Sunday, October 24, 2010

Open letter to airlines: We hate you

RANT WARNING:  Sometimes I really go off.  This is one of them.

Here's just the latest example.  I'm up in the Bay Area this weekend.  On Friday I tried to check in on line on Southwest Airlines.  Pre-check-in site was down, but it said if this continues to call and they provided a number.  So after three hours of trying I called the number.  Had to wait fifteen minutes.  When I finally got someone she said the system is down and there's nothing she could do.  I said, "So why did it say to call this number?"  She said, "So we can tell you the system is down."  I said, "I know that.  It's obvious.  You're making people wait fifteen minutes to tell them something they already know."   "Yes sir", she said proudly.  


And this is one of the GOOD airlines. 

An article came out Friday saying that three major airlines made a big profit the last quarter.  First time since 2007.   How'd they do it?  By reducing flights and cutting back on passenger services. 

They don't give you blankets but they do continue to spend billion of dollars annually on splashy ad campaigns trying to get our business. “Friendly Skies”, “Doing what we do best”, blah blah blah. . And no one’s buying it. In fact, WE ALL HATE YOU. 

Traveling is now an ordeal and you’re a big part of it. Security lines are unpleasant but that’s fifteen minutes. The rest of the six hour wisdom tooth extraction is all you. If airlines really want our patronage and loyalty, save the ad budget. There are better uses for that money. Just adopt the following simple policies.

TALK TO US – Even if it’s five announcements in five minutes. We hate to be left in the dark. Don’t worry that the news will upset us. What we’re conjuring up is far worse.

Pilots are real chatty on the PA when they’re pointing out the sites of Lubbock, Texas on your left, but when we’re just stuck at the gate, and we see maintenance men and guys with clipboards coming in and out of the cockpit, tell us what the fuck is going on. When we’re stuck on the tarmac for a half hour let us know why. It’s not like you’re busy. You’re just sitting there in idle like the rest of us.

When our flight is delayed and a hundred frustrated people are milling around the gate, would it kill you to give us an update? You say you do but trust me, YOU DON’T. Instead we have to go up to the counter so you can blow us off individually.

We’re not just doing this to annoy you. Many of us have connections to make.

TELL US THE TRUTH – Not every flight is delayed due to weather at O’Hare. There has to be a different reason the Sydney to Tokyo flight is cancelled. And get your stories straight. Ask two airline officials why a certain flight is delayed and invariably you’ll hear weather problems from one and maintenance problems from the other. (And the truth of course is neither)

Also, you KNOW when a flight gets in late that is supposed to turn right around it’s going to be late taking off again. First you assure us it’ll still get off as scheduled and then you systematically push back the departure time every fifteen minutes. It’s going to take off an hour late. You know this. Tell us.

Arrival times are now padded to make it appear more flights are on time. Don’t crow about your sparkling on-time record. We know it’s bullshit.

One airline justified its charging extra for heavier luggage because they were concerned for their baggage handlers, worried that the additional strain would result in back problems. But that extra fee we pay, does it go directly to the baggage handlers? Does ANY of it go to them, even indirectly? No. Of course not. Just who do you think you’re kidding?

Passengers are tired of being lied to. You must either hold us in contempt or think we’re all really stupid. Either way you have let the credibility gap widen to the length of a cross-country flight.

PRETEND THAT YOU CARE – Okay, we get it that you don’t. That’s very clear. And you’re in a quandary. If you do pretend you give even the slightest rat’s ass about us then you’re not telling the truth again. We’ll give you a pass on this one. I can’t say just act pleasant, that might not compute. So just act like you would if you wanted something from someone.

Now of course I understand that not all airline employees are like this. Some are lovely compassionate people who genuinely want to help. Have them wear badges so the others can see whom to emulate.

Look real busy and active so you give the impression you care that the flight gets off on time. Recently I was on a delayed flight and of course told the reason was weather at O’Hare (I was flying to Hawaii). Then I overheard the counter agents say the pilot was late. He hadn’t shown up yet. Fifteen minutes later this guy strolls in with a Starbucks coffee he must’ve waited in line ten minutes for. Two hundred people arrive late, half of them miss their connecting flights because the woman ahead of the pilot had to ask which muffins were diet.

IF YOU’RE GOING TO CHARGE EXTRA FOR A PIECE OF LUGGAGE THERE SHOULD BE A BIG PENALTY IF IT DOESN’T ARRIVE -- And I don’t mean within the month. I mean on THAT flight. It’s bad enough you lose our bags but now we have to pay you for the privilege?

IF THE FLIGHT IS DELAYED GIVE US THE FUCKING SNACK PACKS FOR FREE. Half the passengers won’t take them anyway because they’re disgusting at any price, even free but it’s a nice gesture.

