How about those airplane seats?
December 27, 2014 11:04 AM   Subscribe

JetBlue is adding luggage charges and packing more seats on its planes, and customers are freaking out. Is contemporary airline service so bad because the airlines are colluding to make you suffer, as Tim Wu writes in the New Yorker? Or because low-price, a la carte service is what fliers actually want, as Alison Griswold writes in Slate? For a data-rich deep dive into what passengers really hate about air travel, see "The Unfriendly Skies" (.pdf), a report on five years worth of air travelers' complaints to the US Department of Transportation.
posted by escabeche (176 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pro-tip: Every flight is first class when you pop a valium after passing security and once you're gorked out the seat is just fine.
posted by Renoroc at 11:13 AM on December 27, 2014 [30 favorites]


From the New Yorker piece:

Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as “calculated misery.” Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.

I just had the lightbulb turned on. This makes complete sense and explains almost everything I hate about flying (except for the pornoscanner and security theater).

I have been avoiding flying whenever possible but that sucks also, because there are places where you need to fly if you are going to visit.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:14 AM on December 27, 2014 [33 favorites]


It's really sad to hear JetBlue is going to cram more seats and start charging for baggage. Since their flight paths are limited on the west coast, I don't fly them often, but I do enjoy the brief respite when I fly them.

I hate the baggage charge most of all (because even 10-15 years ago I prefered to check bags rather than fight for overhead space), and now I see why they keep it. If one bag was free, and overhead space was charged, planes could load and unload much faster and be a better experience for everyone, but the airlines would make less money in the process from fees (but might sell more tickets from happy travelers).

I hate calculated misery.
posted by mathowie at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2014 [29 favorites]


The New Yorker article is subscriber-only, does anyone have a mirror?
posted by El Mariachi at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2014


The discussion in the Slate article about passengers not wanting to pay for better service really rubbed me the wrong way. What about consumers who want to pay for better service and can't?
posted by that silly white dress at 11:17 AM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


(New Yorker link works for me just fine)
posted by mathowie at 11:18 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


For many years, JetBlue was the most convenient way for me to visit my parents, since it flies into LGB--all of fifteen minutes from their house. Lately, though, it's been harder and harder to get a flight into LGB, and more and more expensive: even with baggage fees, it's often $150-$200 cheaper to fly into LAX on a different airline, and far more convenient in terms of scheduling. (Even flying into John Wayne is cheaper, for goodness sake, and that's a pricey airport.) My upcoming trip has turned out to be the proverbial straw, as they've rescheduled every single leg since I bought my ticket, topping it all off by turning an early-afternoon flight back to NY into a red-eye. If they're going to be as uncomfortable as other airlines and even more expensive, why bother?
posted by thomas j wise at 11:21 AM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Incidentally, if JetBlue does implode, it will be fascinating to see what happens to LGB: they built an entire wing of their airport solely at JetBlue's command.)
posted by thomas j wise at 11:22 AM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Favoring shareholders over customers could double profit

"Becker said that while adding seats to its jets might lead to some bad press, “the revenue benefit to the company would probably trump any customer pushback.”"

Ugh
posted by hellojed at 11:28 AM on December 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


What about consumers who want to pay for better service and can't?

They just need to up their game a little and fly by private jet.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:28 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


> Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid.

The worst thing about air travel is that it takes place in the air.
posted by jfuller at 11:29 AM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's not talked about a lot but airlines have done a decent job creating options. Domestic first class is now about 50% to 100% more than economy, rather than 150% to 200% as it used to be, outside of JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO, where it continues to be extremely expensive. For international travel, the foreign carriers' premium economy services are comfortable, if not the lavish flat-bed experience of the business or first class sections, at a similar markup.
posted by MattD at 11:35 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


And about the food on these planes -- what's the deal with that!?
That's all the time I got, thanks, you've been a great audience.
posted by not_on_display at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


This doesn't sound like a strategy for success in the long term.

I wonder whether they're trying to bump profits up for a few quarters to raise their stock price in anticipation of acquisition by a bigger player.
posted by jamjam at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


When two people can fly return from Manchester to Rome -- as I did last week -- for less than two thirds of what a single standard second class return train fare from Manchester to London costs, then you've got to figure the airlines are doing something right.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


Incidentally, if JetBlue does implode,

They almost certainly will. The problem? JetBlue has never really been profitable, indeed, they've filed for reorganization at least once. The idea was that people would be willing to pay for a better flying experience. The problem? They really aren't.

Worse, VA has come in and is out bluing JetBlue and making a profit, though a small one. Meanwhile, Spirit, Allegiant, and RyanAir are making money.

If people want better flying experiences, they need to stop flying the airlines that have the worst seats/service. Then, they'll either improve or go out of business. But they don't do that. To non-frequent flyers, the only things that are important are:

1) Are they the cheapest?

And that's it. Really. I've seen people drive to MKE from Chicago to save $30 on a fare. You point out the time cost and the actual money to drive 180 miles, and they're like "But I saved $30."

As long as the only factor is the price, then air travel will continue to degrade.
posted by eriko at 11:40 AM on December 27, 2014 [45 favorites]


you've got to figure the airlines are doing something right.

Or that the railways are doing something wrong.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:40 AM on December 27, 2014 [39 favorites]


I fly almost exclusively on JetBlue, and have for years. Their terminal at JFK is really nice. I like their planes and their service. I have repeatedly and happily paid more to fly on their planes, and those planes are always full.

HOWEVER. It's true that the "Even More Space" seats often stand empty. For me personally, it's because additional legroom isn't a sufficient motivator. I assume the same is true for other folks. Hmm.

Is JetBlue honestly in danger of going out of business? The thought fills me will no small amount of dread. It's one of the few "brands" I'm loyal to.

I do wish they made it more obvious which of their flights were on their newer, fancier planes. I'd pay extra to be on one of those flights if the difference was made clear to me while I was selecting them.

I'm getting on a JetBlue flight in about seven hours and now I'm all bummed. :/
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:47 AM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


JetBlue has never really been profitable

The New Yorker piece makes it sound like they're pulling down profits now, and will project even more with the awful changes. Virgin America is who I constantly hear on the brink of collapse, and not turning profits. The few times I've flown VA, the planes have been half empty.
posted by mathowie at 11:49 AM on December 27, 2014


JetBlue has never really been profitable, indeed, they've filed for reorganization at least once.

When did this happen? The Wikipedia page for JetBlue has a lot in the History section and talks a lot about profits and losses, but doesn't mention filing for reorganization at all.
posted by hippybear at 11:51 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've flown the LAX / NYC route on VA a dozen, maybe two, times over the past couple years, and that flight is always full. Typically painfully so (but for $40 you get a leg room upgrade and priority pass on security, which is worth it, not because they've made the experience so miserable, but because it still nets out less than most other airlines).
posted by 99_ at 11:57 AM on December 27, 2014


Shame the report on passenger complaints doesn't include Twitter, as I see far more mentions of United than anything else.

Also, deregulation of the airlines has resulted in more and more consolidation and continual gouging of customers with fees. Pretty sure it wasn't pitched that way...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:02 PM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've flown JetBlue and found it to be very nice. I'd fly it all the time if it could get me from a more convenient airport. I live in Seattle, and my family is on the east coast. I can take JetBlue direct from SEA to JFK, which is very nice and I like having a direct flight, but then it's a 130 minute drive without traffic to get where I'm going. With traffic, closer to three hours.

Alternatively, I can take whatever crappy airline is cheaper and fly SEA to Hartford or Providence, with one layover, and only have an hour's drive. The nice airlines don't fly to Hartford or Providence, so I end up not taking them unless I really need a direct flight for some reason. I'm price conscious, but getting to the closer airports is a bigger deal than price.

That said, if there's any other "nice" airlines I should consider, please let me know. Is it just VA and JetBlue at this point? Past those two, I've generally consider the rest to be an undifferentiated mass of suck. I decide on price because they've given me literally nothing else to distinguish them by.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:04 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


calculated misery ... that’s where the suffering begins

Air travel histrionics creep me out a little. From the perspective of most of humanity, flying in a plane is a totally unimaginable luxury, which makes this is a bit like marquises kvetching about how uncomfortable palanquins are ever since they switched from 6 bearers to 4.
posted by dontjumplarry at 12:05 PM on December 27, 2014 [55 favorites]


My great-grandmother and her family walked from California to eastern Washington State starting out when she was 7, she was 9 at the end of the stroll.

You know what this is.

Anyway, I remember watching an interview with Warren Buffett who said that the airline business is the "worst sort of business", it has a slim margin and is subject to many outside influences.
posted by vapidave at 12:05 PM on December 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


And I'd love to try Virgin America, but JFK -> LAX/SFO -> SEA is not high on my list of ideal routes.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:06 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know about you all, but I would be ok with paying fifty dollars to fly across the United States standing up for six hours.

I imagine the slogan for our new era of late capitalist low budget airfare being in the spirit of "as long as I can shit, thas it!"
posted by oceanjesse at 12:10 PM on December 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


HOWEVER. It's true that the "Even More Space" seats often stand empty. For me personally, it's because additional legroom isn't a sufficient motivator. I assume the same is true for other folks. Hmm.

