freeze-baked crunchy things with salt" which come two to a pack and you only get one. Don't even get me started on Homeland Security which is just biding its time until you will be required to fly naked after an anal probe by uniformed dwarf.
I know I am far from alone when I say that after years of flying many times a year, often on a whim, I am now at the point where only the most powerful forces in life -- love and death -- can get me on a plane.
It is not that the whole experience is uncomfortable, which it is, but that the process has become -- through a Satanic collusion between the airlines and government -- utterly dehumanizing. Bean-counters and bureaucrats have combined to create the one central experience of American life in which you are reduced to a hunk of meat.
The next time you simply "must" travel observe the process from one mental remove. The snaking lines and the endless bland posters and placards at "Security." The forced removal of your items of clothing -- coats, sweaters, and shoes (the better to expose you to any tasty foot fungus left behind by those in line in front of you.) Then listen to the endless loop of warnings and instructions as you watch old women in walkers get wanded so that nobody can possibly say "Profiling is afoot!"
Put them all together along with the ever-present though distant chance that the plane will indeed fall out of the air, and you have a vague replay of kindly SS officers in the 1940s murmuring in dulcet tones, "This way to the showers, ladies and gentlemen."
But, of course, all that is not enough since nothing done to date has stopped people from taking planes like they used to jump on a crosstown bus. And so the small insults and creepy "economies" proliferate. It's now down to eliminating a single sheet of folded paper that wraps around the boarding pass.
Is there, somewhere inside what passes for the executive suite at Delta, some clone who figures out that people will accept this -- after all, why wouldn't they? -- and makes it a policy so he can justify a promotion or a bonus? I'll bet folding money there is. Does it, in and of itself, really matter? No, of course not. Except in the sense that it goes to extending command and control over the person who is supposed to have the power in this relationship: the consumer AKA the passenger.
The truth is, of course, that caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of big government and big airlines, the consumer is, as I said above, just so much meat with a few bucks left on his Visa card and a picture ID. Coming soon in this endless downward spiral will be:
- 1) transparent carry-on luggage with a weight limit of 10 pounds,
- 2) all checked luggage billed at $5.00 a pound with a signed waiver releasing the airline of all liability for losing it,
- 3) the aforementioned naked flying with bonus anal probe followed by the replacement of seats by racks of overhead meat-hooks in order to cram 200 more people on each plane. (You will be fed and watered and evacuated via tubes.)
All of this will be met not with outrage and boycotts by the "flying public," but with a shrug and the small, infantilized voices of the afflicted saying, "Well, you gotta fly. Hook me up."
"Delta Flight 666 is now ready for boarding. This way to the hooks, ladies and gentlemen."
Posted by Vanderleun at May 7, 2008 8:41 AM
The fact that they pay extra attention to little old ladies, in the name of being PC, is a little scary also. Are we going to go to the Soylent Green factory as easily?
On a separate note I was wondering if we should start a list of those gone to the dark side.
Hey, we all have to make sacrifices so the CEO of Delta can continue to collect his $16 mil. salary. While you're at it, don't go complaining about DHS, either. After all, it provides jobs for people who would be otherwise unemployable, from top to bottom.
The only time I have flown in the last 10 years was to go back hom because my mom was dying.
Otherwise I drive everywhere. In most cases I can get there faster then flying.
For example it is 1,072 miles to my best friends house in Tucson. I can and do drive that in about 15 hours most of the time unless I stop for a bit of sightseeing or something.
To fly there I would have to...
Go to the airport 2 hours in advance which means leaving my house 3 hours before the flight.
Flight with a one stop has a total duration time of almost 6 hours. Most of that time is between flights in either Albuquerque or Las Vegas. Nothing like sitting in an airport for hours on end to sap the strength out of you.
Deplane, hassle with luggage, get rental car and drive to friends house is about 2 hours.
All of it comes to 11 hours, 4 hours lees then I can drive it.
Driving it is better!
+It is cheaper for me to drive (I have have an economical car).
+I can leave anytime I like.
+I defintely have more leg room and the seats are more comfortable.
+The food is much better then anything at the airports-my usual stopping place has the best steaks I have ever had. A 12oz. Fillet with all the fixin's is $8.99. My other stopping place is a Cracker Barrel and they always have good food. I can't have an alcoholic beverage but that doesn't matter to me-I am not a big drinker.
+The entertainment is much better. The scenery is gorgeous, the stars at night magnificent. The air smells wonderful and I can haul along all the CD's I want. Don't need no steenking Steve Jobs monopoly iPod.
+I have minimal hassles from the government in the form of two INS checkpoints that take all of 5 minutes to go through. They look at me generally wave me through, occasionally they will ask for ID and I provide my drivers license, passport and work ID and they let me go.
