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Affluent Christian Investor | August 21, 2017

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When Travel Unravels

Inside a Southwest Airplane (Photo by Michael Gray) (CC BY) (Resized/Cropped)

Inside a Southwest Airplane
(Photo by Michael Gray) (CC BY) (Resized/Cropped)

In case you are wondering, Thanksgiving may or may not be the busiest travel time of the year. There seems to be disagreement here. The Department of Transportation claims Thanksgiving is the busiest long-distance travel day overall. BUT…91 percent of that travel turns out to be by automobile. For air travelers and other commercial modes, Orbitz still crowned Thanksgiving Eve numero uno.

This provides a good opportunity to share the ongoing woes of today’s air travelers. This is kindled freshly in my mind as I recently had long distance flights to Israel and back. Also, my son and daughter-in-law just arrived from California with stories.

But let’s start with this recent headline from the Chicago Tribune: “5 Reasons United Might Finally Be Improving Its On-Time Rate.” After all, United is the world’s second-largest airline. And let’s admit… the friendly skies get less friendly if you keep showing up late!

To the good credit side, United is making some progress under their new CEO. October was one of their best months in their history. On the poor performance side, this rough assessment:

“In 2012, United botched its combination of the merged airlines’ reservation systems, the technological backbone of an airline. For months, glitches and poor airport employee training led to rampant flight delays and cancellations. That damaged United’s profits as corporate customers fled to competitors.”

So the price of customer dissatisfaction supposedly means you lose business. But not so fast. There’s still a ways to go.

First, has anyone noticed the airline rows are narrower? Seats getting smaller? Legroom shorter? If you haven’t, you may not fly a lot.

These three scrunching techniques that bug paying customers drive improved profits for the airline. Forget the long lost meals on long domestic flights. Ignore those commercials showing comfy passengers on a plane. Get real… and get scrunched.

I’m an over-sized customer to the airline. I’m around 6’2” tall and over 200 pounds. Fairly broad shoulders. On our recent Israel trip, I had an aisle seat, which helped me avoid crushing other passengers by climbing over them to get something overhead or use the washroom.

However, during the twelve hour flight, I mistakenly put my elbows on the arm rest. This resulted in cart bruising. Then there were the people bringing their luggage on board smashing my sides as they navigated to their seats. And the up-and-down-the-aisle bumps from passengers during the flight. Admittedly, I was in economy. But I was flying on the airline that used to brag they were something “special in the air!”

But among the worst passenger offenses these days is the boarding procedure. On these same flights, you are put into groups. Pity those in “Group 5.” You might have considered traveling with the bags.

Priority boarding now offers early access to about ten groups BEFORE they get to the Group 1 ticket holders. This includes any of the airlines’ favored status people. I was in the “Oh, are you actually flying with us?” group. It was my fellow passengers, however, who got the brunt of the problem.

These days, the airlines let you bring rollerboard suitcases on to cram in the overhead compartments. If you are in the highly favored groups, your super size bags usually get on — even if you take up all the space to the end of the plane. This leaves NO room for the bags of the later boarders. So the airline requires these poor folks to now check their bag before getting on the plane. Sayonara, needed travel items! Many tail end customers had to check bags.

One in our group had her medications in said bag. She was told there was “no room in the bin.” (Sounds like a modern day Christmas story.) This was on the short flight. BUT… since her bag was being automatically sent now to its “final destination,” she was without her travel bag until we arrived in Israel! Her pleas earned no sympathy.

This is, of course, a fixable problem in two ways. Keep your on board luggage privileges the same, and order planes with bigger capacity. OR… change those baggage size rules so that customers don’t take their wardrobe on the plane. I have been flying for years. This has become a more recent problem because business travelers don’t want to wait for luggage. And who can blame them? (That is an issue to be addressed next week.)

Regrettably, these issues of crammed in customers and over-sized luggage in the bins is unlikely to get resolved without customer revolt. As long as people are willing to pay for being mistreated, the treatment won’t change.

The Bible, of course, says nothing about elbow and legroom. Or overhead bins. Or on-time flights. It does, however, encourage good treatment. Try this:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.”

– (Leviticus 19:33, ESV)

And for goodness sake, don’t lose his luggage!

 

Originally posted on The Way We Work.

 

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