I saw a recent cartoon that depicted a couple on an airplane having dinner circa 1960 to 1970s. They were dressed for fine dining, complete with a white tablecloth, expensive place settings, champagne and caviar chilled by a swan ice sculpture. The caption read something like, “Wow, can you imagine what this will be like in 50 years?”
In my head, I immediately jumped to an image of dinner on a flight of today: a cup of water and some tiny stale pretzels. Some airplanes of that bygone era had a spiral staircase to a different level, lounges, changing rooms and even sleeping compartments. Why has the luxury of those early flights deteriorated so badly to how we are treated when we fly today?
Some of the changes are understandably because of 9/11. However, in addition to the drudgery of Transportation Security Administration lines we also have lost baggage that we pay handsomely for, a meal that doesn’t even qualify as a snack, smaller seats, less leg room, risk of COVID-19 and now some airlines that don’t even allow a carry-on bag.
We get to pay more for a preferred smaller seat on an overbooked flight that has a greater chance of being delayed or canceled entirely. We are treated like cattle and cattle don’t have to jockey for the armrest.
It should not surprise that air travelers are trying to save money by “skiplagging.” This occurs when a traveler books a flight with a connection. Instead of flying to the final destination, the passenger disembarks at the connecting city. Skiplagging is cheaper than buying a direct flight to some final destinations. Skiplagged.com specializes in such bookings. Caution: As you would expect, the airlines don’t like this practice and if they discover it, your ticket can be canceled, and you can be banned from flying that airline in the future. United Airlines and Orbitz even filed a lawsuit against Skiplagged.com’s founder in 2014, but the judge dismissed the case.
OK airlines, but this wouldn’t be a thing if your airfare pricing model (read as scheme) didn’t make it possible to save on flights this way.
Upon turning the momentous age of 12 years old, one of our family traditions included flying by oneself to visit grandma or an aunt. In those days, as a courtesy, a flight attendant would pay special attention to the child after a chat with a parent. You can’t even request that service today and in the rare case that you do, it will cost you.
Consider the approximately one-and-a-half-hour flight from Durango to Denver, also deemed the “vomit special.” Add to that the recommended two hours before departure time to be at the airport, the time to get to and from each airport (another hour), the inconvenience and cost of parking a car or Ubering, not to mention that you may have to rent a car at your destination. Add that up and flying just doesn’t seem worth it, time wise or cost wise. No wonder our community voted down the request in 2016 for funds to expand the local airport.
I’d rather sit in my personally adjusted, spacious seat in my vehicle, listen to my music, munch on my preferred snack (and keep it down), see gorgeous scenery, be able to open a window or a sunroof, pack what I want, then have my car when I get there.
The only thing that will change this herd-like treatment is a rebellion. Join the revolution. Drivers unite!
Jim Cross is a retired Fort Lewis College professor and basketball coach.