I travel extensively for my job as a cog in the eeeeevil Military/Industrial Complex.
Don't even get me started on Homeland Security which is just biding its time until you will be required to fly naked after an anal probe by uniformed dwarf.
There's still opportunity for perverse fun out there:
Before LAX put in a more permanent and separate individual search area with opaque glass, the individual search area was separated by transparent lexan panels from the terminal and entirely visible from the counter at the Gordon Biersch Beer Bar.
I'd while away hours waiting for my flight enjoying a nice marzen or hefe-wiezen watching skimpy-clad California Girls get (wo)manhandled and wanded vigorously by the TSA Big-Nurse types.
Hell, sometimes I used to get there extra early just to enjoy the inadvertant show. Good times....
(Of course if it were my wife of step-daughter, I would be facing federal charges right now, but isn't that the way it always is?)
I'm pretty sure that standing in line to get on an airplane is exactly nothing at all like standing in line for a Nazi gas chamber.
The security screening is only slightly more intrusive than what you get when you go into a courthouse (which, like riding an airplane, most of us are compelled to do from time to time); but then, you can't really rip a courthouse free of its foundation and crash it into an office building halfway across the state.
Maybe the security measures are frivolous and unwarranted, on account of how unlikely it is that any given plane will be hijacked or bombed while you're on it, but that's just more evidence of the failure of this analogy. After making much of the almost-certain lack of death on the other side of the jetway door, it seems extremely idiotic to compare it to the certain death awaiting the people standing in line for the showers at Auschwitz.
After making much of the almost-certain lack of death on the other side of the jetway door, it seems extremely idiotic to compare it to the certain death awaiting the people standing in line for the showers at Auschwitz.
I dunno, Lucy.... Have you been wanded by Big Nurse while I leered at your helplessness at LAX in the past few years?
Were you born without any sense of humor Lucy or was it removed later in life?
Were you born without any sense of humor Lucy or was it removed later in life?
It got confiscated at the Security Checkpoint along with some moisturizer and a half-eaten burrito.
Last time I was snaking around the endless security line, it dawned on me:
In 10 years, this is what getting health care will be like - just as soon as your freindly Federal government takes it over.
Honestly I'd rather be hanging from a meathook than sit in the airline seats they have today for any length of time.
That's assuming the guy in front of me is unable to somehow recline his hook.
What's I'd like to see for travel is for airlines to let you purchase a "cargo container" into which you were allowed to load anything you like - as many passengers and as much luggage as you felt you could stand to pack in. Then the container would be sealed, and loaded on the plane.
The container would thus be more like luggage than a passenger, but at least everything would always go to one destination (even if it was not the right one). And you could make your container as comfortable as you liked. The rich could bring custom containers that were tricked out just as they liked, and you'd be separated from everyone else and the germs they brought as carryon.
It wouldn't be so different from some Japanese hotels...
One indignity you've forgotten to itemize is US Airways' practice of deliberately overbooking flights to ensure they more often fly full. Thus, US Airways is deliberately striving to drive some significant portion of its customer base absolutely livid EVERY SINGLE DAY. Because, let us not forget, the passenger does not learn that he cannot get on the plane until after he has stood an hour in line and been X-Ray'd, infrared-scanned and anal probed by a high school dropout with a Hitler complex.
And of course, when the inevitable and (probably daily) emotional collapse occurs, the airport police are more than happy to tase you, bro, handcuff you and toss you in a cell. (Though we only hear about it a few times a year when the victim dies.)
Finally, because a federal agency was created to do this to us, it will never go away. Want proof? FDR's Rural Electrification Administration still exists, five decades after rural electrification was finished: http://www.usda.gov/rus/
Go Greyhound, my friends.
"That's assuming the guy in front of me is unable to somehow recline his hook."
Now THAT'S funny.
I'm possibly looking to go to Boston this upcoming summer for a couple of weeks, and if I go I'm gonna be on the train. Don't care if it takes a couple of days; I'm not in any particular hurry to get anywhere. After all, it is a vacation....
I apparently will be one of the few people to actually come to the defense of the airlines...
We might not realize it, but this is the golden age of air travel. There are more direct flights at lower prices than at any time in the past. For $1500, I have a round trip ticket in August to India, something unthinkable even five years ago.
Because of Islamic terrorism, the industry has been forced to adopt tighter security measures. Get over it. With more airline mergers in the works, air travel may become again the exclusive domain of the wealthy that it was in '70s and '80s. Enjoy the privilege of being able to see the world for a reasonable price while you can.
