How To Fix Flying
July 21, 2016 9:38 AM   Subscribe

"Air travelers love nothing more than to complain about their latest flight. But modern aviation is an incredible technological achievement, and it doesn't have to be so miserable. Here's how you'll love flying again." A long read touching on everything from air traffic control, ticket buying strategies, and future airliner improvements, to the future of in-flight WiFi and how to mix your own cocktails while in the air.
posted by RedOrGreen (83 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
As the son of a PATCO member, allow me to point out that blame for #1 can be laid at the feet of St. Ronnie himself.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:42 AM on July 21, 2016 [30 favorites]


Subheading: It won't be a cramped can of misery. It will be amazing.
Actual text: In 20 years... "hopefully, by then, we will have cracked the problem of not enough space in economy." Here's hoping it doesn't take that long.

Yeah, so everything is getting better except the thing that sucks the most.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:48 AM on July 21, 2016 [25 favorites]


I love it when jobs which are probably not all that exciting on a day to day basis get splashy videos about how awesome and exciting they are - that is a badass air traffic control video. This is also why the National Postal Museum is the best Smithsonian.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:53 AM on July 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


hmm, no mention of dividing the plane into flatulence/non-flatulence sections
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:55 AM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I won't love flying again until there's no more security theater by the TSA.
posted by stolyarova at 10:03 AM on July 21, 2016 [38 favorites]


I've never tried it, but can't the single ounce mini-bottles of booze be carries onto airplanes? Is there some TSA guideline that they violate?

Asking for a friend.
posted by hippybear at 10:04 AM on July 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


As long as the primary motivation for operating an airline business is greed (and...it always WILL be the primary motivation) coupled with an infrastructure strangled by government regulations based on hate and fear (and that will ALWAYS be the basis), air travel will remain the nightmare that it is for those of us without some type of racial and/or financial privilege.

said the guy that has sworn to never fly again
posted by HuronBob at 10:05 AM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


hippybear: Just because you can bring alcohol on the plane doesn't necessarily mean you can drink it. According to the Code of Federal Regulations "No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him."

So, you can bring it, you can stare at it, you can caress the bottles, but you can't drink it...
posted by HuronBob at 10:08 AM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, my friend could easily drink it. Those flight attendants aren't watching all the time.
posted by hippybear at 10:10 AM on July 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


The FAA's plans tend to be met with opposition from unionized air traffic controllers, who realize consolidation and optimization mean their jobs could be relocated—or eliminated. The FAA employs nearly 15,000 controllers at a median wage in excess of $124,000. No wonder there's pushback.

HOW TO FIX IT

What if the business of air traffic control were to break off from the FAA, freeing the system from the bureaucracy of a federal government agency?


LOL, Popular Mechanics' politics are certainly something
posted by RogerB at 10:10 AM on July 21, 2016 [18 favorites]


I bookmarked it for later reading, but since it starts out with "more privatization" I just wasn't up to it this afternoon.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:12 AM on July 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


When I can legally murder the person in front of me on a red-eye when they recline their seat but then decide to sleep with their arms on their tray, but don't put their seat back up so I can sleep with my arms on my tray, then flying will be fixed.
posted by Lucinda at 10:12 AM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Nav Canada is an interesting comparison to the FAA ATC. They're self-funding based on fees, which, of course, is paid ultimately by travelers. But this frees them largely from government purse-string and so the government complications that come with large bureaucracies. They recently announced an 8% rate cut to those, mostly by finding internal efficiencies.

I'd argue that that's also a fairer funding model to everyone. It moves the costs of air-travel more to the customers and users, rather than being subsidized by the general taxpayer.
posted by bonehead at 10:14 AM on July 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


(and they're a union shop).
posted by bonehead at 10:14 AM on July 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


WIN THE AIRLINE-TICKET-BUYING GAME

Jesus. If you're going to make it a game, fuck you, I'm not playing. Buy a ticket exactly 57 days out? Do all this complicated shit so they don't lose my luggage? Make the proper shibboleth to avoid security goons?

