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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I Hate the Airline Industry

Posted by on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 11:57 AM

photo.JPG
  • Cienna Madrid

So I make airline reservations for my daughter and me, partly based on seat availability, and I recheck my reservation yesterday to find that we no longer have confirmed seat assignments on one of our segments. No explanation or apology from the airline about what happened, and no, the rep tells me, there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. Although if we really want to sit together, for an additional $65 each they will happily reserve us "premium" seats near the front of the plane.

It's not the first time this has happened to me. Or the third.

Yeah, I know, it's a First World problem. But fuck—is there another industry that hates its customers as much as the airline industry? As a percentage of my income, this was not a small purchase, and yet the airline has no obligation to give me the seats I reserved or get me to my destination on time, and if there's bad weather anywhere in the nation, they'll feel free to strand me in an airport for hours or days with no compensation and only a vague promise to get me on another plane whenever. Because, fuck me.

This is supposed to be a short vacation of sorts, and I'm already dreading it, not because I'm afraid to fly but because I can't stand spending money for the privilege of being disrespected. And from the the moment you step into line at TSA to the moment you finally claim your luggage, commercial air travel has become a calculated exercise in disrespect.

 

Comments (42) RSS

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1
Name and shame! Who was it?
Posted by boyd main on February 12, 2013 at 12:03 PM · Report this
3
Why do you still fly. There is nothing to recommend flying except the time it takes via any other mode. Is all this worth that time? I suggest it's not. Plan your life to take longer trips and ignore the TSA, the FAA, and every blood-sucking airline on the planet. Oh, and if there are more than one of you in a car, you beat the carbon footprint of a full airplane.
Posted by Chas Redmond on February 12, 2013 at 12:11 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 4
Goldy, is that a pic of your carry-on or your personal item?

Also, @2, fuck off already.
Posted by Sir Vic on February 12, 2013 at 12:13 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 5
is there another industry that hates its customers as much as the airline industry?
The cable/satellite tv industry?
The cell phone industry?

But no, I hear you... flying sucks and every airline out there is shit.

One other thing...
for an additional $65 each they will happily reserve us "premium" seats near the front of the plane.
Sitting at the front of the plane is a booby-prize. I don't get why people love the front of the plane so much. So you get to leave, what, 3 minutes earlier? Big fucking deal. The front of the plane is filled with Type A, shithead, arrogant, obnoxious pricks anyway. The back of the plane is where the party's at.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on February 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
chinaski 6
It's standard practice, your seats will be there so you don't need to sweat it or pay extra.
Don't know why I'm telling you this since most of your posts are shit, guess I have a soft spot for single dads w/ little girls...
Posted by chinaski on February 12, 2013 at 12:20 PM · Report this
Rotten666 7
@3 Yes, it is 100% worth the time and hassle. It is true, no one would fly if they could reach their destination in the same time via another mode of transportation.

But that's the whole fucking point of flying, it's fast.

Posted by Rotten666 on February 12, 2013 at 12:21 PM · Report this
8
This is not new.
Posted by treehugger on February 12, 2013 at 12:23 PM · Report this
9
I knew that fucking rocket launcher was a plant by The Stranger at the gun buyback.
Posted by Bean on February 12, 2013 at 12:23 PM · Report this
10
Agree completely. I'm about to book a family trip to Hawaii, and I'm really nervous that my wife, 6-year-old daughter, and I (with infant on lap) will be scattered throughout the plane because they assign seats at the airport.

Posted by paulus22 on February 12, 2013 at 12:25 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 11
You should take the high speed train. It may only travel at 320 kph, but it's cheaper and faster with plenty of legroom and a bar that is not too expensive.

Oh, wait. You're in America, a third world nation, not China or the EU.

Never mind.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on February 12, 2013 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Goldy 12
@3 I fly because all of my family lives on the other coast, and if we didn't fly, my daughter wouldn't know them. And since this is America, where we start with only 10 paid vacation days a year, it's not really practical to drive or train back and forth.

