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Tom Alderman

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Torture In The Air: A Traveler's Rant

Posted: 04/25/2012 7:00 am

Not to long ago America's airline industry announced self-congratulatory news touting their improved safety records. On behalf of all nervous fliers we'd like to thank you killing fewer of us than you did last year. Now, how about focusing on your primary role: real first-class ease of travel and comfort for all in truly friendly skies?

Air travelers know that for every flight, you can plan to spend three additional hours outside of the actual travel time doing things like getting to the airport, parking, trudging to the gate at the end of the last terminal, standing in line and waiting, mind-numbing waiting due to weather problems, tardy cockpit crews and the latest: pilots and flight attendants being restrained by passengers due to their giant melt-downs because they work in airplanes!

In spite of convincing airline safety statistics, many of us have a genuine anxiety about flying. It's not so much that the plane will fall out of the sky -- although to some of us it's always a possibility -- it's more about the entire truly tortuous air travel experience.

Let's start with your zone. If you're unlucky to be in zone three for boarding, the chances of finding an available over-head bin in your immediate geography has been reduced by the hundreds who've already boarded from zones one and two. So they take your bag off to their cargo space and now you're exposed to the dreaded Lost-Bag Syndrome.

And how about what they call main-cabin seats but what we call steerage? Concrete park benches are softer than these butt busters. If you are taller than Kristin Chenoweth, you're in a bind -- literally. Your knees are squashed up against the seat in front of you which has been reclined all the way back which means with your lowered tray table you're basically imprisoned -- particularly if you're in the dreaded middle seat. Now add a large man overflowing in the seat next to you whose heavy cologne singes your nostrils until it wears off, leaving a withering body odor.

At some point during your flight, you might need their so-called lavatories which are really just waste-elimination pods for short people. If you're a stand-up guy taller than a munchkin your head and feet will not be aligned because the pod is shorter than you and you're in pretzel mode.

As our flight ends, we always hear the obligatory and calming voice from the flight deck, thanking passengers for choosing that airline because "we know you have other choices." No, not really. We're on your flight because of your departure and arrival schedule, not ours. And if it happens to be American Airlines, the really terrified among us know American is in bankruptcy court and plans to cut spending and eliminate thousands of jobs. To our terror, this makes us wonder just where these cuts are being made and how many airlines employees may be upset for being fired.

Is it any surprise when we finally arrived at our destination gate and that relieving arrival ding is heard throughout the plane, we instantly leap out of our seats, yank our carry-ons from the stuffed overhead bins as we bang our neighbors and stand uncomfortably in eager anticipation of getting off this aluminum machine as soon as possible?

Airlines keep making bigger planes, just not big enough for us. So airlines, here's a simple fix to much of the misery you put us through: take out some of the seats, will you, please? Just enough seats to give each of us the same minimum room we have on all trains and Greyhound buses.

Sure, you'll lose revenue from the discarded seats. But my bet is, you'll make it up by charging us a little more. And while you're at it, would it be too much to ask for a little more padding on the seat bottoms?

Finally, why not make the whole plane class-free. No more low, medium or high price seats, just one class, real first-class ease and comfort for all. That would really make your friendly skies more than just a hollow ad line.

 
 
 
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