Flying and Rage

I flew a lot when I was working. However, I have not been on a plane since I retired in 2009. Because flying commercially is such a hassle, I vowed never to fly again since it is no longer a condition of employment. However, due to a death in the family I had to fly from Atlanta, Georgia to Halifax, Nova Scotia recently. It caused me to reflect on all the reasons why flying in modern times is so distasteful.

There was a time when flying commercially was even enjoyable. Seats were large enough to accommodate an adult human being. Airplane employees treated you with respect and went out of their way to accommodate your needs. Meal service was provided on long flights; at no charge. If you were stranded at the airport over night, they provided hotel accommodations and meals. And you could arrive at the airport at a time very close to the departure time of your flight, and still make it on board.

Now, you are basically under attack from the time you enter your departure airport until you leave your destination airport. First, Atlanta now advises you to arrive at the airport 3 hours before the scheduled departure time of your flight; there is 3 hours of your life wasted forever (and flying is supposed to save you time?). At the airport you stand in line to pay for the privilege of checking your suitcase, after all the airline knows you are a sucker and will pay whatever they ask. Next comes the endless lines waiting for your dignity to be assaulted by a pat down or x-ray by a TSA agent who was a reject from McDonald’s. And perhaps the agent will chastise you as if you were a small child because you had a dangerous weapon in your briefcase, like a staple remover. (Man you caught me, I had planned to remove every staple in this airplane once we were airborne). By the way, the 3 hour wait is due to the fact that TSA places no value on your time but place the highest possible priority on keeping staff and costs at a minimum. Finally you get to rush to your assigned departure gate only to find that the airline changed it at the last minute, so you run a half mile to the new gate. You finally get to your seat, after finding there is no room for your carry on bag, and the flight attendant chastises YOU for that. It is then that you realize the seat was designed for no one larger than a 12 year old child. Your knees against the seat in front of you and elbow to elbow with your fellow passengers.

The airlines’ policies on seats is the one that annoys me the most. Over the years they have changed the seating plans of planes to move rows of seats closer and closer in order to make room to add more seats. Thus today you get the knee knocker effect. However they still allowed the seats to fully recline. So, once you are finally airborne and made yourself as comfortable as you can in the small space available to you, the person in front of you reclines their seat and now your knees are firmly against their seat back and there headrest is in your face. Also, the space you thought you had on the seat tray to place your laptop is virtually gone; you can put it on the tray but can not open it. One more example of the airline emphasizing to you that your comfort is of no significance to them, all that matters in more seats to maximize profits. They should realize that they can not ignore the consequences of compacted leg room, if they are going to put the seats that close together, they should at least eliminate the reclining function since it is no longer practical. I was encouraged to hear a news announcement a short time ago that some airlines had plans for exactly that; drastically limiting the amount of recline allowed in the seat backs. It sure took them long enough to figure out this simple fact, I hope it actually happens.

I need not spend too many words ranting about lost or damage luggage, it seems inevitable and every flier has experienced it at one time.

In the “good old days” the airlines actually knew that they were the service provider and you were the customer. Now it seems like just the opposite, their actions make it abundantly clear that you, the traveler, are there to provide a service to them. Their needs are paramount and yours are inconsequential.

There have been a number of publicized stories over the last few years of “road rage” type of incidents on airplanes. Passengers assaulting other passengers, passengers assaulting flight attendants, flight attendants assaulting passengers, etc. etc. Although I deplore these incidents I think I understand why they are happening. Since the dawn of civilization, homo sapiens has had to fight to survive. Fight the elements for shelter, fight dangerous animals for food and personal safety, fight waring enemy tribes to avoid capture etc. We have been conditioned, over the centuries, to fight anything that threatens our security. In modern times (the most recent 100 years or so) society has put great pressure on us to be totally docile. Accept attacks from other people and ignore the, shrug them off, accept them and remain calm. Because modern society is so complex and cities are so populace, this is a requirement to avoid total chaos. The majority of the population has been sufficiently neutered that they accept personal attacks and “grin and bear it”. However there are a small number of people who have not been sufficiently reprogrammed into a mindless robot, and they may snap and revert to their survival instincts under high stress situations. And as I mentioned previously, flying is a lot like being under constant personal attack.

We really need to do something to make flying a more humane experience or there will be more and more violent incidents on airplanes.