The Marquis de Sade would have giggled with glee at the thought of paying a month’s wages to be slowly tortured in the way passengers are treated while traveling in today’s airports. American Airlines thinks they know why I fly. Perhaps they think they do, but do they understand how to keep a customer?
My wife and I just (barely) endured a long trip to London from Seattle and back via American Airlines. They (and the airports) could have done quite a bit more to make the trip more comfortable (or at least more tolerable) but mostly, they could have done so more quietly.
I like to get to the airport early, so I often spend considerable time in the waiting areas. What I don’t understand was why passengers are pelted with loud warnings about liquids in our carry-on luggage—inside security. This is not entirely American Airline’s fault, but they could get TSA to route their messages to the speakers outside security. Ya, know, it’s one of those pesky wiring things—I’ll bet you can figure it out.
The airports also insist on playing background music to sooth us or to drown out the noise of the maintenance cart with the worn-out wheel. When you’re trying to catch up on work or a novel, but also need to listen for important announcements like your gate has changed (again) or your flight is delayed (again), why flood the air with more noise in the form of pop music? Folks, no matter what tune you choose to play over the speakers, it will be noise to someone. Those that want to listen to music will have brought their own iPod. I know the burger vendor in New York did.
After a dozen dozen announcements about liquids, leaving luggage unattended, taking smoking packages from strangers and unintelligible gate changes, we’re finally herded on the plane. At this point some of us try to make last-minute calls to coordinate with folks at home or back in the office, and now is when American Airlines insists on either playing more music or “get your butt out of the aisle” messages. The latter I understand (to a point), but again, the background music is just more grating noise.
Along the way, we get the recorded safety briefing and a brief respite of quiet—but no, the pilot has to come on and prove that he actually knows where he’s programmed the plane to fly. Folks, I could care less what altitude we’re flying at or that we’re going to pass over Picayune Vermont (unless I’m going to Dallas in which case it means I’m on the wrong plane or the pilot has the wrong flight plan loaded.) Pilots, we already know you’re cool, just get us there in one piece (and watch the rate of descent on touchdown).
When we finally bounce off the runway, we’re often very, very tired from having been strapped to seats that were worn out 10 years ago, having to deal with airline food (if you can call it that) and worn-out electronics that you might expect to find in a ghetto pawn shop. Flying worn-out planes is American Airline’s fault. And we’re still a long way from home or hotel. At this point, passengers need to coordinate with people on the ground but no, there are more verbose “welcome to (someplace along the way)” messages followed by a (usually unintelligible) announcement of where your bags might (eventually) be dumped. And more music. After an 8+ hour flight across the Atlantic plus an 8+ hour flight across the US after a 5+ hour layover I’m in no mood for calypso music. Trying to be pleasant to the immigration agent takes all of the energy and civility I have left.
But no, as we walk that last 1/4 mile to baggage claim, dealing with broken escalators and shoving Europeans, we’re again warned not to put liquids in our carry-on luggage and not to accept candy from strangers. Dead on our feet, we still have another 40 minutes to wait, before our bags are extruded from the bowels of the luggage machine—all the time being assaulted to the tune of a pop song that someone in corporate thought we would like. I don’t. And we have to face the same trip on the way home.
American Airlines and the airline terminals: have you wondered why we don’t want to fly anymore? Yes, some stuff is expensive to fix. I understand that you’ve ordered new planes, but you can deal with some of the thousand needles of irritation just by being more sensitive to the assaults we passengers have to endure. Stop playing music, making meaningless announcements and understanding that not everyone likes disco music at 4 in the morning.