I suppose greed both on the part of upper management and on the unions contributed to this dramatic decline in commercial air travel. Personally, it isn’t their greed that motivates me to drive cross country – business trips two years in a row, Orlando in 2010, Phoenix this year. Disrespect for passengers and flight crews by airline executives, compounded by “Security Theater”, a consequence of the unpatriotic “Patriot Act” changed the air travel experience from good to “it sucks” bad. It’s the uncomfortable flying experience that motivates me to drive.
True, the unpatriotic “Patriot Act” wasn’t the sole agent of profound disrespectful treatment of passengers and crew members. Along the way, Air Marshalls came into play to thwart hijackings (as in D.B. Cooper). Next we had to endure the agony of the precursor to TSA, ignorant security thugs and nonsensical new travel rules.
Today, pilots and other crew members have to endure the same humiliating, invasive and unconstitutional searches and seizures passengers go through. Don’t you ever ask yourself, “Who has a more vested interest in a safe flight than the pilot?”
As far as I’m concerned, every airline can go bankrupt. Afterward, perhaps civility and respect for people will be restored. Until then, the only time I fly is when I travel abroad on mission trips, and ONLY then.
I Remember When
Back in 1967, when I began travelling by air, life was good – really good. All one needed to get on an airplane was m-o-n-e-y, cash or check. Yes, airlines would accept personal checks and, no, there was no way to instantly verify them.
Furthermore, do you know we didn’t even have to give our correct names? That’s right. Come to think of it, how does knowing your name contribute to the safety of the passengers? Oh, that’s right; we don’t care about passengers, do we? Let’s just make sure we cram the plane by scooting seats closer together and overbooking.
Passengers were segregated in two classes. Yes, we actually used the word “class”, not cabin. Stewardesses (yes, they were all women and good looking, too) seated us common folk in second class with smokers occupying the latter one-third to one-half seats, back where the wash rooms were.
High rollers, the people with Carta Blanche, American Express or Diners Club cards, enjoyed more intimate and luxurious first class seating up front. They even had their own ‘privy’. How bad was second class?
It wasn’t. If you knew how things worked, you could order special meals when making reservations. You know, kosher, vegetarian, seafood, etc.
The Best Parts of Flying “Back Then”
What was the best part? The best part was the extreme service. Stewardesses, ticket agents and baggage handlers treated passengers as though we were valuable customers or something like that.
The food was actually good and the silverware was silverware, not plastic. Need something special? Just push the button and they would bend over backwards to make you happy. Shucks, the pilot would even greet passengers, sometimes walk the aisle to shake hands or answer questions.
After Mount St. Helens blew her top and it was again safe to fly near her, a Delta pilot with whom I spoke offered to take us over the mountain, if he could get permission from ATC, He did and we did. What a sight looking down into a mammoth crater above the clouds. A new lava dome rose from the floor of the crater over 800 feet.
Where Are We Now?
If you buy a one-way ticket, you are a potential terrorist. If you pay cash for a one-way ticket, ticket agents will call the cops. Why? Simple, really. You see, every citizen, contrary to the Fourth Amendment, is suspect. Who knows? 90 year-old Granny just might actually have an AR-15 or C-4 in her knitting bag. Knitting bag? “Alright, old lady, move away from the knitting needles.”
A Personal Note to AA and Other Airlines
Lousy service, disrespectful treatment of the flying public and your unwillingness to trust passengers and crew members are the main contributors to fewer people flying and profits going down the toilet.
Not one with firsthand knowledge about labor relations at AA, but I imagine lack of trust and disrespectful treatment significantly contribute to the attitudes of union members.
C. R. Smith, what would you do? Although he was first president of AA, when WW2 broke out, Mr. Smith joined the U. S. Army to form the Air Transport Command, later called the Air Force Military Airlift Command. C. R. Smith was one of many of “The Greatest Generation”. No, I don’t know what he would do today, if he were alive, but I suspect life would be very different for American Airlines, its employees and passengers.