It wasn't always like this. And it doesn't have to be.
Posted by Goldy on February 12, 2013 at 12:27 PM · Report this
originalcinner 13
And don't you love it when the airlines cancel a bunch of flights, due to bad weather or whatever, and then say they won't be charging their usual extra fee for you to change to another flight, like they're doing you a giant favor.
Posted by originalcinner on February 12, 2013 at 12:28 PM · Report this
14
The premium seats bring a couple benefits:

1) earlier boarding, and with it, a *much* better chance at the overhead compartments still being available.
2) increased legroom.

Expect conditions to get worse for those who don't fly frequently. The airlines have realized that they're better off pampering people who hit the gold level memberships and will spend a lot in aggregate.
Posted by Tyler Pierce on February 12, 2013 at 12:37 PM · Report this
treacle 16
@5 Also, you're much more likely to survive a crash at the back of the plane. The people in the front generally die. Assuming there is a crash. Which isn't often. Planes are remarkably safe. But hey! why not hedge your bets on that one!

Flying as a positive transit experience ended about 1989. It's been downhill from there. The TSA's pornoscanners and gropey agents are only the most recent nail in the coffin. Planes suck.

Also, Capitalist profitability is still in a long-term downward trend (from 1952 to now). Things will increasingly suck as the corporate masters attempt to eek out profits from an over-saturated and expensive-to-run industry. We'll end up with the US version of Aeroflot in another decade or two. Harsh conditions, expensive, and no service to speak of.

Sky-cattle.
Moo.
Posted by treacle on February 12, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
SPG 17
@10, Flight crew and passengers will almost always accommodate you if your family is separated by the machine. Don't worry about it.

Posted by SPG on February 12, 2013 at 12:47 PM · Report this
18
Yeah, that's why I stopped flying for pleasure. Because, it was no longer pleasurable in any way. I told my family in Texas they could come out here, or I'd drive no more than a day.
Posted by tiktok on February 12, 2013 at 12:49 PM · Report this
19
Perhaps if you're seated apart, a polite request to exchange seats would suffice and as a bonus restore your faith the kindness of strangers.
Posted by publicadministrator on February 12, 2013 at 12:51 PM · Report this
King Rat 20
"I can't stand spending money for the privilege of being disrespected."

Yes you can. And will. You will not explode. You will not get cancer from resentment. Bitch if you want, but if you are a writer, don't tell us you "can't".
Posted by King Rat http://www.kingrat.us/ on February 12, 2013 at 12:54 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 21
@5,

Having been trapped on planes that had, uh, issues with the lavatories, I've learned to appreciate the front of the plane. It's obviously not perfect since the air is circulated, but it helps.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 12, 2013 at 12:56 PM · Report this
SPG 22
I used to fly a lot, and one of the changes that often goes unnoticed these days is that the people who work the ticket counter and customer service have far less ability to accommodate anything out of the norm. Counter agents used to be able to hand out upgrades, make changes without fees, swap seats around, whatever was needed right up to letting me fly international on a "provisional ticket" when there was an error in the one I was issued. These days they can't override the system at all.
Posted by SPG on February 12, 2013 at 12:59 PM · Report this
23
they may have changed the plane, which can change the seat configuration. The general rule of thumb when calling an airline is that if you don't get the desired answer the first time, try calling back a little bit later, and again if needed. Always be nice and never tell them you already talked to someone and was turned down.
Posted by nador on February 12, 2013 at 1:00 PM · Report this
SRJ 24
@10: Yes, ask the flight attendants. We really do want to help, and I am very generous about comping cocktails to those passengers who help me out by changing seats. But if that doesn't work, tell whoever refuses to budge that the 6-year-old's tummy problems are only from too many coco-puffs and probably aren't contagious.
Posted by SRJ on February 12, 2013 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Dougsf 25
@10 - If you get to the airport early enough, it shouldn't be a problem.

@16 - For what it's worth, the TSA no longer uses those scanners.

