Saturday, November 24, 2012

Air travel in modern times...

I never flew in the 60s or 70s, but I hear it was a fun thing to do and had a lot of glamour and excitement to it. When I started going on trips that required air travel in the 80s, it was still something I really looked forward to and enjoyed greatly, while I was in the air. In the early 90s I joined the frequent flyer clubs and from then on it was one of my favorite things to do, getting preferred treatment all the way and collecting miles for free trips and upgrades into First Class. The business of supply chain optimization around the world was fun and exciting and not stressful at all.

Fast forward to yesterday: I'm glad its over! Even though I was flying Business First, I did not enjoy yesterdays flight from FRA to EWR. I even dread these things now. I really don't want to get into details - since I know that everybody knows what I am talking about - but flying is not enjoyable or exciting or glamorous anymore.Period.

Just the night before, I saw on TV how the airline industry is supposed to get revived by the Dreamliner, an airplane that Jeff Smisek from United calls the "worlds leading airplane". He talks about the fantastic colors and lighting inside the cabin, the windows darken and lighten by a push of a button and in the bathroom a single button lowers the lid and flushes the toilet at the same time. Wonderful! But the seats are no different! One of the commentators: "you still have only 17 inches to your ass to fly 17 hours to Tokyo, crammed with people left and right to you". Who cares about the lighting when the only thing you have to do on an airplane is staying in your seat? And no one even cares about that... when they configure the seating charts on the new planes.

I am at a point where the only thing that I want to do on an airplane is to sleep. Melatonin is my weapon of choice and if an airplane manufacturer would ask me what to do to build better planes, I would ask for anything that puts me out: release some gas into the cabin that knocks everybody out after 2 minutes, hand out narcotics (legally o course) or lull me into sleep with music... anything that makes me not to experience the flight at all. Isn't that sad? That the product these airlines sell us is so bad that no one wants to experience it? Shouldn't they ask themselves: "why is everybody complaining and what can we do to have happier customers?" But customer satisfaction is very obviously not a thing that they care too much about.

Just this year Continental was taken over by United. I flew regularly on Continental since 1992 and I really don't know if it is United but this year specifically, I have experienced a sharp rise in unacceptable and inconvenient incidents on my trips. Like I said: Its not like it used to be.

On the United program they now give us frequent flyers a contingency of upgrades. Unfortunately they expire at the end of the year but, even worse, they don't just let you upgrade. It's all dependent on whether they can still make money selling the seats. Just now I tried to use one of my global upgrades, but received a message 'no seats available in front cabin'. So out of the 6 global upgrades I had "at my disposal", I have 3 left over which expire on 12/31. And that even though I flew 14 international legs in 2012. So what's the purpose?

You also receive 4 upgrades which you can use within the continental US. Every frequent flyer - whether they fly 25,000 miles a year or 150,000 - will get domestic upgrades. For a flyer like me, who travels between 100,000 and 130,000 miles a year, this means 4 flights in business class and about 35 in coach. Back in the good old "Continental" days, I got upgraded on 95% of my flights. And please don't get me wrong. I don't want to disrespect less frequent travelers, but I wouldn't mind sitting in coach on 2 or 3 round trips a year. However, if you sit on a plane twice a week and you have to work right off the flight, it is a very tiring experience.

enough complaints: I am home now and won't have to travel for 10 days. Yeeha! I am really excited and happy...

...and by the way: George Clooney wouldn't stand a chance accumulating 10 million miles.