HAVE ENOUGH BLANKETS AND PILLOWS. You had ‘em before.
GIVE US THE AMENITIES WE WANT. For instance -- snacks
with our drinks. A little bag of peanuts. Those stale pretzel sticks. Is that too much to ask? You say you’re trying to save money? Shit can the goddamn Sky Mall magazine.

And finally….please PLEASE….

STOP APOLOGIZING – It’s so disingenuous and patronizing. You’re not sorry. Not in the least. If you were you’d adopt the above guidelines. And everyone knows you won’t.

That's all. You're now free to go about screwing the public.

66 comments:

Ian said...

Amen, brother Ken.

Tom said...

I can handle the shitty lack of communication. I'm willing to tolerate no longer being served food. I don't even mind not getting a blanket or a pillow. And I'll carry on everything to avoid paying for baggage.

But, please, for the love of god, give me some fucking space on the goddamn plane.

I'm only 6'1" and weight about 180. But I absolutely can not have even the slightest moment of comfort on any commercial airplane.

Last week I flew round trip Seattle/Dallas. Both flights completely full. Return flight I was forced to endure a 'window' seat. I had to tilt my head to the right because of the contour of the window. My knees were pressed against the metal bracket which holds the Sky Mall and American Airlines 'magazine.' And then the lady in front of me 'reclined' her seat and her head was close enough to my face that her dandruff flakes were falling on my chin.

Four hours I endured this. And of course going to the bathroom required Houdini-like skills to extricate myself form the window seat and get past the two fat men sitting in middle and aisle.

The upper class in first class were, of course, able to cross their legs and stretch after consuming Gazpacho and broiled tri-tip spears.

We are not becoming a third-world nation...we already are.

Troy said...

I couldn't help thinking throughout this entire rant that the very same words, the very same ideas - fundamentally, that adults should be treated like children - could be used to describe what has become of our method of GOVERNMENT...

...except, of course, for the apologizing part.

Troy

Red Hamster said...

Amen! I could not have expressed this better myself.

Claire said...

My solution? Get the train. Okay, not to Hawaii, but anywhere that doesn't involve crossing water (unless the English Channel or various bits of the Baltic sea which have tunnels). I hate flying and instead very happily zip around on trains. If they would invent a tunnel or bridge to cross the Atlantic I would be extremely happy. And impressed.

Yes it's more time consuming, but once you factor in the journey out to the airport and from when you arrive (most train stations are in the centre of the city) and all the security and waiting around at the airport (even on an international trip you pretty much just waltz on the train and sit down) it's not as much longer as you'd think.

There's loads more room, the view of the countryside you're passing through AND you can wear a cool hat and pretend you're in an Agatha Christie novel, if you so choose.

Anonymous said...

Ken,

Since deregulation, the market has determined what type of service vs. ticket price people want. The passengers have spoken. People repeatedly choose the cheaper ticket with less frills, less leg room, and less snacks, etc.

You expect to fly from L.A. to New York, on an 80 million dollar airplane operated by two highly trained pilots and three highly trained flight attendants for much less than it would cost you to drive your own car, and you want to whine about it?

Plane tickets cost as much today as they did in the eighties. Think about that for a while.

Andrew

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should watch this Ken and realize how thankful you should be flight exists at all--
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

I hate to fly, for all the reasons you've mentioned and more. I literally prefer root canals ... at least they give you anesthesia.

A couple years ago, my mother moved back in-state, and I vowed I'd never fly again. So far, I haven't, and thankfully I live in southern California where I have multiple vacation choices within a couple hours by car, train, or ship.

Screw you, airlines. I'm done with you forever.

John said...

Southwest is simply Southwest -- Greyhound with winglets and seats designed for no one over 200 pounds (hello Kevin Smith!). You buy your ticket, try to get into the 'A' boarding section instead of 'B' or the dread 'C' (where you're 100 percent sure of sitting next to someone who makes Kevin Smith look tiny or the loudest baby on the planet), but that's the exchange you make for the price you're paying.

Anonymous said...

Butt 18" seat 17"

Anonymous said...

why not rent your own private jet since you are an Emmy winning writer/director/producer/major league baseball announcer.... just sayin

Nancy said...

We got to the Htd airport super early for an 8am flight to SF one time, checked in with a counter person, walked 10 feet, looked at the monitor and found out our flight was CANCELLED.

Luckily we reacted quickly and got in line at another counter to reschedule the 1st flight in the hopes we could catch the 2nd flight only to be told WE HAD TO CALL THE 800# LISTED BACK AT THE CHECK IN!