I repeat, fuck you. Treat me like a human being, give me some god damned legroom and seat width and for fuck's sake don't ever wedge my seat next to a bulkhead that forces me to sit with my torso twisted at a 30° angle for a two hour flight. It's not rocket surgery, folks.
posted by disconnect at 10:16 AM on July 21, 2016 [40 favorites]


The FAA's plans tend to be met with opposition from unionized air traffic controllers, who realize consolidation and optimization mean their jobs could be relocated—or eliminated. The FAA employs nearly 15,000 controllers at a median wage in excess of $124,000. No wonder there's pushback.

Nice to see the old lies get recycled. (gag)

Also, it's worth pointing out that modernization was actually a PATCO demand, because the outdated in 1980 systems were having negative effects on the controllers. But that, of course, doesn't fit into the narrative.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:22 AM on July 21, 2016 [22 favorites]


Yeah, unless the law legislates lower capacity/more room for passengers, ain't nothing changing the airlines desire to sardine us all for $$$.
posted by Atreides at 10:24 AM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


"No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him."

I thought I read something once where there's a loophole that if you bring your own booze aboard, you can hand it to the flight attendant when she takes your drink order, and when she hands it back to you, that's "serving it to you". I might be wrong; I don't drink, so I've never tried it.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:26 AM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


... the business of air traffic control...

Fuck that noise. ATC is not a business; it is for safety.

Of course the airlines would love to privatize ATC so it can become a for-pay service. Which will then encourage every non-airline pilot to avoid getting ATC services even when it's not safe to do so.
posted by phliar at 10:27 AM on July 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


where is the part about selling slightly more expensive tickets which guarantee you a baby and toddler-free flying experience
posted by poffin boffin at 10:27 AM on July 21, 2016 [17 favorites]


I've never tried it, but can't the single ounce mini-bottles of booze be carries onto airplanes? Is there some TSA guideline that they violate?

Could your friend... empty out some little TSA-approved mouthwash bottles and refill them with whiskey? Maybe MY friend might try that on my his next flight...
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:36 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd argue that that's also a fairer funding model to everyone. It moves the costs of air-travel more to the customers and users, rather than being subsidized by the general taxpayer.

But general taxpayers benefit from planes not falling out of the sky onto their houses. And even people who never fly probably sometimes get something delivered to them that has been on an airplane for part of its journey. Or buy food that's flown across the country/internationally. Even if you never buy a plane ticket in your life, you benefit from airplane safety.

I'm not convinced that the American for-profit business community can be trusted to maintain safety when the decision comes to cutting some corners for increased profit, or losing money for increased safety.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:39 AM on July 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


Which will then encourage every non-airline pilot to avoid getting ATC services even when it's not safe to do so.

This is actually the source of a massive issue in the UK - pilots trained there tend to be less experienced in landing than American trained pilots, because UK airfields charge landing fees.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Public safety is a concern, but Nav Canada does pretty well there.

It's really important to note however, that they're not a for-profit company. They're a non-profit and are highly regulated. They're not allowed to pick and choose their clients, for example.
posted by bonehead at 10:46 AM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


You don't need to do all the subterfuge with the booze. 2 oz plastic bottles are TSA compliant. Nobody's gonna say boo if you pour one of them into your diet coke on the plane. Ask me how I know.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:47 AM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


"where is the part about selling slightly more expensive tickets which guarantee you a baby and toddler-free flying experience"

The five trips I've had to make in the last 18 months due to family illness, my father's terrifying decline due to early-onset dementia, his eventual passing and my mother's emotional breakdown say you can go sit on a cactus and shut up and deal with the fact that kids and toddlers exist suck it up. The higher priced tickets wouldn't be for you, the cost would get turned into a toddler/car seat/infant FEE and those of us with kids who are already miserable and paying too much because of unavoidable travel would be paying too much again.
posted by FritoKAL at 10:48 AM on July 21, 2016 [28 favorites]


Also Louis CK on flying:


'I had to sit on the runway for 40 minutes.' Oh my god, really? What happened then, did you fly through the air like a bird, incredibly? Did you soar into the clouds, impossibly? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight and then land softly on giant tires that you couldn't even conceive how they f**king put air in them?...You're sitting in a chair in the sky. You're like a Greek myth right now.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:49 AM on July 21, 2016 [35 favorites]


I've rarely seen so much disingenuous bullshit all in one place. "Waterboarding doesn't have to be torture! Here are a few tips on how to enjoy your next session. First, insist they add a dash of lemon to the water they're going to nearly drown you with..."

