Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Friendly Skies?

Remember when you could get a meal on an airplane without reaching into your pocket?
Me neither.
But we could handle the loss of those preludes to Pepcid and the completely crowded cabins if the airlines would just treat us as though we were humans.
We endure the nearly endless security checkpoints walking barefoot through scanners manned by inept, ill-trained, and ill-mannered TSA people showing our identification at every turn just to arrive at the gate and be told that our flight is delayed or worse, canceled.
Why do we put up with this ridiculous treatment? If we wish to travel by air we no longer have a choice according to Homeland Security which in itself is as much a misnomer and oxymoron as is Army intelligence. If we had true intelligence in any part of our government we would not be forced to undress to board a plane and I would be enjoying the view from the Windows on the World restaurant.
But we are in a so-called post 9-11 world and the authorities are using that fact to their advantage whenever they can. Is there anyone out there who would argue with a flight attendant who told you that your flight is being canceled because of technical difficulties with the plane? No one wants to fly on a plane that could fall out of the sky.
The problem is that airlines may have an ulterior motive when they remove a flight from service, their bottom line. If your flight is canceled due to a technical problem will you ever find out if they were telling the truth? Supposedly government agencies oversee the industry and should hold them accountable if they merely cancel a flight to save money. But truly when was the last time our government sided with the average consumer against a large corporation?
Certainly not this century.
So when you are forced to ‘de-plane’ and attempt to continue your itinerary on another flight the odds are that plane will be packed and you will most likely find yourself sitting between two people who are not happy to have you trying to use their armrest.
The airlines have become like the Lily Tomlin character in the old SNL sketch, “We don’t care, we don’t have to, we’re the airline industry.”
Perhaps you could drive to your destination. At around $4.50 per gallon nationwide (as of the writing of this rant) I don’t think that is really a solution so they have you by the ‘proverbials.’
My daughter had to endure this latest indignity at the hands of United Airlines who kicked everyone off a flight from Denver to NY after they sat for over an hour on the doomed plane. The ensuing search for a seat on another flight started with all the would-be passengers waiting on the customer service (CS) line. (You may place the term Customer Service alongside the aforementioned Army Intelligence and Homeland Security.)
One by one the angry passengers were met at the CS desk with the inane question, “May I help you?” (Generally pronounced, “Melp you?” by the high school dropout.)
It is amazing that United Airlines didn’t figure out that everyone on that line was going to ask the same question. If they really cared about the customer they would have herded everyone to a vacant area and explained the situation. Unfortunately that would have needed the use of a brain and a heart.
After many angry phone calls, the only way to get something done is to call someone from the airport, my daughter finally found her way home at midnight, five hours late. Her flight was packed and United saved a bundle by removing the offending plane. And they did not have to serve food on the flight because everyone had lost their appetite. It’s a win-win for United and keeps the skies friendly for the corporation.

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