Called the number and because we had been there so early, were able to get on another flight and reschedule the 2nd flight. We then went back to the 2nd counter and the person there practically yelled at us - BECAUSE WE HAD CHECKED IN OUR BAGGAGE.

I'd finally had enough of that and told her in no certain terms that if they had decided to inform us of the cancellation instead of whispering about it while they were checking us in (OH YES), we wouldn't be forced to have someone (God Forbid!) go downstairs and bring our bags back up. Luckily they found them quickly.

I'm with you - rant away!

Josh Heggen said...

Ken,

As the son of a pilot and stepson of a flight attendant, let me try to clear up at least a couple things for you.

The time before the plane takes off, the take off, and the landing, are the busiest times of the flight for the flight crew. There are checklists upon checklists to run through, checks and double checks of dozens of systems, information to be passed back and forth between the plane, the tower, the company...it's busy.

During those periods, while you may appreciate an announcement, sometimes they're just too damned busy. During the middle of the flight, when you're mostly just pointing the plane in a direction and letting the engines roll, yeah, they're talkative with you, because they can be. Pilots are paid the big bucks mostly for the fifteen minutes at the beginning and end of the flight, and for running course deviations with weather. Shit gets a little hairy sometimes and believe me, they know you want to know, but at the time it tends to be a little more important making sure the plane is ready to do the things they're going to ask it to do.

The first anonymous commenter has a very good point. The public wants cheap. They've made it perfectly clear. So that's what the airline gives them. Cheap comes at a cost of amenities. You're not paying for X, Y, and Z in the cost of your ticket anymore. That money has to come from somewhere.

Many of the airlines got kicked in the teeth when gas prices skyrocketed. The reason Southwest did so well is that they bought very smart (in hindsight) fuel hedges well in advance, which means that the commodities cats that sold them that price lost their asses. Those hedges won't last forever.

Know that the flight crew honestly mean it when they apologize. They take their jobs very seriously and realize that they work in a service business. They hear the complaints and they take them personally. On the other hand, almost no one takes the effort to commend them when they do their job above and beyond expectations.

I can't speak to the gate people only to say I, too, am amazed at their attitudes much of the time.

Neither can I say anything informed about baggage, other than that I, too, have had bags lost for a few days. It's especially upsetting when the bag was my Dad's old crew bag, with the words (Airline) Flight Crew embroidered right on the top. You'd think that one would get a little TLC, no?

Also, the flight crews think the TSA stuff is a joke too. There are still glaring security holes all over the place that anyone determined wouldn't really be stopped. They agree that it's ridiculous. But they don't have any sway in that area. TSA is a federal organization.

Hell, you should hear some of the stories my Dad tells. It's a much deeper rabbit hole of wackiness than you ever have to experience.

Anyway, just wanted to clear up what I could. Love the blog, and as a writer, and general human being, you provide a wealth of knowledge to your readers. Hope I could send a little back.

Josh Heggen said...

Ken,

(Apparently I'm feeling too verbose for the comment system, so this'll be a two parter.)

As the son of a pilot and stepson of a flight attendant, let me try to clear up at least a couple things for you.

The time before the plane takes off, the take off, and the landing, are the busiest times of the flight for the flight crew. There are checklists upon checklists to run through, checks and double checks of dozens of systems, information to be passed back and forth between the plane, the tower, the company...it's busy.

During those periods, while you may appreciate an announcement, sometimes they're just too damned busy. During the middle of the flight, when you're mostly just pointing the plane in a direction and letting the engines roll, yeah, they're talkative with you, because they can be. Pilots are paid the big bucks mostly for the fifteen minutes at the beginning and end of the flight, and for running course deviations with weather. Shit gets a little hairy sometimes and believe me, they know you want to know, but at the time it tends to be a little more important making sure the plane is ready to do the things they're going to ask it to do.

The first anonymous commenter has a very good point. The public wants cheap. They've made it perfectly clear. So that's what the airline gives them. Cheap comes at a cost of amenities. You're not paying for X, Y, and Z in the cost of your ticket anymore. That money has to come from somewhere.

Josh Heggen said...

(Continued)

Many of the airlines got kicked in the teeth when gas prices skyrocketed. The reason Southwest did so well is that they bought very smart (in hindsight) fuel hedges well in advance, which means that the commodities cats that sold them that price lost their asses. Those hedges won't last forever.

Know that the flight crew honestly mean it when they apologize. They take their jobs very seriously and realize that they work in a service business. They hear the complaints and they take them personally. On the other hand, almost no one takes the effort to commend them when they do their job above and beyond expectations.

I can't speak to the gate people only to say I, too, am amazed at their attitudes much of the time.