If they offered legroom seats with a coupon for free Wifi I'd probably get them for transcontinental flights from SFO/SJC to the east coast. For SFO to LAX/BUR/SNA/LGB? Fuck that. I'll suffer for 45 minutes if I have to.
posted by Talez at 12:11 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Jetblue has been profitable for 5 of the last 6 years, which is pretty good for an airline.
posted by jpe at 12:12 PM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I see that United was mentioned above. I fly them as much as I can because that's where my status is. It's a terrible airline. Their employees are, as a rule, surly and hostile towards the customer. Mileage Plus is a crappy rewards program. I've had one of their gate agents in IAH flat lie to me about a delay that resulted in a missed connection to an international flight so that United wouldn't have to pay for a $70 EconoLodge room voucher and $10 meal voucher. They charge for bags if you don't have status or their credit card. If you don't qualify for Premier boarding then it's a knife fight for overhead bin space, with the cabin crew ignoring people trying to cram steamer trunks into the bins. Almost no flights have WiFi. It's fine if you're flying a couple of hours. It's bearable if you're flying to Europe or South America. I can't imagine flying United to Asia or Oceania.

I get that there are lots of things that are difficult for airlines to control, weather foremost among them. But there are a lot of things they can control. Treat your employees like human beings so that they are civil to your customers. Treat your customers like human beings so that maybe you can earn repeat business. When your people screw up, own it. (No, they don't have to admit they were wrong, they can pretend it was beyond their control but offer a few meals and a hotel room to "try and make it right" or whatever.) All of those things that suggest you don't actually resent your customers.

Don't get me wrong, Southwest is a nightmare these days since the flight attendants quit enforcing the rules about carry-ons and seat-saving. The regional affiliates are uniformly a horror show, and good luck ever getting a United Express flight out of BWI that leaves on time. I have a generally positive feeling about American, but I don't fly them very often. Unless you (or your employer) will go in their pocket for a business or first class ticket flying is going to suck. I guess I just wish it didn't have to.
posted by wintermind at 12:21 PM on December 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


I figure air travel is so unprofitable that the only way for it to survive as a business is to suck. Basically, the only way to make money is to charge more and give less, to the point that it's just a miserable consumer experience. Lucky for the airlines they are in a market that won't ever capitulate - people will always need to travel. The result is flying is awful, and will remain awful, as long as it's treated as a business.

Really, airlines should be regulated and subsidized for the public good. Certain activities are necessary for the markets to function, like power, highway building and health care. I'd think putting air travel into a similar category would ultimately ease some of the pain we experience when flying.

Or we can go on with the status quo for reasons that are more ideological than pragmatic, which seems to be the current mood.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:22 PM on December 27, 2014 [11 favorites]


I miss Song. That was a great airline. I liked it better than Jet Blue. Having just flown Virgin America for the first time, it seems to have taken a lot of its in-flight features from Song. It was one of the nicest experiences I've had on a plane ride in over 25 years (I only fly 1-2 times a year, though).

And yeah, since deregulation, "long term profitability" & "commercial aviation" are two phrases that are growing increasingly apart from each other. Economy fares are about as low as they can go without turning each ticket into an operating loss. Eventually, though, the airlines are going to run out of "calculated misery" gimmick fees to prop up their shareholder dividends and we'll see another round of bankruptcies, reorganizations and mergers.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:23 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've wondered for years why the airlines incent people to carry luggage on rather than checking it. I guess this explains it.

But I still don't understand why they don't lock the overhead compartments until the people who don't use them are out of the planes. It would make more people unhappy, and incent them even more to check the damn suitcases. It would make some people (mathowie, for example, or me) happier, but I'd bet the airlines would still come out ahead.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 12:27 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've been flying a lot lately, including a cross-country flight on Christmas Day. My observation has been that bag fees mean people lugging more and more luggage onto the plane, which slows down boarding, and eventually requires them to check bags through for free. I mean, this is a totally viable alternative to paying the fee - on every single flight I've been on in the last six months, they have offered to check bags through to their final destination for free because the overhead bins couldn't accommodate baggage from a full flight.

Two anecdotes:
1) I was literally the last person on the plane a few weeks ago on a Charlotte --> Minneapolis flight, and was chased down the jetway and forced to check my bag. I was told there was "no room" in the bins and that I wouldn't be allowed on the plane unless I checked my bag. Even though it would fit under the seat in front of me. So I finally agreed (having no other choice), only to walk on the plane and find FOUR EMPTY BINS right over my seat. I can't tell you how pissed off I was when I had to wait for an hour for baggage claim at 11 PM.

2) I managed to get an exit row seat on my Christmas Day flight and when I sat down, I saw that two of the spaces underneath the seats in front of us were already filled. I put my stuff under one, but the guy next to me on the aisle was told he wasn't allowed to use his because the flight attendant was using it (and the window seat space) for HER stuff. I moved her bag slightly so that my seatmate could fit his small bag there too and was YELLED at that I was NOT TO EVERY TOUCH A CREWMEMBER'S BAG EVER. I felt a little better when she also screamed at someone who DARED to use the restroom before the captain turned on the seat belt sign and was slowly making his way back to his seat. She, however, was syrupy sweet to everyone at every other point.

I really wish I didn't have to fly across the country 1-2 times a month. It's that kind of shit that makes it horribly unpleasant. What both anecdotes have in common is that the flight crew and ground staff goes out of their way to make things miserable for someone FOR NO GOOD REASON.
posted by guster4lovers at 12:28 PM on December 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


When I consider the 1,000s of planes, 100s of airports, 10,000,000s of passengers, 10,000s of employees, the volatility of fuel prices, national/regional/local politics, the vagaries of weather, threat of terrorism, the sophistication of the engineering/equipment and human nature I am absolutely amazed that flying works as well as it does( and it works very very well)--that three of us can leave on different airlines, from different terminals and end up in Europe with in in an hour of each other is nothing less that a wonder of nature/people/technology. And remember-it is only 60+ years old. Wonder of wonders.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:30 PM on December 27, 2014 [11 favorites]


I see that United was mentioned above. I fly them as much as I can because that's where my status is. It's a terrible airline. Their employees are, as a rule, surly and hostile towards the customer.

[...]

Treat your customers like human beings so that maybe you can earn repeat business.


But they obviously don't have to. They treat you terribly, and they get your repeat business regularly.
posted by jeather at 12:32 PM on December 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


People just like to bitch. for cryin' out loud yer traveling through the air at several hundreds of miles per hour in a seat that's more comfortable and offers more options than the back seat of most cars (including a nearby place to shit).
These things are only as dehumanizing as a given person makes them. I'm 6'3", fly a few times per year. coach, with a small child. i've never had an argument with the person in front of me about the seat reclining, am as annoyed as the next person at the passenger who holds up the boarding or deboarding process because they are a special snowflake about the overhead compartment, am annoyed by delays and airport security; but i weigh these nigglings against my desire to quickly go where i want to go. the flight is forgotten 15 minutes after i'm off the plane.
Of course airlines are going to try to give you the least they can these days because there will never not be demand for what they offer, no matter how diminished it becomes.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:33 PM on December 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


Or that the railways are doing something wrong.

What's a railroad? Unless you live in the northeast trains basically don't exist as a transportation option.
posted by octothorpe at 12:34 PM on December 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


Still waiting for them to institute the knock-you-out/stuff you in a tube mode of travel, ala The Fifth Element. Honestly, it would be preferable. Especially if the babies got knocked out too, poor things.
posted by emjaybee at 12:37 PM on December 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


Spirit charges for carry-on luggage; $100 at the gate if you don't pre-purchase. It costs only a few dollars less than a much larger checked bag. I can confirm that it does not make the flight experience any better, especially since the total devotion to cheapness extends to less legroom, no in-flight magazine or even a SkyMall. It is reminiscent of ATA and Tower Air for those who remember them.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:47 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


eriko: To non-frequent flyers, the only things that are important are:

1) Are they the cheapest?

And that's it. Really.


Yes. I don't fly enough to know where else to go better than that. I don't know the difference between planes, different planes on different carriers, anything like that. I forget that it really matters how full your flight is (red eye from SFO to LHR on Virgin Atlantic was fine because it was half full; the flight back was one of the worst I've ever taken because it was full and we got stuck in the middle of the middle section of seats).
posted by mountmccabe at 12:49 PM on December 27, 2014


Spirit. Where almost every west coast flight leaves at 6am and a flight from OAK to LAX takes 6 hours. Meanwhile, people who paid $10 more are putting up their tray tables and getting ready to land. With their free carry on.

How do people EVER fly Spirit?
posted by Talez at 12:55 PM on December 27, 2014


I work for the federal government, jeather, so if United is the contract carrier I don't have any choice in the matter. But you make a good point. I'm arguing for humane treatment of customers, but will fill one of their seats regardless.
posted by wintermind at 12:55 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


still_wears_a_hat: I've wondered for years why the airlines incent people to carry luggage on rather than checking it.

Some airlines will carry freight; US mail is very common. That only works if there's space/weight available. If their cargo hold is full of passenger luggage they can't carry anything else and don't make that extra money.
posted by mountmccabe at 12:57 PM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


How do people EVER fly Spirit?

We fly Spirit out of a Pittsburgh-area regional airport instead of larger airlines out of PIT because (a) free parking, (b) 10 minutes max to get through security and to your gate, and (c) the near impossibility of many kinds of delays since there are only like two commercial flights out per day.

Yes, all the surcharges are terrible, and the flights aren't very comfortable, but saving at least an hour of big airport crap on each end of the flight more than makes up for that.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:01 PM on December 27, 2014


I like Virgin! I hope they stay in business. That is all
posted by jcruelty at 1:04 PM on December 27, 2014


ET TU, JET BLUE?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:19 PM on December 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


I work for the federal government, jeather, so if United is the contract carrier I don't have any choice in the matter.

This is true, you have little choice for business travel. And then once you travel with them for business, you probably have some status so you might as well continue for personal.

It is possible that, now, a reasonable quality flight for flights of 6+ hours (or whatever your limit is) would sell -- for a 2 hour jump, tbh I have other preferences than lots of room -- but it's probably not a risk anyone is willing to take.
posted by jeather at 1:22 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am sad to hear that JetBlue is turning to the suck side of things. When I lived in Boston, I flew on them regularly; it was delightful. But my last flight with them was a one-way to Seattle where I live now, and they really just aren't an option for flying up and down the west coast or down to New Orleans from here.

These days I find that Southwest seems to suck the least. Paying their $12 'early bird' fee, plus their unique boarding process, means I always get my choice of any seat I want, near the front of the plane. Sometimes I even end up in the front row if I'm in the mood. There is room for my long legs. And they let me check two bags for free. It's like I'm flying in the 1970s or something.

The price is usually less than one of the other airlines, too. I don't know how they work this magic. But I will keep on taking advantage of it for as long as I can.
posted by egypturnash at 1:28 PM on December 27, 2014 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I'm a Southwest junkie, too. Pretty much the only airline I even look at these days. They look more expensive at first, but once you tack all those fees onto the other airlines' prices, Southwest ends up being cheaper.
posted by hippybear at 1:31 PM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


I pretty much just always choose the cheapest flight regardless of how Spartan it is unless the flight is going to be over 7 hours. I figure even a nice flight isn't as nice as spending all that extra money on a great dinner once I get to my destination.
posted by melissam at 1:33 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


These days you can find seat on premium airlines about the same price as economy airlines. So, they have to mind how much they can cram a seat. I try to avoid them wherever I can even their flights suits me the best.
posted by TomDunn at 1:37 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Have others noticed this new "thing" on Southwest where the earlier-boarding people in a group save seats for their later-boarding friends/family? It's my understanding that it's a violation of Southwest's rules, but the cabin crew steadfastly ignores it and I'm not going to fight with someone about it. I've seen it firsthand on several flights out of BWI recently. Is it some weird local thing, or is more widespread?
posted by wintermind at 1:38 PM on December 27, 2014


I have to travel from Boston to Philly at least four times a year on family business. Unless time is of the essence, I take Amtrak, stay overnight in Center City (twist my arm!), stop at the Terminal Market, and pick up a car rental at 30th Street the next morning. The only portion that really sucks is 76 West out of downtown Philly.

Spacious seats, plenty of overhead room for bags, onboard cafe car, no body scanners, no lines, no taking off of shoes. Security measures come in the form of transit cops (who can move VERY quickly when warranted - I've seen them in action) and bomb-sniffing dogs. And man, does that quiet car policy get enforced. (I love it.)

Sadly, if more people follow my lead, I'm not sure Amtrak would exactly up its game by putting more trains into service.

I've taken JetBlue from Boston to Philly and was pretty impressed with it until I heard about the latest money-making, brand-cheapening gambit. I'm glad I have an alternative.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:38 PM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


The problem is not specifically with airlines. The problem is what ALL corporations are doing to society. What you used to get for free, now costs big money. What you used pay extra for, is now unobtainable at any price. And we are supposed to be glad we get anything at all.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:43 PM on December 27, 2014 [32 favorites]


It's funny how much we complain about an industry that has strong labor unions, a stellar safety record due to heavy regulation, and commodity pricing so low that they have to sell you credit cards to make a profit.

My biggest problem with flying is the implicit surrender of my 4th Amendment rights as soon as I enter the screening area, but everyone has their own picadillos.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:50 PM on December 27, 2014 [17 favorites]


I appreciate that air travel is a modern miracle and in many cases the only way to get from a to b in a reasonable amount of time. But I hate it with a passion because of the hassle it is, from the crowded airports to the cramped planes. And I don't understand the love for JetBlue and Virgin. I've flown them both and they're no different to me than the other airlines. What am I missing?
posted by monospace at 2:16 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Don't rat studies indicate that overcrowding is the direct cause of air rage?
posted by Jode at 2:22 PM on December 27, 2014




The airlines are like drug pushers.

Once they got people hooked on the convenience of flying, and it's become a necessity instead of a luxury, they realized that most people will put up with almost anything to get to somewhere far away.
posted by freakazoid at 2:40 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's a shame what happened to my hometown favorite Continental.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 2:57 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Have others noticed this new "thing" on Southwest where the earlier-boarding people in a group save seats for their later-boarding friends/family? It's my understanding that it's a violation of Southwest's rules, but the cabin crew steadfastly ignores it and I'm not going to fight with someone about it. I've seen it firsthand on several flights out of BWI recently. Is it some weird local thing, or is more widespread?

I ran into that once about a month ago, and come to think of it, it was probably on a leg out of BWI, too.
posted by indubitable at 2:57 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am waiting for airlines to put passenger seating in removable passenger modules (something like fancy ULDs holding multiple seats) and charge by passenger weight and size.

My bet is that you will have to check in, weigh in, and strap yourself into one of the seats in a passenger module in the waiting room inside the terminal. If you need a special seat to accommodate your size, you'll have time to arrange for one (for a price). At loading time, all passenger modules will zoom down a track like rail cars and slip straight into a wide loading door on the plane, where they will lock into place. No ambling into the plane one by one and wrestling with overhead luggage, because you chose a seat and took care of your overhead luggage when you sat down inside the terminal, maybe before the aircraft even pulled up to the gate. If you transfer at another airport, your entire module might be transferred automatically to another plane (train, bus, ferry) with you and fellow module-riders just sitting tight like you're on a ride at an amusement park.
posted by pracowity at 3:04 PM on December 27, 2014 [12 favorites]


I am waiting for airlines to offer nitrous oxide in my drop-down air mask.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:08 PM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


The Hyperloop can't come soon enough.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 3:13 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


More like a la crate service, amirite?
posted by anthill at 3:57 PM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


I have always felt JetBlue was overrated. I fly a lot. My personal favorite is Alaska Airlines, but that's partly because I have zillions of miles with them and almost always get bumped up to first.

They are also just much nicer folks than the other airlines I tend to have to fly.
posted by spitbull at 4:02 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf: " What you used to get for free, now costs big money."

One wonders how a generation trained on the freemium model through Apps will transition to adulthood purchases, like airline tickets.

I'm almost surprised one can't get free upgrades by retweeting, brought to you by Carl's Jr.
posted by wcfields at 4:22 PM on December 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


calculated misery ... that’s where the suffering begins

It is actual suffering for a lot of people, especially ones with back or nerve problems or even those of us too big to fit in the ever-shrinking seats. (I HATE that I can't cross my legs because the seat in front of me is so close!)

This thing where we should be grateful to be humiliated and disparaged and physically uncomfortable because the technology is only a hundred years old and not everyone has access to it? Fuck that.

I am surprised that people aren't willing to pay more for more comfort. I refuse to fly United and I'll fly Hawaiian any chance I get because they're more comfortable and they're NICE! (imagine that!) I pay about $50-$75 extra for this.

Also, Hawaiian's seat-belt video features a muumuu wearing, hapa-looking, non-skinny grandma and her grandkid of some other racial mix. I love that.

Mostly, though, I've stopped flying because it's so miserable. So yeah, I'll pay more to be not-miserable, but mostly I've just stopped flying, and I used to fly quite a bit. So I'm one of those customers whose business they've lost.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:29 PM on December 27, 2014 [14 favorites]




It is actual suffering for a lot of people, especially ones with back or nerve problems or even those of us too big to fit in the ever-shrinking seats.

I've been on a couple of newer planes that I literally couldn't fit my legs in the seat sitting normally. I had to kind of lay back and stuff them under the seat in front straight out. I do have really long legs but still, pretty crazy .
posted by fshgrl at 5:00 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


fshgirl, me too. It is painful and uncomfortable.
posted by winna at 5:13 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu, I was really hoping that was from an Onion article. I was wrong.
posted by DRoll at 5:55 PM on December 27, 2014


Air travel has ceased to be fun and enjoyable on either the legacy or low cost airlines. These days, even business class is patchy. The problem with the baggage fees are that there is always someone who is trying to cheat the system and get an oversized piece in the locker. If airlines enforced the luggage size and number of pieces limit, it would cut out a lot of the hassle.
posted by arcticseal at 5:55 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh I'll second a fondness for Hawaiian Airlines, lovely service, decent comfort, and on top of that you're going to Hawaii. And now a 10 hour nonstop from JFK to Honolulu every day!
posted by spitbull at 6:03 PM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


charlie don't surf: “ What you used pay extra for, is now unobtainable at any price.”
I found this out when I tried to help a relative get a real ticket — i.e. a contract bound by the Warsaw Convention requiring the issuer to transport the bearer and their baggage at a time of their choosing — and found that there was essentially no such thing anymore. The old "It's like flying on a cattle car with wings!" joke has never rung more true.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:03 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Really, airlines should be regulated and subsidized for the public good.

Especially if the nation goes to war based on activities perpetuated on their properties, and other airlines are affected by those actions.
posted by rhizome at 6:04 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


On recent SW flights I have noticed: (1) people in groups of two sitting at the window and aisle so as to keep the middle seat free; (2) older people with no apparent disability using wheelchairs to board early (there are at least 5 of these on every flight to FL; and (3) non-blind people with large (60 pound plus) dogs sitting in the first row/bulkhead row.

I fly SW a lot and I've been good with it for years, but I fear there is so much gaming going on that the good old assigned-seat method of the legacy carriers is starting to look better just because it is less susceptible to nonsense bad behavior.
posted by Mid at 6:06 PM on December 27, 2014


Oh and one reason I think Hawaiian and Alaska Air are so good is that they serve communities of relatively working-class people who nonetheless have to fly to commute. It's their bread and butter business. (Both also serve constituencies where people tend to be larger than average along various dimensions, too.) And they have a sense of regional identity that makes their service distinctive. Both are also exceptionally safe and on-time airlines where the crews seem at least a little less miserable than on the big carriers.
posted by spitbull at 6:06 PM on December 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


Don't get me started on the "service animal" bullshit. The carriers mostly suck, but their policies are driving the worst among us to feel licensed to be downright sociopathic toward their fellow passengers. That problem is getting out of hand everywhere. Apparently a "service animal" is the new "pet."
posted by spitbull at 6:11 PM on December 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


I can't imagine flying United to Asia or Oceania.