I'm really hoping I never have to fly anywhere ever again.
posted by languagehat at 10:51 AM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, I love Louis CK but fuck that routine—I'd like to see him deliver it as he stumbles off a twelve-hour flight wedged into a middle seat with a baby on one side and a talker on the other. You're like a Greek myth, sure, but I'm afraid it's a combination of Sisyphus and Prometheus.
posted by languagehat at 10:53 AM on July 21, 2016 [28 favorites]


As long as the primary motivation for operating an airline business is greed

To be fair, a primary motivation in buying tickets is also greed, it's the intersection of the two interests that's led to our current state. People pretty consistently tend to go with the airline that purports to offer the lowest price, regardless of the hidden fees or bad experiences, so the airlines that stay competitive have adapted to the lowest denominator.
posted by Candleman at 10:54 AM on July 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm afraid it's a combination of Sisyphus and Prometheus

I mean, I guess don't fly then? But in my mind 3 hours of mild discomfort is a small price to pay for, say, escaping Minnesota in February to get to the beach. But YMMV.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:56 AM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


You're sitting in a chair in the sky. You're like a Greek myth right now.

Right, and the poor aren't really poor because they have cell phones and refrigerators.
posted by indubitable at 10:56 AM on July 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, unless the law legislates lower capacity/more room for passengers, ain't nothing changing the airlines desire to sardine us all for $$$.

Even if the airlines were to make that change, you can't legislate assholery, and people who start the armrest war as soon as they sit down will still exist.

Those people are the worst people.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:28 AM on July 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Jesus. If you're going to make it a game, fuck you, I'm not playing.

There must be some inherent , intrinsic joy to gaming the ticketing systems like this that I Do Not Get At All. Air travel is not fun, it's tolerable when you spend a stupid amount of money, it's not an event experience you'd boost about doing a lot cause it sounds fucking miserable.
posted by The Whelk at 11:29 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


All the negative toned responses here!

Man, I am 6' 3", 300lbs and arthritic, airline seats hurt me and I fly a lot...

And it is always still amazing! Airports are awesome! Airplanes are awesome! Flying is awesome!

I'm with Louis here.

(can a ton of shit be improved on? of course! I just spent 12 hours in Gatwick and was starting to get annoyed by the end)
posted by Cosine at 11:40 AM on July 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


"Non-profit" is not enough. I know enough Canadian pilots to distrust NavCanada, even though it mostly works for them most of the time.

"Profit" is not what motivates the Type-1 Psychopath CEO -- it's power. Just look at all the "non-profit" entities like Kaiser Permanente and their attitude to single-payer health care.

ATC in the US is not broken -- it's suffering from severe funding shortfalls. We need to modernize our infrastructure, not hand it over to a gang of thieves.
posted by phliar at 11:42 AM on July 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


Compared to incomes, flights have never been more affordable. Regular people can fly, not just the rich. This is great progress.

If you want the rock-bottom ticket price, you will have less space. If you're willing to pay a little more, you will have a more comfortable Economy Plus seat. If you can afford to pay what flights used to cost in the 1960s (relative to incomes) you'll get a very comfortable Business Class seat, with few babies around.

I don't see why people think this is a horrible situation or blame the airlines for it.
posted by Triplanetary at 11:51 AM on July 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm with Louis, too, although I hate flying.
A 12-hour flight compared to what? Two weeks on a cruise ship?
To me, that's just a different nightmare.
posted by MtDewd at 11:52 AM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Compared to incomes, flights have never been more affordable.

Funny, I thought the mid '90s Southwest $99-maximum-anywhere-in-the-US-one-way fares were the cheapest I have ever seen flights, with our wages having been stagnant for the past 30+ years. Plus, at the time, Southwest had more legroom and even had sections of seating that were six seats facing each other around a table for groups traveling together.

