What's Up with the Airline Industry?

I'm old enough to remember the good old days of flying, when...

  • There were no security checkpoints. Passengers, often accompanied by family and friends seeing them off, simply stepped onto the tarmac--clothes, watches, belts, purses, and shoes still intact.

  • Seats were configured two by two.

  • Those same seats were actually cushy and came with a fresh full-sized pillow and blanket.

  • The pitch between seats was generous; even if the man in front of you pushed his seat all the way back, it didn't matter, for you had plenty of room to move about.

  • Seats were large enough to accommodate just about anyone of any size.

  • No one but the filthy rich flew First Class because other than price there was little difference between First and Regular Class--perhaps a Fillet Mignon/Cognac as opposed to Baked Chicken and Wine.

  • The aisles were wide enough without having to bump into seated passengers.

  • Real meals were served--in addition to snacks--and the food was actually good, even excellent.

  • Bathrooms were clean.

  • Customer service was delivered with a smile.

  • During the flight, one of the pilots would actually come back to the cabin to chat with passengers.

  • Baggage was checked for free--imagine that!

  • Even though it wasn't necessary, you could carry a bottle of water on board.

  • No one cared if you had a pair of scissors or tweezers in your makeup case.

  • No one hassled you about carry-ons because everyone knew it was better to check your luggage, so other than a "personal item" (purse or briefcase), everyone checked their luggage, confident it would show up (in good order) at one's destination.

  • If your luggage, by chance, did get rerouted to Alaska (instead of Alabama), airline representatives were actually embarrassed and did everything they could to get your luggage back to you in a timely manner. Meanwhile, they gave you a voucher to buy new clothes so that you could enjoy your vacation.

  • "Bumping" and "overbooking" were not a part of the airline lexicon.

  • If a flight were cancelled, airline representatives did everything they could to book you on another flight, even on a competitor's airline. Otherwise, they put you up in a hotel on their dime.

  • The rare complaint was taken to heart, and the airlines did everything it could do to make things right so that you would return and so they would not end up in the "Airline Hall of Shame."

But, now, it's an entirely different story...

Common Airline Complaints 
  • Checked luggage fee 
  • Carry-on luggage fee (so far, just Spirit Air)
  • Ridiculous carry-on luggage policies
  • Nightmare self check-in
  • Requiring passengers to tag their own checked baggage (Yes! This is soon coming to an airline near you!)
  • Pay toilets on board (Ryanair plans to go ahead with this fee, and Spirit Air has actually toyed with the idea.)
  • Lousy customer service/treatment by airline employees
  • No food or beverages
  • Overpriced food or beverages
  • Bogus charges
  • Faulty cabin equipment (for example, music/video consoles and PA systems that don’t work), flickering or even non-working lights, cracks in the walls, clogged toilets, etc.
  • Dirty, stinky cabin, seats, and/or toilets
  • Cramped space (e.g., seats designed for a small 4-year-old kid)
  • Stupid rules (e.g., not being able to use the bathroom in First Class, even if you’re about to crap your pants)
  • Not handling airline delays well and acting like it’s YOUR fault
  • Trapping your aircraft (and YOU) on the tarmac for hours
  • Other
So what has happened? Why would would-be passengers rather pay $4.00 a gallon for gas and drive for 3,000 miles rather than risk stepping onto an airplane?

How did this industry become so sucky, anyway?

Now you have a place to tell your airline horror story.

To comment on your least favorite airline, find, on the right panel, the “Comment Threads” link for the offending airline.