Friday, June 17, 2005

We Know You Have Many Choices When Selecting a Blog...

This past December 23rd, I was scheduled to depart out of Denver International Airport around 10am...arriving in Syracuse, NY not too much later that day. This would get me there in plenty of time to join with my family in our traditional Christmas Eve celebration. Candlelight service at church, my one chance each year to see Grandma and all of the relatives, etc, etc. Your basic whitebread yuletide clambake.

However, the morning of the 23rd, the hillbilly airline that takes me from my small midwestern town to Denver got me there over an hour late. (Their official explanation for the delay: "Uncle Joe, he's-a movin' kinda slow.") I missed the flight out of Denver and American Airlines decided to put me on stand-by, with the cheery addendum: "We're overbooked on every flight till Monday!" (Monday being in this case the day AFTER Christmas.) I ended up staying at a Comfort Inn in Denver the night of the 23rd (on my own 53 dollars) and flying out of Denver at 11pm Christmas Eve night, missing the family gathering and church service for the first time in 32 years.

I have done my best to keep the "whimping and whining" portion of all this to a minimum. I don't think anybody particularly likes airline horror stories, and those who do should get counseling. But to understand where I'm going you have to understand what drove me to thinking this way.

You see, I've come to the realization that everything you experience ON THE PLANE is getting nicer and nicer, while every other part of the air travel process makes you feel like a Russian in line for the weekly distribution of rutabegas. Airlines have been serving drinks and showing movies for a long time, but now more than ever the selection is better on both counts. At least 2 airlines I can think of offer in-flight Directv. Others offer 8 or 10 channels of video entertainment from big-time TV networks. On my last flight I noticed that the coach seats were bigger and comfier. Many airlines no longer serve meals, but airline food that was an improvement. All in all, the actual air travel process--getting from point A to point B--is generally good. Yet recent improvements have come on the heels of takeovers, bankruptcy announcements and other shakeups.

There needs to be some more consistency here. One way to achieve that would be to make the entire process as customer-oriented as the actual flight. My advice to United, American, etc:
  • Come up with a price list and stick with it. Make a roundtrip flight from Denver to L.A. $250--anytime, any seat, any travel agent or website. Kick William Shatner's haggling ass to the curb.
  • Don't overbook. Just don't do it.
  • Those little TV's in the waiting area that are hard-tuned to CNN? Yeah...nice try. People who want news can buy a paper. Use those TV's to show "Spongebob", "Blue's Clues"--something that will settle down all of the sugared-up brats who can't seem to stop running around me and my baggage in a circle for no reason.
  • Put the in-flight audio system on the chairs in the waiting area. (This is so we don't have to listen to a roomful of children tell Blue that her bone is buried in the hall closet.)

These steps would serve as a message to the American air traveler: "We want to do things right. We want to treat you fairly and decently." Sadly, the airlines won't take my advice. They'll keep making the in-flight service nicer and nicer as the ticket-buying and pre-boarding process gets worse and worse--until one grim future day when the other shoe drops.

The year is 2037. With each and every United States commercial airline in Chapter 11, the government steps in and revamps the in-flight service program across the board:

  • The in-flight video entertainment will consist of an episode of "F-Troop," displayed on the cabin wall via a Bell and Howell 16mm movie projector. The same episode will run on all flights. It will be the one where the Indians dress up like hippies and sing "Mr. Tambourine Man."
  • In-flight audio entertainment will consist of the flight attendant asking, "Did anybody bring a CD?"
  • Beverage service will consist of Diet Mr. Pibb, served in a child-size Dixie cup. No refills.
  • Alcoholic beverage service will consist of an 8 oz. can of Utica Club beer.
  • Snack will be a handful of "Soup and Oyster Crackers," shoveled into your hand out of a large barrel.

And as you're watching Ken Berry sneeze--while simultaneously choking down the diet Pibb and trying to get the cracker dust off your Tom Clancy book--take consolation in this:

At least you're not taking the bus.


Blogger Dave said...

Nevermind all that. What happened to hot stewardesses?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 6:11:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

What my lawyers tell me I ment to say was, flying in today's market is difficult and the problem is muti-faceted. One day, perhaps soon, airlines will streamline their procedures to ensure customer satisfaction.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 6:23:00 PM  

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