But, you know... what do I know?
posted by hippybear at 11:55 AM on July 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


hippybear: Those Southwest flights sound awesome! I did not know about them. But maybe we are not seeing them now as that price level isn't sustainable? Did they run them for an extended period of time, or as a limited campaign?
posted by Triplanetary at 12:12 PM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Funny, I thought the mid '90s Southwest $99-maximum-anywhere-in-the-US-one-way fares were the cheapest I have ever seen flights

Anecdata vs. Data: How Airline Ticket Prices Fell 50% in 30 Years (and Why Nobody Noticed)
posted by craven_morhead at 12:14 PM on July 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


I just pretend I'm in an episode of Cabin Pressure and think very very hard about places I could hide the lemon. It helps.
posted by asperity at 12:15 PM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


craven_morhead: Jinx; I was just going to post that link :-)
posted by Triplanetary at 12:18 PM on July 21, 2016


But general taxpayers benefit from planes not falling out of the sky onto their houses.

True, but I did enjoy Judy Blume's latest book, which wouldn't exist if planes never fell out of the sky. So there's that.
posted by asperity at 12:21 PM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Southwest doesn't fly those older planes with the rear-facing seats anymore. I used to commute a lot between Houston and Dallas and those seats were AWESOME at happy hour with the rest of the business travelers.
posted by Thistledown at 12:27 PM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


True, but I did enjoy Judy Blume's latest book, which wouldn't exist if planes never fell out of the sky. So there's that.

Not to mention Donnie Darko.
posted by TedW at 12:30 PM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


"The mini Angostura bottles are clutch" - quote from the article.

Flying sucks and has a high carbon footprint. I've realized the solution is simply to fly less. Which may mean, for instance, giving up on jobs that require lots of travel, or constraining where one lives so as to be close to loved ones.
posted by splitpeasoup at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2016


The flip side of low airline fares is that a bunch if airlines went out of business because the industry is structurally unable to turn a profit and now that we have fewer airlines, gosh, surprise: there's less competition and fares have risen. On the plus side, the remaining airlines are slightly less likely to go out of business.
posted by GuyZero at 12:37 PM on July 21, 2016


I am definitely, even with a half century behind me, part of the "flying is amazing" crowd. I always try and get a window seat and get irked whenever they ask everyone to lower the shades so that people can watch some crappy movie (a request I always ignore). I do wish the airlines made more comfortable seats, and happily pay a little extra for more legroom when I can. Most of the rest of the problems with air travel I deal with by allowing far more time tha I expect to need for security, baggage, changing planes, and so on. iPads, books, and just watching planes out the window are good ways to pass the time when in an airport where shopping/dining/drinking options are limited.

As for booze regulations on planes, one of my med school professors once resuscitated a fellow passenger who was having some sort of medical emergency n flight, and the airline thanked him by giving him a bottle of wine. Later on the flight, he asked for a corkscrew to open it and was told he couldn't open it on the plane because of the regulation mentioned earlier. After some back and forth with the flight attendant he convinced them that since they had given him the wine in the first place that fell within the confines of the regulation, so he and his wife enjoyed a nice bottle of wine before they landed.
posted by TedW at 12:43 PM on July 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


For an article about how to fix flying, I can't believe it didn't touch on all the asshole behavior that the domestic airlines take part in. I fly routinely for work, and some of the shenanigans I've witnessed have just been crazy. American Airlines, for example, routinely confirms to me that they must hate their customers or just don't give a shit. As an example, I had one flight where we all showed up, and about 30 minutes prior to boarding, American announces to us that they decided to switch planes, and the last dozen or so folks who checked in would not be able to get on the flight, and that the next flight was in 24 hours, and too bad for them. This is just one example of the many many ridiculous things that have happened on flights I've been on. And American basically has a monopoly on the center/southern portions of the country, so I keep getting forced to use them.

I honestly don't mind the cramped space, TSA security theater, the flight times, the asshole sitting next to you, etc. etc. compared to the anxiety of: is American Airlines/United/Delta et al going to screw me this trip??! Because the answer is usually yes, and then I have to scramble to sort out wtf I'm going to do to get to where I need to be.
posted by FireFountain at 12:52 PM on July 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


You're sitting in a chair in the sky. You're like a Greek myth right now.

Right, and the poor aren't really poor because they have cell phones and refrigerators.