Can I add... WHAT THE FUCK ARE PEOPLE BRINGING ON THE PLANE?! I get that business travel can require a bit more packing than leisure, but ferchrissake people, if you need to bring your entire closet, and bathroom, and laptop, on vacation—might as well just stay home.
Posted by Dougsf on February 12, 2013 at 1:25 PM · Report this
gcm 26
"It wasn't always like this."

True, back in the day when gas cost a little bit more than water. Airlines could much more easily afford to fly, for example, 10 trips a day at 80% loads. Now they'll fly 7 at closer to 100%. Also there was no internet, so if the airline did change your seats from confirmed to unconfirmed, you just wouldn't have known until you got to the airport. And your odds of being in a fatal incident were much higher then than now.

A lot of the niceties that made flying tolerable back then may be gone, but it has never been safer and the amount of information available now seems like magic compared to where it was 20 years ago.

I still get annoyed by the same shit that annoys Goldy, though.
Posted by gcm on February 12, 2013 at 1:32 PM · Report this
Fnarf 27
The airlines lose money no matter what. The total net profit of the airline industry since the beginning of time is zero. And the reason the service sucks is because the passengers demand that it suck: there is no indignity that they will not suffer to save a buck. Even you, given the chance to pay a little extra to get a comfort, pass. Soon you'll be stacked like cordwood or strapped in standing.

People talk about the glory days of flying before regulation but always neglect to mention that the tickets cost a fortune back then. Flying across country cost as much as a decent used car.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on February 12, 2013 at 1:39 PM · Report this
28
@13 The airlines cancel so many flights during bad weather due to the tarmac rule that charges huge penalties to the airlines if they keep passengers on board during delays.

Every action has a consequence. What Goldy is going through right now is the consequence of passengers not willing to pay higher base airfares that included everything. Hence, they've 'unbundled' items that we thought were included in the cost of our ticket. Such as checked luggage, verified seat assignments, etc.

Yes, it sucks for the consumer, but we are the ones who wanted cheap fares at all costs. Goldy is now seeing what those costs are exactly.

Goldy: If you don't have status with the airline, make certain you check in 24 hours before departure to see if any seats have opened up that you amd your daughter can change in to. If that doesn't work, get to the airport 4 hours early to see what the CSAs can do. If you show up 60 minutes before departure, you'll probably be SOL.

Posted by ProstSeattle on February 12, 2013 at 1:42 PM · Report this
30
As long as you and your daughter are on the same plane, it's all ok with the airline.
Posted by WestSeven on February 12, 2013 at 2:18 PM · Report this
lark 31
Goldy,
I'll grant you that flying (actually the pre-boarding hassles) has become more cumbersome. But, by & large it is safe:

http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld…

Posted by lark on February 12, 2013 at 2:26 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 32
Don't get me started on the airlines, G. I never fly for pleasure anymore. It has to be a must do/no other way kind of thing.

And part of the problem (not really a problem) is that you and I are old enough to remember when flying used to be a joy. People dressed up for a flight. Attendants were there for whatever you needed whenever you needed it. Airports were miraculous and exciting places to go. Now, they look like bus terminals. And, of course, there's the social discourse thing. People think nothing of being obnoxious, inconsiderate, and rude. They think that's how you have to act to get what you want in this world. The only thing that's gong to change that is if we all agree to be civil and shun those who are not.

Hope your short vacation - once you leave the airport - is a pleasure.
Posted by Bauhaus I on February 12, 2013 at 3:12 PM · Report this
Knat 33
I laughed and laughed when I saw the TSA "oath of duties reaffirmation" (or something close to that) sign when I was coming back home last week. It was the first thing you see when you step out of the backscatter X-ray machine. "I swear to uphold the values of the Constitution of the United States..." Yeah, your entire department is an affront to the Fourth Amendment, jackholes.

And Goldy, if you think trying to arrange seating for only two people is difficult, you can't imagine the frustration with five. I just got back from a vacation on Saturday, and on both flights, our group was scattered throughout the plane. We had specified seating when we booked, only to have a rep over the phone tell us that this is done when you pick up your boarding pass, only to hear the ticketing agent reply that, no, you have to specify that when you book the flight.

