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Unfriendly Skies

By Tom 'deranged' Waters
June 1 , 2006

How is it convenient for anyone that we're required to show up two hours before our flight? If I jogged to Chicago it's possible that I could have made it before I boarded my plane.

I absolutely adore flying. It's like the best rollercoaster ride in the world, and it's a miracle to think that such a gigantic hunk of metal could hurtle through the clouds at breakneck speeds and travel the globe with me and a few dozen other people inside of it. It's just everything leading up to it that drives me nuts. I realize that security measures are necessary and personal freedoms take a second seat to national safety, but give me a break. There's a reason why airline companies are going bankrupt and getting bailed out at the speed of mach. If you're running a business, you need to be efficient and you need to cater to your core customer at the same time and airlines just aren't doing that. I come for the flight. (ed. note: I come for the booze.) I end up staying for the rampant inefficiency, bureaucratic mismanagement, and because there's no other choice as I don't own a gyroplane or jet pack of my own.

The last time I took a trip I discovered that smokers aren't even allowed to smoke outside anymore. You have to walk to the back corner of the airport parking lot in a small glass booth and hunch over when nobody's looking. Then your lighter gets confiscated before you get on the plane. I also had the joy of taking my shoes off going through customs. I didn't have a fuse or a ticking sound emanating from my shoes. I don't have a beard, scary hair, or a deranged look in my eyes. It's demeaning, unnecessary and it's a time waster. How is it convenient for anyone that we're required to show up two hours before our flight? If I jogged to Chicago it's possible that I could have made it before I boarded my plane. There are so many security hurtles going through customs that James Bond would end up getting cavity searched.

Can't somebody come up with an EZ pass for airport security? Or a faster means of efficiently screening and boarding passengers? Is it really necessary for me to run the x-ray decathlon between flights if I'm only leaving to hit the leper colony outside for a quick cigarette? Flying is uncomfortable, scary and nerve wracking for a lot of people. There's got to be a better way to make passengers happy, move them along expediently, and screen for terrorists at the same time. It's a wonder that there are so many airlines that are still in business considering the amount of poor business decisions made. I used the Quick Checkout on my return flight and the airline gave me the option of extra foot room for the eminently reasonable price of thirty five dollars. $35! The flight was booked to capacity and there was a molecule of space between my knees and the family of five sitting in the two spots in front of me. The in flight movie we were subjected to while I couldn't sleep because of the leg room situation was something I wouldn't watch if someone paid me $35.

This was the first flight I took since April of 2001 and a lot of things have changed since then. The entire industry, in my estimation, has over-reacted and as a result, the business end of airlines is suffering. Flying is no longer fun, fast or pleasant. It's miserable, time-wasting and demeaning for everyone. The companies deserve to lose money. I'm sure there's a happy medium between maintaining national security and customer satisfaction at the same time, but things will inevitably get worse before they get better. At the rate the airlines are going, what remaining frequent flyers are left in ten years will be paying two thousand dollars a seat just to cover the cost of jet fuel. I think I'm going to take a train the next time. There's a certain romance to it. And they just might have a smoking cabin that isn't at the polar opposite of where I need to be and I'm not treated like a fifth class citizen. Barring that, I'm filing for a patent on a hamster-powered hybrid.