I fly relatively frequently. I would guess I am on a plane anywhere from 20-30 times a year. There are many that travel more times and miles than me, but it is reasonably safe to say I know my way around a few airports in this country as well as internationally.
I have my own businesses, so the vast majority of times I fly it is on my dime. I do not fly private and rarely spend the extra coin to fly business or first class since the fares are on me. I have friends and acquaintances along all walks of life, and spend considerable time talking shop with other frequent fliers. I know some that regularly fly private, and their experiences give me something to shoot for in future goals, though the exorbitant costs truly only make the experience worth it for a privileged few.
Like the vast majority of the population I subject myself to the cattle call otherwise known as flying commercial. TSA controlled security lines are a recognized way of life ever since 9/11. While we accept our reality, and generally exhibit patience for the process, it serves as a reminder that control is the first item checked as you enter an airport terminal. Aside from TSA, the airlines quickly remind you of the pecking order within their hierarchy of importance, and coach or economy class customers are shown at every turn that they do not rank very high.
First and Business class are given two or three dedicated representatives at check-in in order to ensure shorter lines and faster service. Once on the plane the distinctions in the class of services can be more extreme, but it of course depends on the airline and length of the flight (with International and cross country domestic flights usually having the most dramatic distinctions).
There is a reason that the airlines renamed coach economy fare or class. They wanted to make sure that if you did not otherwise realize, your choice to fly “economy” entitled you to little more than an assurance that you would get to your destination. No free meals (though a select few are going to bring back free meals for coach passengers on cross country flights). You may not even get a free beverage on most flights if in economy. Peanuts… unless on Jetblue, a thing of the past. The recent incident on United Airlines in which a passenger was forcibly dragged off a plane because the airline overbooked the flight and once no one voluntarily gave up their seats, he was one of those “randomly” chosen to be bumped from the flight shows they are not even necessarily guaranteeing you get to your destination. His non-compliance resulted in the unceremonious removal, and while United’s CEO gave some lame explanation for the embarrassing incident, the reality is that legally the airlines are well within their rights to remove anyone from any flight.
Did you know that airlines are legally allowed to oversell the amount of tickets related to seating for their flights? There is an assumption that a percentage of people will miss their flights, and when this percentage does not match those that show, overbooking results. It is much more common than you might imagine. Approximately 434,000 passengers voluntarily gave up their seats related to overbooking last year. Approximately another 40,000 were bumped from flights on the nation’s 12 largest airlines. If you are actually bumped, compensation must be given (if more than an hour to 2 late for domestic and up to 4 hours for international, the airline must pay you double your one way fare up to a maximum of $675).
Airlines care about two thing: their bottom line and your safety… and let’s be real… they only really care about your safety because of its otherwise detrimental effect on their bottom line. Your comfort, and experience are not their primary concern (if at all). The airlines have figured out that you will fly regardless of how poorly they treat you. If the fare “appears” reasonable people will fly. I say appears, because they have also figured out how to make you pay for everything else, including baggage and in some cases carry on bag fees, all the while giving you less in return.
I do not know all the facts behind the gentleman being dragged off a plane, but perhaps all the anxiety, time and frustration that is involved in even boarding a plane these days has everyone in less than congenial moods to repeating the experience another day voluntarily. Even cattle kick back every once in a while, but the reality is we are at the mercy of rules and an industry that looks at their economy passengers as little more than numbers on a spread sheet. Yet, if you are like me and need to fly… my business and most importantly my personal passions dictate that air travel will remain a big part of my life. The rewards still far outweigh the inconveniences, and this fact is not lost on the airlines, so change, for the better, should not be expected anytime soon.
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