Aha, but now United has codeshared those out to ANA, which is quite pleasant.

They did this, of course, as a personal attack on me, to prevent me from using my gazillion accumulated United miles to upgrade on these flights. (I'm also a fed govt. United prisoner, doing another Narita to SEA next week.) Guess I'll have to see what's good in the prize catalog.
posted by ctmf at 6:12 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


older people with no apparent disability using wheelchairs to board early

A lot of people who need wheelchairs don't have obvious disabilities- some people don't need them all the time but still need to use them frequently. I wouldn't be so quick to judge based on appearances.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:25 PM on December 27, 2014 [35 favorites]


The problem with enforcing the service animal or wheelchair thing too rigorously is that you end up catching a lot of people who really need it but don't "seem" "disabled enough" getting boned over. The more proof you require, the more people you hose who couldn't get that proof for various legitimate reasons like being uninsured, etc.

Target the real fuckbois here, the carry on coffin toters. All carry ons should be size checked, and passengers should not be allowed to load their own carry ons in the bin. I witnessed so much poopy diaper shitfuckery on the last fight I was on. People intentionally loading their shit stupidly so only them and their spouses megabag would fit in that bin, presumably so they could get off quicker. Coffin toters in general. People who just couldn't put them in for shit. The flight attendants had to reload like half the fucking bags. I'm not exaggerating.
posted by emptythought at 6:31 PM on December 27, 2014 [9 favorites]




Also, a lot of service animals are trained to help people with PTSD and other debilitating disorders that can make day to day living and travel otherwise very difficult. I personally know people who have service dogs for this reason. I can't say whether the service animals people encounter are legitimate, but blindness is not the only reason a person would have a service dog.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:31 PM on December 27, 2014 [11 favorites]


If airlines enforced the luggage size and number of pieces limit, it would cut out a lot of the hassle.

It would, but can you imagine the tidal wave of complaints yammered across Twitter and Facebook and whatnot? PR disaster, just for being reasonable. The amplification of every entitled asshat's voice--the kind of people who will yammer on about not being allowed to take their bag on board, and fail to mention that the bag contained Princess Vespa's hairdryer--means having to cater to those whose complaints are loud and emotional and thus more likely to get media coverage. So the reasonable voices saying "What do we want? A little more legroom! When do we want it? Relatively soon!" kind of get lost behind "those assholes wouldn't let me take my overnight bag!", at least in the perception of the company. And I'd guess the front-line workers are so sick of the stress and shitty hours and being yelled at by upset (and/or really entitled) people they just can't be bothered?

I really like the idea of air travel being more tightly regulated, where choice (in my ideal socialist universe) gets driven more by who offers what better, and not just by who drives further to the bottom faster in search of profits. I guess what I'm saying is there needs to be made a minimum standard of room per passenger that takes mental comfort into account, sane luggage policies, etc., that is some reasonable definition of affordable. Pay extra based on actual luxuries and extras rather than on this calculated misery approach.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:34 PM on December 27, 2014


The Hyperloop can't come soon enough.

That is both amazing and utterly, utterly terrifying to even think about riding on. At least with an airplane there's room somewhere for the wizard who makes it work.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:37 PM on December 27, 2014


The old "It's like flying on a cattle car with wings!" joke has never rung more true.

LOL have you ever actually ridden in a cargo plane with livestock? I have. It was a commercial flight on Avianca between Barranquilla and Bogota. There was a big cargo net across the back, restraining a small herd of goats, and some big pallets piled high with burlap bags of coffee beans (and who knows what else inside it). I had a seat along the walls, facing inward. There was no door, and I was seated right across from the opening. When the plane turned, I was looking straight down at the ground, it was terrifying.

And yet, I have been on far worse passenger flights in the US.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:37 PM on December 27, 2014 [33 favorites]


We flew Delta this week and the service was unremarkable but the in-flight safety video was pretty amusing.
posted by octothorpe at 6:41 PM on December 27, 2014


Also, a lot of service animals are trained to help people with PTSD and other debilitating disorders

I thought those were emotional support animals, not service animals.
posted by jpe at 6:42 PM on December 27, 2014


Mailing a big navy duffel bag via USPS from Japan to home is actually cheaper and easier for me these days than taking it on a plane. I just have to wait a few days to get it, which is fine by me. The hotel here says I can mail a bag ahead to them in this direction, too, so it's here when I get here, but I have yet to try that (and it might cost more, being delivered to a Japanese address.)

It really is nice to be either hands-free or just a laptop bag when flying.
posted by ctmf at 6:43 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


"It is not because of the several thousand francs which they would have to spend to cover the third class wagons or to upholster the benches that a particular railway has uncovered carriages and wooden benches; it would happily sacrifice this for the sake of its popularity.

"Its goal is to stop the traveler who can pay for the second class trip from going third class. It hurts the poor not because it wants them to personally suffer, but to scare the rich. The proof is that if today the State were to say to this railroad: here are one hundred thousand francs to improve your carriages, this subsidy would be certainly refused... improving the third class carriages could reduce revenues by two million francs and ruin the company.

"Thus, it is for the same reason that companies, after being cruel to travelers in third class and miserly for those in second, become prodigious for those in first class. After having refused the poor some necessary comforts, they give the rich what is superfluous."

- Jules Dupuit, French civil engineer and economist, 1849
posted by four panels at 6:49 PM on December 27, 2014 [153 favorites]


four panels, that is an incredible quote. wow.
posted by effugas at 7:00 PM on December 27, 2014


wcfields: I'm almost surprised one can't get free upgrades by retweeting, brought to you by Carl's Jr.

Carls Jr: Fuck you, I'm flying!
posted by dr_dank at 7:02 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have noticed, particularly in Europe, that there are airlines out there which vigorously enforce baggage size and weight restrictions. In fact, I keep a small bag in my large carry-on for times when I'm forced to check it and need a place for my laptop, phones, chargers, etc. I understand that it would be a PR disaster for a US airline to try it, but it can and does work.
posted by wintermind at 7:04 PM on December 27, 2014


From the perspective of most of humanity, 

You've obviously never known anyone from a broken family with parts scattered across two or more continents then, because it's not much of a luxury to fly when you have to do it just for the privilege of getting to have contact with the members of your own immediate family... Looks a lot less like a luxury and a lot more like a necessary evil from that POV, especially when none of the family on either side of the ocean are wealthy.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:14 PM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


Too bad the Hyperloop is science fiction. I lost a lot of respect for Elon Musk after that little self-aggrandizing stunt. 60 page proposal, no references, and a section at the end that basically said, " we need to prove that the physics would actually work at lab scale first." Straight up bullshit.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:21 PM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


I know, right? Like those flat portable video and text screens they had on the spaceship Discovery One on its way out to Jupiter to explore the signal the monolith on the moon sent out. Pure science fiction. Until just a few years ago.
posted by hippybear at 7:25 PM on December 27, 2014


Except that he offered it up as an "alternative" to California's high-speed rail project. Kinda like if someone had mentioned text messages as an alternative to the telegram. Sure, it could be done. But not as a solution to short term transportation needs.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:34 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Do airlines pay airports more if there are more checked bags? If not it seems like you could charge a fee for carry-ons (beyond one thing that can go under the seat like a backpack or purse), with the inconvenience being waiting at baggage claim, and provide a free checked bag or two.

Passenger loading and unloading would be faster, meaning you could pack more flights into the day.
posted by gryftir at 7:44 PM on December 27, 2014


There are totally people who who use wheelchairs only to get through security and boarding faster. Here's an article about it. Sure there are also people who legitimately need a wheelchair - but there are also cheats.
posted by Mid at 7:50 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's probably quite easy to create a spreadsheet tracking increasing suffering with decreasing operating expenses with corresponding changes in seat occupancy.

I wonder if any airline analyst ever figured how many people just don't fly as much because travel misery leads to excuses and "sorry, can't do" and "let's pick a place that's drive-able". My wife and I readily dismiss travel plans requiring air travel just because air travel.
posted by fatbird at 8:12 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are totally people who who use wheelchairs only to get through security and boarding faster. Here's an article about it. Sure there are also people who legitimately need a wheelchair - but there are also cheats.

I am really curious what sort of people need a wheelchair in the airport, but don't have one which they are bringing on their trip with them. People with casts maybe? It just seems like a weird demographic.
posted by jeather at 8:24 PM on December 27, 2014


I am really curious what sort of people need a wheelchair in the airport, but don't have one which they are bringing on their trip with them. People with casts maybe? It just seems like a weird demographic.

most airports, even considering the prevalence of moving walkways, require a LOT of walking from security to gate. you can't always find the considerate airport employees who will take you on a cart to your gate either. elderly people will often be pushed into wheelchairs by relatives or travel companions as a precaution. also on long travel days your legs or back will get very stiff and make long distance walking very difficult, even if you have plenty of energy after being cooped up in a tin box for several hours. i say this as someone with significant mobility issues, and one of the people who is allowed on planes early for legitimate reasons.
posted by oog at 8:33 PM on December 27, 2014 [23 favorites]


Every time I've flown, the people who are loaded in early because they require assistance like a wheelchair are the people who have to sit on the plane while everyone else gets off until the foot traffic clears enough for the people with the wheelchairs at the other end to come and get them.

*shrug*
posted by hippybear at 8:35 PM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah but a lot of those who get on with wheelchair assistance somehow manage to get off quite easily without waiting for a chair pusher. That's why you see lot of empty chairs lined up at arrival gates. A lot of people are exaggerating or faking disability, for sure. It's just obviously true.