Neither can I say anything informed about baggage, other than that I, too, have had bags lost for a few days. It's especially upsetting when the bag was my Dad's old crew bag, with the words (Airline) Flight Crew embroidered right on the top. You'd think that one would get a little TLC, no?

Also, the flight crews think the TSA stuff is a joke too. There are still glaring security holes all over the place that anyone determined wouldn't really be stopped. They agree that it's ridiculous. But they don't have any sway in that area. TSA is a federal organization.

Hell, you should hear some of the stories my Dad tells. It's a much deeper rabbit hole of wackiness than you ever have to experience.

Anyway, just wanted to clear up what I could. Love the blog, and as a writer, and general human being, you provide a wealth of knowledge to your readers. Hope I could send a little back.

Josh Heggen said...

Well I'll be...Google told me the comment was too long the first time, so I go back and cut it up, and then I find out it was fine the first time.

::facepalm::

Please feel free to delete the second, third, and this comment while I work on a rant about Google...

briddie said...

When I realized I could drive from Amarillo to Fort Worth for less than half the cost of flying, get there earlier, and pack everything I needed to take, I decided never to fly there again.

@Andrew, I'm not sure I believe that prices are the same as in the 80s, but regardless, what does that have to do with airline employee behavior?

...wait, there are sights in Lubbock???

Anonymous said...

I agree with the others who say the public is getting what it asked for: cheap. Well, not exactly, the public wants cheap but with goodies, but they have learned that is not economically possible. You get what you pay for. If there were an airline that had coach seats large enough to accommodate all the Kevin Smiths of the world, give everyone a lovely meal, unlimited carry-ons, plenty of leg room, and expanded weight limits on luggage, but had to charge more for the ticket, the public would run to the cheaper airline with no amenities. I can't defend bad manners and lousy customer service, although I suspect those too are produced by "going for the cheap."

Anonymous said...

Um..Hello..

And I normally like what you write, but..

When you pay $39 for your flight what exactly do you expect?

It is because YOU, the consumer, is UNWILLING to pay any more for these "services", hence the reason you don't get pillows and blankets or peanuts. Think about it. Airfares haven't changed in 20 years, but the cost of those pillows and blankets, as well as cleaning them, restocking them, etc. has tripled.

So, until you are willing to pay more for a seat on an airplane, you won't get any peanuts or pillows and blankets. it just the way it is..

Leafy Greens said...

YES--Airlines, we hate you twice.

I always watch 'UNITED BREAKS GUITARS' before I fly to remind myself that I'm entering enemy territory.

And maybe fares have stayed the same but CEO pay keeps going up way past cruising altitude. I know, I know: those people are struggling to make it on 5 or 6 million a year in salary.

And I think those highly trained pilots were screwed out of their pensions not too long ago. But that's another story.

Luzid said...

Southwest one of the good ones? Do you know why they're so cheap?

Because they cut corners -- so much so they got massive fines a few years ago FOR MISSING 30 MONTHS OF SAFETY CHECKS!

Anonymous said...

I am a little bit surprised by all of this anger, Ken. What could be better than sitting in the airport for three hours eating Cinabons and catching up on all the news that fits in 16 pages with recycled copies of USA Today.

youhas said...

@Claire: what with the sheer amount of landmass involved in the United States, trains often aren't in remotely the same ballpark as airplanes are, consumption-of-time-wise.

For example: San Francisco to Chicago takes you two-thirds of the way across the United States. Even including dead time at both airports, it's maybe six or seven hours of transit to go those 2000 miles. That's approximately the same distance as from London to Istanbul, Turkey. Even with awesome European rail service, ain't no way you'd hope to cover that sort of span in anywhere close to that kind of time. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, Ken, you sure brought the airline employees out the woodwork on this one! Some of the things they say are true; however, neither the cost of an airplane nor your salary have anything at all to do with common courtesy. "If you want it, pay for it," is a sad commentary on our society.

I do, however, agree that if we didn't take cheap over acceptable, then the situation would become more acceptable. That does NOT mean that I disagree with your point that the airlines jack us around at every, single opportunity.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I was flying in and out of San Francisco last weekend, too, Ken. I'm sorry I missed you. Were you the tall guy yelling, "There were no stews over 35 in my day!"?
I took Virgin America and had a good trip. My only complaint was when the TSA jerk confiscated my shaving cream. You can carry knitting needles aboard a plane, but not Barbasol. Makes sense to me.
One of the stews aboard my return flight was also on the flight out. When I told her she gave me a full can of Diet Coke instead of the mere glassful, a bottle of water, and a can of Pringles. She even touched me on the shoulder--TWICE! She was a looker, too.
As for the train, I'd love to chug to my next destination. I looked up trains to Las Vegas and discovered they quit going there last century. Lot of good it does me.