...Are we really going to compare generational poverty to the experience of sitting in a kinda uncomfortable seat for five hours maybe listening to a baby cry or someone coughing as we pay upwards of a couple hundred bucks to be whisked away to some other part of the country/world on business or pleasure?
posted by geegollygosh at 1:07 PM on July 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


If you want to do that, go ahead. But I think that comment was more like "we live in the modern world, yes, congratulations for noticing, but having things that Spartacus never dreamed of is not actually the end of all complaints ever".
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:14 PM on July 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


None of those ideas come close to the best way to make flying better (not "make me love it," that will never happen, it is an inherently dehumanizing process).

The best way to make flying better is to get fewer people to do it.

That means, in the U.S., high-speed ground transport.
posted by yesster at 1:26 PM on July 21, 2016 [16 favorites]


There are things you can do right now to make flying more tolerable. Fly Southwest? Sit in row 9. The flight attendants do drinks in groups of 8 rows each. So rows 1 and 9 are the first two to get served. Unless you're A-List Preferred AND you paid for the upgrade (which is stupid) you're not getting in the first couple of rows. So take row 9, and you'll get a drink before anyone.

Why is it important to get status on airlines? Because getting on the flight first is important. If you're the first person in your row, recline all of the seats in your row the second you get there. Now the chairs are more comfortable and no one will even realize your seats aren't in an upright position.

Also, always get the window seat. The second you get on the flight, you can pass out. The easiest time to sleep on an airplane is prior to takeoff. I fly every week. I get a half-hour nap in every flight, before we leave the ground. (The only thing is you need to go to the restroom before you board. Nobody likes having to get up so you can go to the restroom.)
posted by nushustu at 1:29 PM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


The catch-22 right now is that the only way to make flying a better experience is to do it a lot. If you're a true frequent flyer, you escape the vast majority of the inconveniences of the system.

(Although you can simply buy your way out of the worst of the TSA stuff regardless of how much you travel, if you're a US citizen or permanent resident).

But for occasional flyers, the airlines have realized that they are not going to be "loyal" to an airline because they just shop on price, and so they have no incentive to compete on any other metric for those flyers. Hence the increasing difference between "normal" flying experience and frequent flyers (though they have cracked down on the various tricks FFs used to use to game the system).
posted by thefoxgod at 1:30 PM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, unless the law legislates lower capacity/more room for passengers, ain't nothing changing the airlines desire to sardine us all for $$$.

But, but, what about the magical, mystical, never-ever-seen hand of the market? Shirley*, this will solve the problem, because customers.

*Well, we are talking about airplanes. ;->
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:32 PM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


how to mix your own cocktails while in the air.

Written by Sterling Archer?
posted by Hoopo at 1:40 PM on July 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


I haven't flown since my wife and I flew back at 7am on January 1, 2000 from the NYE2K Widespread Panic shows in Atlanta. It did not suck. And it won't trouble me at all if I never fly again, since I live on the east coast and in less than 24 hours, I can drive to Disneyworld. Which, with 9 and 12 year old daughters is really the only travel plan on the agenda for the near term. Cup of coffee every 200 miles, tank of gas every 400.
posted by mikelieman at 1:46 PM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


You don't need to do all the subterfuge with the booze. 2 oz plastic bottles are TSA compliant. Nobody's gonna say boo if you pour one of them into your diet coke on the plane. Ask me how I know.

Yeah, I always bring and drink the Little Bitty Likkers with no problem. Of course, I also happen to be a white woman that looks like somebody's sweet harmless auntie, so there might be some privilege working there.

The worst problems I have with flying are the same problems I have in a lot of crowded spaces these days with self-absorbed assholes being all, "Fuck you, I got mine and I don't care if you live, die, or suffer horribly in the meantime; all these other carbon blobs are like NPCs in a video game." It's just exacerbated by the fact that we're all packed too closely together with no way to get up and leave when it gets too bad, and there's not a lot flight attendants can do about it because they're trapped in the same tin can with the same raging assholes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:54 PM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


The worst part of the article is how they are constantly arguing to retire the existing radar system. As if GPS never has outages or suffers degraded performance. As if having a backup is a bad thing.

Not only that, but there do exist aircraft that entirely lack electrical systems so cannot be retrofitted with ADS-B or textual clearances. They communicate with ATC using handheld radios. Moreover, transponders sometimes fail in flight, so primary radar is an essential safety mechanism.