AirAsia A320 with 155 souls aboard missing tonight somewhere over Indonesia, to put it all in perspective.
posted by spitbull at 8:43 PM on December 27, 2014


Yeah but a lot of those who get on with wheelchair assistance somehow manage to get off quite easily without waiting for a chair pusher. That's why you see lot of empty chairs lined up at arrival gates. A lot of people are exaggerating or faking disability, for sure. It's just obviously true.

bolded parts are pure conjecture on your part, and thus far from obviously true.
posted by oog at 8:48 PM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Is the New York Times a credible enough source to satisfy your demanding scientific standards oog?

I fly 20-25 times a year. I'm not conjecturing but you sure are defensive. People are faking it. Read.
posted by spitbull at 9:04 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure the reason why I see a lot of empty chairs lined up at arrival gates are because I'm walking off the plane and the wheelchairs are there for the people who I see while I get off the plane still sitting their seats, waiting for the foot traffic to clear.

Or maybe you've stayed on the plane until everyone else is gone to do some count comparisons between the people who remain onboard waiting for assistance and the chairs waiting. I'm usually on my way someplace else long before then.
posted by hippybear at 9:04 PM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


To be honest I'm going to follow whichever airline races for the bottom the fastest cause I don't have a lot of money but I still like to visit people and go on vacation every so often. Having a pleasant flight experience is not really on my priorities list--if I have to be treated like cattle for a couple hours of my life in return for traveling a thousand miles then so be it.
posted by geegollygosh at 9:10 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Obviously I just didn't think enough about people who might use wheelchairs -- in particular people I know gate check them. I've heard horror stories about waiting for the courtesy wheelchairs for a Very Long Time, too.

I can't imagine that people who fake disabilities know people with real ones; the inconvenience and time taken to, say, wait in a security line are real, but pale in comparison to actually having a disability (visible or invisible), and faking it is only going to eventually screw things up for people who actually need it.
posted by jeather at 9:14 PM on December 27, 2014


ABC news.

Wall St Journal

Time Magazine

All just anti-disabled bigots? The airlines themselves concede the problem is very real and dozens of airport employees and air crew are quoted in these stories.

Again, the fakers are hurting the truly disabled, not the people who csll out abuse. These people are no different than someone who fakes a handicapped parking permit.
posted by spitbull at 9:18 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess I appreciate the concern from people who say faking disabilities harms people with real disabilities (like me). It also comes off as pretty condescending when repeated ad nauseum like it's starting to be in this thread, and I'm feeling less patient. and I agree that the boarding of planes and the overall experience of plane travel is very frustrating--imagine, if you will, how the past 13+ years since 9/11 has been for those of us who travel internationally with metal implements hidden under clothing. I have undergone numerous invasive searches from both overzealous and perfectly reasonable security personnel on multiple continents.

However, saying that people gaming their way into wheelchairs and thus into boarding an airplane 5 minutes early is a significant blip on the radar of the shittiness of air travel is looking at the situation very myopically, if you ask me.
posted by oog at 9:23 PM on December 27, 2014 [22 favorites]


My wife: multiple back surgeries, implanted neurostimulator, chronic pain, etc. She can (and does) walk without a wheelchair at the small regional airport I mentioned upthread, but when we fly out of PIT or connect through larger airports, she absolutely needs a wheelchair to travel the longer distances between gates etc. If she does manage to walk it herself (slowly, with many stops), she's in debilitating pain for the first couple days of our trip.

Often, I have to talk her into getting a chair, because she hates using it unless she absolutely has to. You know why? Because she's afraid of the exact kind of scrutiny and second-guessing of whether she really "needs it" that people are talking about in this thread. She's gotten the nasty looks in airports, she's gotten them when parking in handicapped spots, and she's gotten them at fucking Disney World.

Yes, there are fakers. We hate them more than you could possibly know, because they're the ones who make it harder for us. But guess what? We don't know who the fakers are, and neither do you. Speculating isn't going to get you any closer to the truth, so just deal with it, and be glad you're not in a position where you have to guess how much pain you can endure so that you can avoid being judged by half the people on the plane.

So typical, though -- the real assholes are out there in ther private jets, but Americans tear each other apart because they might be faking a disability that can get them a slightly better coach seat.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:41 PM on December 27, 2014 [68 favorites]


I am really curious what sort of people need a wheelchair in the airport, but don't have one which they are bringing on their trip with them.

I'll cop to it. We got one for my dad because 1)he falls over and knocks himself out semi-regularly & 2) it gave him an escort to the gate so he wouldn't wander off and get lost and forget what he was doing there & 3) it pretty much guaranteed someone would make sure he got to his connecting flight or hook him up with a different one if he missed it.

There is no way he could have managed any of it himself.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:42 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


And yeah, we don't bring our own wheelchair, either. The airport is usually the most physically demanding part of our trip. There are plenty of people who can navigate short distances but who can't deal with an airport. I don't see how this is controversial.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:49 PM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


Re: Wheelchair users/invisible disabilities
I am one of those folks who can walk short distances without bags, but I use a wheelchair to get from check-in to boarding gate. If I had to walk from drop-off to gate, I'd never fly at all. Normally my balance needs are taken care of by a cane; I use a folding one when travelling, which fits in my laptop bag. That means I don't "look" disabled.
The problem with wheelchairs at the landing gate is they are usually *unattended* wheelchairs. Useless for most of us who are disabled enough to need a wheelchair in a large airline terminal. At most airports, it takes up to 90 minutes to get an attendant for the reserved wheelchair. Unless I have a multi-hour layover, I usually miss my connecting flight.
More about flying with a musical instrument in my next post.
posted by Dreidl at 9:52 PM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


ATL is my home base, and let me tell you, just having a trick knee might make it worth getting a chair and pusher there. Even the "easy" gates are walks of at least a quarter mile. If you're coming or going through Concourse E or the new F, Outer Mongolia as my business partner and I call it, you could be in for a walk of more than half a mile. That's in addition to the walk from parking to check-in to security to train to even get to the concourse.

It's been a while since I traveled regularly, but a few years ago it was common to find there were more chairs and people in them than pushers. More than once I've taken a "divine interruption" detour with my partner to push people to where they need to go rather than let them sit and fret about getting to their next flight or whatever. The chair pusher people get mad when they find out though.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:15 PM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've mentioned the post-9/11 pleasures of security theater and flying with large wooden musical instruments here several times. What's relevant to this thread is the fact that most airlines won't accept instruments as checked baggage, or if they do, at exorbitant air freight rates with no guarantee of timely arrival. My flight cases are designed for 2 meter drops and to withstand <250kg piled on top of them - which is why the smaller ones weigh over 20kg empty and are large enough to hold multiple sets of golf clubs. The double-bass flight coffins are not allowed as freight due to oversize, period. I'd have to send them more expensively one-way as ground freight, than I would pay to fly to the same location 1st class RT.

So I fly VA whenever possible, which I believe I have mentioned used to allow instruments of reasonable size as carry-ons, plus a checked bag for free, if one could show proof of planned gigs associated with the flight. AA and Jet Blue I just buy a seat for the instrument, who flies as "Viola D. Gamba Dreidlsrealname" in a light semi-rigid case. The whole shebang including two bows and music stand weighs less than 8kgs. The airlines seem fine with this. The problem is my fellow passengers.

1st, they refuse to believe that I am in a wheelchair with my cello-sized thingie and day bag (Viola da G. gets "their" own carry-on too, but that's not feasible unless I also have a flying companion to schlep) for any other reason than fraud or laziness. No. I am a disabled person *who is also a professional musician*. My legs have the problem, not my sensory systems, arms or intellect, thanks. Which means I just comprehended every angry, rude and bigoted thing the other passenger(s) just said. In English, Romance languages, German and most related languages, Turkish, Yiddish, Hebrew and Japanese.

2nd, Viola da G. has their own boarding pass prominently attached to the case. Viola da G. is not "stealing" a seat from a person. That seat was paid for, just like mine, and having a conniption fit with the flight attendant about it won't change anything. I need to be able to sit next to or behind Viola da G. so I know it's securely fastened to the seat and I know where it is at all times. It (well, the work where it's the tool) is what finances my airline travel. Also, no, you can't put your things on it; sit on it; put your purse dog's bag under it (under the seat in front of it, be my guest as long as you don't touch the instrument to do so); or put your baby carrier on top of it, with or without the baby. All of those could damage Viola da G.

I generally wait until everyone else has disembarked before trying to extricate myself and the instrument. By then, if there is a wheelchair remaining, it definitely doesn't have an attendant or skycap to push it. I will say that many off-duty flight attendants, and even flight deck crew, have very kindly pushed me through airports if they're going in the same direction. I've had the pleasure of playing short concerts for some of them in the lounge. Thanks folks, especially VA and Jet Blue - they've pushed the most often. No fellow passenger has ever offered to help. Think about that.
posted by Dreidl at 10:42 PM on December 27, 2014 [53 favorites]


I can't imagine flying United to Asia or Oceania.

I flew United from BWI to LAX to Osaka Kansai Int'l (cheapest fare, natch) and you know, I think it sucked shit but I didn't really care because I was too excited about getting married when I got here. There was a little USB plug in the seatback in front of me so I could keep my Sansa Clip charged. I have plenty of tunes so sure, it was cramped and the food was bad and the blankets were for shit but did I mention I was coming here to get married?

So I didn't care, the craphole flight was just a means to an end and since I got married and changed my residence status anyway I never planned to use the return leg, which went through Shanghai and took two days of layover. Choosing such a fucked up return trip made it all much cheaper, word to the wise if you're flying overseas to stay, get the wackest return leg possible, you won't take the flight anyway and it could knock a few hundred bones off the price of your trip.

