Thursday, December 11, 2008

Air Travel

First, let me thank all of you for your condolences on the death of my mother.

Because I've been flying around a lot in the last few weeks (I return to Germany on December 31) and also arranging tickets for others, I've become aware of a few nasty developments in air travel that I didn't know about before. First, if you book a round-trip ticket and do not use the first half, the airline will not permit you to use the second half. Not only is this NOT posted on airline websites, it seems intrinsically unfair. If I paid for an A-to-B-to-A ticket, don't I then own it, and shouldn't I be able to use or not use any portion of it that I wish?

Second, Trip Protection Insurance does not cover what I thought was paid for. Access America trip insurance includes coverage if the people you are visiting in Europe have a death in their family and cannot receive you. I had a death in my family and could not receive a visiting friend (since I wasn't IN Europe at the time), but because the death was not at the European address I had in Germany, the insurance would not refund the price of my friend's ticket.

Third, many airlines now charge $10 or $15 for seat-preference choices, including those made on-line.

Maybe I'm merely in a cranky mood, but none of this seems right to me. I can remember when flying was a lot more fair -- and a lot more fun.

Next blog, I will return to the subject of science fiction. Although I may carp there, too.


Cameron Lewis said...

It's not just you. Airplane travel has become pure misery, from start to finish. I will absolutely not fly if I have any other option. One too many instances of "okay, let's back this plane out from the gate so we can claim it's on time, and then park it on the tarmac for six or seven hours" for my tolerance level. Thanks, but no thanks.

Mark said...

When I was growing up in the 70s air travel was still glamorous and cool. Now it's worse than taking the bus, what with all the injecting, infecting, detecting, neglecting. What's next, "you can't take your own clothes with you, for your safety and national security. Here's a paper hospital gown to wear on the flight"? Of course, these are my own main gripes; other people will dislike other aspects.

It doesn't look like I'll be able to afford my own plane, but the current state of customer service with the airlines sure is motivation. It's not a coincidence that highway travel is up (correcting for when gas was high).

On the plus side, my current preference for 2 wheeled travel over commercial air travel has me looking on the bright side. I now have more motivation than ever before to earn some Iron Butt Association badges. 3000 miles to New Jersey in 3 days. Hmmmm, could be fun! :-D

TheOFloinn said...

I'm exempt from some of that. Due to my frequent flyer miles, I am worshiped as a god on some airlines and get a pass on things like baggage fees. OTOH, it may be that I am more inured to it. The glamor wore off years ago. Now it's more like "What the @#$% city am I in?"

Problem is, you think your gas prices are high? Try tanking up a 757. To keep base ticket prices down, airlines started charging user fees for things that used to be free, or stopped offering them entirely. Remember hot meals? But I also remember flying in a nearly empty airliner from Milwaukee to Allentown. Now, planes that size do not fly that route, and they never fly empty.

The "let's back out of the gate" was a consequence of a Theory X government regulation that defined departure as backing away and penalized airlines with poor on-time performances. (On-time arrival is when the wheels touch the ground.) The whole thing had a lot to do with what airlines actually have control over (vs. govt air traffic control vs airport operations vs....) "People perform according to what you inspect, not what you expect." Whenever you smack people on an outcome metric, they will play games to maximize the metric.

Mark said...

"Inspect vs. Expect", oh yeah, takes me back to my days of managing sales teams & deciding what the spiff should be :-D

When I was in the Air Force I heard horror stories of the hardships of trying to take free hops. I'm glad I decided to try it anyway. Since there were'nt many hops out of Nellis I took a short flight to California and Norton AFB. From there all I had to do was sign up and wait, and not that long, either, maybe 10 hours was the longest, before getting on a C141. Not only was it not very cold or noisy (we were all given blankets & earplugs as we wanted them) but the food was better than what our base chow-hells had. Half the "passengers" got out after the halfway stop, so the rest of us just sacked out on the paratrooper benches, which were like real horrorshow hammocks.

That kind of "a la carte" transpo was more enjoyable than most commercial flights I've suffered through.