By Ken Bradbury
The numbers are sort of staggering. seven hundred million Americans will climb aboard planes this year. Only one in five of us has never flown, and one out of three of us will fly this year. As you read this, 3,300 planes are in the air carrying 660,000 people and I suppose an odd dog or two. Nearly three-quarters of a million people up in the air at one time.
What astounds me even more is that an industry with such poor customer service continues to stay aloft and in fact grows with each coming year. I’ve yet to get the call from the FAA asking me to straighten things out in our airlines, but when I do I already have a list made.
1. Stop the shameful habit of making men drop their pants. It’s both simple and commonplace … a man wearing suspenders will set off any metal detector in an airport screen line but the ying-yangs with their magnetic wands aren’t smart enough to look at the metal clips on a pair of suspenders and realize why their machine is beeping at you. I show them. I say, “Here! Look! I wear suspenders! They have metal clips! That’s what’s making the detector detect.” And always … always they tell me to take them off and send them through the x-ray machine separately. Okay, I’m a big boy. I can grab with both hands and keep my drawers up … that is until they say, “Put your hands over your head.” I tell them, “I can’t. My pants will fall down.” They say, “Please put your hands above your head.” Several decades ago the airlines started showing onboard movies to entertain their passengers. Nowadays all you have to do is to stand near the security station and watch for a guy of with suspenders to enter the line. When he throws his hands into the air you’ll get a better show than anything that Hollywood has to offer.
2. Does anyone at the airlines have a map? I mean the kind of map of say Atlanta International Airport where you can plainly see that Terminal 3 is four miles away from Terminal 7 and that they’ve scheduled me only ten minutes to get from one to the other.
3. They still allow videotaping on flights. Oh, I don’t care if they record sleeping babies or a fight that breaks out so it can be sent to CNN for a healthy financial retainer, but when I get out of my seat after a long flight I don’t want anyone filming what I look like coming down the aisle. My rear end resembles to cats fighting in a gunnysack as I stretch and pull and limp and puff trying to get my body back into an upright position.
4. Needed immediately: cart beepers. It happens nearly every time I take a flight and end up with an aisle seat. Believe me, I’ll do anything to get seat on the aisle. I’ll cheat, I’ll lie, I’ll snatch tickets out of the hands of small children … anything to get just an inch more leg room. But the trouble comes when I fall asleep and one of my feet ends up lounging in the aisle. Other passengers are kind enough to step over my toes, but those flight attendants who roll those tank-like refreshment carts down the aisles don’t even look down. I don’t know how many cans of Coke and bottles of Jack Daniels they can load into those things, but when every blessed pound of the stuff rolls over my toe, well … it’s another reason not to allow video cameras on board.
5. There’s nary a weary traveler who’s not sick to death tired of listening to the flight attendant’s safety speech delivered before the plane takes off. I’m all for knowing how to inflate my life jacket, kick out the emergency door and take a breath of oxygen before the little kid ahead of me gets any, but I can think of a much more needed speech to give us as we take off into the great unknown. They need an explanation of the sounds heard while in flight. “That huge bang you hear just after takeoff does not mean that we’ve lost rows 8 through 22. It’s the sound of the landing gear being tucked inside the plane.” Or maybe, “There may be some clanging and shaking once we reach 18,000 feet. We’re not sure what this is, but so far we’ve had no problems as a result.” And I’ve always waited to hear, “That scraping noise you may pick up coming from the back of your seat is caused by the fingernails of the passenger behind you desperately trying to get out of the tight space into which we’ve squeezed him. The wheezing will be his attempt to breathe.”
And I’ve a notion that the airlines will continue to stifle, cram, cramp, bottle and break us into more and more uncompromising positions while all the time charging us for the torture. Tomorrow I’m going shopping for a belt.