My wife has loads of JAL miles from flights and her credit card so I think when we visit the US it will be nicer than shitty United and their dogshit cheap flights (which, by the way, I didn't mind at all because I was flying to get married. YESSSSSSSSS!)
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:01 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really, really am not a fan of the "this is an amazing privilege and if you complain you're a princessy butthead" argument. It's a bit too close to "starving children in africa". Just because someone is an unimaginable privilege to some, doesn't mean that it isn't awful and designed specifically to be the absolute minimum experience to attract the maximum amount of money out of people.

Coors light can still be terrible beer even if it's a privilege to be drinking it compared to moonshine that's making people blind in the african backcountry. Everything does not have to exist on some spectrum where if you're past the bottom 20 you're not allowed to complain.

This, like internet service costing $60 a month for something thats slow and barely works is one of those things that not only easily could, but should be better. but because someone can make an extra buck somewhere along the chain, and knows people will pay regardless, it isn't. How is that fair? how is complaining about that invalid?

They could fix all this shit in a couple months max if they wanted. Hell, raise the ticket prices a bit and bring back one free checked bag below a certain size.

A lot of us, even the younger ones, are old enough to remember that this didn't used to be this way and that nothing really changed except that they realized they could do it a lot more half assedly.

LOL have you ever actually ridden in a cargo plane with livestock? I have. It was a commercial flight on Avianca between Barranquilla and Bogota. There was a big cargo net across the back, restraining a small herd of goats, and some big pallets piled high with burlap bags of coffee beans (and who knows what else inside it). I had a seat along the walls, facing inward. There was no door, and I was seated right across from the opening. When the plane turned, I was looking straight down at the ground, it was terrifying.

And yet, I have been on far worse passenger flights in the US.


I think it's worth having a shoutout here to the fact that despite how much planes suck, long haul buses have somehow managed to create a worse product.

But really, i've ridden in the back of box trucks in pitch black darkness, on couches, chairs, or even just surrounded by piles of junk. i recently drove my friend for over and hour in the back of a box truck with all his belongings.

One time they forgot to latch the rear door, and i was paranoid about being locked in... so i just held the door shut the entire time. Yes, seriously. Every time we hit a moon crater it would bounce open a bit and a sliver of light would come in.

we both agreed it was an end to end superior experience to flying. i'd seriously rather lay down in the back of a truck with stuff piled all around and partially on top of me. And i mean hell, it's dark, it's easy to take a nap if you want to.
posted by emptythought at 11:12 PM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


It would, but can you imagine the tidal wave of complaints yammered across Twitter and Facebook and whatnot? PR disaster, just for being reasonable. The amplification of every entitled asshat's voice--the kind of people who will yammer on about not being allowed to take their bag on board, and fail to mention that the bag contained Princess Vespa's hairdryer--means having to cater to those whose complaints are loud and emotional and thus more likely to get media coverage.

Massive, snarky ad campaign. Something like this. Adults with the voices of toddlers dubbed in throwing full on stamping foot tee-tees with exaggeratedly large bags, and doing other stupid things. Show them after whining about it, then kicking the backs of seats like little kids and poking sleeping people and shit.

Paint the people complaining as entitled, whiny babies to be made fun of. Run these ads EVERYWHERE. The only two points to cover are "we did all this stuff so you can have an easier, relaxing, laid back experience with less hassle" and that the people complaining are entitled babies. Show them doing stupid things everyone hates in other aspects of their life too, then cut to them doing it on the plane.

Make it horribly embarrassing to be associated with complaining about it. Really shame the hell out of those people. If they hit it right, and quickly enough, the people complaining online will seem like the people complaining that they don't get a discount just for whining at a big box store.
posted by emptythought at 11:16 PM on December 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


Mid: "On recent SW flights I have noticed: [...](2) older people with no apparent disability using wheelchairs to board early (there are at least 5 of these on every flight to FL; and (3) non-blind people with large (60 pound plus) dogs sitting in the first row/bulkhead row. "

(2) My father before he needed a wheelchair full time could walk about 1km in total in a day. So he'd be one of these people. He was also the ""fully capable of walking"" guy that used to get yelled at (and get notes on his windshield) for using handicap parking spots when "obviously their is nothing wrong with you". Abled people can be complete asshats about this.

(3) My cousin has epilepsy. Her service dog travels with her everywhere and is just as important to her mobility as a seeing eye dog. She otherwise looks perfectly able.

Mid: "There are totally people who who use wheelchairs only to get through security and boarding faster. Here's an article about it. Sure there are also people who legitimately need a wheelchair - but there are also cheats."

So what? How do you propose to allow service dogs and mobility aids to those who require it while still totally preventing cheating? Giving the stink eye to people you perceive as not needing assistance and ranting about them on the internet isn't going to do anything but shame the handicapped. The cheaters are obviously already beyond shame.

jeather: "I am really curious what sort of people need a wheelchair in the airport, but don't have one which they are bringing on their trip with them. People with casts maybe? It just seems like a weird demographic."

Lots of people with reduced mobility can handle limited walking (such that they may not even need a personal wheelchair) but commercial travel, and air travel in particular, tends to rapidly blow their walking budget.
posted by Mitheral at 11:25 PM on December 27, 2014 [19 favorites]


tonycpsu I had a flight with United that was almost that bad (no jail or cops). Having flown in everything from B-52s to Somali airways (yes there was such a thing) I can say it was the worst.
posted by boilermonster at 11:52 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


How do you propose to allow service dogs and mobility aids to those who require it while still totally preventing cheating?

Some sort of certification and licensing would eliminate a lot of faking.

If you have a service animal, it should be registered as a service animal to a certain person for a certain reason with approval of an independent doctor.

Provide wheelchairs and wheelchair attendants to everyone who requests them as required by law, but a wheelchair does not entitle you to jump lines.
posted by pracowity at 4:39 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


> I am really curious what sort of people need a wheelchair in the airport, but don't have one which they are bringing on their trip with them. People with casts maybe? It just seems like a weird demographic.

I imagine there are way more folks who have limited mobility than folks who require everyday use of a wheelchair. My step-mother, for example, has had 1 x hip replacements and 2 x knee surgeries for osteoarthritis; she can walk, albeit slowly and painfully. She doesn't use a wheelchair, she just limits her movement around the home, uses a car to get around, and plans her day so it involves the least amount of walking. But the quantity of walking required at the airport is completely untenable for her, so she asks for assistance. I think there are a lot of people who would fall into a similar category.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 5:37 AM on December 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


> Provide wheelchairs and wheelchair attendants to everyone who requests them as required by law, but a wheelchair does not entitle you to jump lines.

I always assumed that the queue-jumping perk was by accident rather than by design; i.e. that mobility-impaired passengers are transported through the airport and onto the plane on a schedule most convenient and efficient to the airline, rather than as a privilege afforded the passenger.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 5:42 AM on December 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


I get that a lot of people legitimately need wheelchairs and that a lot of people have disabilities that are not obvious to an outside observer. I should have been more sensitive to that in my initial comments. But it is also true that cheaters exploit those same facts. Is it a major national problem? No, but since this entire thread is about the relatively minor annoyances of air travel, the observation isn't that out of place either. My main point was that cheating (of all types) is unfortunately better rewarded on SW because of the open seating policy. I agree that few people would fake a disability to get onto a plane a few minutes early if they had an assigned seat (putting aside the security line). But on SW, I have personally witnessed all kinds of nonsense from people trying to jump higher in the line in order to get a non-middle seat, an exit row, etc.
posted by Mid at 6:40 AM on December 28, 2014


I do appreciate the answers everyone gave me, as I obviously hadn't thought about the courtesy wheelchairs to any great extent before now.
posted by jeather at 6:46 AM on December 28, 2014 [6 favorites]



A lot of us, even the younger ones, are old enough to remember that this didn't used to be this way and that nothing really changed except that they realized they could do it a lot more half assedly.


And more cheaply. Building and maintaining planes that safely fly people across the country on the back of a massive infrastructure isn't cheap. Plus, Americans are flying more-massively more-because it's no longer prohibitively expensive for the majority of people. As a result, going to the airport involves standing in lines and sharing your elbow space and bringing your own food and being stuck behind a family of first time flyers in the security line. If you want to avoid these things, you can pay for first class, which will be pretty in line with regular prices thirty years ago.

I don't put it in the same mental category as internet, because the end product of internet bill is my internet, which I like to work well. The end product of my flight today is to get me back home safely. I don't doubt that this will happen.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:53 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


The line jumping is to save time for the paid wheelchair attendant, not the person in the wheelchair. Plus it often takes 30 min to get an attendant when you get to the airport, so the time you save at security isn't really an advantage. I had to use a wheelchair at the airport for a couple of years, and while it was awesome that it allowed me to continue traveling, it was also a pain in the ass compared to just walking.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 7:00 AM on December 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


There is a huge list of things that can make the long sprints across an airport impossible, from a sports injury to any kind of joint or movement pain (eg arthritis, fibromylagia, etc) to vision and balance issues. Almost none of them are visible, and few will prevent shorter walks, like down the jetbridge. Sometimes you can ride the beeping golfcart thing, but other times the only option is a wheelchair.

I'm sure there are people who are trying to scam the system; the joke on them is that the whole setup still sucks and no one is getting there quicker or more pleasantly. I'm not sure it's possible to stop the scammers without making life incredibly unpleasant for the people with actual mobility issues (and in the process certainly creating ADA violations as well).