None of that is to say that NextGen is a bad thing or that the delays aren't getting a bit ridiculous, but it's not like we can just throw out all the old stuff and spend the money we currently spend on maintenance finishing the new system. Even if we could, it has to remain operational during the transition.

Also, the article is incorrect in saying that flights are limited to airways. That hasn't been the case in many years. Also, even if everything in the sky was equipped with ADS-B, there is a strong safety reason for approaches and departures to continue to use published routes. It makes it a lot easier to be on the lookout for errant aircraft when everyone is on the same offramp. It reduces the workload of both pilots and controllers. Consider what it would be like if large freeways had no lane markings. Now recall that the vehicles in question are traveling several times faster and that when they collide, the debris falls on people below.

Basically, this article is pure shit except for the points about the FAA taking longer than is desirable to get airliners all equipped with ADS-B and to complete the computerization of flight plan handling. It is indeed patently ridiculous that airlines are still taking delivery of brand new aircraft for their domestic fleet that aren't equipped with ADS-B out capability. (International aircraft have been required to have it for some time now)

AA should not have been allowed to buy hundreds of new 737s without ADS-B, but they were and they did. Of course, it is entirely AA's fault that they are so fucking cheap they didn't spend the couple grand per plane to equip it anyway given that they will be required to have it anyway 4 years from now. To me it's no better than buying planes without TACAS. The situational awareness enabled by having all of the nearby aircraft plotted on a map relative to your own is immense. It's not dangerous to not have it, but it's that much better to have it.
posted by wierdo at 3:26 PM on July 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm not even going to notice any of these improvements until they eliminate the monumentally offensive nightmare that is TSA bullshit security theater. Flying is a humiliating experience: fix that, then we can talk.
posted by crotchety old git at 3:46 PM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, I love Louis CK but fuck that routine—I'd like to see him deliver it as he stumbles off a twelve-hour flight wedged into a middle seat with a baby on one side and a talker on the other.

I don't know you from Adam, but I'm willing to bet that professional touring standup comedian Louis CK has done exactly that at least once.
posted by Etrigan at 4:22 PM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I fly two to three times a month, usually from Los Angeles to Seattle and back, but also to Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans and Chicago within the last year.

Airports are terrible. Flying is just the best. A nice lady brings me cookies and apple juice, and then I take a nap. It's basically all of the things that I loved about kindergarten, with the added bonus of waking up in a new city.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:27 PM on July 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Airlines would love to get you to pay for better service. Everytime they try to get you to pay extra you the consumer tells them they aren't interested. So instead now the game becomes how little you require for your flight. And guess what? You the consumer keep saying you want low fares and steerage conditions.
posted by JPD at 4:55 PM on July 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


I have had mini bottles of gin confiscated. By the same lady who took my tiny scissors. Let me sing you a song of heartbreak.

At security, they can basically take whatever. TSA agent's discretion. That's been the answer I get every time I look up something like "can I take raw eggs on a plane?"
posted by MsDaniB at 5:43 PM on July 21, 2016


A few points on ADS-B:
It is indeed patently ridiculous that airlines are still taking delivery of brand new aircraft for their domestic fleet that aren't equipped with ADS-B out capability. (International aircraft have been required to have it for some time now)

In their defense, the 2020 FAA and European mandates for ADS-B Out specify a later standard than was being used elsewhere in the world and avionics suppliers needed some time to develop new systems.

so fucking cheap they didn't spend the couple grand per plane to equip it anyway given that they will be required to have it anyway 4 years from now.

Couple grand? The factory version of an ADS-B Out system on an airliner is integrated with the rest of the avionics suite and costs many tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars thanks to multi-million development costs distributed over a few thousand aircraft of any given model. You're asking them to carry maintenance and interest costs for equipment that may not be supported by the ground network. Maybe the FAA should have followed the European example and required the equipment earlier (2016) on new aircraft, but they didn't.

The situational awareness enabled by having all of the nearby aircraft plotted on a map relative to your own is immense.
This is a feature of ADS-B In, not ADS-B Out, and while it does have many operational benefits, it has not been mandated anywhere.
posted by cardboard at 6:25 PM on July 21, 2016


Pilots have been self-equipping with ADS-B IN for a number of years. I use it myself and it's an extremely useful tool.

