Did You Have A Good Flight? Perhaps Not, If You Used A Low Fares Airline:

You might find this difficult to believe, but travelling by plane used to be fun. At least, that’s according to the AOL Lifestyle columnist, Rebecca Dolan, in an article captioned “Remembering the Good Old Days of Flying”. Once upon a time, she wrote wistfully, flight attendants were dressed in high fashion, leg room was included in the price of a basic ticket and meals were practically restaurant quality. On some Pan American World Airways routes, it seems, passengers would be “served hors d’oeuvres on a silver tray” – something you’re unlikely to experience now unless you are booked into first class on Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad or Singapore Airlines. This didn’t, though, guarantee Pan Am’s survival: The company went bankrupt in December 1991. Doug Murray, a correspondent for “Slice.ca”, has also enthused nostalgically about “how civilized flying used to be”: Air travel was a “glorious thing”, you did it in style: “Today, unless you’ve got a bucket-load of cash, flying is barely a step up from taking the bus”.

Patrick Smith, an American airline pilot who writes about flying at www.askthepilot.com, however, disagrees with both Dolan and Murray. In the New York Times in May, he dismissed as “mythical” the idea that there ever was a “Golden Age” of air travel. He acknowledges that “resentment against the commercial airlines has hit fever pitch” (especially after the forced removal of the Chinese-American Dr David Dao from a United Express plane in April) and that “Yes, things were once a little more comfortable, a bit more special”. He doesn’t deny either that “airlines could and should do a better job – at communicating, at treating their customers with dignity and respect “and that he doesn’t enjoy claustrophobic planes, delays, noisy airports or wasteful security practices”. But he points out as well that, not only are tickets cheaper, we also have a wider range of options: “There are planes going everywhere, all the time”. Furthermore, that the aircraft of past decades were louder, more “gas-guzzling and polluting”, that as recently as the 1990′s, smoking was still permitted on board and that “globally, the last 10 years have been the safest in the history of commercial aviation”.

Nonetheless, as Larry Light, a reporter for CBS News, noted in May, a recent survey carried out by the American Customer Satisfaction Index has found that “consumers rate rate airlines as one of their least-liked industries”. Many passengers, it concludes, are particularly unhappy about excessive “crowding” – caused mainly by cabins being “reconfigured to fit in more seats, legroom shrinking by three inches in recent years and the overbooking strategy that the industry has adopted to ensure that planes are as full as possible.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data quoted by the BBC journalist Adrian Goldberg has shown that the number of “air rage” incidents on UK airlines has quadrupled over the past three years. This is partly because – as the Jet2 Managing Director Phil Ward admitted to the BBC – some passengers drink too much in airport bars before going on board and then become disruptive during the flight. However, it’s also because (declares the refund.me website) both the airlines’ customers and their employees “ are increasingly dissatisfied with how they are being treated”. Charles Leocha, President of Travellers United, feels that passengers are reacting against being regarded simply as “cargo”.

In the UK, the image of the airline industry has undoubtedly been undermined by the attitude of Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s Chief Executive, towards his customers: Among his most notorious remarks: People who forget to print their boarding pass “should pay 60 euros for being so stupid”; “Are we going to say sorry for our lack of customer service? Absolutely not”. “What part of ‘no refund’ don’t you understand? We don’t want to hear your sob stories”. On this last issue, however, O’Leary has been forced to back down by the “furious” CAA Chief Executive, Andrew Haines, following the cancellation of 50 Ryanair flights a day up to the end of October and (reported in the Guardian on 30th September) the decision to “scrap 18,000 flights on 34 routes between November 2017 and March 2018” – all, contends O’Leary, a consequence of problems with his pilots’ holiday rotas.

Apart from the delays and cancellations, what really annoys airline customers (asserts traveller.com) are: the expensive snacks and drinks, the use of in-flight mobile phones (unless you’re the person making the call), the poor quality of cabin air (a Daily Telegraph investigation has revealed “worrying evidence of toxic fumes contaminating aircraft”) and the “constant stream of announcements offering services and goods such as perfume, cuddly toys, car hire, train tickers and scratch cards” .

By far the most aggravating factor, however, is “the very limited leg room provided in economy class”. Smarter Travel’s “in-flight experience” commentator, Ed Hewitt, has described the available space as “ narrow, cramped and getting worse”. He has observed that, technically, his body does fit into a typical airline seat – as long as he sits up and keeps his hands and arms folded into his lap. A Business Travel Airline Survey has revealed that Ryanair has the narrowest economy seats out of the 32 airlines researched, offering just 16 inches of width, with Air Canada’s seats the widest at 18-18.5 inches. British Airways are 8th in this list for width (between 17’3 – 18.1 inches).

Sometimes (notes Airport World.com) it’s other passengers who can make your journey a misery: For example, putting their elbow firmly on the shared arm rest and leaving no room for yours; constantly getting up to retrieve items from the overhead lockers; people behind you trying to get off the plane first; babies crying throughout the flight; and (the one that causes the most arguments), someone “reclining their seat so far back that they are practically in your lap”.

There’s now a solution to this last problem: A pair of “knee defenders” that you can buy for only $21.95. You just have to clip them to the bottom of the arms of your lowered tray table. They then prevent the seat in front of you from being tilted backwards. This doesn’t contravene any current aviation regulations, so there’s nothing the other person can do about it – except protest vociferously.

 

 

 

Filed under: Travel | Posted on October 2nd, 2017 by Colin D Gordon

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