What ever happened to the glory days of air travel? You know, when airplanes were at least clean on the outside.. Seriously – when was the last time you were at the terminal looking out at the planes you’re about to board and didn’t find yourself thinking “Why doesn’t someone run that thing through a car wash – wait, what’s the airplane equivalent..”? I know people who take better care of their $5k beater car than these guys do of a $30m airplane!
Back in the day (you know, the time period when everything was better than it is now), the airplanes were sparkly clean, flight attendants were beaming with friendliness and excitement, your luggage arrived when you did, and the thrill of flying was, well, thrilling!
At this point I should make a couple clarifications… I am currently sitting on a Southwest Airlines flight somewhere over the Rocky Mountains enrtoue to Las Vegas. The attendants are indeed a cheerful bunch (Air Canada – are you paying attention? No. Of course you’re not – what was I thinking?), the inside is clean, menial snacks were offered, the battery in my laptop has died, and yes, I think the lady to my left (wife on the left and hubby to my right.. yeah, I don’t get it either) has finally settled on a colour choice for her nails… Although I have to admit that doing your nails and using the overhead ventilation system to dry them is both a good time waster on a 5 hour flight, and a use for a service provided by the airlines for free. Well yes, we DID pay for that air in the price of our airline ticket, however, I refuse to believe that an airline can actually charge us for air – let alone be the one paying for it. Surprisingly, I’m not going to complain about the stench of cheap nail polish emanating from my left (wait, how would I know the difference between cheap and expensive nail polish?) simply because it is a welcome relief from the toxic perfume someone decided to shower in immediately before we started this little voyage together…
Travel by air has certainly lost its lustre over the years as it slowly became a commodity and people decided to be stupid. You know what I mean: serving alcohol to drunken belligerents, taking away nail clippers and knitting needles from little old ladies while at the same time providing you with a hardened stainless steel knife to cut through what is allegedly chicken (even though, and surprisingly, it doesn’t taste like chicken…). Oh, toss in the removal of actual meals (which kinda solved the knife issue…), in flight entertainment, space, and free alcohol, and we’re left with a bunch of unhappy travellers who suddenly turn insanely selfish trying to get every last bit of value out of a system that has removed it all.
While pondering my next paragraph, I looked up and saw the captain conversing with some flight attendants on this side of the bomb-proof door – wait, am I even allowed to write the word ‘bomb’ on an airplane? Let alone, a US airplane?! Where did the world suddenly go sideways that well behaved youngsters are no longer invited up to see the cockpit and ask the captain (always the captain – sorry co-pilot) what the big flashing red light is for? Going up to the cockpit is the only thing above seeing the inner workings of a McDonald’s at an age where it truly is impressive! Ok, not the greatest comparison because at 32 I’m still waiting to ask what the big flashing red light is for – but hey, won’t somebody think of the children?!
To top it off, in a world where more and more is being produced in China for even cheaper than it was before, now the airlines decided to stop giving away small plastic replicas of their airplanes, but decided to charge you $20 for one if you happen to be on a flight that actually sells them. See? You remember the small plastic airplanes, don’t you? Sure, we still get our peanuts (well, in the US you do – haven’t seen them in Canada for years now for some reason), but the peanuts went really, really well with the free booze. Serving peanuts now is simply a slap in the face. It’s like having your village pillaged, your women raped, and your livestock stolen by a warring tribe and at the end of it all someone turns to you and says “Well, at least we have our health!” even though you’re missing limbs from battle and the lack of medical care means you’ll die within days… Harsh comparison? No, I don’t think so. What IS impressive about the peanuts though is that I believe the airlines have finally found the exact MINIMUM number of peanuts that can be served. One more peanut and the airline goes bankrupt, but one less and people will begin to pass on the offering and wake up to the fact that their air travel world has crumbled around them, and the only thing that kept them placated and oblivious for this long was the nostalgic offering of peanuts. Offer a peanut to an elephant and see how excited they get – why would we be any different?
So what’s the solution? Take the train. Food, wine, internet and cell phone service, leg room, no seatbelt sign, and most importantly, no strip-tease or x-rays before you board. Just simple, happy, restful, and unobtrusive travel. The way it should be.