David said...

Sorry...didn't mean that be "anonymous," but I'm almost as clueless about posting as the airlines are about reporting delays.

And, I like both Cinnabon and USA Today.

lsefton said...

A couple of years back, I drove rom the SF Bay area to your wonderful sitcom workshop because I rolled the numbers and realized I would spend as much time at the airports and in flight as I would on I-5. Seriously, if the drive is less than 8 hours, you'll be a lot happier on the other end by driving.

You need to have one of these on your phone:
flightaware.com
flightarrivals.com
flytecomm.com

Any of these will give you better information on the status of your flight than the people at the desk can hope to. I've used these to pass along flight info to the check-in desk because whatever their airlines use, it wasn't telling them about flight delays.

Getting and using one of these can give you a 5-10 min headstart on getting your flight changed.

Kate Hanni said...

May I send out a copy of your blog posting to our members? I think you speak what's in the hearts and minds of most air travelers these days.

Dave said...

Dugg: http://digg.com/news/business/open_letter_to_airlines_we_hate_you

Kate Hanni said...

PS: I always love it when the industry sends their employees to a blog to say things like: "What do you expect for $39.00 dollars, or better yet that passengers won't pay more for a ticket.

They set the prices, routes and standards of care. We, the passengers, have NOTHING to say in the matter.

To which the industry will reply:
Don't fly us if you don't like it. To which passengers reply: We really don't have a choice in the matter now do we?

Although airlines are privately held, it's public transportation and certain basic standards should be mandated!

Huggy said...

Yeah, Ken... typical rant of a pampered Hollywood elite. Do you have ANY experience/credentials in the aviation industry that you can mention to validate your "expert" opinion? Oh,... didn't think so. Do you even have a pilot's license? If so, you would at least have a limited knowledge of the airspace system. But, alas, you don't.
I can't address all of your points in this limited space (nor would you care, or even understand),... suffice to say they are about as well thought out as something my 10 year old would come up with.

And for the others on here complaining about space: upgrade to 1st class! Drive! Take a train! If you can fly from Seattle to La Guardia for cheaper than the cab ride from LG to downtown, are you really going to whine about the airfare? You wouldn't fork over $300 more to upgrade? Fine! Quit your whining.

Cry me a river of tears, Ken. In the meantime, catch a ride with Matt Damon or one of your Hollywood pals.
p.s. if you do, it's bad form to complain about not having single-malt Scotch in their aircraft's bar.

Anonymous said...

The eroding quality of customer service is not unique to airlines. Ever try dealing with Time-Warner cable?

Clearly the American middle class no longer has enough wealth to make it worth the while of corporations to cater to their needs. They are more interested in pleasing their Board of Directors and, to an extent, their shareholders.

Solution? Rescind the law that gives corporations the same legal rights as individuals.

YEKIMI said...

Last time I was on a plane was in 1982 and going to Florida. I was in my mid 20s [but looked way younger] and watched as the flight attendant wheeled the cart of drinks down the aisle asking everyone what type of cocktail they would like....till she got to me and asked "Coke or Pepsi?" I said "BACARDI & Coke" and she laughed and said she would get in trouble for serving underage passengers and said "Here's your Coke!" and moved on. I was pretty pissed off and when she came up the aisle again I showed her my driver's license. She just turned red and said "I thought you were 15!". I still didn't get my Bacardi & Coke. That was the last time I have been on a plane. I always sit down and figure out the cost of driving vs the cost of flying and so far driving wins every time no matter how far I have to go.

Kiki said...

Ahhhh, comments from another "self-important" blogger of the crybaby, entitlement generation. Give me a break! Pay more for your ticket or STFU! And whoever said that "airlines are private companies, yet public transportation"- Seriously? How do you remember to breathe? City busses are public transportation, flying is a choice- not a right!

Josh Heggen said...

Kate-
I love the implication that airline employees (or their relations, in my case) would have to be "sent" anywhere to comment, rather than Mr. Levine having such a wide fanbase that it might just happen to include members of the airline community. But I guess a conspiracy is much more salient than an honest discussion happening to occur organically.

emily said...

Wow, the "pro-airline" folks are vicious. Wordy and vicious. Courtesy is obviously not part of their world.

Leafy Greens said...

Rescind the law that gives corporations the same legal rights as individuals. 10/24/2010 1:05 PM

Now you're talking! And HUGGY: I'm not a pampered Hollywood elite. Airlines treat me like crap too.

And I do have a pilot's license but even this knowledge of the 'airspace system' didn't prevent United from totally screwing with me.

I can't imagine why you would be defending the airlines so vociferously. They suck, dude.