Integrating ADS-B OUT for General Aviation is running, on average, about $3-$5K per aircraft, depending on the level of avionics integration. Given that just about any small piston single ('Cessna' to the layman) manufactured after 2005 has an avionics package significantly more advanced than many airliners, the concept of hundreds of thousands per airplane to equip is sort of alarmist. And it will happen cleanly and quickly and for reasonable costs.

You can actually build your own ADS-B IN solution for about $110 with components sourced through Amazon.

Also - It is to the ADVANTAGE of an airline to fully equip with ADS-B, IN/OUT - it allows greater operational density and reduced separation, which results in fuel savings. Huge fuel savings. Also safety.
posted by Thistledown at 7:02 PM on July 21, 2016


I live in Australia. There is a flight from Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth that is 14:50 AUS-US and 15:30 US-AUS (or was the last time I checked).

The joy of flying is a wonderful thing but it can only last about 12 hours. After that, grumbles become rumbles, discussion becomes argument, the chanting starts, hackles are raised, the natural leaders emerge, and the flight crew break out the spears and conches. There is no more separation of cabins, there is only us.

It is not the joy of flying that occupies us in those darker hours.

When we land, we look each other in the eye and agree never to speak of this again. Unless it's on Metafilter.
posted by nfalkner at 7:10 PM on July 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


Integrating ADS-B OUT for General Aviation is running, on average, about $3-$5K per aircraft

And I said I was talking about airliners, where the avionics are a lot more expensive to modify.
posted by cardboard at 7:31 PM on July 21, 2016


Look I fly a lot and I also now have an almost-two-year-old and if you can promise me I don't have to have her on the airplane with me I will pay whatever you ask

Ask me about my upcoming trans-Pacific flight with her that I have to do by myself and see if I don't start sobbing.
posted by olinerd at 8:50 PM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anecdata vs. Data: How Airline Ticket Prices Fell 50% in 30 Years (and Why Nobody Noticed)

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

In the 1990s, Southwest would run fare sales where you could fly one way for $99 to anywhere in the US. Roundtrip, after taxes and fees, was something like $220. Anywhere that Southwest flew.

Can't find that price on Southwest today, no way no how. I could, if I wanted, with the current fare sale, fly to Spokane to Boise for $69 each way. That's about the same price as driving, really. A lot faster, but then, I'd be in Boise. (No insult to Boise -- I saw one of the best Polyphonic Spree shows I've ever been to there once, and attended a gay pride in 1998 that featured harsh pointed political speechmaking on the steps of the state capitol followed by a giant dance party in the public square, so yay Boise.)

But using the trick of "adjusted for inflation dollars" to say that the price of something has fallen by 50% when wages have remained basically stagnant... Which is what this article does... All that means in my dollar today has, what? half the purchasing price of what it had 30 years ago? So, really, the price has remained exactly the same.

Plus, Southwest isn't even offering this deal anymore. Period. Flying was cheaper in the 90s. By any measure I can conceivably summon.
posted by hippybear at 12:34 AM on July 22, 2016


Nav Canada isn't a good model to copy. Their fees are amongst the highest in the world. They run some very old equipment, and haven't updated much of it since they started in the mid-90s. They also typically require a distraction-free radar screen, which has prevented a lot of development in Canada and just wouldn't work in the US.
posted by scruss at 1:17 AM on July 22, 2016


I always try and get a window seat and get irked whenever they ask everyone to lower the shades so that people can watch some crappy movie (a request I always ignore).

I remember how that always used to make me hate people. I've always loved sitting at the window seat, looking out like a child and watching the amazing cloud formations, the alien geography down below and wondering what it would be like to be on that lonely road snaking through the mountain ranges. Then a flight attendant comes by asking me to close it so that my fellow passengers can watch some inane formulaic action movie. Urrgh.

Anyways, on the modern planes they've taken away all choice. Window shades are gone. The windows automatically lighten and darken themselves. It does supposedly help with managing jetlag but I can't help but think that these uniform solutions take away a bit of our choice and thus a bit of our humanity.
posted by vacapinta at 2:19 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


To me it's no better than buying planes without TACAS.

