The Curmudgeon does a lot of traveling by air. (Spreading the word on what everyone is doing wrong is a full-time job lately—busy, busy, busy.) As we all know, air travel has changed considerably since the good old days: Every passenger is now a suspect, removing articles of clothing and submitting to a full body scan before being admitted to the inner sanctum. Flights are deliberately overbooked, forcing gate agents to hondle until they find passengers willing to sell their travel plans for a fee. And speaking of fees—and things that have changed—we're now being charged for amenities for which no airline would ever dream of charging prior to the last turn of the century: meals, movies, checked bags, desirable seats. And this year, United will begin charging their Basic Economy passengers to use the overhead bins to store their carry-on luggage. (Yes, really.) The only things left to charge for are life vests and oxygen. Give it time. "For $60 more, you can upgrade to our Elite Safety Status."
Gone are the generously sized seats and aisles. Gone are those weird but wonderful little foil covered trays that once conveyed complete, travel-sized meals (usually Salisbury steak, peas and carrots, mashed potatoes, and a one-inch square of apple cobbler).
And as the experience has become less graceful, so has the treatment. Even putting aside the well-publicized instances of actual violence at the hands of airline staff, interactions with passengers have become far more brusque. It's not unusual to hear flight attendants complaining, within earshot of customers, about their jobs, and TSA agents arguing over shifts, barking commands, or sometimes, not even looking at the travelers whose IDs they're checking.
With all of this unpleasantness, the airlines' incessant expressions of thanks ring more than a bit hollow. The website automatically thanks you for booking, which is very nice. Then you get a confirmation email, which thanks you again. And then—once you're past the TSA prison guards and gate auctioneers and aboard the plane—the thank-yous continue in person. They thank you for flying with them as soon as you're in your seat. They thank you again before telling you to turn of your electronics, then again before the safety instructions: "Once again, ladies and gentlemen, we want to thank you for flying with us today." Yes, we know. You thanked us before. It's very nice, but honestly, at this point, we get it.
But now you're their captive, locked into their metal thank-you chamber and strapped into your seat. "Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain from the flight deck. We're number three for take-off. Certainly want to thank you for flying with us. Sit back, relax and we'll be on our way."
Finally, you take off. "Ladies and gentlemen, once again, thank you for flying with us. I'll let you know when we've reached our cruising altitude of thirty thousand feet." Actually, I have never cared how many feet we're flying at. I'd honestly prefer not to know, as it seems extremely high. But also, the Curmudgeon isn't an aviator, so these things don't especially interest me. What does interest me is peace and quiet. But Okay. Fine. I've been thanked. Now, if you're quite through, I'll plug in my earphones and watch Chopped.
But, alas, no. "Once again, ladies and gentlemen, we appreciate you flying with us . . . " WE KNOW! You just told us twenty seconds ago! We feel more than appreciated. "Looks like the weather in Phoenix is dry . . . " (Really? This is a fascinating update.) "We're hoping to make good time getting there . . . " Captain, you do understand that the host of Chopped was just about to reveal the mystery ingredients for the appetizer round, don't you? He's paused, mid-reveal, while you thank us again and tell us of your hopes to arrive on time. We all share that hope; there's really no need to articulate it. "Now, sit back, relax . . . " Good God, I'm trying to, man. " . . . and enjoy the rest of the flight."
And on it goes, until at last, you land. "Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Phoenix, where the local times is 6:29. We hope you've enjoyed the flight. We know you have a choice when you fly . . . " Do we? Do we really? Or do we just nab the least expensive flight that suits our schedule? "And so we want to thank you again for flying with us." I scream into my still-complimentary pillow. Finally, they open the doors. And as we file out, tired, disoriented, and over-thanked, they just can't resist sneaking in one more as we exit. "Thank you so much. Bye-bye now."
Airlines, if you really want to make your esteemed passengers feel appreciated, don't nickel and dime us for every amenity, train the airport staffs in proper on-duty deportment and customer service, and give us a button at our seats to indicate when we've reached our limit for thank-yous.
Once again, I want to thank you for visiting The Weekly Curmudgeon. We know you have a choice of blogs when you read. Thank you for choosing to gripe with us. No really, thank you. Thank you so much. And thanks again.