Skyway to Hell

I’ve spent the past seven weeks traveling the friendly skies. My weekly jaunts to the West Coast from southern Indiana have put close to 25,000 miles under my seatbelt.

As this is a public relations blog, meant to extol the virtues and pitfalls of our profession, it makes sense that I discuss the current state of public relations from a 30,000-foot-view, literally.

Let me state my own opinion here, as though it was germane to the travel industry, or as though anyone would care what I think.

Our nation’s airlines have become glorified Greyhounds with wings and big, noisy engines. Take for example my recent adventures at the Denver airport. It’s a fancy place with a terminal that is designed to look like the Rockies. It does a pretty good job of that.

But below ground, sitting under the well polished and glass-lined hallways, exists a den of despair. It’s simply a ground level, narrow corridor lined with regional jet gates as numerous as corn kernels on a cob.

It’s a noisy, cramped area that seems to have only one restroom for the thousands of passengers in transit and less amenities than my grandparents’ outhouse.

But we, as a thrifty-minded public, want cheap airfares and expect a lot for little. And, my friend, this has caused the steady decline of the quality of air travel.

Let me illustrate the “flight” from quality to quantity in air travel with my recent Continental Airlines experience. I was flying from Indianapolis to Seattle. I registered 24-hours in advance to get an exit row because it offers more leg room.

Upon sitting down, I realized this seat had the immobile and extremely tight armrests that don’t move and further reduce seat size. That’s my bad.

But, once airborne, a very portly man quickly moved from a seat behind me to sit in the middle seat. He said, “Hey, don’t mind if I sit here do ya?” I thought “He’s got a better seat, so why would he want to move up here?”

Soon, I learned the answer. “I’m sorry to butt-in on you like this, but I have an eight-page criminal justice paper due tomorrow and I’m too fat to see my computer screen in my assigned seat,” he proudly stated.

I have a theory about airline travel. It’s not been tested, but I like to think it’s true. When things start going bad, they get worse. In other words, the Dominoes do fall in a row.

Oh, did I mention he had a shirt that said, “Fight Crime, Shoot First.” It’s true. This seemingly simple matter, him taking up a lot of space in a too-small row, started the move toward critical mass and meltdown.

First, the fight attendant started her service cart down the isle and dumped several warm and flavorful hot dogs on me. I can see the fuel rods being pulled now.

Next, I bought the $3 pair of headphones for the video screen, but my arm-rest port was out-of-order and would not work.

Finally, the flight was landing 20-minutes late and I had a 39-minute connection in Houston. My legs are still hurting from that mad dash, O.J. Simpson like, through one of the nation’s biggest airports.

What I’ve found on the dozens of flights I’ve taken in the past few months is that quality is not what the airlines seek. Instead, it’s simply quantity and they seem to make no apologies for it. After all, it’s what we asked for.

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