I think we just have the whole concept of passenger travel wrong. Sitting leaves too much dead space. Give everyone a hammock like on a ship-of-the-line, or better yet bunk beds. I dont care how crammed in i am if my knees arent banging into the jerk in front of me and my elbows are banging the guy next to me and the drink cart isnt smacking my ankle making the flight attendent call me a jerk under her breath. Sitting is for the birds.
Hospitals are also quite good at making you feel like a piece of (bleeding) meat. The airlines should be very proud of themselves that they've managed to instill the same amount of dread among their passengers as patients feel when they're about to be knocked out and go under the knife.
I think that I dated that woman in college. Pale blue complexion - check. Featureless face - check. No hair - check. Big rear and sagging breasts - check. Boy, that brings back the memories of looking at women through the bottom of a beer glass. (To be fair, I look much worse than that myself these days.)
Seriously, folks, I saw some aircraft designers the other day looking at the slave ship scenes from "Amazing Grace" and "Roots" looking for tips on more efficient packaging of travelers. The shackles help keep everyone in place.
Mark: Don't laugh. Google "kipper class"...
The_Freeze: Oh, whatever. Prices are rising, security is run by bureaucracy, and the service is terrible. The airline execs don't care because they have their own personal aircraft. Security is run by bureaucracy, which means that some unelected meathead who rides the bus gets to exert total control over your life if you're in an airport.
I'm seriously considering renting a car for my cross-country trip this December. I can stay as long as I like, travel at my own pace, take my cats with me...
It's a roust. It's supposed to be inconvenient.
A roust is great public annoyance imposed when the authorities can't actually do anything and need to look busy.
I flew El Cheapo from Philly to St Louis, yesterday. I usually travel with my hard drives (don't ask, it has my system and my settings.) I (also) usually keep a friend handy incase the TSA Nazis look at it and find it objectionable. Honestly, they behave like scared, vicious bulldogs if you don't comply with there inane demands. "Where is your ticket" is another piece of evidence of control/stupidity -- as if I could bypass the first ID/Ticket check by whispering sweet nothings.
Yes, Nazis is the correct term for those people. They follow orders blindly to a T, step only one toe out of line... the list is endless.
And what does it accomplish? Like gun-restrictions, it will not stop those who want to harm us to come up with a way of doing so. A criminal will get a gun no matter what obstacles.
So, I want to see actual numbers. What does this hyped up security get us? I mean other than a controlled public, added charges of using an airport (10/20$ even if you make a connection, say, in ATL)?
And when does it end? When is enough... well, enough? There has to be a point when the people are so fed up with the few that are controlling the general populous. Or we can not, as a nation envisioned by the founding fathers, survive for more than a decade, at most.
As for the airlines, that actually work independent from the TSA Nazis, kudos! It takes balls the size of a bull's cojones to push this crap AND ask for more money. I don't get every piece of news, and if it hadn't been for a friend flying for business, I wouldn't have known about the extra-extra charges on more than 1 piece of luggage. Delta, I think, is the worst offender, Airtran the better one of the bunch.
And with 6ft4, I feel blessed if they still have exit row, that would otherwise go to some early 20 year old who doesn't shut up the whole flight. And IF you get into one of those seats and you want to escape the moolike sounds of your fellow passengers, some sprinkler-offsetting flight attendant WILL tell you that he has the power to remove you from that comfy seat if you can't comply with his rules. Trust me, flame-o, in case of emergency, I'm sure to follow the safety instructions... just follow my ass.
Just remember as you sit in your cattle car:
This is what you get for paying more attention to price than to value. The airlines that have tried to charge a little more and maintain good service in coach have lost their shirts because everyone shops by price.
I know people that will spend four hours online to save $20 on air fare, then spend $50 on the taxi from the airport to the hotel. In fact, I even know a guy that flew into LAX because it was a 50 bucks cheaper than Ontario, then had the nerve to bitch about the $100 cab ride out to where we were staying in Ontario!
I can fly from Seattle to Denver for less today than I could 30 years ago despite inflation, meanwhile jet fuel (the airlines single greatest expense) has gone up by a factor of 10. For the airlines to do that means no ticket jackets, among other things.
This is a classic case of getting exactly what you pay for.
If you don't like it, there is always first class....
You get what you pay for. tdracer hit the nail on the head. Airlines are in an incredibly competitive business, and pennies matter. Believe me, if airlines could raise fares and provide more service, they would. None of them do because to do so is business suicide. The customers will flee to the airline next door where fares are $25-50 cheaper, then bitch incessantly about the service.