The Milner Coupe said...

I don't buy the argument that we get what we pay for. None of us determines the price of a ticket. The airlines do. And trying to buy a ticket is like trying to buy a car. Here's an idea. Set a price and stick to it. Give us good service and a fair price. $39.00? Shut the fuck up. What's that LA to the valley?

From a different angle. If the airlines didn't have to pay ridiculous airport fees for the totally USELESS TSA perhaps prices could stabilize. What can we do? Stop acting like sheep and opt out of the scanners and taking off of shoes. Make them take the personel to give each passenger attention. It'll quit soon enough.

And let's call a spade a spade. Stewardesses are stewardesses. Safety? Trust me, when the going gets hairy, they get going. Be courteous but firm when asking for amenities or information. You don't have to take their shit.

Happy flying!
Aloha

PS Huggy, you are a dickless wonder.

Good Dog said...

I flew American Airlines once about a decade or so back. They got everyone on the plane ready for departure and then we had to wait ages at the gate at LHR because there was a problem with one of the toilets or some such bullshit. Meanwhile the cabin crew, most of whom were witless morons went about redefining themselves as useless arseholes.

Never flown with them since and would rather pass a high voltage current through my genitals than step on board one of their useless planes ever again. Meanwhile, here in the UK, we have to endure high production commercials that have spunked massive amounts of money onto the screen that feature Kevin Spacey telling us how brilliant they are. Whenever one comes on during the break it makes me want to eat my own eyes. Into the lake of boiling hyena vomit with the lot of them! Virgin Atlantic, on the other hand, have always been brilliant.

RCP said...

I agree with most of this - especially where delayed flights and lost baggage are concerned.

So I was shocked when I flew back East in September and not only was my flight (on a spanking-new jet)reasonably comfortable (I'm 6'2 and don't usually fly first-class), but they served snacks and beverages without charge - I actually turned down the third offering. I suppose it's OK to credit the airline - Continental - but if anyone decides to book them don't blame me if your flight isn't the same - mine might have been a fluke!

By now, when decent service is provided, one almost slobbers in gratitude. As always, however, the "lavoratories" are ridiculous for anyone over 5'2 and 100 pounds.

Grubber said...

Geez, some people don't get the idea of what a rant is about. Great rant Ken!

I don't think Oz is as bad as the US yet, but our airlines are trying.

If you want to see aircrew in their truest form, try working on the front desk of the hotel where they stay. There are exceptions, but generally they turn into the customers from hell.

Sunshine Vitamin said...

I too flew between LA and SF last weekend. What a busy route!

I was seated in an exit row, and gate checked two bags, all with no additional cost. I felt pretty swell about the whole thing until I realized that, back in the '80s, that happened all the time.

Still beats driving the Grapevine on Sunday night...

Brian said...

Come'on Ken. This is low hanging fruit. Trolling for a response from Sully Sullenberger?

But yes, with a little care, airlines wouldn't be too bad.

Mary Stella said...

Wow, Ken, I'm amazed at the number of vicious responses your blog sparked.

I fly a few times a year. It's one thing if I choose to pay more for first class or, in the case of Spirit, the big front seats. It's another for an airline to charge more for an aisle seat than a middle seat in Coach/Economy. C'mon. Give me a break.

If the whole charging per bag thing started because of the skyrocketed fuel prices, then it stands to reason the fees should have gone away when the prices dropped, right? That they still exist seems to indicate that the airlines simply jumped on gas prices as an excuse.

Spirit cracks me up. Now they charge for carryon bags, too, claiming that carryon luggage slows down the process so they want you to check your bags. I think they simply wanted to cover all of the fee bases.

Huggy said...

Milner Coupe,
Nice comeback. Classy. Were you an English Composition major?

Is there room to improve? You bet.

Mr Levine, glad to see you are a pilot. However, your lack of understanding of the root cause of some of your gripes is telling.

John Pearley Huffman said...

You are of course right in all you say Ken. But, as someone who travels constantly for work, let me tell you how I handle it,

First, show up to the airport with plenty of books to read and a laptop or iPad. Assume the worst and plan to use your time productively or entertainingly. I had the entire run of The Mary Tyler Moore Show plus a couple of movies loaded up on my iPad the last trip I took.

Second, learn to use every convenience in the airport. The massages at Denver International are particularly good. So don't hesitate to zone out.

Third, be more cheerful than everyone else. Since you have no control over what happens to you, the only thing you can control is how others perceive you. Better to be thought a grinning idiot than someone who's on the warpath and wants to tangle with the TSA.

Fourth, take a last on, last off attitude towards boarding. Being the last one on the plane means minimal time in the tunnel of doom leading to the aircraft door. Not rising immediately the moment the seatbelt sign goes off means stretching out across recently unoccupied seats and not being stuck in line when the plane empties.

