YES, THEY USED TO BE VERY NICE AND PRETTY
I did not have a blog this morning because I flew home from Florida last night. Now that is really not an excuse since I usually work on planes.But I never sit in the middle seat and I don’t fly Continental.
Last night packed between two people with my carry-on luggage in my lap, I sat for two hours thinking of what it used to be like to fly.
While standing in our cattle herd line waiting to board a woman several decades younger than me said “ I watch Pan Am, is it really true that the people who work for the airlines used to be really nice and pretty and they used to serve you food and treat you well?” This is the equivalent of saying I watch Mad Men did people really used to smoke in elevators and in movie theatres? Yes to all of it. I have been alive long enough to remember when they were nice to you on planes and you could smoke on them too.
Complaining about airlines is almost too easy, like a bad comic riffing on the little bags of nuts and the flight attendant’s big assess.
But something terrible has happened to air travel and this makes me very sad, as I love to travel. Though now it’s gotten to a point where I really consider where I’m going and how I’m getting there.
Now to clear some things up, I never traveled first class until people in Hollywood started paying for it. The only time I do it now is when we go very far and we save up all our miles for an upgrade or a free ticket. So most of the time I am in the back of the plane. But there are backs of planes and there are backs of planes.
I refuse to fly Continental anywhere. I once heard they have the worst mechanics and poorest safety record.
So last night when I found myself checking in at Continental I said to “Glenn how did this happen?” Actually I said, “Who the hell booked this horrible airlines you know I refuse to travel on it.” Somehow in 14 years of marriage this information failed to get transmitted.
From the moment we checked in and they said we were not together, plus we were all in the middle seats ten rows apart, I felt myself starting to lose it. But years of failing to convince airline workers to do it my way through the power of how loud, shrill and threatening I could possibly be has taught me sometimes I have to go with the flow.
The problem is the flow at most airports and airlines now has become almost intolerable.
I understand they have budget cuts. I understand the price of fuel, and a degenerating economy not to mention having to spend more money on security has forced them to make tough choices. But do they have to be so damned rude to anyone who isn’t traveling first class?
There is a wonderful line in Jerry McGuire when Rene Zellwegger says “First class was once a better meal now it’s a way of life.” And this is sadly true. There will probably be a March On Economy Travel when they finish with Wall Street.
There is a half way point between treating people like a visiting dignitary and someone who has just gotten off work furlough, but the airlines don’t seem to get this.
First off the whole baggage thing is totally out of control. Ever since they started charging for luggage everyone is carrying as much as they can on board. This means the rush to get on and fit your things in the over- head compartment turns everyone into an angry rugby player in overtime.
“Quick move in front of that guy he’s going to get the last three inches of overhead space.” I whispered to Glenn as I pushed him ahead of me.
And then they refuse to make any accommodations for easy boarding. I was traveling with my child and I wanted to sit next to her. They wouldn’t let me. I also tried to board early using the traveling with a young child special treatment rule. OK, so she is almost twelve with the body of a young woman and the shoe size of an NBA player, I still said “I have a little kid with me.” They took one look at her, scowled and sent me to the back of the line to board in accordance with the absurd zone system, I think they took from an old Nazi handbook.
Then you once you are crammed in your seat the old, fat women who used to be young and pretty, OK it happens to all of us, but still – they start yelling “Turn off your phone” “Put your purse under the your seat” “Lose the Kindle. “
Have they heard of the word please?
And then god -forbid you stand up, they treat you like you’re taking over the plane. I thought they were going to arrest a guy on my outgoing flight for getting up and grabbing his Sports Illustrated before we started taxiing.
So there I sat squished between two women. The one on my right looked at me and the first words out of her mouth were, “My uncle was a pilot and he told me never to fly Continental.” See, I was right. If Glenn hadn’t been thirty rows behind me there would have been a big I told you so. And she turned out to be an aeronautical engineer herself. It was the only flight she could get on.
We taxied out and within five minutes, the pilot said, “We’re going back. Our front nose wheel has a problem.” Suddenly visions of seven hours on the runway; unable to uncross my leg; dying of thirst and unable to get to Lucy started tap dancing in my head.
And then they did the other airplane torture trick, they announced every five minutes that they had no new news to report. It could take five minutes or five days, “We’ll let you know when we know.” Then five minutes later “We still don’t know.” And THEN twenty minutes in he said “The mechanic is on his way.”
On his way???? It’s an airport, not a movie theatre don’t they have mechanics on the premises? Maybe a few less Chipotle stands and a few more mechanics would be a good use of money.
I know they are all over worked and underpaid, but many are, and traveling is hard enough nowadays, I don’t expect a hot meal, but a little courtesy and kindness would go along way.
Maybe as part of their training they should make them all watch Pan Am.