No argument w/ your content. Slight nitpick: TACAS = TCAS = Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System. (I worked on the project in 1981 when it was called BCAS, where B stands for Beacon.)
posted by JimDe at 3:32 AM on July 22, 2016


You see I can (and occasionally do), pay the 10% or so markup for an "economy plus" seat giving me 6-8" of extra space between me and the seatback in front of me. The problem is, that while the kneespace is nice, I can actually deal without it. What I need is at least two more inches of seat width to accommodate my hips and shoulders and that one's a 150% or more markup. The places I go fly small enough planes that either there is only economy class, or only economy and first. My most recent trip finally had a plane with economy and "business/first" (priced at the business markup not the first class markup thank you Spaghetti Monster) and I happily paid the markup for business. Then they downsized the planes, and dumped me in economy anyway. Guess whether they changed the fare back to economy from first/business in the process? Go ahead, guess! (No, they did not.)
posted by Karmakaze at 6:05 AM on July 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Plus, Southwest isn't even offering this deal anymore. Period. Flying was cheaper in the 90s. By any measure I can conceivably summon.

The fact that SW ran a deal in the 90s doesn't make flying cheaper in the 90s than it is today across the board.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:07 AM on July 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


hippybear: Those Southwest flights sound awesome! I did not know about them. But maybe we are not seeing them now as that price level isn't sustainable? Did they run them for an extended period of time, or as a limited campaign?

Not to be a Southwest commercial, but they do have pretty cheap flights, depending on the time and place. I flew round trip to Dallas from Atlanta for about $100 earlier this year. Planning on flying to Boston from Atlanta in September for less than $200 round trip. (And no checked bag fees!)
posted by LizBoBiz at 9:18 AM on July 22, 2016


I won't love flying again until there's no more security theater by the TSA.

Yep. I flew a lot in the 80s, when hijackings were constantly in the news. I did not have to take off my shoes and get felt up to fly, disabled kids with brain cancer didn't get smacked around as a matter of course, and you didn't get strip searched and detained at the end of your flight if your seatmate had the trots.

Every single time I have flown since 2001, it has been an exercise in misery. I wear light, plain clothing with no adornment, so I don't set off the damned alarms, and still somehow manage to set 'em off and get groped and swabbed for explosives. They even grope around in my hair, which causes a nasty case of the screaming mimis - I am a rape survivor, my attacker grabbed me by my hair. I wear flip flops, but still have to take off my shoes. I carry nearly nothing in my bag - my cell phone, ID, and a credit card, and it still gets pretty much torn apart. My husband ALWAYS gets "randomly" selected for extra screening, the price of flying while Syrian-American. He ALWAYS gets grilled: "Where are you from? No, where are you REALLY from? Where are your parents from? Where are your grandparents from? Oh, Syria, really? Right this way..." The US passports we both carry are meaningless. He's Brown, therefore Dangerous.

By the time we get through all of the hoops, we're just too pissed and too exhausted to enjoy flying. I take the train wherever possible now - it takes longer, but no stranger is sticking her fingers in my hair or rubbing my tits, and no one demands to see my husband's full genealogy.
posted by MissySedai at 11:27 AM on July 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


Southwest only covered a portion of the US in the 90s, also. In general flying is clearly cheaper now than it was 20 years ago, as someone who has been flying frequently since the early 90s (and the data does back this up).

(Southwest is also pretty terrible, but if you only care about price it can be a good choice. A few years ago they were the worst for delays, but now they're in the middle. Virgin and Delta are the best for flying, but not always the cheapest)
posted by thefoxgod at 1:23 PM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]




My hope is they just keep expanding TSA Pre until everyone is using it and there are no more stupid shoe x-rays and such. But aside from the gross classism of it, TSA Pre is the best investment you can make if you fly.
posted by GuyZero at 11:39 AM on July 27, 2016


NEXUS/Global Entry for Canadians.

It's like a cheat code for airports, is the best way to describe it. You get to walk past all the gate security lines, even many of the border control ones.
posted by bonehead at 11:42 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, if you fly even a few times a year, are a citizen/GC holder, and have $20/year to spend --- get Global Entry. Includes TSA Pre, skip immigration/customs entering US, etc. Very nice.

(Oh, I guess also doesn't work if you have a criminal record, etc. Not sure how strict the background check stuff is)
posted by thefoxgod at 12:13 PM on July 27, 2016


« Older system shock   |   COVERED IN BEES Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments