The pain and reality of air travel. Or…people are lazy, inconsiderate idiots.

January 4, 2009

Traveling is a severe pain, or so implied a piece I heard on the radio last week. After flying on a connecting flight to Jacksonville this weekend, I have to agree.

Aside from having to deal with passengers around you – regardless of your travel mode – you’re now subject to the crappy policies that airlines, trains and even buses have put in place.

Under the guise of offering more options to its customers, United Airlines has instituted a slew of seating upgrades and check-in choices. Essentially, if you don’t pay extra money, you’re jammed into a seat behind the wings and surrounded by other cattle.

On my recent flight to Washington Dulles Airport, the aircraft was packed with people from row 13 back and only five people sat in seats forward of that section. You know why? Because it cost about $40 or more to move up into an exit row or to be in the front section of the plane.

Does this make any sense? I’m not an engineer or a pilot, but I can’t imagine that putting 80% or more of your passengers at the back of the plane might make it hard to handle in the air, on landing and even during take-off. Sure, you want the nose of the plane light so it can get up in the air, but you don’t want the freaking thing popping a wheelie all the time because everyone is stuffed in the back.

Further, this attitude of classism (and yes, airlines are one of the few firms that continue this practice) makes everyone on board edgy. Will the guy next to you dash forward during flight to bogart a good seat? Will the flight attendants have the cajonés to stop the interloper?

What about the exit row. I’m pretty provincial, but I’m also fair in my assessment of danger. On my last flight, I was temped to alert the staff that the guy they just approved for exit row status didn’t even speak English. Makes me feel safe.

Maybe during a burning, catastrophic wreck we’ll have time to find someone to translate the crew’s instructions to this man who couldn’t understand the staff when they said to him three times, “please put your tray table up, sir.”

Perhaps the problem is with the staff. Do they even care anymore. All I’ve overheard from flight attendants are complaints about this passenger or that one. And how many flights they’ve had to work without a break. Are pilots in the same boat…err plane?

Is the guy at the front of my aircraft working on more than a few hours sleep?

These worries might be better placed on a talk-radio program or my Worries blog, and as I finalize this column a few days later my fear has been dulled slightly.

I wonder if it will return unbidden as I hop on a couple more planes today and jet toward Las Vegas. Likely surrounded by inconsiderate boobs, illiterate (by American standards) passengers, and questionably committed flight staff.

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