Michelle Higgins on what It is Like to Fly These Days

Posted by Kendall Harmon

OVER the past few years — and this will probably come as no surprise to anyone who has gotten on a plane over this Thanksgiving weekend — flying in coach has become an increasingly miserable experience. Legroom is practically nonexistent. Passengers are more tightly packed together. Hot meals have been eliminated. Ditto pillows and blankets. And the next time that guy in front of you leans his seat back directly into your face, few of your fellow passengers are likely to blame you if you feel a brief, murderous urge to strike back.

All this has created a generation of fliers who now view getting on a plane as roughly akin to entering the ninth circle of hell.

Doug Fesler, an executive at a medical research group in Washington, wasn’t expecting much in the way of amenities on his American Airlines flight to Honolulu in September. In fact, knowing the airline no longer served free meals, he had packed his own lunch for the second leg of his flight from Dallas to Honolulu. But he said he was shocked at the lack of basic services and the overall condition of the cabin.

On that flight, the audio for the movie was broken. The light that indicated when the bathroom was occupied was squirrely, causing confusion and, in some cases, embarrassingly long waits for passengers in need of the lavatory. And though food was available for purchase, it ran out before the flight attendants could serve the entire cabin, leaving some fellow passengers looking longingly at the snack he had packed.

His return flight was just as disappointing. This time the audio for the movie worked — but only in Spanish — and his seat refused to stay in the upright position. “I was just appalled,” Mr. Fesler said. “You pay $500 or $600 for a seat, and you expect it to be functional.” He said he has considered refusing to fly airlines with such poor service, but added that “if you did that with every airline that made you mad, you’d never get anywhere in this country.”

Read the whole article.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchTravel

Posted November 27, 2007 at 7:53 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Courageous Grace wrote:

My best experience on a plane was when my husband and I traveled up to Milwaukee last March from Dallas to attend Experience Nashotah.  I was merely searching for the cheapest tickets and happened upon Midwest Airlines.  With one exception, that round-trip flight was the best flight ever.  The seats had plenty of leg room as they take out a couple of rows on the plane to do so.  They were leather seats, and we were served full cans of soda and freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies (that were cooked onboard).  And this was coach.

Like I said there was one downside, and that would be that when we got home my husband’s suitcase didn’t arrive with us.  They sent it the next day, the biggest inconvenience to us was that he had packed his car keys in it (and I didn’t have my copies with me) and we had to have a friend pick us up from the airport, drive us home, let me get my keys, then drive us back so we could get the car.  But at least when his suitcase arrived they delivered it personally to our home.

Even so, I would definitely fly Midwest again if I had a choice, even if it meant paying a little bit more for a ticket.  I detest American Airlines with a passion and have never had a good experience flying with them.

November 27, 11:50 am | [comment link]
2. Nate wrote:

I second that perspective Grace—American Airlines has routinely given me poor service. I avoid them whenever possible. Midwest has a good reputation. I’ve had good experiences with Continental. If I want to be ignored, I buy a ticket on Skybus.

November 27, 12:38 pm | [comment link]
3. In Texas wrote:

My number one choice is Southwest, while number two is Continental.  I avoid American and Delta.  Interesting statement at the end of the article about Southwest not pretending to be more than they are—at least Southwest gives you clean planes, a little extra room, and friendly flight attendants.  And yes, you can take your lunch onboard with you with Southwest.

November 27, 12:44 pm | [comment link]
4. Sue Martinez wrote:

For four or five hours, I can put up with all sorts of discomfort if the price is right. My family discovered Spirit Airlines, which flies new planes for rock-bottom fares, and if you sign up for their email alerts, you can avail yourself of even more promotions.  My entire family recently flew non-stop from Detroit to LA for $70 apiece, roundtrip. They just planned well, and were flexible. They took empty waterbottles through the checkpoint and filled them up at a drinking fountain. They packed lunches and a minimun of clothes so they could carry their luggage onboard, thus avoiding baggage and food fees. They’re even left clothes with me so they don’t have to bring them next time.  This airline, and those like it, is a blessing, no matter how inconvenient it may be for those few hours in the air.

November 27, 1:24 pm | [comment link]
5. Jeffersonian wrote:

I used to fly internationally a great deal and discovered soon after I began that US airlines are, almost without exception, the worst in the world.  Aero Peru and Air Jamaica come close.  When going international now, I always pick a foreign carrier.

November 27, 10:16 pm | [comment link]
6. Tom Roberts wrote:

After losing billions of dollars domestically, and having the government both bail them out and then impose the TSA security costs on their terminal operations, what could anybody expect?

Normal industries would have contracted by half and the remaining lines would have raised prices to support better service. But the airlines today, with some exceptions, are walking zombies.

November 27, 10:43 pm | [comment link]
7. RalphM wrote:

I’ll echo the compliments for Midwest Airlines.  However, I’d advise eating the chocolate chip cookies while they are warm.  They do not keep well.
My fly/drive decision does not kick in short of an 8 hour car trip.  Airport parking fees equal gasoline costs out to 600 miles RT, and I know my luggage will arrive with me. 


November 27, 11:13 pm | [comment link]
8. Jeffersonian wrote:

After losing billions of dollars domestically, and having the government both bail them out and then impose the TSA security costs on their terminal operations, what could anybody expect?

My international jet-setting was in the 1980s, I might add.  American air companies stank even then.

November 27, 11:18 pm | [comment link]
9. Sarah1 wrote:

RalphM—I hear that, brother!  I drive if it is under 9 hours driving time.

More comfortable.  No waiting at airports.  I almost never get a direct flight so I always end up having to get a connection and wait again.  By the time you add it all up, it’s just not worth it.

Plus if you drive, you can stop any time, and carry as much luggage as you like!  ; > )

November 28, 1:25 am | [comment link]
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