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Airline survey shows improvement-the flying experience is another matter

waiting for fun & adventure?
waiting for fun & adventure?
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A recent survey on passenger satisfaction shows an overall improvement when it comes to domestic airline travel. For this passenger, flying has simply become a drag. The 2013 North America Airline Satisfaction Study centers on seven key areas like cost and fees, baggage, deplaning, check-in, and other factors which have made flying in America such a trauma over the past decade, in the post 9/11 world.

Yes, passengers may be more willing to "accept" baggage fees, but what choice do we have? The fact is, baggage fees are simply one more example of corporate greed, and airlines insist on it because they can. With more airline mergers, passenger options are reduced. Even complaining to the FAA has fallen most likely because, over time, most people realize it's a waste of time. The survey showed improvement in the idea that baggage fees are reasonable by more than 28% when compared to a year earlier. When a wretched reality sinks in, people just eventually accept it: it's called apathy. Keep in mind, many passengers get around baggage fees by simply using their carry-on as their primary suitcase. These carry-on pieces have naturally grown in size over the years, and make deplaning more of a hassle.

Being a baby boomer, I remember airline travel when it seemed like a real adventure and more pleasurable.Remember meals? What a concept, and an increasingly vague memory of an actual choice: steak or chicken? I recall a time when flight attendants were called stewardesses: where women were younger, prettier, sexier, and almost every guy's dream. Now my flight attendant has age spots, and just seems like a flying waitress. There's even male flight attendants which, in another world, might have been an equal turn-on for women, but many of today's in-flight male attendants just might be more turned on to the male passengers, not that there's anything wrong with that.

One element of yesterday's pilot's that made me sleep better was that there was a good chance these guys just might have been in the military. I always thought if a pilot had air combat experience at one time, and now flies a commercial jet, he at least had a better chance of getting us out of a jam just in case trouble hit the plane. In today's world, even if the pilot did have some military experience, there's also the possibility he came to the airline business with some left over Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.More than likely, today's pilots studied at some college or flight school.

Check-in has become easier because of the internet. This is one area where technology has made a major impact on facilitating the flying experience. Waiting in line is never fun, but at least we can now escape the check-in line. There has also been an improvement in the line to go through security! On my most recent flight, my girlfriend and I were allowed to bypass the regular line and got through extra quick. I guess we now appear to look like "normal Americans". I don't know what that means, but I almost hugged a TSA agent when he told us to just go on through. I almost asked him..."are you sure"? I was close to inviting him over for dinner. It's the small things in life that can be such a turn-on.

Of course most airlines would seem to charge for wi-fi access. It's a natural thing to want to get online during a flight, but whether it's worth $9.95 for what could be just 90 minutes is another story. On-time records also seem to be improving, and lost baggage appears to be decreasing. I never had much problem with either of those nightmares, but if anything makes you remain in an airport longer than necessary, then your horror really begins. I would almost think twice in today's world when taking a flight in the midst of winter, but how can you not consider it when you need to be somewhere? It just seems like airlines will now cancel a flight much quicker these days when bad weather erupts somewhere. Once that occurs, other flights become affected, and a horrid domino fall can ripple throughout American airports. Every winter now there's always the proverbial news story of the poor travelers stuck in some airport, sometimes for days at a time. I feel like I need a shower just by being in an airport for a few hours. Even using the airport bathroom is a trauma. I actually eat very little on a travel day hopefully precluding any need to use any bathroom in an airplane or an airport. I'm not not germ freak, but air travel related bathrooms have to be one of the world's most infected areas on earth. Airports may want to consider offering those elastic gloves upon entering any and all air travel bathrooms. Airports don't need bathroom attendants or janitors, they need the army corps of engineers on stand-by.

The real drag for me these days is the cramped airplane. Riding in a Greyhound bus is probably more comfortable, but never having done that, I'm just guessing. The problem with flying in America today is that corporate greed has vaporized domestic flight as a comfortable experience for the general public. Unless you pay for first class, you are, more than likely, going to be crammed into a tiny seat next to God only knows, but you'd better hope and pray it's not some smelly fat slob with a hacking cough. A crying baby nearby can infect even a nun into the prospect of child abuse. Also, the airlines have finally perfected the full flight idea. From reducing the amount of overall flights, and dropping non-productive routes, the airlines have zeroed in on maximizing profits, while aiming to make sure they depart and land on time. It's both good and bad news, but we are now in a place where the airlines have moved ahead in key areas of importance while at the same time, make getting through the day of travel something more akin to dodging a mine field: just getting to your destination, alive, on time, and with your bags now seems like a reason to celebrate. Getting off the plane, away from the airport, and your stress level begins to subside.

I love watching old movies from the 1940's and '50's. I just love that period in America. One scene that always makes me so envious is where the characters are on a train. Look at the serene scene on trains from back then: in the lounge car sitting in comfort, having a drink, maybe even a cigarette and talking casually. Even the sleeper cars looked inviting. That was back when traveling was an exciting adventure when one could actually relax and enjoy the scenery. There's been some energy at bringing back rail service. No, it won't get you where you're going to quickly, and after we demolished our once thriving rail system, getting anywhere will most likely mean long layovers and trains that don't exactly resemble those movies from decades ago. America always seems to have to learn the hard way, and maybe we can rebuild a new rail system that can be an integral part of our overall transportation grid once again.It may take longer, but getting there can be actually enjoyable as well as an adventure in itself.