Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An Evolution in Flight

The joy of flying. It's changed a lot the last decade. We all know that flying isn't what it used to be. I can remember flying as a kid. The earliest flight I can remember was from New York to Orlando to go on vacation to wonderful Disney world! Sure, I was a kid then but I can still remember the finer points of flying back then. It started off at the airport. Now, i only remember this being an object at JFK airport as far but I remember how they had chairs with televisions connected to them. We traveled on a Saturday morning and I was able to catch my Saturday morning cartoons at the airport waiting for the flight. That was great! It seems they've been removed now but I can still remember at that early age thinking that the future of travel could only get better in the future. Everything seemed customer centered as well, flying was a special event that people who worked in the business took pride in.

Well, when I finally took that first flight, I remember there was food that was very good, warmed up, and much like those tv dinners we can get at the store nowadays. Even better if I remember right. All I know is that the meals were good enough that I asked for more. That's all I can remember of my first flight but they were happy memories. In the last decade though, there has been a downward spiral as far as what the airlines offer us as amenities. My best definition is that they went from something to close to nothing. Just for a recent example, I went to Hong Kong 2 years ago and throughout the whole 26 hour flight all I got was pretzels, peanuts, and crackers. There were one or two sandwich meals but those were cold and not very good after being on the plane so long. Yes, I enjoy eating food and I was disappointed.

Why am I bringing this up now though? Well I took a short trip from Chicago to Ft Lauderdale for business and to see my parents and the trip was just short of horrible. Just to quickly recall the past events, the size of the plane was pretty small. Not bad in itself but then it was loaded up with too many seats, 6 per row. It was one of those planes that should have had 5 per row. The things companies will sacrifice for money, comfort is definitely not a goal of the modern airline business. So, in a plane the size of a sardine can, I was also stuck in the middle seat of a row next to a younger guy and a pilot that must have gotten snowed in the night before. It was pretty tight. Too tight in my opinion. The only food we got was a pack of graham crackers and peanuts as well. Not even the regular size but smaller. They also said we would run out of fuel on the way over to Florida as well because of the weight of the luggage so we had to stop in Nashville for more fuel. Can you believe that? I guess it's not the first time I've been in that situation but it's the first time for that short of a flight. Not being able to get your passengers from Chicago to Hong Kong on one tank of gas I can see as realistic but to not be able to get to Fort Lauderdale from Chicago on one tank? That is ridiculous.

So maybe I'm just ranting about a poor flight experience but I feel that on a technological note there is so much to complain about here. After all these years, how can the flying experience be so much worse than it was just 10 to 15 years ago? Why can't airlines put aside their greed and seat the proper number of normal proportioned people on each and every plane they own and still make enough money? Why can't they give everyone warm meals or even sandwiches on a flight instead of minuscule sized packets of peanuts and crackers? Why can't modern planes make it from coast to coast on one tank of fuel regardless of how much baggage they have to carry especially if they boast that they are providing a non-stop flight? We should ask more from our airlines today. We should receive the same or better level of service over years ago and we should not back down from that. Things are supposed to evolve as time goes by not go backwards.

I guess this may be too much to ask for though, on deeper reflection, I guess more than half the jets that fly in the sky today are not new. Maybe we can't expect the efficiency we would like out of them especially since they were made in the times where fuel was cheaper. Could they be more efficient, probably, were they designed with that in mind, i doubt it. I still think that with the advent of international flights and with the usage of external fuel tanks by the military, someone should have adapted that technology for civilian use by now. How nice would it be to know you could make it to the other side of the world or farther in one non-stop trip? Perhaps in the future with the development of modes of transport that will fly in the area of the edge of space where the atmosphere is thinner and allows for more efficient travel, perhaps then we will have figured out how to get flying back to where it should be, a pleasant experience with good service, non-stop and to anywhere in the world. It hopefully will be conceivable that we will even get to fly further than that on one tank of fuel.

in the meantime i guess we will continue that downward spiral. On a related and opposite note though, It's nice to know that companies like Jet Blue learn from their mistakes as well as others and are trying to give their customers a better experience than others with standard cable, xm radio, and wide seats on all their flights. They have decent sized snacks as well even though they are not meals and they gladly provide more with just a request. I don't think I can say this is an airline that has improved any by today's standards but it is the best so far I believe. The airlines service so many people in the world everyday, I'd like to encourage folks to fight for improvement. It's what we deserve.

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