July 02, 2007
Think air travel couldn't suck more? Think again.
I'm back a day late thanks to the inability of American Airlines to hold my connecting flight a measly five minutes last night. I would have liked to write a post this morning, but I was en route from O'Hare to Philadelphia, and I guess I should consider myself lucky to arrive today instead of last night. (Delaying an entitlement has a perverse way of making it seem like a heaven-sent gift.)
Anyway, through a vast interlocking conspiracy of oligopoly and bureaucratic regulation, there is no way to hold airlines accountable for Anything. At. All. They are masters of nondisclosure, deception and outright lying, and the only honest statement you will hear from any of them is that it is all beyond their control. Nothing is the fault of the gate agent, the flight crew, the air traffic control, or the pilot. Just as last night it was beyond the control of the pilot who left on time without giving connecting passengers five measly minutes, it was beyond the control of the incoming flight that made my first flight late and so on. Moreover, what gate agents are allowed to admit is beyond their control, and all lying or misleading statements made by them are not their fault. Indeed, if they say what they are told to say, how can it be?
The non-ironic irony is that on the flight west, my bags were delayed for a day by US Airways, and I considered myself lucky to get them (and of course I'm sure it was no one's fault that they were lost). I had been thinking of writing a blog post called "US Airways Sucks" but that too would have been redundant. (A whopping 10,500 web entries on that one.)
It's all air travel that sucks. Period. It's miserable even when it works.
I should be grateful that things don't suck more than they do.
Because considering the nature of air travel, they will.
I don't want to sound too pessimistic, so I should probably point out that for me, Southwest Airlines has consistently done a far better job.
Hell, at least Southwest gives passengers free pretzels. (On US Airways, they even ran out of the junk food they charge for!)
UPDATE (07/03/07): Glenn Reynolds had a much better experience with American Airlines than I did, but a terrible experience with Delta -- along with Dean Barnett, who relates a twelve hour nightmare from hell, and who (unlike me) asked the customer service rep a good question:
I ask him in all sincerity, "Do you have any idea how much your airline sucks?" He begins yelling at me that he's been with Delta for 24 years, and he thinks they're great. I yell back that California will tumble into the sea and Rosie O'Donnell will win the Miss Universe contest before I fly Delta again. We say our farewells.I tried to be my usual polite self, but I couldn't help noticing that the deranged red telephone they sent me to had been slammed down so hard it was broken.
Considering Glenn's good experience with American, and the fact that a family friend worked for them, I should probably point out that I would not have written this post except for the fact that it came on the heels of another hectic overnight delay by in May. I was nice enough not to mention American then, even though I was later told by the car rental people in Chicago that there were no "weather issues" on May 24 at O'Hare, and that American Airlines routinely cancels flights from Philadelphia to Chicago and uses weather as an excuse so they don't have to compensate inconvenienced passengers. The gate agent told me that the law relieves them from any such responsibility in case of weather-related delays. But if there wasn't any weather, it's a mini-scandal to do this to Philadelphia passengers. I have no way of verifying this, but I was told repeatedly that Philadelphia traffic is for some reason subordinated in importance to New York, Boston, and BWI.
Anyway, two incidents this close together makes me disinclined to ever use American Airlines again.
posted by Eric on 07.02.07 at 01:30 PM
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