Last month I saw an airline host a promotional contest offering a free getaway to the person who best described the future of traveling. The responses consistently described the added luxury, convenience and modernization time should deliver: individual movie screens for every passenger, massage seats, decadent meals, etc. The contestants obviously haven’t been flying much. When I flew to Nashville the following weekend I quickly developed a more realistic answer of my own. I’m basing my depiction on the direction airline’s have taken in the past few years: additional fees, illusions of priority, and cut costs–like every business today.
As I sat at my gate I incurred a false sense of hope at the first mention of boarding. “We will now take passengers who need special assistance boarding” is by far the only consideration airline’s still make, but it’s only the beginning of the ever-growing delay. I did have time for a magazine. This initial group is followed by first class passengers, then priority passengers, then gold club members, silver club members, randomly selected members of something, members of anything else, people they owe a favor, people they like more than me, and people who paid to board early. That’s the reality of today’s societal immediacy: the people who pay to board early are the last of the prioritized pre-boarders. Then group one, two, red, blue…boarding has become so categorized and no matter how many segregation’s they add the aisle is infinitely stalled by every passenger who underestimated their strength and overestimated their carry-on necessities. The added luxury of men who refuse to assist with lifting regardless of age or evident frailty is the frequent flier recipe for disaster.
You can’t even blame over-packers when no one can afford to check luggage anymore. What is the point of saving on tickets if it costs half the ticket price to bring anything on the trip? If you pack two bags, God forbid you’re traveling for more than a weekend, you could legitimately save money by purchasing your luggage a seat of its own. We’re treated like inanimate objects anyway now that snacks have been revoked and drinks are the size of liquid medicine cups. You have to fly at least six hours to earn a bag of four or five peanuts, and if you’re human you’ll drop all of them with the aggression it takes to open the bag. I’m not even allowed the anciently used, germ-invaded blanket in coach anymore. I get the “Who do you think you are?” look from the stewardess who thinks I’m on edge from my second ration of coffee. I can hear her gossiping, “Now the girl who couldn’t go three hours without peanuts wants an extra sip of coffee for free.”
I won’t be surprised at all when I log on to book my next flight and find each seat closer to the the front has a convenience charge and a surcharge for drinks by the ounce. Worried, but not surprised. Make room for some extra cash on your carry-on, you’re going to need it.