Air Travel Ain’t What It Used To Be

It seems like every time I go to an airport these days, I like flying on commercial airliners less and less. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with this trip to Wisconsin, but neither was it a pleasant experience.

The indignity really begins when you have to practically disrobe to get through security. I’ve taken to not even wearing a belt, and shoes that I can easily get on and off. Socks? Fugeddaboudit! I do love wandering through the metal detector barefoot. But I do.

Of course, since no one wants to pony up the extra $15 or $20 to check the FIRST bag, everybody wants to carry everything on. I was guilty, too. I’d overstuffed my small bag trying to get something that would fit in the overhead, but when I tired to cram it up there, it didn’t fit. At least I got around that bag check fee by gate-checking the bag. I wonder how long that will last. Laptops have to be separate, no gels or aerosols beyond 3 ounces, and they have to be out in a clear plastic bag. And no, I don’t want to have the plane hijacked and flown into a building, but it makes for a very demeaning experience.

Only one of my flights out of four legs was delayed, and that one was the very first one leaving Jacksonville. But it was also the least crowded of the flights, the only one not absolutely packed to the gills. It was a 757 short-hopping from JAX to ATL. The passengers were pretty much an afterthought, I think, on that flight. Delta just needed the plane back in Atlanta to go someplace else, and they were nice enough to charge us to ride on it.

I know I’ve put on a little weight, but the seats seem to be smaller. There’s no reason for the arm rests on the seats, because with someone crammed into every seat, no one can put an elbow on the armrest. A flight that full used to be a rarity. Now, an empty middle seat is cause for the happy dance.

On some airlines, there’s a charge for the soda, and you never get the full can any more.

Now, all this comes at a price, and sometimes it’s a low one. My round trip ticket to Milwaukee and back was just a tick over $200.  Of course, I paid on the way pack to check my bag, so that added $20.  It’s just unconscionable to me that they charge you for your FIRST bag. They’ve got all that cargo space under the main cabin, and everyone wants to put their suitcase in the overhead bin.

And who ever came up with the “Zone” boarding scheme should be forced to try to get on an airliner in “Zone 4” every day for the rest of their lives. Fighting your way to the middle or back of the plane with half the passengers already on it cramming their overstuffed suitcases into the overhead bins is just such a heartwarming experience. Of course, the people in first class who were allowed to pre-board have always looked smug. I have always thought they should be held to last, just because it would mean I didn’t run the risk of hitting one of them with my overstuffed suitcase that I’m going to try to cram into the overhead bin to avoid the bag check charge.

But they might miss a free drink.

I don’t envy the person who has to travel regularly on business. This may be my only commercial airliner experience this year, and that’s just fine with me. I know the airlines are struggling to be profitable. But it used to be an exciting, enjoyable experience to fly somewhere. It’s still the only way to travel a long distance in a relatively short time. But the bloom is definitely off the airliner rose. I’ll still do it, but only under duress.





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Filed under Air Travel, Rant, Thoughts

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