Monday, February 22, 2010

The Last Great Fiefdom: Airlines

I am sick to death of airlines and their arbitrary rules.

For the most part, I’m able to fly under the radar. I pack light (avoiding baggage restrictions/fees/checked luggage), grasp the concept of the 3 oz. rule, and can get in and out of security in less than one minute – shoes and laptop included - if there’s no line.

However, not only is each country different, but each airline also has different rules. Getting on the aircraft is only half the battle.

Once on, you’re in “their” territory and they way they treat you depends strictly, on classism, (and, I believe, more and more on the fickle attitudes of flight attendants).

First, if you can afford, literally, a higher class ticket, then you’ll have a better seat. You’ll get a bit more room, free alcohol (US domestic flights), actual silverware, and a private bathroom near the (gasp!) cockpit (apparently, first class passengers couldn’t possibly be terrorists, or terrorists haven’t yet scraped together enough clams for these exorbitantly priced seats).

Secondly, the flight attendants, who have got to have the worst jobs I the world, have obviously caught on. They are, for the most part, very grumpy individuals (except for those beautiful Singpore airline stewardesses, but I’m convinced that they’re fembots). It’s their job to enforce baseless, fickle rules, such as keeping your electronic devices shut off until you reach cruising altitude, lest they interfere with the plane’s operation.

Speaking as a person who has both a) accidentally left her phone on for an entire flight and b) once called her sister, who’s phone rang (and she answered!) while in flight, and I call complete and total shenanigans on this one.

Ipods pose a particularly interesting problem, as they have no on/off switch. There’s a “freeze” button, but you can certainly “freeze” it in the on position as well as off. Furthermore, overseas, they’ve mostly dropped this rule – it’s only in the hyper sensitive US that we still believe this baloney.

(Save the South African airways attendant who insisted that I take my earbuds out my ears, even though my DVD player was no only off, the battery was completely dead. I was keeping the buds in to drown out the noise of the engines. I tried explaining this to her several times but she stood fast. I was tempted to tell her I had a hearing condition, but being that my desire to get home superceded my desire to make a point, I took them out. )

But that’s just it, no matter what you do, the airlines have the trump card: they can throw you off. Not only that, they can throw you in JAIL. So you have to take out your earbuds, sit up straight, stow your tray tables, do jumping jacks – whatever they require! Somehow, I missed the forfeiture of my rights in the fine print.

In the US, if you’re leaving the country, you can take as much water/liquids with you as you want. Woe be the person returning, however, with so much as a bottle of water for a sixteen hour flight. I find this downright inhumane. The human body NEEDS water. How can the US government deny us this need? What’s next, air?

Aren’t we more secure?, you may be asking, What about the Greater Good? I agree, to some extent, an airplane ride may be tantamount to a social contract. We are all, literally, headed towards the same goal. It makes sense that we have a basic modicum of expectations and rules. When I get on a flight, I don’t expect to be able to act like I do at home; I am, in fact, in public.

However, airlines are taking this too far, all in the name of profit margin. While the US government has upped security requirements, they’ve lowered services, and the only one that gets pinched are THE PASSENGERS. They’re pinching their steady revenue source, and ultimately, shooting themselves in the foot. They’ll soon fine that this “steady” revenue source is more price sensitive than they thought. The more they push us cattle-class to the margins, families and other casual traveler’s will switch to other, more affordable, less Machiavellian forms of transport - like walking across hot stones.

With the advent of global telecommunications, more and more businesses will choose to stay at home, and hop on their WebEx instead.

I want to sympathize with the global airline industry, I really do.

But I also want to keep my earbuds in.


AnthroGirl said...

yep, next is being allotted a limited amount of air (however you measure that) and being that I myself have rather large lungs will probably be the first to die. I hate flying, but despite that I'm still coming to see you.

dave young said...

C'mon. That SAA flight attendant just didn't want you to miss any of the valuable pre-flight safety information. It was all for your own good.

Camille Olivia ~ said...

you are a VERY funny lady. Love your blog. Just found clicking on that "next blog" doohickey. So glad I did. I'll be back. Please...keep writing!