Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flying In The Age Of Obama

I've been flying for over 15 years now. But the way the flying industry has changed, it seems more like a century ago that flights were easy to board, flight personnel were friendly and people looked forward to flying as an enjoyable experience. Our recent trip to San Francisco only served to reinforce how hard it has become to fly domestic within the US.

There are the baggage fees you have to contend with on top of $500 tickets. Delta charges $25 for the first bag and $32 for the second. Lots of people have stopped checking in bags and instead take one carry-on bag which is stuffed to its maximum capacity and looks ready to split at any time. Most airlines allow one personal item such as a handbag or a laptop bag in addition to carry-on. But people are stretching the concept of a "personal item" as well. One young girl in front of us had a very pregnant backpack which seemed to contain rations for one entire town under a siege! And that was her "personal item" in addition to another suitcase.

Now that everyone has bloated carry-ons and personal items, nasty cabin fights break out between passengers looking for cabin storage space. Our flight attendant announced that "passengers please be accomodative of others' needs and store just one item in the overhead cabins". Okay, so I stored my rather heavy winter jacket, gloves and scarf on my lap only for it to slide off when I fell asleep and get trampled upon by the service carts. Awesome.

Flight attendants too have become a lot short-tempered than before.  The ones on our flight slammed down the overhead cabin doors closed with unnecessary force. S asked for orange juice and water. Our flight attendant snapped, "I only have two hands". And its just not us that got this treatment. A couple of years ago on a Lufthansa flight to India, I rang the attendant bell 10 times before I got one sour lady to come to my seat. I asked for water and she waspishly asked me to go get my own water from the service area at the back. On the same flight, another attendant told a young mother to do something about her incessantly crying baby because it was disturbing other passengers' peace!

Since you have to pay for crappy on-board meals, everyone gets their own food. Some, like us, pack stuff from home. And everyone has to get their own earphones because otherwise, its a $5 rental! I wouldn't be surprised if traders start hawking food and other wares on the flight before take-off.

"Chai, chai.." or "Anju pathu rooba, sir..arumaiyana sapota"

If only the US had an efficient train system like our Indian Railways, it will be infinitely more comfortable. Ah, the joys of train travel in India! Will the US govt. act on it?


Zeppelin said...

touche! i sorely miss the train system here... have been curious to ride AMTRAK once..atleast once. just to cross it off my to-do list. :-)

peculiar title you have there...are you secretly hoping that Obama will bring about a welcome change in this front also?

airline travel was trashy as early as 2002, perhaps even earlier. It can only get worse, I'd think.

This is why I prefer driving, not to mention the wait times at the security checkins and this and that... Driving, only if it is within say, a 500m raidus. :-)

ennavo po.

Viji said...

Flights are over loaded and there are only a few hostesses. Unfair ratio. I always get my own drink from the service area. I believe ringing the attendant bell is only for emergencies (big or small) or real discomfort.
But they cannot be rude. I agree with that.