The New Fear of Flying
I just read a report where one of the major airlines has decided that culinary deprivation is not friendly customer service. They will be providing passengers with snacks again. Like that would help.
For a person raised in the era when you could get to the airport 45-minutes before your flight, check two heavy bags for free, and carry on as many ounces of liquid refreshment and/or moisturizing cream as you wanted, peanuts are not going to cut it.
We used to fly stand-by, be allowed to pack scissors, have family walk us to the gate, enjoy an onboard meal, fly in relative comfort, and have loved ones greet us the moment we landed. Those were the good old days.
Okay, I do not miss the sexism of the whole stewardess thing, and I love that flight attendants come in all manner of age, gender, race, and sexual orientations. As wonderful as that evolution is, it doesn’t make up for the tragic deterioration of modern air travel.
Not only can I now spend consecutive days in the same TSA line, enjoying a quarter of my trip at an airport, but I have to wear flip flops to do it. That’s because sneakers are too complex to put back on while hopping on one foot and grabbing my stuff off the moving conveyor belt. And God forbid I leave my bag unattended for a minute. I live in fear of airport personnel detonating my pajamas.
Frankly, I didn’t miss snacks and wouldn’t even miss beverages. Every time I balance a cocktail on my flimsy tray table the guy in front of me leans his seat back and shoots two ounces of booze up my nose—not the kind of Vodka stinger I prefer.
I should decline drinks anyway, since it’s hell to battle my way out of the middle seat, squeeze up the incredible shrinking aisle, and pray the restroom is available. My bladder isn’t what it used to be. Remember when we’d laugh at the closed door and hope somebody was joining the mile high club? Now I’m terrified to laugh.
And even if I could snag an aisle seat, we’re all now members of the mile-wide club, thighs hanging over the teeny seats, obstructing the forward progress of the drink carts. I hate deplaning bruised and battered, having been sideswiped by a six pack of Snapple.
So they think snacks will help? The headline on CNBC said, “Airlines get back to basics again.” Seriously? To me, basics are not Dutch-style waffle-shaped cookies called “Stroopwafel,” as the online article noted. To me, basics are leg room and my seat-mate’s elbow out of my kidney.
One deluded airline employee noted, “We know that even the smallest detail can make a big difference in the travel experience.” Really? How about a small detail like being able to exhale without arranging for the adjacent traveler to inhale?
Oh, and get this. The airlines are starting to free up these sugary Stroopwafels because…wait for it...the price of oil is cheaper! Seriously? Airlines think that doling out 40 million Stroopwafels (yes, I love writing that word) is a better choice than giving us another inch of knee room? Or another non-stop flight?
Ever since the adoption of the ubiquitous hub system, passengers have to fly through Atlanta to go anywhere at all. Gate 1 is about 56 miles from the main concourse. If you’re going to hell you have to go through Atlanta first.
Although one thing I appreciate about flying these days is that flight attendants have developed a sense of humor. Face it, they had to. I overheard one recently announce “In case of loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend. Stop screaming and put one over your face. If you have a small child with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one child, pick your favorite.”
Another stand-up flight attendant warned, “There may be 50 ways to leave your lover but only two ways out of this plane. If it’s a water landing feel free to take your seat cushion as a souvenir.”
Vaudeville aside, flying is not fun anymore. Between arm-wrestling for arm rests and the game of will-I or won’t-I get my bag into the overheads, it’s torturous. I’m a white knuckle flyer at best anyway, and fearing Ebola from the hacking cougher man-spreading into my personal space just adds to my angst. Returning my seat to an upright position should not risk breaking my nose.
So what are airlines doing to solve these pressing problems? Launching a snack attack, apparently. At this point the three biggest U.S. airlines have announced that free snacks are back, even in steerage.
Restoring complimentary snacks has been deemed the solution to all manner of airline customer complaints. The airlines call this “investing in the passenger experience.” I call it investing in bakery products.
As for the customer experience, it’s the Stroopwafel, the whole Stroopwafel, and nothing but the Stroopwafel.
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach, For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries, and Time Fries—Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach.