Posted tagged ‘airlines’

Come fly with me

January 8, 2011

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.


Come fly with me

November 2, 2008

The first time I ever booked a flight from Ireland to Great Britain – or to be precise, from Dublin to London Heathrow – was in December 1980. Prior to that I had always taken the ferry, but on this occasion I had little time for the trip and needed to take a plane. I still have the ticket. It tells me that the cost of the return flight was £285. In today’s money, I calculate that in real terms it would be around €1,300. And it may be worth adding that this was an economy class ticket; business class would have cost goodness know how much.

A few years later budget airlines came on the scene, and the established carriers also slashed their prices, and today you can (if you plan carefully) make the same trip for a fraction of that price. And it is not just to London. Today if I want to travel to, say, Cork or Galway, I have a real choice I can make between bus, train and airline – with the cost not hugely different between these modes. And again, if I plan well and book wisely, I can travel to New York pretty much for the price I once had to pay to get to London.

On the other hand, talk about carbon footprints, the recession, oil prices and other considerations tends to generate an air of uncertainty these days about the future of air travel as a cheap and quick option. And when we fly, it’s not the pleasant experience that some would have considered it years ago, with post-9/11 security checks, airport delays, air traffic congestion and other hazards. Some may also argue that we can now meet ‘virtually’ online so easily that some air travel for business purposes is no longer necessary.

And yet, I value the way the world has become smaller and it has become easier for us to meet other people and cultures with relative ease. And so I hope the era of accessible global travel is not over just yet. We may need to find ways of doing it with other sources of energy, and no doubt we need to address the congestion issues both on and off the ground; but it still strikes me as important that we do not lose this important part of modern life and culture, and this important way of maintaining a community spirit that embraces the whole world because all of it is accessible to us.