The real solution isn't in policing disability claims; it is in better airport design and in removing the deliberate miseries that the FPP discusses. Crappy boarding is a deliberate misery designed to make people pay extra to avoid it; better boarding policies would help everyone and would remove incentives to game the system.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:03 AM on December 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


Heck, I'm currently in good physical health and the slog through the airports can be exhausting, especially when you're jetlagged and dragging bags with you. I know that my sister, who can walk during normal day-to-day activities, could never make it across an airport like Dulles or Atlanta without a wheelchair or at least a golf-cart due to her bad knees.
posted by octothorpe at 7:16 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


> I just buy a seat for the instrument, who flies as "Viola D. Gamba Dreidlsrealname" in a light semi-rigid case. The whole shebang including two bows and music stand weighs less than 8kgs. The airlines seem fine with this. The problem is my fellow passengers

I would love to fly next to Viola D. G, who I presume can be trusted not to hog the armrest.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:31 AM on December 28, 2014 [13 favorites]


but a wheelchair does not entitle you to jump lines.

Which lines are you trying to prevent jumping in? The security areas that often involve escalators or winding lines that are difficult/impossible to maneuver a wheelchair through? Or the boarding lines, where you're then asking a person who can only spend a limited amount of time on their feet to now stand while people are trying to jockey their bags into the overheads? And if your answer is the 2nd is aisle chair for everyone, good luck trying to get that thing back down a crowded aisle during boarding.

I promise you that real disabled people aren't getting anywhere faster than you.
posted by hwyengr at 7:38 AM on December 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


pracowity: "Some sort of certification and licensing would eliminate a lot of faking.

If you have a service animal, it should be registered as a service animal to a certain person for a certain reason with approval of an independent doctor.
"

This would put an additional burden on disabled people (because you can bet the State isn't going to provide that licensing and certification for free). And then once the infrastructure was in place it would end up being something that disabled people would be expected to produce on demand everywhere they went. And it would greatly harm the non resident travelers who wouldn't have the right papers.

pracowity: "Provide wheelchairs and wheelchair attendants to everyone who requests them as required by law, but a wheelchair does not entitle you to jump lines."

Any line expedition is for the benefit of the airline rather than the traveler.
posted by Mitheral at 8:28 AM on December 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


Another thing about using a wheelchair is that when you're paying someone to push you (and your carry-on bags) for ten or twenty minutes, you've got to tip them pretty nicely. I would feel terribly guilty tipping less than $10 at each airport, which means a minimum of $30 each way for a one-stop flight. I'm sure some people would pay that amount for the "privileges" that come with feigning a disability, but given that you can pay less for priority boarding, and given that security lines at our home airport are typically pretty short, I'm not sure how many people would do it regularly even if they had no shame whatsoever.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:08 AM on December 28, 2014


It's fascinating how this thread went from 'mega-corporations making bad decisions that effect their customers' to the customers singling out other customers for not sharing in the misery enough.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:46 AM on December 28, 2014 [29 favorites]


Democracy!
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:42 AM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I am perfectly okay with literally anyone who wants to sit in a wheelchair jumping the queue to get on and off planes. The rule should not refer to disability at all, merely to whether or not someone would prefer to sit in a wheelchair in order to get on the plane first.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:55 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I have been avoiding flying whenever possible but that sucks also, because there are places where you need to fly if you are going to visit."

Ditto. I used to love flying, (that's right kids, flying used to be fun!), but I'm old enough to remember the good ol' days. Last time I had to fly was because my truck was destroyed by fire. I was stuck with a bunch of odds and ends like a heavy toolbox, and a cooler which I filled with various possessions - five pieces altogether. Luckily, all my clothes had burnt up, so I didn't have that. I found a relatively cheap flight. When I got to the counter, turned out my "luggage" cost almost twice as much as the ticket, no exaggeration.
I said, "Forget it, please refund my ticket and I'll rent a car." Once the nice lady was sure I was serious, she found a way to reduce the cost considerably. Ok.
Then, I had forgotten to take my fifty-dollar lighter out of my pocket. Since I was not willing to throw it away for no goddamn reason, I had to be escorted back so they could retrieve my luggage, so I could put the lighter in it, and escorted back.
By this time, it seemed obvious that I must be working with Al Qaeda, in spite of my blond hair and TWIC card, and was given another very thorough screening.

So yeah, I avoid flying.
posted by sudon't at 11:58 AM on December 28, 2014


I used to love flying, (that's right kids, flying used to be fun!), but I'm old enough to remember the good ol' days.

When I was a kid flying places in the 70s... this is going to sound like a fairy tale to some... You would get an actual meal served to you with plates and actual metal utensils on most flights. (The food wasn't actually good, but it was there, it was hot, and it was part of your ticket price.) There were blankets and pillows available upon request if you wanted to snooze. The seats actually laid back far enough to let you sleep. And when the seat in front of you reclined, it didn't come anywhere near your knees. There was a large number of national and local (to the flight route) newspapers and a wide selection of magazines that were available to read, upon request. And as a kid, you'd get a pin that was your "wings" and you'd get to go up into the cockpit and the pilots would talk to you and give you a small tour of what you were looking at. And this was in COACH!

Flying used to be a really great. Really and truly.
posted by hippybear at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2014 [8 favorites]


> you'd get to go up into the cockpit and the pilots would talk to you and give you a small tour of what you were looking at.

Unexpectedly, this still happens. My kids have been offered tours in the past few years (I made them accept and came along with them, because coool!). It was before the plane took off, when I guess the pilots were done with their checklists and were just killing time.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:06 PM on December 28, 2014


When I was a kid flying places in the 70s... this is going to sound like a fairy tale to some... You would get an actual meal served to you with plates and actual metal utensils on most flights. There were blankets and pillows available upon request if you wanted to snooze. The seats actually laid back far enough to let you sleep. And when the seat in front of you reclined, it didn't come anywhere near your knees.

...and the ticket price would have been about twice what you'd pay now. Average US domestic ticket prices in 1975 were $225 in 2012 dollars (or $254 as a percentage of median family income) compared to average ticket prices in 2012 of $123.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:24 PM on December 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ah, back in the day it would be mid-flight, I think as a way to distract and entertain the kids on longer flights. Pilots are required by law to lock the cockpit door from the inside now during flight, post 9/11.
posted by hippybear at 1:26 PM on December 28, 2014


Average US domestic ticket prices in 1975 were $225 in 2012 dollars (or $254 as a percentage of median family income) compared to average ticket prices in 2012 of $123.

Add in $50 for one checked bag, plus $10 for an in-flight snack box, plus the extra leg room up charge (what is that these days? $25?)... you've raised that $123 up to $200 already...
posted by hippybear at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2014


Sure, but nobody forces you to check a bag or buy a snack box or get extra leg room.

I mean, obviously airlines have cut ticket prices 50% over 40 years -- in the face of large increases in some of their primary costs -- by including fewer things in the ticket price. But the fact still remains that you can get around for about half of what it used to cost you if you don't mind doing without those things.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:43 PM on December 28, 2014


Carried to its logical conclusion, future "sleep flying" will borrow a phrase from sleep dentistry. Get sedated, packed into a pallet and loaded like so much cordwood, and loaded into a plane to wake up at your destination.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:02 PM on December 28, 2014


> the fact still remains that you can get around for about half of what it used to cost you

Given how terrible air travel is for the climate, I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:38 PM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've gladly paid the extra $40-$80 that seems standard for four inches of legroom. I'd pay more than than for an extra two inches of buttroom but that's not an option without adding $1000 to the price. (Well, a little less, the last time I priced something like that out, it was $330 round trip cattle class and $1250 for first class. I'd have gone up to $500 and change, but there's no middle ground.)
posted by Karmakaze at 3:41 PM on December 28, 2014


If airlines enforced the luggage size and number of pieces limit, it would cut out a lot of the hassle.
Yeah, this pisses me off enormously - the day will come when a passenger is killed by some arsehole's 20kg suitcase falling out of the overhead locker during turbulence. I regularly see people bringing luggage on board that takes two people to lift into the locker, despite the 7kg 'limit' for carry-on bags, even on flights where checked luggage is included in the ticket.

...turned out my "luggage" cost almost twice as much as the ticket, no exaggeration.
I said, "Forget it, please refund my ticket and I'll rent a car." Once the nice lady was sure I was serious, she found a way to reduce the cost considerably. Ok.

I was once flying out of Ho Chi Minh City after a long and exhausting business trip. Because my (then) employer refused to issue staff with a credit card but gave out travellers cheques for the estimated costs, I was pretty much out of money. With my luggage weighing over twice the allowance (mostly display materials, gathered research etc), they wanted to charge me over US$500 for it. After I insisted that I couldn't pay that and asked to get my luggage back so I could remove some items, then started piling up stuff to throw out, they got so embarrassed they reduced the price to less than US$100. I don't know if it applies these days but, back then (maybe 10 years ago) making a fuss over excess luggage charges almost always resulted in a dramatic reduction. Being cute and blonde and prepared to do a little flirting worked even better, which one of my colleagues had the benefit of - she never once paid excess baggage fees.
posted by dg at 3:43 PM on December 28, 2014


TV used to be free, you watched commercials and in return they broadcast the signal free over the public airwaves. Then came cable, and you had to pay monthly fees AND watch commercials. And now your satellite TV and your DVR costs extr, and now most people are paying way over $100/month for what used to be free. Corporations are nickel-and-diming everybody, you have to pay for what used to be free. And they'll screw you even when you're prepared to pay for the product. My pet peeve is downsizing of grocery products. Here is just a minor insult I saw at the grocery store just now, compare the shelf tag and the product: 9oz for the price of 10.

