Monday, July 26, 2004

Flying, Part 1

Aaaaah. I'm back. What a delightful vacation. Relaxed on the beach. Ate several lobsters. Read Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. (man that guy can churn out the pages) But of course I wasn't idle the whole time. I carefully noted all the things that annoyed me in the airports and on the planes, and I'm ready to report. Now I have to be careful here. Airports and the whole flying experience have been exhaustively stripmined for years by stand up comedians looking for material. (cue Jerry Seinfeld: "What's the deeeeeaaaal with the peanuts?") So I don't want to just rehash old airport complaints. At first I thought this would put the kibosh on the whole thing. What fresh complaints could I possibly make about flying? But I needn't have worried.

1) The People who block aisle traffic after the plane has landed.

Isn't this just the biggest bitch? You've been on this plane for hours. You're sore. You're stuffy. For some reason it usually gets hotter after the plane lands. They turn off the air. Your ears are still popping. All you want is to disembark. (Or as one stewardess really said on a flight I once had: "The captain requests that you deplane in the rear.")

But some total asswipe has to stand there putting on his sweater, then his coat, then getting his first bag.... then his second... then telling his kids to put on their shoes....

Maybe one of you out there reading this is that guy. Why not? Every flight has at least one or two. To you: GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE LEFT LANE. Seriously. Jesus. If you know that getting all your stuff together is going to be a whole production, then sit there and wait until most of the people have gotten off.

Are they blind? Do they lack all consideration? What makes some people think they're so damned important? This is complaint number 1.

2) The way all airlines are now in an unspoken conspiracy to pad all their flight times in order to disguise chronic lateness.

This has been bothereing me for a few years now, but it really demanded my attention on this trip. My flight from Newark to Nantucket was half an hour late boarding. Then, after boarding, it sat in a line of planes for another half hour before it could take off. So we were at least an hour behind schedule. Yet the plane arrived exactly on time. Huh?

This is the new fad. Schedule the flight with at least a half hour of delays built in. Ever hear the pilot come on the PA and say something like "Good news folks. We were a few minutes late taking off, but we've had some favorable winds and some good skies and we're actually going to touch down 15 minutes early!" Wow! (you think to yourself) Did I get lucky! Good skies! Favorable winds! Thanks, pilot!

Nope. Bullshit. This is like the government redefining the poverty level to get people out of poverty. Airlines are redefining the flight time to improve their arrival stats. A person might argue that this is for the best, since there will always be late flights. You might as well incorporate lateness into the schedule. The problem is that this disguises the problem, rather than tackling it. If there's some route that is consistently late, and another that is consistently on time, isn't it in our best interests to highlight the failures of the chronically late route and see what we can do about it? Our tickets should have four times printed on them: Boarding Time, Close of Boarding Time, Takeoff Time and Landing Time. That way, if a flight is late, we can see exactly where it went wrong.

3) Taking pictures out the window

What makes people think that this is such a great idea? Have you ever seen a picture taken from an airplane window? They suck. They look terrible. It's a bad idea. 

4) The people who make desperate pleas to cut the ticket line or the security line, on account that they'll miss their flight.

This is an extremely common occurance on your hellishly long ticket line and security line. People desperately seeking out an airport official, telling them a sad story, begging to cut the line. Often, the airport officials let them cut. Sometimes they even stroll the line, saying "Anyone here on flight 185? Anyone on 185?" Then they let those people cut. (My favorite is when someone responds to that question saying "I'm on 1108!" desperately hoping to get some sympathy)

Here's the truth. Ready? When you allow someone to cut because they arrived late, you penalize everyone else who arrived on time. I didn't get to the airport an hour before my flight so that my cushion of extra minutes could be exploited by someone who misplanned their trip to the airport. There should be no cutting. Don't you see? If the person who desperately needs to get to the gate is forced to stand on the line and miss the flight, then what do you think the chances will be that he'll get the airport on time the next time? 100%

By allowing him to cut, you're guaranteeing yourself a perpetual stream of latecomers who have never been taught their lesson. Plus, isn't it fun to watch the spectacle of someone's breakdown when they miss their flight? It's their own damn fault.

I have more, but this is running long. Next time I'll tell you about Jet Blue which I flew for the first time this trip. Is the hype deserved?

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