Come fly with me

I was on my first ever flight when I was seven years old, at a time when flying was still not normal for very many people. The flight took me and my family from Germany to Dublin, as we were moving to Ireland. The plane landed in a regional UK airport en route, where we were led into the small terminal building and invited to sit in armchairs, where stewards in white coats came to offer us tea and coffee. Eventually we were escorted back on to the plane. Those were the days.

I am writing this post from Los Angeles airport, where I have just struggled my way through airport security. I now feel as exhausted as if I had walked all the way back home. Flying has become a challenge, not a pleasure. The pleasure is in arriving, the journey is the price you have to pay. We understand the reasons for the security of course, but on the way the airlines have turned flying into an obstacle course, a battle of wits between the passenger and the airline regarding fares, check-in, luggage, on board restrictions, and anything else they can make difficult.

Has the age of mass air travel, combined with security considerations, turned flying into something really rather unpleasant, or have the airlines stopped trying to please the customer? I confess I now choose airlines – where there is a choice – on the basis of service and support, and not necessarily price. I no longer value price and efficiency over courtesy and consideration. I think others should act similarly: the time for travel by cattle trucks in the air should come to an end.

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12 Comments on “Come fly with me”

  1. Vincent Says:

    It has nothing to do with mass air travel nor security.
    Herb Kellehers Southwestern Airline down in Texas never had that sort of bad mannered treatment of their passengers. Such a pity the model did not transfer totally. Low cost travel does not need to mean Cheap. And security does not need to mean abuse.
    Of course, if the contradiction within the Airport was removed. Where the efficient transfer to the ‘plane was not hindered by a very expensive series of shops. That might make some difference.
    Mind you, I’ve limited sympathy ya show off. While I wallow in a mire of post Christmas blues, there’s you off getting a dose of sun induced serotonin. Why the feck not go the whole hog and post from Molokaʻi.

  2. kevin denny Says:

    Flying is a drag although I think it is airports that are the worst aspect of it but, I have discovered, lots of places are far away. So if you don’t want cattle trucks you are going to pay handsomely for it. Most people can’t pay, won’t pay for higher spec’ aviation. Why would one want flying to be the preserve of the well-off?

  3. Jilly Says:

    I do think that in the last 10 years, there’s been a strange (and unpleasant for passengers) interaction between the airlines and the official security agencies: this is particularly evident in the US, but also in Britain and many other countries too to a slightly lesser extent.

    Airlines appear to have internalised the idea that passengers are an inherent problem, and are guilty until proven innocent. So you have passengers being barked at, subject to random and often contradictory changes in procedures and rules, and generally treated as a threat from the moment they arrive at their departure airport until the moment they leave their arrival airport. And much of this is now performed by airline officials, as much as by Homeland Security etc staff.

    Obviously airlines have to work with official security agencies, but they do seem to have flung themselves rather eagerly into performing that role: you now see airline staff threatening to have customers arrested simply for raising a customer-service problem, or (my personal favourite) American Airlines informing passengers on a plane which is about to cross the Atlantic that, on the whole, they’d rather they didn’t get out of their seats – even to use the toilet – for the entire 8 hour flight.

    It does seem dramatically worse in US airports/on US airlines. I wonder if the poor employment conditions of the airline workers there encourages a kind of compensatory vengeance against passengers?

  4. Jenny Says:

    In fairness, that’s not realistic for many people. I’d love to pick my airline based on how pleasant the flight experience is, but as a student it’s fly relatively budget or don’t fly at all, unless you pick up a special deal.

    • Actually, I find that sometimes now you can get a higher quality service airline selling tickets for the same or even less as the ‘f**k-the-passenger’ airlines. It’s worth shopping around.

      • Jilly Says:

        So which airlines do you rate as being decent quality? I’d nominate KLM and (with some reservations) Air France. After that I’m drawing a blank…

        • Aer Lingus, Lufthansa, Virgin, BMI, Flybe, Jetblue, Continental. I agree on KLM.

          • wendymr Says:

            And, if you’re ever flying within Canada, I’d add Westjet: a low-cost airline where a sense of humour is actually encouraged among employees. I’ve never seen an entire cabin full of passengers actually listen to the safety announcements before flying Westjet.

  5. In my very limited experience, rudeness is confined to Ryanair. I often wonder how their staff is like this. They can’t possibly recruit the rudest applicants, can they? Perhaps the working terms and conditions are so bad that staff morale is broken? Perhaps the staff adopt the culture of the company?

  6. Niall Says:

    In the Christmas chaos at Dublin Airport I found Aer Lingus staff friendly and helpful when I could find them. Unfortunately the same could not be said for Dublin Airport Authority personnel who are the ‘interface’ to the airlines.

    I have flown with Ryanair many times and never had a problem with them

  7. Stephanie Says:

    Servisair, in Dublin Airport, have to be the absolute worst. If you are flying with any airline that doesn’t keep a minimal staff in the airport, it will be a Servisair rep to check you in – with as little “service” and as many grunts as possible, I typically find.

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