Fifth, make friends with the flight attendants as much as possible. They're likely more miserable than you. Having one on your side means getting one of the few pillows.

Sixth, always ask for a "belt extender." While these are great for fat guys like me, they're also great for fighting frustration. In that, when inevitably everything I've written before fails to save your sanity, you can use the belt extender to strangle yourself to a merciful death.

Mac said...

Regarding the comment: "Ahhhh, comments from another "self-important" blogger of the crybaby, entitlement generation. Give me a break! Pay more for your ticket or STFU"

Really? That works? One of the complaints was that the staff actively lie to you - the example given is that they claimed the delay is due to the weather when they KNEW that it is because the pilot is running late.

Are you honestly saying that if you pay more for the ticket they'll start telling you the truth about the reason for the delay? Honestly ?

Mike McCann said...

Perhaps a big factor in why the current airline system feels so flawed is a utility is priced like a supermarket item.

Your electric or heating bill reflects the cost of the commodity and delivering it to you. It doesn't fluctuate the way the specials at the end of the aisle do each week at Acme.

You stock up when Special K is 1.99 a box, not 4.29. You toss extra jar of pasta sauce in your carriage, when it's "2 for 1." And you won't grab any next weekend, when the "deal" is over.

But our airlines price your flight like pasta sauce. You wait for the fare sale. And they try to make your savings back on those ugly tack-ons for blankets, food, or roominess.

That's madness. Price the flights fairly. Don't dazzle me. And please don't deceive me.

And if A&P wants to make up for selling me Prego under their wholesale cost by forcing me to "rent" a carriage, pay to park near the store or properly pre-wash my vegetables, I'll take my business elsewhere.

The airlines seem to revel in taking advantage of our needing them.

No more!

Anonymous said...

Ken,
When you fly once or twice a year, I'd put you in the "Clampit family" category just to hear you bitch about how bad the food is. I fly every week and it amazes me how rude folks are, make a giant mess that countless others have to endure on later flights and have never heard of leaving the kitchen sink at home. Next time, try checking your suitcase, buy some chow in the terminal and leave your Jeff Gordon tank top, cut off shorts and ball cap at home. Try dressing up like folks use to. Show some respect and you'll get it back in spades...
S/F
Taco

Pete Grossman said...

Don't know about anybody else, but I'm awfully glad we don't have to take our underwear off at security checks ever since that head case set his nuts.

Pete Grossman said...

Uh forgot to include "singed"


Don't know about anybody else, but I'm awfully glad we don't have to take our underwear off at security checks ever since that head case set singed his nuts.

Michael Zand said...

Boy the vitriol from some people here is amazing. All us infrequent fliers are asking for is that we be treated with some courtesy and dignity and not fare paying cattle. But let's face it. The glamor days of flying are thirty years ago. The economics are such that it's become a conveyor belt form of transport. A good and hassle free experience is a fifty fifty proposition.

And Huggy, not everybody in Hollywood rides private jets with Matt Damon, especially writers. For you to resort to that tired cliche proves that you are an ignorant asshat.

Dana Gabbard said...

My hobby is transportation public policy, with an emphasis on transit. But that entails also learning a bit about other aspects of that sector including aviation. The decline of the airlines quality wise etc. has been an amazing thing to witness these past 10-15 years.

I agree this is mostly because of the public being totally fixated on fares. It ends up being a game of the airlines enacting rules and fees to make money outside of the fares and the public trying to cheap out while circumventing the fees, etc. (carry-on overload, anyone?) The last time I flew first class (on Alaska, no less) other than the size of the seat there was little advantage to paying twice the price of coach.

Of course a whole travel supply industry has built up partly to let you buy the stuff that used to come free -pillows, blankets and other stuff to make air travel more enjoyable. Magellan's is an example of this growing industry.

There is also a whole world of web experts to help you deal with the airline industry. One I became aware of thanks to Mark Evanier's blog is Joe Brancatelli.

There is an effort underway to have a bullet train link key population centers of California (L.A., San Francisco, central valley, Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego, the inland Empire, Anaheim). I have become convinced the growing disenchantment with air travel as much as anyting gives the thing a good chance of happening.

Mike in SLO said...

Geeze, Ken, I had no idea you had so many Republicans reading your blog.


WV: glawsit = a place where gay Russians emerge from

Anna said...

Hear, hear! Couldn't have said it better. Can we sign a petition?!

James said...

