August 9, 2007
Grounded (Bob Franken)
@ 10:01 am
The inevitable happened. After decades of airline deregulation, the travelers have been left been left very little choice, unless you consider ridiculous and despicable treatment of passengers as a choice.
Let’s see: Performance is at the worst levels. Profits are way up. Could there be a connection? You bet. A new slogan for the industry could be “We have you where we want you.”
True, there are a few left that will try not to treat their customers with contempt, but for the most part, those who want to fly from here to there are lucky if they can.
And doing so can well mean hour after hour and sometimes day after day stuck in a sterile environment.
The only escape from the mind going numb is the futile attempt to outsmart the system and come up with alternative flights after yours are canceled. The only exercise involves trekking the miles between one terminal and the next in the desperate effort to get to the plane where you’ve been put on standby.
Of course, it’s only when you arrive out of breath at that new gate that you’re informed that the plane is a) overbooked or b) canceled because of mechanical problems or because the crew didn’t show up.
If by some fluke you do get to your destination, there’s a good chance your luggage will not. Let’s not overlook the fact that the principal way the industry increased its profit was by decreasing the “frills,” like an adequate staff to handle baggage, and for that matter all customer service.
I haven’t even mentioned the pleasure of the security line where we await an inspection from overburdened TSA officers who are often in a bad mood. And why not? Everyone else is.
The new slogan for the industry could well be “If you don’t like it, lump it.” And they may be on to something. Some travel by air is necessary. Much of it is not. Maybe we need to stay closer to home. What I’m really suggesting is a modified boycott. Maybe the abused airline traveler needs a slogan. How about “Airlines: Go to Hell”? After all, it’s been hell for the passenger.