@25: They're phasing them out, from what I recall, supposedly because the company couldn't meet the deadline for a software patch that would obscure faces. I can say that both SEA and LIH had them as of Saturday, however.
Posted by Knat on February 12, 2013 at 3:29 PM · Report this
the idiot formerly known as kk 34
@32: Airlines today are like the buses of yesterday because that's about what they cost. The airlines of yesterday are like the first class of today because that's what they cost. Solution: if you want service like you used to get back when the airlines were highly regulated, and highly expensive, then pay for it: fly first class.
Posted by the idiot formerly known as kk on February 12, 2013 at 3:39 PM · Report this
35
I fly all the time and have been since I was a child since my dad was in the service. Probably been around the world a couple dozen times by now. In fact I just got back from central and south America three days ago.

The rule is: If the flight is more than 2 hours and you want to avoid torture - fly first class. Which is what we do.

Of course we have the means to do so. But that's the rub. You pay in suffering won't you won't pay in money. Simple as that.

As #34 noted above the reason flying is basically a form of punishment in coach is because nobody want's to pay what keeping thousands of tons of metal in air actually costs. In fuel, payroll, safety, technology, pollution, and material. It is a tremendously expensive endeavor with many hidden long term costs.

Flying — just like automobile travel and meat eating, etc, etc — the real costs are either deferred to an unwitting party or supplemented by the government.

Sure. It didn't used to be this way because until about twenty five years ago flying used to be universally expensive and essentially an occasional luxury for only a tiny few.

Now everybody views air travel as a necessity and an entitlement. And like every other perceived entitlement, it's one they don't want to pay for.
Posted by tkc on February 12, 2013 at 4:35 PM · Report this
Geni 36
When I was a kid, people dressed up to fly. You know why? Because only stinking rich people could afford to fly anywhere, and those people could afford expensive clothes. It was unthinkable to take a family with small kids on a transcontinental flight, let alone one to Europe or Hawaii. Now it's as common as the station-wagon family roadtrip used to be. And yeah, it sucks. Sometimes, you get what you pay for. I wish we could have the glory days of airline travel back, and for what we pay now, but I want to win the lottery too. If you want to have those $139 Seattle-to-Miami special fares, you're not going to get steak and extra legroom and free baggage, sorry.

I never flew on an airplane at all until I was 26, and even that was really scraping to get enough money. Now flying to Vegas or San Francisco is often cheaper than driving, and almost as unpleasant (I hate roadtrips).

You get treated better if you can afford to cough up for first class, certainly. I have never flown first class. Never been able to afford it. But I actually have my first one booked for next month, so we'll see.
Posted by Geni on February 12, 2013 at 4:41 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 37
David Goldstein says that "gun nuts" are insane for thinking the nation may fall in to tyranny, then he complains about the TSA. Cognitive dissonance much?

Also Goldy please stay on the other coast, your kind of nanny state loving cry baby does not really belong here in The Free West.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on February 12, 2013 at 5:20 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 38
@33 they still have them in smaller airports too.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on February 12, 2013 at 5:27 PM · Report this
39
@5: Doesn't compare.

The cell-phone industry is actually fairly competitive; witness the dozens of MVNOs. I can name a dozen mobile providers off the top of my head. I currently pay about $30/month for my smartphone plan, including tethering, and no data caps or throttling.

Wired internet is definitely less competitive than the airline industry, but it's not terrible either. For $80, Comcast gives me internet that is plenty fast for what I use it for, and way faster than it was even 5-10 years ago.

But honestly, airlines aren't as bad as Goldy makes them out to be either. A lot of the things that suck about air travel are because of federal regulations (whether the consequences are intended or otherwise), or because of the reality that air travel is exceptionally inefficient and resource-intensive.

