Flying â€“ Pricing Up – Paring Down.
The big news stories about the state of the airline industry are impossible to miss. These include the regular news items about heightened security, its cost and the inevitable inconvenience to travelers. The other big story is the general reduction in air travel and resultant revenues, which are driving some carriers into bankruptcy.
Having recently flown between Newark and Fort Myers, Florida on Continental Airlines I noticed some of the small changes that arenâ€™t big news stories, but they are certainly noticeable to travelers. Here are a few examples:
Three years ago, on a morning flight between Florida and Newark, the airline served each passenger a hot breakfast, with a choice of pancakes or eggs with bacon or sausage. It also came with a piece of fruit, and, as I recall, a muffin of some sort. Last year, the breakfast consisted of a box of dry cereal, a container of milk, and a banana. This year, â€œbreakfastâ€ consisted of a muffin that was approximately one and one-half times the size of a golf ball. That was it.
One might say, who cares? After all, people donâ€™t fly to eat; they fly to get someplace. However, I imagine that the reduction in food service will result in travelers eating more before they board the plane, spending many of their travel dollars in the pricey airport eateries. I suppose it could also result in passengers bringing food aboard the aircraft. Imagine what a treat it would be to be stuck in the middle seat between two people eating greasy, drippy sandwiches brought from home. Seems kinda third-world to me.
Pillows and Blankets.
Last year, each seat came with one of each. This year, a few were placed randomly on seats. If you wanted a blanket or pillow and you happened to be assigned to one of â€œpillowed and blanketedâ€ seats, youâ€™d be a winner. Otherwise, as they say in Russia, â€œTough shitsky.â€
Newspapers and Magazines.
In prior years, the flight attendants offered both, and there always seemed to be enough to go around. This year, if you didnâ€™t bring something aboard to read (I did), you could enjoy the Continental Airlines Magazine, with interesting articles about things like springtime in Bora Bora. Oh yeah, each person also had access to the â€œShop from the Planeâ€ catalog. Does anyone ever buy anything from that thing?
So, my advice is BYOB (bring your own book).
For me, a cocktail on the plane is a must, particularly since September 11th. Two years ago, drinks were $3.00. Last year, they were $4.00, and for the price the traveler received one of those little bottles of booze, a short glass filled with ice, and an entire can of mixer. This worked out well, because by pouring half the liquor over the ice and then filling the short glass with a portion of the mixer, there was enough of each to make two drinks.
Now, the price is $5.00 (a 25% increase) and, for that, one receives the little bottle of liquor and the short glass already three quarters filled with mixer. Adding the entire contents of the liquor bottle to the glass makes for one stiff drink. I suppose that if I would have asked for the whole can of mixer, I would have gotten it, but I didnâ€™t ask (stiff drinks happen to work fine for me). I will, however, ask next time.
The complimentary soft drinks are still complimentary. I wonder if that will be the case next year.
Clearly, the airlines are constantly rearranging their flights so as to minimize the number of flights that are not filled to capacity. Two years ago, there were several available flights, and the one we chose ended up being than half full. Last year the flight that was booked six months in advance was canceled, thereby ensuring that the flight between Newark and Fort Myers to which we were assigned was filled to capacity. This year it was the same. I was notified approximately a month ago that the flight that I had booked eight months earlier was being changed to a different time, and again, the plane was filled to capacity.
Ever fly any distance in the center seat? â€˜Nuf said.
Obviously the loss of these amenities is not earthshaking, and if the money saved by serving me a mini-muffin instead of eggs is paying for increased security, Iâ€™m fine with it. Having said that, if in the future, you find yourself cold, in need of a pillow, hungry and smooshed between two fat guys eating garlic sandwiches they brought from home, you can thank the terrorist shitheels who made it all possible.
Oh, by the way, there still is no charge for using the john. Next year, Iâ€™m bringing quarters â€“ just in case.