Airlines have cut amenities to the bone because their customers have shown by their spending habits that they are completely unwilling to pay for those amenities and extra service. If you want nice service, pay for a first class ticket.
tdracer and jagbn are absolutely correct. Ticket prices are ridiculously cheap versus seat mile costs and it is mostly because of the internet. There is no product loyalty anymore; passengers buy the cheapest ticket available on the net. Can you say de-regulation?? Before de-regulation (1978) airline travel was much different than today. I still remember the political rhetoric from those days: so the poor people can fly... Well, here it is...
Personally, I've never flown on a commercial airliner. I don't own a cell phone or a laptop either. I'm practically a museum exhibit. :)
Anyway, I foresaw a lot of this security nonsense after 9/11. For fear of being accused of discrimination, the government must at all times treat each and every one of us as if we may be a potential terrorist. This is a textbook definition of a police state.
The solution is simple, though not politically correct. Let the airlines take care of security, and do away with antidiscrimination laws. Let security zero in on anyone that looks, acts, or sounds like a Muslim, and leave the rest of us the hell alone. The airlines should have the right to refuse service to anyone who arouses suspicion.
That would give liberals the vapors, of course, but tough shit. I prefer to have freedom for normal Americans.
Deregulation did several things. It provided more competition, which drove prices down, which brought more people out to fly, which put more airplanes into the air, which in turn caused the air traffic system to become overextended, and that causes the majority of the delays these days.
The competition is vicious and will remain so until investors quit putting up the money to start new airlines. High fuel prices and low ticket prices may lead to more bankruptcies. In the thirties the industry was a lot like it is today. The companies were unable to make money consistently and were dangerous to boot. That lead to regulation.
Regulation lead to a reliable, safe, money-making air transport system, but the companies were inefficient and ticket prices were too high as a result. There's got to be a way to have an air transport system that is efficient, reliable, safe, and makes money. When competition drives everything to the lowest common denominator and the companies are still losing money there is something wrong with the model.
The other problem is that if the Feds don't modernize the air traffic control system, that factor will put a stop to traffic growth; just like gridlocked freeways. It's probably going to get worse before it gets better.
The TSA choke point is nothing but an abattoir to a terrorist. I am truly surprised one has not decided to go out that way. Walk right up and detonate yourself.
They are mindless drones = government employees. Look at it as the biggest jobs program since the WPA.
Want to make sure my water is not something dangerous? Make me take a drink of it in front of you! Better yet, you take one, you idiot.
Common sense has left the building on this one.
If coach service on, say, Delta, were merely of Southwest quality, I could buy the fares explanation. But it isn't; it's worse. Not even a bag of peanuts and a ticket jacket?
The problem is the cost structures inherited from regulated, cost+plus times. The solution is new competition to drive the surviving dinosaurs out of business. Open up US-to-US flights to foreign-owned carriers, block mergers like Delta-Northwest, and take measures to actively discourage Chapter 11 for airlines in favor of Chapter 7. When American, United, Delta, Northwest, US Airways, Continental, and America West are dead as TWA, Eastern, and Pan Am, their assets (probably including their names)distributed among new, nimbler competitors, things will improve.
I used to love flying "back in the day." Lately we've flown across country exactly once a year to visit Dad in L.A. and usually do Vegas. Dad has passed on and we're now doing stuff like driving from NY to FL and this summer we'll do Atlantic City for the first time. I want to go west but I'd rather have 6 root canals than fly and the airlines can all go bust for all I care. Dehumanizing, insulting, uncomfortable, uncaring, packed like sardines and not fed. Endless inconvenient layovers with wifi that invariably doesn't work. Air travel is pure torture from start to finish. HomeSec is the finishing insult. Autocratic idiots treating us like terrorists, and you know actual terrorists are going to get through again.
It's all unspeakable, really. I cannot care if the airlines go under, I really can't. They brought it on themselves.
Brought to mind one of my original witticisms:
"The problem with nudism is that it's usually the wrong people."
The biggest part of the problem is that the government has been messing with transportation since the beginning of this country.
At one time there was an alternative called passenger trains. But they depended on mail contracts among other things to be viable. The government decided in the fifties to give the mail contracts to the airlines (Notice that it was a monopoly, a government enforced monopoly). When the railroads screamed and during the sixties started going bankrupt from over-regulation, the passenger service was split off and given to Amtrak with an impossible mission, make money with both hands tied behind you.
Amtrak does the best it can, but divorcing passenger service from the railroads was a disaster. When the railroads owned it, it was maintained even at a loss because it reflected directly on the railroad.
I would love to ride the train to anywhere that was eight hours or less from home. Can't do it because the schedules aren't there, and the equipment and incentives don't exist to create them.
I am a road warrior, and so I travel over 50,000 miles a year. Fortunately, I am in a position where I can be loyal so therefore gain status with one airline. Loyalty does pay off in perks.
I agree with most of the comments above, especially the analyses of the causes of today's air travel discomfort. The backbone of air revenue is business travel, and most business travel agencies will sacrifice anything to save a buck, especially employee time. I have found a way to avoid most of that, but I do have a lot of sympathy for those who can't. I spent one entire year crammed into a regional jet twice a week. It makes the cattle car zone of a big jet seem spacious.
Air travel is like medical care--it is mostly paid by a third party, so the consumer has little control over either pricing or service.
From where I stand as an expat living a helluva long way away from the States in SE Asia, flying isn't something I do, it's something that just is. It's part of my life, I couldn't avoid it any more than I avoid the rainy season in this place. Road networks are poor in much of this area, and a lot of my travel is between various islands, so that rules out land transport. This means I might as well get used to flying often, and choose the foreign airlines I like the best. Here, they run from the superb (Singapore Airlines, the world's best, IMHO), to the ordinary (Garuda, Philippine Airlines), to the quirky (Nok Air in Thailand; check out their website to see what I mean), to the downright scary (Adam Air, since shut down by the Indonesian authorities, after a series of incidents, Lion Air, which hasn't crashed yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time with these guys). Coach tickets are pretty cheap, even on the decent airlines, if you're flying within the region. Although SE Asia is far from America, flying distances between the major cities are generally less than they are between the coasts in the U.S., so coach is tolerable, and decent service still exists. Security isn't the headache it is in places like LAX or Dulles. All in all, I like flying here better than I do back in the States.
GV, I'm there with you! I had to fly to Las Vegas back in March for a conference. It was the first time I'd flown in several years and now I may never fly again. Not only was the security exercise dehumanizing, but as a former Delta employee, I was MORTIFIED by the state of the plane, the "snack" and the flight attendants.
Of course, being fair-skinned, red-headed, petite and female, I was immediately flagged for the "special attention" line. That goes without saying...
You're getting more than a little blowback on this, and I hope you (and the others who "cannot care if the airlines go under") are paying attention.
I am a captain at a major national airline, and as you might expect, have a somewhat different perspective. Ignoring for the moment your immediate proof of Godwin's Law, the service delivered by the airlines is not just due to bureaucratic inertia. The public--the ones who buy based on price--drive everything. The airlines are like any other business...they must strive to be more efficient than their competitors while simultaneously delivering the services their customers want. Airline customers want price above everything. Sure...the customers will complain about not getting a meal, or having to pay extra for an overweight bag, but few are willing to actually stop travelling when things don't go their way. Airline load factors are and remain very high.
But airlines are not immune to our own costs. As recently as last November, with oil just under $100/bbl fuel amounted to 25% of costs. Today--six months later--oil costs 20% more. So when Delta stops using a ticket jacket as a way to limit costs, this isn't surprising. In fact, I'd be surprised if a wise observer of the airline industry wasn't, in the next 6 months to a year, able to find more cases of airlines cutting back on their costs.
And guess what? There is a new dynamic in the airline business. It used to be that if an airline got into financial trouble, they could go to Ch. 11, fix their problems, and then as they exited bankruptcy, go to the credit markets to get new financing to continue to operate. The new dynamic is that those credit markets have dried up. In the last month or so, Aloha, ATA, Champion and Skybus have all gone straight to Ch. 7. You want competition in your airline service? You're going to have to pay for it.
Also, let's not conflate the TSA and the airlines. The TSA has a job to do, and little of it is pleasant. Yes, kids and old ladies are pulled out for screening. Benazir Bhutto was nearly assassinated by a bomb strapped to a 2 year old. Women terrorists have been know to pull on a pregnancy bomb. Nothing is sacred, and it would be irresponsible for the TSA to allow some to be unscreened.
I agree with everything you say except:
"The TSA has a job to do, and little of it is pleasant. ... Nothing is sacred, and it would be irresponsible for the TSA to allow some to be unscreened."
I used to design access control systems for a living. You use some of my designs getting into the secure areas of the airport(s). Go find the OMB report on efficacy of the TSA. Bottom line, it isn't. The system was built broke. There is NO common sense applied, ever. Screening pretty redheads may be fun but it is probably useless. Profile, profile, profile. Lose the PC idea that profiling is wrong. Muslim males between the ages of 18 and 45 who are single and educated account for a disproportionately large number of world wide suicide bombers.
Very few airports have done the right things to minimize the risk to the traveler. It is criminally stupid. Distribute the choke points, do not bunch them up as is done now. And the perimeters of the airports are wide open.