No -- the true answer to Goldy's question is the record industry. What other industry repeatedly sues its customers for millions of dollars? What other industry goes out of its way to make its products hard to purchase and to access? It's not like distributing music is inherently expensive. (There's a reason there are no "pirate airlines".)

I haven't bought an RIAA album in years, and I don't miss it at all.
Posted by aleks on February 12, 2013 at 9:05 PM · Report this
antiuser 41
@25 they were in use at LAX two weeks ago. I know because I went through one.
Posted by antiuser http://antiuser.org on February 12, 2013 at 9:55 PM · Report this
42
OK, yes, Goldilox, you are absolutely entitled to fly at the lowest possible rate with the least incovenience... but are you allowed to fly without being told how much carbon you, personally, are injecting into the atmosphere during that flight?

Did you bother to ask?

Did it not occur to you that spewing carbon into the atmosphere during your pleasure flight might have an impact on the rest of the people living on the planet?

Where's the reporting on that, Goldy?

Where's your public concience?

Posted by robotslave on February 13, 2013 at 12:05 AM · Report this
seatackled 43
@25, @41

They're using something. People were getting scanned at SeaTac last Friday and in Oakland this past Monday.
Posted by seatackled on February 13, 2013 at 8:27 AM · Report this
lolorhone 44
Air travel is actually far safer and quicker than pretty much every other form of transportation. It's just such a bitch to get through security, on the plane, with the seats you reserved it feels worse than any other form of transportation. Also, when shit does go wrong it goes REALLY wrong. No such thing as a mid-air fender bender.
Posted by lolorhone on February 13, 2013 at 1:41 PM · Report this
45
They have all the leverage. You need to get across the country in a few hours. They're the only ones who can do it. They don't have to unless they choose to do so. They can charge you whatever they want and treat you, within legal reason, however the hell they want.

You have no leverage other than to refuse to fly. But then again, you're the one who needs help to get across the country in a few hours.
Posted by Gomez http://misterstevengomez.com on February 13, 2013 at 1:48 PM · Report this
46
Some of us fly for business, and the way it works is. Unless you are on 40,000 to 75,000 miles a year, they really arent that interested in what happens to your seat. We frequent fliers have all been coerced into various loyalty programs, and as a result, we get the pick of seats. My seats are reserved through American Express travel booking, using my AmEx card. This gets me preferred seats on almost every airline, or at least, confirms I can find something. Then there's the fact I'm in a couple of airlines loyalty programs as well, which gets me more "king of the dipshits" treatment like sitting up front -- which assures my carry on has room, while yours won't be anywhere near your seat or you'll have to check luggage -- and assures me I can get to the head of the cattle call and get seated, make a few last minute calls or texts while you guys are still fumbling with your loosely packed badly organized pile of dirty laundry you call carry on.

And it makes total sense for the airlines to cater to me and tell you to go eff yourself: I'm repeat business. I fly from 30 to 50 times a year. I'm not even one of the truly elite -- those are the "Gold" or "Platinum" levels .. the ones who get full access to first class bumps and the like. I'm in the "executive putz" class. Which still puts me on and gets my luggage into carry on before the tourist / infrequent flier horde.

A word about tourists. Remember all those dipshit baby boomers clogging up every single social service for the past 60 years? Guess where they are now: Retiring in droves, and taking airlines. You see it so damn much. Flights break down into business travel, then retirees, then junior business travel (hi) and then losers and students and the marginal dregs of the airline world, e.g. you all.

Or you can pay premium and fly Virgin and be treated like royalty but pay for it, or you can fly Southwest and everyone's in the same cattle call and they'll sing texan to you, but you won't get the same runaround all the "traditional airlines" do. But you better not be fat, or they'll force you to buy 2 seats.

Now get the fk out of the airport if you can't handle it, because I have meetings to get to, and its absolutely certain one of you is going to fumble your luggage, clog up TSA, start bitching in general, and do everything you can to delay my arrival someplace I need to be for work. Take Amtrak. I guess they still are a thing, maybe.
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Posted by certaindoom on February 14, 2013 at 11:56 AM · Report this

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