I'm sorry, but I'm with Louis C.K. on this one. He had a great rant about people who rant about the incredible things we take for granted in this day and age. The bottom line is you can make a cross country trip in a matter of a few hours for a few hundred dollars. At no time in the history of human kind has this been possible, except for the last few decades. And yet we want to complain? Sure, it ain't perfect, but it's not a freakin' horse and wagon. You're hurtling through the air in a metal tube at 5 miles about sea level for gods sake! Inconvenience is a (very) small price to pay.

Anonymous said...

SkyMall is probably their biggest profit center.

Claiming things are weather problems puts them off the hook legally for refunds.

THe bigger problem I have is the government will be bailing out their pension funds soon enough. Is there ever a manager who just says no to the unions?

Mike Schryver said...

I blame the ability for people to compare prices instantly, side-by-side.
If any airline begins including more service and raises their prices, people will just click to the one with the lower fare.

A Non-Emus said...

James, it's unfair to compare Louis CK's bit to what Ken was talking about. He was talking about the people on the plane that complained that there was no Wi-Fi, something you can do without for a few hours (believe it or not). Ken's talking about food, warmth and common courtesy. Things that are standard on any flight at least they used to be. I can't believe some people are actually scolding Ken for not smiling when being treated like crap.

barnez28 said...

So I just started reading your blog, Ken, which I got your website from a friend, I've only read a couple and their good and funny. I am not interested in the topic of airlines, but seeing all these people comment and harass you because your voicing your opinion and telling your experiences with the airlines, what the fuck. I just have to chime in. They need to calm down, I only read a couple of the comments and I like your blog on the response to all these wierd ass people. If they are such bad asses and want to talk bad about you why don't they have the BALLS to at least show who they are? Ya know. Personally I could careless about airlines, but that is because I don't go on planes that often. I was on a plane last week though and it wasn't too pleasant, with some small ceilings and a small aisle, I'm just glad it was an hour flight. I get that they use smaller planes for shorter flights, I'm not stupid. It still would be nice to have a little bit bigger aisles and ceilings. I mean what would it hurt. Keep doing what you doing.

Anonymous said...

as the son of a pilot and the stepson of a flight attendant thats so funny. a pilot once told me this joke, a pilots first wife wont be a flight attendant but his second wife will,I cant believe he started his comment with those words. In customer service jobs you have to put up with more crap from people than ever before and cabin crew complain more than anyone else about that.The glamour is gone grow up and deal with it,check your self entitlement at the aircraft door.

D. McEwan said...

I'm with you on most everything here, except the pilots not chatting at you over the intercom during take-off delays.

The pilot is there to get me alive to my destination, and not to end up on some island with smoke monsters, or just plain old dead. I want him concentrating on flying the plane. I don't need him on the intercom at all, ever.

Let the stewards entertain me on the intercom, if someone must. They're all frustrated actors or song writers anyway. I've never in my life gotten on a commercial airline without a good long book to read anyway. I'll keep myself entertained. I really do have a photo of myself on an airline reading Les Miserables, which is over a 1000 pages long. I'm set. Let the pilot just fly the plane.

Of course, if I finish Les Miserables before we even get into the air, we have been too long on that bloody tarmac.

A Non-Emus said...

"check your self entitlement at the aircraft door"

This should apply to the crew especially.

Doktor Frank Doe said...

I'm putting notice in my will and living will that my corpse is not to be put on an American Airlines flight (should I need to be transported to wherever I'm finally cremated. American marooned me in Chicago by lying to me in Cincinnati trying to get to San Diego. Flat out lied and the twat even went so far as to adjust the TIME of the flight in the Airline's system. Turns out, we took off out of Cincinnati thirty minutes later than the original late notification. Then once in Chicago, there was NO ONE around to help with rebookings, only a phone bank with an extremely disinterested twat on the other end of that conversation.

I WILL SAY that Delta did a hell of a lot better job at taking care of me in a similar circumstance a month earlier in Atlanta. Free food, free lodging, transport, the whole thing, American couldn't care less and frankly I look forward to their bankruptcy and the unemployment status of every single asshole that works there. We're coming down to two choices for everything in America, the low cost carriers will be Southwest and Jetblue and the legacy carriers will be Delta and United. And by then, neither of these four will be worth a rat's fat, flea-infested ass either.

Phil Hamilton said...

I have solved all my airline problems by only flying Alaska and Virgin. Virgin Airlines is, by far, my favorite airline ever. They actually communicate delays with great regularity, their staff is personable and helpful (whether in person or on the phone), and they always bend over backwards to help the passenger. I LOVE Virgin.

Delta and American, on the other hand, can fuck themselves.

Anonymous said...

It is now law that if you were charged extra for luggage, and it gets lost or delayed through no action of your own (talking about late checking)
you have to be refunded you extra baggage charges.