Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I thank you, no. I'd rather drive.

I never thought that I would live to see the day that I would willingly, almost happily, decline to participate in any air travel. Naturally, for work, I will have no choice, but for personal travel, I don't have to do it. And unless it's an exceptional case, I'm not going to. This article illustrates why.

You know, I've put up with no longer being able to bring water with me to the airport that costs me a small per unit cost because I buy at costco and instead having to spend $2 at the airport to know that I can have a drink when I get thirsty on an airplane. Because heaven only knows when the flight attendants will get around to it. And I've put up with longer security lines, ridiculous rules about baggies, and having air shot up my skirt as part of the anti-terrorist campaign. Fine. A pain in the butt, you betcha, but fine. But I'm drawing the line now. I will NOT pay $2 on the plane for water or soda or $5 for some food on a cross country flight that isn't at a mealtime. I just won't.

I had big plans to go visit my dearest friend on the other side of the country right after the bar. We were going to boat, lay around, and generally let our small children make our plans for us for about two weeks. But I can't now. Not when it will cost nearly $1000 to fly myself and my daughter there... and of course, that doesn't include any baggage or comforts on the flight. I miss my dear friend, but I simply can't afford that price tag right now, nor do I have any desire to deal with the drama that flying has become.

In my early childhood, I lived overseas and travelled more miles than I can conceive of flying for the rest of my life. It was before southwest, even partly before the rules about no smoking on flights. It was when there were free headsets and you had hot meals and lots of snacks and drinks. It was when flight attendants were there, and knew that as their job description, to make the passengers as comfortable as possible. As I grew up and we moved back to the states, I travelled less and less and began noting the differences each flight that I took. All of a sudden, the seats were smaller, the leg room disappeared, the flight attendants looked bothered if you asked them for anything at all and sharply told you they were not there for your comfort but only for your safety. But air travel was less expensive because I could choose to be entertained and cattle-carred to my location on Southwest. And I didn't mind so much forgoing the hot meals and other nice amenities because of the price break. But then the price started creeping up and I noticed that everyone cost abou tthe same and every airline treated you the same (like shit) and flew even less. (I do like Jet Blue but even they are getting really expensive and they simply don't have enough routes to places I need to go yet.) And then there was 9/11. And the whole experience just became one uncomfortable pain in the ass.

We still flew, at least once a year, and then there was this spring. Our flights over the ocean and back again for our amazing vacation were a new low. Delta outdid themselves on horrid service and little to no amenities. I think the lowest point was where they put out a variety of 2 liter beverages, inclyding water and said "serve yourself" and so I did... and when I came back for my third trip in 5 minutes, I got a sternly worded "you're only entitled to your share." I haven't wanted to punch a woman like I did in that moment for years. And she didn't apologize when I explained how I was getting drinks for my whole family and that my daughter, who had SLEPT through the first beverage service was dehydrated and needed TWO WHOLE DIXIE CUPS of water.

So when I read about the baggage fees, I decided that I would pay more for a ticket on an airline that didn't do that. And then the thing with the drinks came out, and I just decided that it was enough. One of the airlines PR people said "oh, people won't stop flying; they'll just pack lighter." Really? Have you talked to your customers lately. I have several good friends plannig driving vacations instead this year. Even with the price of gas because the airline hassle is simply not worth it. And people are used to driving even long distances. In college I drove 6 hours home about once a month. In high school, I drove 4 hours to the beach about once a month. And on random vacations, I've generally held the rule that I can go anywhere happily that I can reach in about 12 hours.

So yeah, after the bar, I will be taking a vacation, by car somewhere I hadn't been planning on going. And I'll cringe at the pump and think "at least the airlines didn't get my money."

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