Unbundling of transport products is a pain in the ass, and since it baggage handling was bundled, now it seems like a ripoff downsizing. But other places, it's accepted because it has always been the standard practice. Like I remember taking the train in Japan, I had to pay to have my big luggage delivered by rail, separate from my ticket. But it was a huge relief to not have to drag that crap through train stations. And the Japan Rail system is actually somewhat efficient. My luggage always arrived long before me, even when I checked it just before departure.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:59 PM on December 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


TV is still free (here, anyway - 19 channels of free crap!). People can choose to pay for access to more content if they wish, just as they are able to access a higher level of service from airlines by paying for business or first class tickets, or airline lounge memberships. I'm with you all the way on downsizing of groceries though - it really pisses me off :-(
posted by dg at 5:08 PM on December 28, 2014


My pet peeve is downsizing of grocery products.

Remember half-gallon packages of ice cream? Or 8oz single serve yogurts? Or canned goods that were a logical number of ounces instead of 17.3oz or whatever?

Yeah, the grocery shrink ray is one of my least favorite things, mostly because it's SNEAKY.
posted by hippybear at 5:25 PM on December 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Mandatory 'unit pricing' of groceries here has made this less sneaky, but I'm pretty sure most people aren't all that aware of its existence.
posted by dg at 5:36 PM on December 28, 2014


I'd rather they just raised prices, but I'm sure marketing research supports shrinking packages over raising prices for preserving market share and increasing profits. It irritates me mostly because I cook a lot by proportion and by eye, rather than measuring, so having things like cans of tuna suddenly be smaller messes everything up.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:21 PM on December 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Which, on reflection, is exactly what is happening with airline pricing. The profitable path is to be shitty, and so that's exactly what a company will do. It irks me to be the recipient, and unlike with grocery shopping where I can just buy two cans of tuna I don't have the money to buy my way out of the shitty treatment.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:28 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


So what's the most feasible path towards fixing air travel?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:37 PM on December 28, 2014


So what's the most feasible path towards fixing air travel?

Short of re-regulating the industry, I'm not sure what can be done.
posted by hippybear at 6:44 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Although increasing air travel shittiness is not the worst of things in the world and fixing it really shouldn't be a drop-everything priority, it does strike me that, yes, this is the sort of thing that it's best to wield the awesome power of the state against.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:10 PM on December 28, 2014


yes, this is the sort of thing that it's best to wield the awesome power of the state against.

Yes, government is the only entity powerful enough to stand up to corporate interests. It is the only legitimate corporate interest, it is an incorporation of We The People into a government that can regulate economic activity in the public interest.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:37 PM on December 28, 2014


What I want to know is if Viola D. Gamba gets credit card offers and junk mail from Mutual of Omaha, because my friend's cello sure did a number of years ago.
posted by fedward at 8:58 PM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just buy a seat for the instrument... The airlines seem fine with this.

I'm really pleased that you've made this work. In my experience, any time the concepts "airline" and "musical instrument" come into contact, it is a recipe for hassle and grief. I swear that some airlines have special teams dedicated to making travel with musical instruments as hard as possible...
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 12:53 AM on December 29, 2014


Airline travel is miserable no matter who you fly with. It's a race to the bottom that the customer lost. I don't know anyone who buys a plane ticket anymore with a thought other then, "I just need to get there and put the trip behind me."
posted by Legomancer at 11:04 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Motorized wheelchairs must be checked, there's a whole rigamarole to it because of the batteries and explosion worries. So if you bring a motorized wheelchair on the plane, you need to borrow a push wheelchair from the airport. That's why they are all lined up by the gate. You need one to get to and from checked baggage. Plus transfer and push assistance, if you are traveling alone.
posted by domo at 12:04 PM on December 29, 2014


One nice thing about playing the mandolin, however poorly, is that it fits nicely into the overhead. I've flown with mine on domestic and international flights with no hassle, although the security question lady in Rio did ask me to open the case for her.
posted by wintermind at 12:10 PM on December 29, 2014


Motorized wheelchairs must be checked, there's a whole rigamarole to it because of the batteries and explosion worries.
Non-motorised ones also. Standard wheelchairs don't fit down the aisles and anyway, where do you put it once you are in your seat?
posted by dg at 12:33 PM on December 29, 2014


David Perry has been tweeting recently about the problems of traveling with assistive devices (such as motorized chairs):
>In 2013, @AmericanAir was the worst of the major carriers in terms of damaging assistive devices like wheelchairs. http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/annual-report-disability-related-air-travel-complaints …
>. @Delta and @united are leading domestic airlines in complaints from people with disabilities. But @AmericanAir "ahead" in breaking chairs.
>What's so clear to me from reading people with assistive mobility devices, is one incident can make them reluctant to travel ever.
>So even when the airline fixes/replaces the chair, they have made society less inclusive overall.
He has a request:
>: ICYMI: I am collecting stories of people who have had their wheelchairs damaged by airlines. Email lollardfish AT gmail. Please RT!
posted by Lexica at 12:44 PM on December 29, 2014


So what's the most feasible path towards fixing air travel?

Regulation.

Tax it so that you can afford a lot fewer personal flights, and nail business travel so corporations work a lot harder to conduct meetings and make deals electronically. Air travel is a huge polluter. Frequent fliers are shamefully heavy polluters.

And for the remaining passengers, use the law to increase the minimum amount of space every passenger has to get. You should not, for example, get a chair that theoretically lets you stretch out and lie back but actually crushes the person behind you if you try to get comfortable.
posted by pracowity at 3:29 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


While i support the idea of taxing the hell out of corporate ticket purchases, i don't know if i can get behind drastically raising the cost of flying for individuals.

That's one of those bad, unequal taxes like sales tax that hurts low income people way more than anyone else, at least as i see it.

Lower income people would be the ones who would no longer be able to visit family as often or at all, when they often barely can anyways. Whereas everyone not-poor would just grumble and gripe and pay the increased fairs to do exactly what they've been doing, just like people do with gas prices.

And telling a low income person they don't get a $105 ticket back home for their dads birthday or whatever because environment just seems pretty shitty.

I get that flying isn't some right, but there seems to be plenty of support here for the idea of it being a Greater Good public service that the government should step in to. And i really think that cheaper tickets have been a sort of great equalizer, especially on domestic flights. I don't really think a $3-500 round trip ticket from one coast to the other is something we should dismiss as a worthy casualty of saving the planet.

If you're absolutely going to raise the fairs for those reasons, with government intervention, then i think there needs to be low income tickets or ticket vouchers or... something. And holy hell does that sound like something republicans would bend over backwards to destroy.
posted by emptythought at 4:55 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd maybe come around to taxing the hell out of air travel if we had universal paid vacation of a length that'd allow travel of significant distances by less polluting means. And that's even less likely in the US than a direct subsidy aimed at individual travelers.

As for taxing the hell out of business travel, I don't know how we'd prevent the "buy it yourself and we'll reimburse you" workaround. But then I'm a bit addled by sleep deprivation due to winter weather flight delays. Would've been nice if they'd put us all up for the night and just flown us all out the next morning, like in Ye Olden Times, but not so much.

I really wish airport design included things like nap rooms. Occasionally some of the larger ones have/had meditation rooms, but if those are actually being used for their intended purposes, dozing in them's frowned on. Oh, and I miss luggage lockers. Those were the best for solo travelers who haven't got anybody else to watch their stuff.
posted by asperity at 5:22 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


And telling a low income person they don't get a $105 ticket back home for their dads birthday or whatever because environment just seems pretty shitty.

Well, at this point, I'm already glad I don't have children who are going to have to deal with what the effects of climate change post-2050 is like, so yeah, let's keep the cheap air fares. I'll be dead by the time the crops don't grow, the coasts are inundated by the oceans, invasive species have supplanted useful ones, and life on the planet is nothing like what we expect it to be today and tomorrow and next year.

Unless we really wrap our minds around the idea that battling climate change is going to mean actually restructuring our economy and our lifestyles and start to do it through things like taxing and fees as a start, the next generation and the one after that is basically fucked. (And that doesn't even begin to account for our commitment to warming, which at this point, with CO2 at over 400ppm means that even if we cut our emissions to ZERO tomorrow, through some miracle, there's still going to be some hell to pay.)
posted by hippybear at 2:44 AM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


Coach-minus!
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 7:00 AM on December 31, 2014


While i support the idea of taxing the hell out of corporate ticket purchases, i don't know if i can get behind drastically raising the cost of flying for individuals.

The point is that people shouldn't arrange their lives around dependence on burning lots of cheap fuel. You can't move to the moon and then honestly complain that you have no choice but to burn all that fuel for your weekly Saturn V trip home to mom. You made that choice when you moved there.

Also, you could take care of this on income tax returns. When you buy a ticket, you declare whether it's a personal or business trip, and you get a receipt that says how many miles you're flying. You can declare one personal round-trip ticket per person at the lowest rate, so everyone gets a trip home per year, and then each subsequent trip costs a lot more. How much you actually pay per trip would depend on how many trips you made (or maybe how many miles you flew, or some combination) and how much you make. It wouldn't hurt the person who flies home for Christmas, but it would certainly get the person who is in the air all the time.
posted by pracowity at 8:55 AM on December 31, 2014


The FAA currently has no standards limiting how small seats can be or how tightly they may be placed, but people can change that. They can use the regulatory process to tell the FAA they want minimum standards for seat width and seat pitch:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA-2014-0663-0001
(Click the Comment Now! button to post your comment directly with the FAA)

Passenger pressure forced the FAA to set more reasonable rules on Portable Electronic Devices, and can be just as effective in making seats more comfortable.
posted by dgkcpa at 5:46 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pracowity, the idea that plane tickets should price-in the cost of externalities (e.g., pollution) is a good one, but there are lots of better ways to do it than through additions to the (already crazy complicated) personal income tax code. Such as taxing fuel or carbon. Also, it's hard to see how fixing the externality problem would address people's complaints about cramped seating.
posted by Mid at 6:34 AM on January 1, 2015


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